If you don’t believe it, clear your schedule and take the time to read this very long list of 39 intermediate-level prospects. When you’re done, keep in mind that this article could have easily contained twice as many names.
Part two of Prospects to watch in 2011 is proof that boxing has a strong future. The sport is not only rich in promising up-and-comers from around the globe but it’s blessed with young men who are willing to fight each other in significant bouts that will advance their careers and entertain fans.
Case in point, two advanced prospects from part one of Prospects to watch in 2011 — junior lightweights Luis Cruz (17-0) and Eloy Perez (19-0-2) — have just signed to face each other in a 12-round elimination bout for a 130-pound alphabet title on Feb. 18.
Two prospects from this list — junior welterweights Ruslan Provodnikov and Mauricio Herrera — have already faced off in a rousing fight that produced a surprising result. Herrera, a decided underdog against Provodnikov, beat the undefeated Russian over 12 rounds. The unsung Californian’s upset ensured that his name would be among the 39 fighters on this list and that fans who watched the Provodnikov fight on ESPN2 will look forward to his next bout.
A few things to keep in mind while you read this list:
These are the “intermediate” level prospects, which means they are not yet prepared to face the Top-15 contenders in their respective weight classes but they are well beyond the developmental four- and six-round stages of their pro careers. The young men on this list are solid eight-round fighters who are ready to step up to the 10-round level (if they haven’t already done so).
And, as I mentioned in part one, most of these prospects had lengthy amateur careers. I categorize those who had between 50 and 100 amateur bouts as fighters with a “strong amateur background” in the strengths portion of my fighter analysis. Fighters who engaged in more than 100 bouts, especially those who won national titles, are credited with having an “extensive amateur background.” Those whose amateur credentials that include major international competitions (such as the Olympics, world amateur championships and Pan-American Games) are recognized as having “international experience.”
Sadam Ali Weight class: welterweight Age: 22 Record: 11-0 (6) The skinny: The talented Brooklyn native of Yemeni descent, who became the first Arab-American boxer to earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic squad in 2008, is one of the most-touted amateurs from the New York area in the last 20 years. So far, he’s lived up to his considerable hype in the pro ranks by dismantling every opponent put in front of him with a dazzling combination of speed, skill, ring generalship and showmanship. Strengths: International amateur experience, poise, quick hands and feet, excellent footwork, flashy style, crisp jab, combination and body punching, accuracy, bright personality, working relationship with Kathy Duva (Main Events). Weaknesses: Doesn’t sit down on his punches enough, skittish at times, average power and physical strength, sub-par opposition. What’s next? An eight-round bout on the undercard of the Kaiser Mabuza-Zab Judah fight on March 5.
Demetrius Andrade Weight class: junior middleweight Age: 22 Record: 12-0 (8) The skinny: America’s most-accomplished amateur (the Rhode Island native won the 2007 world amateur championships and earned a spot on the 2008 Olympic squad) has rolled over all of his competition, usually in impressive fashion, but like his former Olympic teammate, Ali, he has done so against mostly mediocre opposition. Andrade took on a slightly higher-caliber opponent than usual when he faced Alberto Herrera (7-1-1) on ESPN2 on Jan. 7. Though he dominated the gutsy Southern Californian, he didn’t look like a blue-chip prospect in doing so. Still, his talent, poise and skill set are undeniable. This is supposed to be Andrade’s breakout year, so fans will hopefully find out how good he really is as his competition steadily increases throughout 2011. Strengths: International amateur experience, speed, excellent reflexes, footwork, height (6-foot-1/185cm), confidence, ability to relax in the ring, bright personality, promoted by Joe DeGuardia and Artie Pelullo. Weaknesses: Doesn’t sit down on punches enough, keeps hands low, loose technique, trained by father. What’s next? Scheduled to be back in the ring next month.
Chris Avalos Weight class: bantamweight/junior featherweight Age: 21 Record: 18-1 (15) The skinny: The exciting Southern California-based KO artist seemed to be on the fast track to contender status after he destroyed capable Jose Nieves (17-1-2) in four rounds on ShoBox last January. However, Avalos was soundly out-boxed by Christopher Martin in a 10-round bout, also on ShoBox, in August. Martin is an unbeaten prospect with a crafty style that would trouble any aggressive fighter and Avalos just turned 21, so the loss can be forgiven. The hard-punching youngster scored two KO victories over experienced journeymen at the end of 2010 and still remains one to watch in 2011. Strengths: KO power in both hands, determination, solid technique, promoted by Gary Shaw. Weaknesses: Relies too much on his power, difficulty adapting to adversity during a fight, trouble with lateral movement. What’s next? Nothing scheduled but Shaw, who put Avalos in off-TV bouts on the undercards of Showtime main events in September and December, obviously intends to keep him busy.
