Note: This feature originally appeared in the October edition of THE RING magazine. The November issue, with Floyd Mayweather Jr. on the cover, is on newsstands now. The cover story is titled: “10 Guys Who Would Have Kicked Mayweather's Butt.”
It was out with the old and in with the new as THE RING composed this year’s All-Star Report Cards. Gone from last year’s survey are such old warhorses as Bernard Hopkins, Roy Jones, Ricky Hatton, Shane Mosley, Juan Manuel Marquez, Chris John and Israel Vazquez. In place of those fighters were newer, fresher names like Yuriorkis Gamboa and Timothy Bradley, a sign that new blood is being pumped into the sport. Meanwhile, names like Sergio Martinez and Pongsaklek Wonjongkam show that our All-Star list always has room for veterans, provided they’re still producing in the ring.
Aside from the youth movement, other trends have emerged this year. For instance, there is a noticeable dip in Mexican or Mexican-American fighters among our 20 All-Stars. When THE RING first compiled this roster in 2003, there were five such fighters listed; this year, there is one. Also, the number of fighters born in the United States shrunk from 13 in 2003 to a measly four this year. Lopez and Miguel Cotto are U.S. citizens by way of Puerto Rico, but they didn’t learn their stuff in the American amateur system, so they can’t be counted. Brits are on the rise, though. There was only one Brit All-Star in 2003, but three made the list this year, sans Hatton.
Perhaps you’re wondering why some of your favorite fighters didn’t make the list, but rest assured that many other fighters were given close consideration. It’s just that some fighters seem to lose fights as we’re creating our list, and others just fall a bit short in terms of box office and general excitement value.
The 20 fighters who made it weren't chosen solely on their ability to sell tickets and attract cable customers but the ability to fill seats definitely plays a big part in our selection process. Some fighters, Nonito Donaire for example, might not yet be a legitimate star on the level of Floyd Mayweather Jr. or Manny Pacquiao, but we felt he can compete with the best in terms of talent, and is certainly on his way to stardom.
Those who were removed from last year’s list are gone because they simply didn’t do enough to merit inclusion this year. The one exception is the late Edwin Valero. He made it last time, and there was every reason to believe he’d repeat.
With that in mind, here are the 2010 All-Star Report Cards. The fighters are judged on talent, achievement, marketability, support system, and growth potential. They are presented in order of weight class, starting with the heavyweights.
Today: Yuriorkis Gamboa. Tomorrow: Juan Manuel Lopez.
TALENT: Many fine Cuban amateurs have fallen short when entering the pro ranks, but Gamboa seems hell bent on changing that tired old tune. He is a sometimes-reckless dervish in the ring and is devastating with his uppercuts and short right hooks. He has drawn criticism for being knocked down on several occasions, but that’s more a sign of his willingness to mix than a bad chin. Although he hasn’t given up his daredevil style, he’s added an improved defense to his already-impressive set of skills. In recent bouts, his combination punching can best be described as “Tysonesque.” Grade: A-
ACHIEVEMENT: After a 250-bout amateur career that saw him win four Cuban national championships and a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics, Gamboa defected from the national team with two other fighters in December 2006, hopping from Venezuela to Colombia to Miami. He won a featherweight title when he stopped Whyber Garcia in February of last year. Rogers Mtagwa, a capable journeyman who has been in with some good fighters, was absolutely no match for Gamboa in their January 2010 bout. Gamboa added another 126-pound belt by outpointed Orlando Salido in September but didn’t look particularly sharp. Grade: B+
MARKETABILITY: Hardcore fans know him, but smaller fighters don’t see real paydays unless they can hyphenate their names with another opponent, ala Barrera-Morales or Vazquez-Marquez. In that regard, Gamboa’s marketability is tied in with Juan Manuel Lopez, his Top Rank stablemate and fellow featherweight titlist. If those two can spawn a series, then Gamboa stands to become as big a name as any of the top featherweights of the past two decades. Grade: A-
SUPPORT SYSTEM: Top Rank co-promotes Gamboa with Germany-based Arena Box Promotion, which is why Gamboa made a recent title defense in Hamburg. Ahmet Oener is the head of Arena Box and acts as Gamboa’s manager, as well as his promoter overseas. Oener’s no-nonsense style was exemplified when he fired trainer Osmiri Fernandez in the dressing room after Gamboa’s bout with Darling Jimenez, simply because Gamboa had suffered a flash knockdown in the bout. Since then, the training duties have been handled by Ismael Salas, a Thailand-based Cuban who has trained the Thailand national team and is known for turning Aussie slugger Danny Green into a more composed fighter. Gamboa’s recent improvement can be attributed to Salas’ input. Grade: A-
GROWTH POTENTIAL: Gamboa is already 28, so if he’s to do any growing, he’d better do it soon. Beyond Lopez, there could be good bouts with Celestino Caballero or Chris John, although Top Rank might not match Gamboa too hard while waiting for Lopez-Gamboa to ripen. Grade: A-
Previous All-Star Report Cards