Sharif Bogere Weight class: lightweight Age: 22 Record: 18-0 (11) The skinny: The flamboyant Las Vegas-based Ugandan turned industry heads by knocking out dangerous spoiler Jose Hernandez (10-1) in the third round of his first fight of 2010. Nobody ever had an easy time with Hernandez and nobody had ever stopped the tough Texan until Bogere, whose aggressive boxing style and flair for showmanship (such as being carried to the ring in a cage with live singers and a real lion-skin headdress) suggest that he can become a crowd favorite in time. Bogere fought four times after the Hernandez fight, three of which were KO victories. Strengths: Extensive amateur background, confidence, comfort in the ring, understanding of distance, educated jab, combination punching, good power and speed, trained by Ken Adams, promoted by Golden Boy Promotions. Weaknesses: Loose technique (on power punches). What’s next? Nothing scheduled but will fight before the end of March, according to Robert Diaz of Golden Boy Promotions, who says Bogere is not too far from fighting a Top-15 lightweight contender.
Adrien Broner Weight class: lightweight Age: 21 Record: 18-0 (15) The skinny: The former amateur standout from Cincinnati scored five exciting stoppages in 2010, including a second-round TKO of once-beaten Puerto Rican prospect Guillermo Sanchez (11-1-1) in September. HBO executives were reportedly impressed with his first-round blasting of veteran journeyman Ilido Julio on the undercard of the Zab Judah-Lucas Matthysse fight in November. It was “The Problem Child’s” ninth consecutive stoppage. Strengths: Extensive amateur background, explosive speed and power, quick jab, keeps body at an angle, good use of the shoulder roll, body punching, confidence, managed by Al Haymon, promoted by Golden Boy Promotions. Weaknesses: Immaturity, drops left hand, doesn’t turn his hook over, occasionally reckless when he thinks his opponent is hurt. What’s next? A stay busy bout against John Revish (10-1-2) on Jan. 15 in Cincinnati, then a televised step-up fight is planned for the month of March. Golden Boy is trying to get Broner in the opening slot of their scheduled March 5 Boxing After Dark tripleheader provided they can find a suitable opponent for him.
Rakhim Chakhkiev Weight class: cruiserweight Age: 27 Record: 8-0 (6) The skinny: The 2008 Olympic gold medalist in the 201-pound weight class has the kind of hard-charging style that will inject some much-needed excitement into the cruiserweight division, where he campaigns as a pro. The Germany-based Russian won five bouts in 2010 — one eight-round decision, one six-round decision and three early knockouts — over experienced journeymen. Better opposition is expected this year. Strengths: International amateur experience, aggressive southpaw stance, quick hands, tight technique, hard jab, power, body punching, physical strength, maturity, promoted by Universum and may be co-promoted by Golden Boy Promotions later in the year. Weaknesses: Rushes his attack at times, stiff upper body. What’s next? Nothing scheduled.
Jermell Charlo Weight class: welterweight/junior middleweight Age: 20 Record: 14-0 (7) The skinny: Houston-based wunderkind capped 2010 with a unanimous eight-round decision over unbeaten Mexican prospect Luis Grajeda (10-0-1) in November. The victory was impressive considering Grajeda’s amateur experience (two-time national champ), height (6-foot-2½/189cm) and relative maturity (23). Strengths: Athleticism, busy jab, fast hands, good footwork, trained by Ronnie Shields, promoted by Golden Boy Promotions. Weaknesses: Troubled by hard pressure. What’s next? Golden Boy is looking to place him on the undercard of the Sergio Mora-Brian Vera show on Feb. 4 in Fort Worth, Texas.
Chris Chatman Weight class: junior middleweight/middlewieght Age: 26 Record: 9-1 (4) The skinny: Most boxing writers and industry insiders consider the San Diego-based Chicagoan to be a “spoiler,” a tricky stylist who can upset a prospect on a good night. But with his youth, talent and recent accomplishments — back-to-back upsets over unbeaten fighters Alberto Herrera (7-0-1) and Lester Gonzalez (11-0-1) — why not consider him a prospect? Chatman, a good athlete with solid defensive skills, has faced five unbeaten fighters since he turned pro in October of 2008, and he beat all but one, 2008 Olympian Demetrius Andrade in a competitive six-round bout. Strengths: Athleticism, southpaw stance, slick moves, unorthodox (“herky jerky”) style, confidence. Weaknesses: Fights in spurts, showboats too much. What’s next? Nothing scheduled.
Francisco Contreras Weight class: lightweight Age: 26 Record: 15-0 (13) The skinny: The New Jersey-based puncher from the Dominican Republic caught the attention of hardcore U.S. fans by stopping capable Juan Castaneda in one round in a ShoBox appearance last February. However, Contreras, who won more than 300 amateur bouts for his native country, showed that he could box a disciplined fight by out-pointing Eric Cruz over eight rounds on a Friday Night Fights appearance in July. Strengths: Extensive amateur background, maturity, confidence, KO power in both hands, good hand speed, solid technique, managed by Cameron Dunkin. Weaknesses: Sub-par opposition until recently, keeps left hand low, promoted by struggling company (TKO Boxing Promotions). What’s next? An eight-round bout on the undercard of the Miguel Acosta-Brandon Rios lightweight title fight on Feb. 26. (Contreras is one of Rios’ sparring partners for the Acosta fight.)
Mike Dallas Weight class: junior welterweight Age: 24 Record: 17-0-1 (7) The skinny: The aggressive but light-hitting boxer from Bakersfield, Calif., finally added some knockouts to his record in 2010, stopping all but one of his six opponents. The one that got away was fellow unbeaten prospect Lanard Lane (12-0), who Dallas out-fought and out-pointed in an eight-round bout that was part of a ShoBox tripleheader in July. Strengths: Strong amateur background, speed, snappy jab, combination punching, solid footwork, managed by Jackie Kallen, promoted by Goossen Tutor. Weaknesses: Lack of KO power. What’s next? A showdown with dangerous fringe contender Josesito Lopez (28-3) on Jan. 28, the televised co-feature to the Chris Arreola-Joey Abel fight on ESPN2.
Luis Franco Weight class: featherweight/junior lightweight Age: 28 Record: 8-0 (5) The skinny: The 2004 Cuban Olympian defected to the Miami area in early 2009 and gained some attention by winning his first four pro bouts by quick KOs. Franco, who engaged in more than 400 amateur fights (winning a reported 378), quickly advanced to eight-round pro bouts. He fought five times in 2010, including solid performances against capable once-beaten fighters Wilton Hilario (UD 8) and Eric Hunter (DQ 8) on ShoBox late last year. Strengths: International amateur experience, maturity, fast hands, volume and combination punching, confidence, trained by Orlando Cuellar, promoted by Gary Shaw. Weaknesses: Advancing age, holds left hand low, doesn’t always turn his punches over, occasionally resorts to roughhouse tactics, small for a junior lightweight. What’s next? A scheduled 10-round co-feature against experienced Mexican puncher Leonilo Miranda (32-2 with 30 knockouts) on a ShoBox tripleheader on Feb. 4.
Frankie Gavin Weight class: junior welterweight Age: 25 Record: 8-0 (7) The skinny: The first world amateur champ from Britain (he won the 2007 competition and turned pro in early 2009) only fought three times in 2010. But the speedy southpaw went the distance for the first time against journeyman Peter McDonough (UD 6) in February before stopping Gavin Tait (TKO 1) and once-beaten Michael Kelly (TKO 5) in his first scheduled eight- and 10-round bouts, respectively. British fans have high hopes for the talented former amateur star. Strengths: International amateur experience, aggressive southpaw style, busy jab, fast hands, good straight left, keeps high guard, promoted by Frank Warren. Weaknesses: Sub-par opposition so far, lack of quality pro rounds. What’s next? Nothing scheduled, but Warren, who managed the early careers of such British stars as Naseem Hamed, Ricky Hatton and Amir Khan, is a master of developing young talent. Gavin is in good hands.
Mercito Gesta Weight class: lightweight Age: 23 Record: 20-0-1 (10) The skinny: The San Diego-based Filipino southpaw had a breakout year in 2010, besting a trio of tough veteran Mexican journeymen (an eight-round decision over Cristian Favela and impressive knockouts of Genaro Trazancos and Ivan Valle) and former prospect Oscar Meza (19-3) via fourth-round stoppage in June to earn an alphabet “youth” title. Strengths: Explosive speed, southpaw stance, fighting heart, body punching, promoted by Don Chargin. Weaknesses: Late start to boxing (kick boxing was his first sport), sometimes waits too long to let his hands go. What’s next? Nothing scheduled.
Brandon Gonzales Weight class: middleweight Age: 26 Record: 14-0 (10) The skinny: The former No. 1-rated U.S. amateur light heavyweight now residing in Sacramento won his highest profile fight to date by out-pointing Lester Gonzalez over eight rounds in the main event of the season premiere of Solo Boxeo on Jan. 7. Gonzales, who fought for the first time with new head trainer Jeff Mayweather, got the job done against the aggressive Cuban southpaw but he didn’t look spectacular. Strengths: Strong amateur background, maturity, speed, good lateral movement, busy jab, body punching, solid technique, trained by Mayweather, co-promoted by Joe DeGuardia and Let’s Get It On Boxing. Weaknesses: Offense falls off when matched with aggressive opponents, doesn’t put punches together enough. What’s next? Nothing scheduled.
Fernando Guerrero Weight class: middleweight Age: 26 Record: 20-0 (16) The skinny: The former U.S. amateur standout from the Dominican Republic has become a bona fide attraction in his adopted hometown of Salisbury, Md., due in part to his crowd-pleasing, aggressive, boxer-puncher style. Guerrero showed his strengths and flaws in 2010. His busy southpaw pressure overwhelmed serviceable Mike Walker (19-3-2) and Mexican veteran Saul Duran in early stoppages, but he was lucky to get a close unanimous nod against crafty veteran Ishe Smith in a 10-round ShoBox main event in July. Guerrero was dropped in the eighth round and many observers believed the fight could have easily been a draw. Strengths: Extensive amateur background, speed, power, solid technique, volume and combination punching, loyal hometown fan base, managed by Al Haymon, promoted by Prize Fight Boxing, co-trained by Barry Hunter. Weaknesses: Squares up in front of his opponents, aggressive style sometimes opens him up to counter punches, has trouble with movement. What’s next? A 10-round Friday Night Fights main event against former fringe contender Saul Roman on Feb. 18 at a packed Wicomico Youth & Civic Center in his hometown.
Charles Hatley Weight class: welterweight/junior middleweight Age: 24 Record: 14-0 (11) The skinny: The former U.S. amateur standout from Dallas fought six times in 2010, including a unanimous decision over grizzled spoiler Marcos Primera (in his first and only 10-round bout) and an eight-round points nod over Emanuel Augustus in which he traded knockdowns with the celebrated journeyman. Strengths: Extensive amateur background, height (5-foot-10/178cm), quick hands, busy jab, solid footwork, good power, solid technique. Weaknesses: Suspect chin, occasional lapses in concentration, covers up too much when opponent is in close. What’s next? A spot on the undercard of the Sergio Mora-Brian Vera Friday Night Fights main event on Feb. 4 in Fort Worth, Texas.
Mauricio Herrera Weight class junior welterweight Age: 30 Record: 16-1 (7) The skinny: The hardnosed late-comer to the pro ranks evolved from a tough Southern California club fighter to a real prospect with a spirited unanimous decision over heavily favored Ruslan Provodnikov in the 12-round main event of the season premiere of Friday Night Fights on Jan. 7. The hard-fought upset over the undefeated Russian more than made up for the disputed eight-round decision loss Herrera suffered against Mike Anchondo in December of 2009 and will likely earn him another nationally televised fight. Strengths: Determination, toughness, versatility, sharp jab, decent lateral movement, body punching, promoted by Thompson Boxing. Weaknesses: Advanced age (turned 30 last May), lack of KO power. What’s next? Nothing scheduled, but a rematch with Provodnikov would be welcomed by most hardcore fans.
Charles Huerta Weight class: featherweight Age: 24 Record: 16-1 (9) The skinny: The hard-punching Southern Californian finally put the first-round KO he suffered against Derrick Wilson in July of 2009 behind him with a productive 2010. Huerta broke his right hand in his first bout of the year, a majority decision over tough Guadalupe DeLeon in February, but once it healed he looked sharp in knocking out Jonathan Arias (KO 6) and Felipe Cordova (KO 1) before out-pointing Arturo Camargo (UD 8) in Mexico at the end of the year. Strengths: Strong amateur background, KO power in both hands, counter-punching ability, body punching, determination, promoted by Golden Boy Promotions. Weaknesses: Defensive holes, plodding at times, trouble with speed and movement. What’s next? A 10-round bout on a Telefutura show from Indio, Calif., in February. Golden Boy is ready to put Huerta in with a fellow prospect or a fringe contender-level opponent.
Ravshan Hudaynazarov Weight class: welterweight Age: 26 Record: 14-0 (12) The skinny: The former Uzbekistan amateur standout, now based in Las Vegas, was impressive in his U.S. debut, a three-round dismantling of journeyman Shadrack Kipruto last January. He won his next three bouts of 2010, also in the U.S., by KO, and kicked off 2011 with a 10-round TKO of former title challenger Jose Luis Cruz in Kazakhstan. Hudaynazarov’s stoppage of Cruz, who he dropped in the first round, was impressive given the Mexican veteran’s only other KO loss in 51 pro bouts was a controversial technical stoppage to Joshua Clottey in 2008. Cruz went the 10-round distance with Shane Mosley in 2005. Strengths: Extensive amateur background, relentless body attack, heavy hands, maturity, physical strength, trained by Kevin Barry, promoted by light heavyweight titleholder Beibut Shumenov (who is promoted by Goossen Tutor). Weaknesses: Technique needs fine tuning, still in need of more quality pro rounds before permanently stepping up to 10- and 12-round level. What’s next? Nothing scheduled, but will likely turn up on the undercard of Shumenov’s next fight.
Tomoki Kameda Weight class: bantamweight/junior featherweight Age: 19 Record: 17-0 (12) The skinny: The talented teenage younger brother of Japanese titleholders Koki and Daiki Kameda trains in Mexico where he’s fought 12 times and garnered the nickname “El Mexicanito.” Kameda fought six times in 2010 including a 10-round split decision over undefeated Stephane Jamoye (18-0), which earned him an alphabet “youth” title. Strengths: Comes from a boxing family, confidence, speed, accuracy, infighting ability, body punching, strong right hand. Weaknesses: Too reserved at times, neglects jab and combination punching, doesn’t turn his left hook over enough. What’s next? Nothing scheduled but the Mexico-based teen will likely have another busy year as he is frequently featured on Mexican television, including Televisa shows.
Lateef Kayode Weight class: cruiserweight Age: 27 Record: 15-0 (14) The skinny: The Southern California-based Nigerian powerhouse appears on his way to earning a top-15 rankings after stopping all six of his opponents in 2010. Kayode earned regional alphabet belts with an eighth-round TKO of former prospect Alfredo Escalera Jr. on ShoBox in August and a sixth-round stoppage of veteran journeyman Epifanio Mendoza in October. Strengths: Brute physical strength, KO power in both hands, confidence, athleticism, solid technique, trained by Freddy Roach, promoted by Gary Shaw. Weaknesses: Poor footwork, reckless at times, has trouble with speed and movement. What’s next? A 10-round main event against Nicholas Iannuzzi (16-1) on a Feb. 4 ShoBox triple header.
Matt Korobov Weight class: middleweight Age: 27 Record: 13-0 (8) The skinny: The Russian amateur star and 2008 Olympian continued to gain solid pro experience in 2010, defeating spoiler Joshua Snyder and solid young journeymen Anthony Greenidge and Derrick Findley via eight-round decision. However, Korobov didn’t look like the blue-chip prospect he was touted to be by promoter Top Rank when the Las Vegas-based company signed him to much fanfare in late 2008. Korobov, who recently replaced head trainer Ken Adams with former champ Mike McCallum, struggled in the middle rounds of all three of his distance bouts in 2010. Manager Cameron Dunkin believes the poor showings are due to stamina issues that are the result of either overtraining or breathing problems. Strengths: International amateur experience, maturity, effective pressure, combination punching, southpaw style, managed by Dunkin, promoted by Top Rank, trained by McCallum. Weaknesses: Poor stamina. What’s next? Dunkin is working on getting Korobov an eight-round bout on the undercard of the Miguel Cotto-Ricardo Mayorga PPV on March 12.
Diego Magdaleno Weight class: junior lightweight Age: 24 Record: 17-0 (5) The skinny: The Las Vegas native evolved from a local standout to a real prospect by steadily improving his skill and technique while facing solid opposition in 2009 and 2010. The gutsy southpaw stick-and-move artist, isn’t known for his power, but he stopped his last two opponents of 2010 (after nine consecutive distance bouts), once-beaten Carlos Oliveira (25-1) and normally durable Derrick Campos. Strengths: Solid technique, good footwork, southpaw stance, busy jab, combination punching, economical puncher, trained by Pat Barry, promoted by Top Rank. Weaknesses: Lack of KO power, trouble with awkward fighters. What’s next? A 10-round bout against Marcos Jimenez (18-2) in the main event of the season premiere of Top Rank Live! on Jan. 22. A regional alphabet belt is up for grabs on the Fox Deportes-televised bout from Magdaleno‘s hometown.
Roberto Marroquin Weight class: featherweight Age: 21 Record: 17-0 (13) The skinny: The highly decorated amateur standout from Dallas has lived up to the high expectations of his promotional company Top Rank, which wisely placed him on the undercards of Manny Pacquiao’s fights at Cowboys Stadium last March and November while keeping him busy on Fox Deportes-televised shows from Mexico between the Filipino icon’s Texas appearances. Marroquin, who appears to be the total package of style, technique, personality, and looks, has the potential to develop into a bona fide regional attraction with the help of key fights within his deep and talented division. Strengths: Extensive amateur background, tight technique, high guard, combination punching, power, accuracy, managed by Lou Mesorana, promoted by Top Rank. Weaknesses: None to report so far. What’s next? An eight-round bout against Leon Bobo in the co-feature to the Top Rank Live! season premiere in Las Vegas on Jan. 22.
Christopher Martin Weight class: junior featherweight/featherweight Age: 24 Record: 21-0-2 (6) The skinny: The skilled San Diego native announced his presence to the boxing world by soundly out-boxing much-ballyhooed Chris Avalos on a ShoBox broadcast last August. Showtime, which had broadcast a number of Avalos’ bouts, hyped the undefeated KO artist (16-0 with 13 knockouts) as a future star. Martin, who controlled Avalos with his jab from a distance and out-worked him when in close, obviously didn’t buy into it. Martin, the more mature boxer, dominated most of the fight despite the split-decision on the official scorecards. Strengths: Ring intelligence, crafty style, versatility, quick hands, excellent footwork, sharp technique, solid defense, counter punching, guts, co-promoted by Jorge Marron and Don Chargin. Weaknesses: Lacks KO power, occasionally drops left, cutie counter-punching style may not make for entertaining fights. What’s next? Nothing scheduled. Golden Boy Promotions would like to make a Southern California showdown between Martin and his amateur rival Charles Huerta. That fight or a rematch with Avalos is worthy of a ShoBox main event.
Archie Ray Marquez Weight class: lightweight Age: 22 Record: 11-0 (8) The skinny: The management of the Albuquerque native were beginning to wonder if Marquez would ever realize his considerable potential after starting 2010 with back-to-back struggles against journeymen Andres Ledesma (MD 6) and Derrick Campos (UD 8) and then missing most of the year due to legal troubles stemming from a domestic violence incident, but the aggressive boxer-puncher kept his prospect status alive with a brutally exciting third-round demolition of tough Juan Santiago on ShoBox in October. Strengths: Relentless aggression, speed, solid technique, power in both hands, decent footwork, promoted by Gary Shaw. Weaknesses: Immaturity, personal issues/legal problems, defensive holes, sometimes reckless in the ring. What’s next? Faces Martin Quintero (20-3) in the eight-round opener to the ShoBox triple header on Feb. 4.
Seth Mitchell Weight class: heavyweight Age: 28 Record: 20-0-1 (14) The skinny: The Maryland-born American heavyweight hopeful with a background in football won over some skeptical hardcore fans and boxing media in 2010. The former high school and collegiate linebacker scored five impressive KO victories, including stoppages of former fringe contenders Derek Bryant (TKO 1) and Taurus Sykes (KO 5) in the second half of the year. Strengths: Maturity, athleticism, physical strength, heavy hands, competitive nature, good student in the gym, affable personality, promoted by Golden Boy Promotions. Weaknesses: Lack of amateur experience (he only had around a dozen bouts), somewhat plodding footwork. What’s next? Golden Boy is trying to get him a televised main event on Friday Night Fights or ShoBox in March.
Carlos Molina Weight class: lightweight/junior welterweight Age: 25 Record: 14-0 (7) The skinny: The aggressive technician from Norwalk, Calif., fought five times in 2010. He struggled a bit when he faded in the late rounds against young journeyman Humberto Tapia (UD 8) in May but looked sharp halting once-beaten Glen Gonzalez (8-1-1) after four rounds in his very next fight. Molina, the older brother of 2008 U.S. Olympian Javier Molina (and a former amateur standout himself), hired a nutritionist/conditioning coach following the Tapia bout and performed much stronger in his final two bouts of the year. Strengths: Extensive amateur background, patience, solid technique, deceptive hand speed, combination punching, trained by Clemente Medina, managed by Frank Espinoza, promoted by Golden Boy Promotions. Weaknesses: Lacks KO power, struggles to make 135 pounds, too small to campaign at junior welterweight and even bit short for a modern lightweight. What’s next? Molina won’t be back in the ring until early March due to a hand injury. Espinoza is looking to put him in an eight-or-10-round bout on the undercard of one of Golden Boy’s bigger shows.
John Molina Weight class: lightweight Age: 28 Record: 21-1 (17) The skinny: The lanky Southern California slugger rebounded well from late 2009 decision loss to Martin Honorio with three KO victories in 2010, the most impressive of which was his 11th-round stoppage of speedy fringe contender Henry Lundy on Friday Night Fights. However, while Molina’s come-from-behind TKO was entertaining it also exposed his many technical flaws. Strengths: KO power in both hands, confidence, toughness, trained by Joe Goossen, promoted by Goossen Tutor. Weaknesses: Limited amateur background, lack of speed, lack of jab, advancing age, plodding footwork, loose technique, trouble with speed and movement. What’s next? A stay busy eight rounder on the Arreola-Abel undercard on Jan. 28.
David Price Weight class: heavyweight Age: 27 Record: 8-0 (6) The skinny: The gangly big man from Liverpool is well known in the UK thanks to his outstanding amateur career, the pinnacle of which was his bronze-medal victory in the 2008 Olympic Games. Price signed a promotional deal with Frank Maloney, the British boxing maven who guided Lennox Lewis to heavyweight supremacy in the 1990s. Strengths: International amateur experience, maturity, patience, modern heavyweight size (6-foot-8/ 203cm), good technique, busy jab, promoted by Frank Maloney. Weaknesses: Overly methodical at times, sub-par opposition so far, average speed and power. What’s next? Maloney will keep Price busy — a bout is already scheduled for Feb. 5 — but he says he’s having a hard time getting the Britain’s better heavyweights to fight his still-developing prospect.
Ivan Popoca Weight class: junior welterweight Age: 28 Record: 15-0-1 (10) The skinny: The good news for fans is that the former Chicago-area amateur standout always makes for action-packed fights, the bad news for Popoca is that he went life-and-death with journeymen Jose Soto-Karass (TKO 5) and Martin Tucker in televised bouts in 2010. Popoca’s Chicago-based promoter, 8 Count Productions, has done a great job of keeping the Mexican-born fighter busy on local cards, which has helped him cultivate a sizeable hometown following. Strengths: Extensive amateur background, TV-friendly style, scrappy attitude, volume and combination punching, advice/guidance from former titleholder David Diaz, promoted by 8 Count Productions. Weaknesses: Defensive holes, average speed and power, advancing age, easily pulled into slugfests. What’s next? Nothing scheduled but 8 Count Productions plans to step-up the level of Popoca’s competition and advance him to 10-round bouts in 2011.
Ruslan Provodnikov Weight class: junior welterweight Age: 26 Record: 17-1 (11) The skinny: The Russian pressure fighter lost the first fight of his pro career when he was out-jabbed and out-boxed by gutsy Mauricio Herrera in the 12-round main event of the Friday Night Fights premiere on Jan. 7. The close unanimous decision loss showed fans Provodnikov’s strengths, such as his toughness and the damaging power of his heavy fists, which badly bruised the left eye of Herrera, but it also exposed his weaknesses, such as his inconsistent jab and his inability to cut the ring off on a moving opponent. However, a single loss — especially one as close as this one (ESPN2 commentator Teddy Atlas scored the fight for Provodnikov) — should not end a young fighter’s prospect status. The buzz Provodnikov created with his impressive stoppages of former lightweight beltholder Javier Jauregui (TKO 8) and celebrated journeyman Emanuel Augustus (TKO 9) last year will die down a bit, it shouldn’t go away. Strengths: Extensive amateur background, TV-friendly style, body punching, physical strength, durability, heavy hands, promoted by Banner Promotions. Weaknesses: Plodding footwork, lack of defensive prowess, lack of jab and combination punching, loose technique. What’s next? Nothing scheduled, but fans certainly wouldn’t object to an immediate rematch with Herrera or a comeback bout against an equally aggressive (and defensively flawed) fellow prospect such as Popoca.
Rico Ramos Weight class: junior featherweight Age: 23 Record: 18-0 (10) The skinny: The speedy former Southern California amateur star continued to earn his reputation as one of America’s most talented prospects in 2010 by soundly defeating still serviceable former title challengers Reynaldo Lopez (UD 8) and Heriberto Ruiz (KO 2) and former prospect Cuauhtemoc Vargas (UD 8). Ramos stepped up to the 10-round level against Ruiz and all of this bouts in 2011 will at least be scheduled 10 rounders. Strengths: Extensive amateur background, exceptional speed, combination and body punching, infighting ability, good footwork, versatility, promoted by Goossen Tutor. Weaknesses: Occasional lapses in concentration that allow lesser-talented fighters to land punches. What’s next? Co-headlines the Feb. 11 edition of ShoBox in a scheduled 10-round bout against Alejandro Valdez, a dangerous fringe contender who has twice challenged for bantamweight titles and gave Fernando Montiel fits in a three-round tech. draw in 2009.
Luis Ramos Weight class: Age: lightweight Record: 17-0 (8) The skinny: The Orange County-based southpaw, who advanced beyond four- and six-round bouts after four consecutive appearances on Golden Boy Promotion’s Fight Night Club series, proved he is a solid eight-round fighter in 2010 with good performances against Allen Litzau (KO 2), Joshua Allotey (UD 8) and John Figueroa (UD 8) in scheduled eight-round bouts. Ramos’ first real test was to come against rugged and awkward former title challenger Francisco Lorenzo in December but a hand injury forced him to pull out of that bout. Manager Frank Espinoza says the aggressive young boxer will be matched against a veteran fighter of Lorenzo’s caliber by his second bout in 2011. Strengths: Extensive amateur background, fast hands, good footwork and offensive technique, high work rate, combination punching, guts, managed by Espinoza, promoted by Golden Boy Promotions. Weaknesses: Defensive holes, sometimes falls into slugfests when he doesn’t have to. What’s next? Espinoza says he’ll be back in a scheduled eight- or 10-round bout in late February, probably on a Telefutura show.
Matt Remilard Weight class: featherweight Age: 24 Record: 23-0 The skinny: It isn’t easy to gauge the Connecticut native’s level as a prospect. Remillard fought the 10-round distance in back-to-back bouts in late 2006 and early 2008 (he sat out 2007 due to a severe wrist injury), but his very next fight was a four-round bout. His next two bouts were scheduled 10 rounders (one of which went the distance) but he dropped down to six-round bouts in late 2008 and remained there until recently. The talented former amateur standout lived up to his “Sharp Shooter” nickname in the past year with two TKO victories over previously undefeated Rafael Lora (11-0) and an impressive fourth-round stoppage of former prospect Carlos Rivera in bouts that earned him two regional (North American) alphabet titles. Strengths: Extensive amateur background, maturity, solid technique, busy jab, combination punching, infighting ability, makes excellent use of the uppercut and left hook to the body, good finisher. Weaknesses: Average power and physical strength, promoted by a troubled company (TKO Boxing). What’s next? Nothing scheduled.
Ronny Rios Weight class: featherweight/junior lightweight Age: 20 Record: 13-0 (6) The skinny: The Orange County-based prodigy continued to grow and impress observers with five quality fights in 2010. The former U.S. amateur standout showed his ability to adapt to difficult styles by using a relentless body attack to slow down and stop fleet-footed journeymen Andres Ledesma (KO 5) and Leivi Brea (KO 4) in Fight Night Club appearances last year. Strengths: Extensive amateur background, natural fighting ability, strong will, combination and body punching, accuracy, managed by Frank Espinoza, promoted by Golden Boy Promotions. Weaknesses: Late start to the sport, lack of world-class speed and power. What’s next? Espinoza says he’ll be back in the ring mid-February in an eight-round bout.
Keith Thurman Weight class: welterweight Age: 22 Record: 15-0 (14) The skinny: The 2008 Olympic alternate from Florida turned heads by winning his first eight pro bouts by first-round knockout, however, he proved to be a bona fide prospect by the manner in which he won his three bouts of 2010. Thurman knocked out Stalin Lopez, an undefeated (7-0) former Cuban amateur standout, in two rounds last July. He got up from a first round knockdown against Quandray Robertson and dropped the veteran spoiler three times en route to a third-round KO in September, and then out-boxed the very game Favio Medina (23-2-3) before taking the vastly more experienced fighter out with a well-timed left hook in the fourth round of the undercard to the Juan Manuel Marquez-Michael Katsidis undercard in November. Strengths: Extensive amateur background, KO power in both hands, speed, good technique, power-punch variety, decent footwork, confidence, trained by Dan Birmingham, managed by Al Haymon. Weaknesses: Sometimes paws with jab, occasionally loads up with single power shots. What’s next? Nothing scheduled, but his last three bout were on Golden Boy Promotions undercards so don’t be surprised if he pops up on one of the California company’s shows scheduled in the first quarter.
Jessie Vargas Weight class: junior welterweight Age: 21 Record: 13-0 (7) The skinny: The Las Vegas-based boxer-puncher went from nobody to somebody during a busy 2010 that included three fights on L.A.’s monthly Fight Night Club series, two of which were televised on Fox Sports net, and two bouts on the undercards of major Golden Boy Promotions shows in his hometown. Vargas’ most impressive showing was his sixth-round stoppage of game former contender Ernesto Zavala (21-4) in June. His sixth-round stoppage of former title challenger Arturo Morua on the undercard of the Floyd Mayweather-Shane Mosley fight in May is also worth noting. Strengths: Ability to relax in the ring, effective pressure, heavy hands, good jab, combination punching, willingness to fight anybody, trained by Roger Mayweather, managed by Leonard Ellerbe, promoted by Floyd Mayweather, strong working relationship with Golden Boy Promotions. Weaknesses: Sometimes squares up in front of his opponents, susceptibility to body shots. What’s next? Should be back in the ring by March or April on another Fight Night Club card or the undercard of the Joseph Agbeko-Abner Mares fight at Nokia Theater in L.A.
Carlos Velasquez Weight class: junior lightweight Age: 26 Record: 13-0 (11) The skinny: The Caribbean-area amateur star from Puerto Rico, who owns an amateur victory over Cuban Olympian and current titleholder Yuriokis Gamboa, did not fight enough in 2010. However, Velasquez looked sharp dispatching quality opponents in his only two outings last year — a fourth-round KO of Ira Terry (24-2) and a fifth-round stoppage of Eduardo Arcos (15-1). Strengths: International amateur experience, maturity, educated jab, economical punching, good technique, ability to relax in the ring, managed by Luis DeCubas Jr., promoted by Golden Boy Promotions. Weaknesses: Recent inactivity (Velasquez only fought twice in 2009 and in 2010). What’s next? Nothing scheduled.
Part three of this three-part article features the top novice-level prospects.