The final part to my Prospects to watch in 2011 article will hopefully encourage hardcore fight fans to pay attention to the undercards of major shows this year and assure them that the sport is in good hands for foreseeable future.
Part three focuses on novice-level prospects, those still-developing up-and-comers who have yet to step up to eight-round professional fights. There are 27 young fighters listed here. As with the list of intermediate-level prospects in part two, there could have easily been twice as many names in this article.
All of the fighters listed are athletically gifted or naturally talented boxers. Many were experienced amateur standouts who won or placed in numerous national competitions. Some, such as Frankie Gomez and Deontay Wilder, placed in major international tournaments.
However, few have been tested in their brief pro careers, probably because most of the fighters on this list are under 23 and still growing.
Gomez, who fights on the undercard of Telefutura’s Solo Boxeo on Friday, is an exception. The East L.A.-born teenager out-pointed seasoned veteran Ramon Montano over six rounds in his final bout of 2010. Montano, who has never been knocked out, is a capable former fringe contender who fought then-lightweight beltholder David Diaz to a competitive 10-round majority decision loss in 2008 and held then-undefeated prospect Dmitriy Salita to an eight-round draw in 2003.
While Gomez’s opponent on Jan. 14 is not in Montano’s class, the quality of his opposition is expected to rise dramatically as the year progresses.
It will be a lot of fun watching how he, along with his fellow novice prospects, progress along with it.
A note before we get to the list:
As mentioned in parts one and two, 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.”
Manuel Avila Weight class: featherweight Age: 18 Record: 1-0 The skinny: The precocious amateur standout from Fairfield, Calif., blew away ringsiders at his pro debut, a four-round decision over Alexis Hernandez on the final edition of Fox Sport Net’s Fight Night Club last November. Avila’s mix of poise, footwork, and technique give him the look of a pro with at least 10 bouts under his belt. Strengths: Extensive amateur background, excellent foundation, sharp technique, ability to think and relax in the ring, managed by Cameron Dunkin, promoted by Golden Boy Promotions. Weaknesses: To early to tell. What’s next? A four rounder on the undercard of the Erislandy Lara-Delray Raines Solo Boxeo main event on Jan. 14.
Jerry Belmontes Weight class: junior lightweight Age: 22 Record: 14-0 (5) The skinny: The accomplished amateur from Corpus Christi, Texas, was dropped by Top Rank after he struggled to out-point rugged but inexperienced Gil Garcia (2-0) last April, however the mobile boxer forged on without the promotional giant, scoring knockouts of journeymen Arturo Herrera (TKO 2) and Eddie Martinez (TKO 6) to close out 2010. Strengths: Extensive amateur background, quick hands and feet, good lateral movement, economical puncher. Weaknesses: Lacks KO power and physical strength, reluctant to stand ground, can be bullied by lesser-talented fighters What’s next? An eight-round showdown with fellow undefeated Texas standout Casey Ramos (12-0) in the co-featured bout of ESPN2‘s Friday Night Fights card on Feb. 4. Somebody’s “O” must go.
Jose Benavidez Weight class: 18 Age: 18 Record: 9-0 (9) The skinny: Very few amateur stars without Olympic or world amateur championship credentials have turned pro to as much fanfare as the rangy boxer-puncher from Phoenix, Arizona did early last year. However, most amateurs don’t impress Freddie Roach as much as Benavidez did when, as a 17 year old, he sparred with the best fighters of the respected trainer's competitive Wild Card gym. Top Rank signed Benavides on Roach’s recommendation and kept the ultra-talent busy, fighting him nine times in 2010. Altough Benavides, who won all of his bouts by KO, no longer trains in L.A. with Roach, he will be one of the most watched prospects of 2011. Strengths: Extensive amateur background, KO power in both hands, poise, height (5-foot-11/180cm), good jab, accuracy/economy of punches, combination and body punching, promoted by Top Rank. Weaknesses: Slow of foot, trouble with speed and lateral movement. What’s next? A six-round bout against Fernando Rodriguez (5-1) on the undercard of the season premiere of Fox Sport Net‘s Top Rank Live on Jan. 22.
Randy Caballero Weight class: junior featherweight Age: 20 Record: 6-0 (4) The skinny: Caballero, arguably the most talented and decorated amateur from the Coachella/Palm Springs, Calif.-area since Tim Bradley, is already developing into a regional attraction after only six pro bouts. Strengths: Strong amateur background, solid technique, heavy hands, managed by Cameron Dunkin, promoted by Golden Boy Promotions. Weaknesses: Can be overly aggressive/macho, which leads to reckless action in the ring. What’s next? A six-round bout on the undercard of the Lara-Raines Solo Boxeo card on Jan. 14 in Indio, Calif. It will be Caballero’s second appearance on a Telefutura card from the Fantasy Springs Casino, which is near his home in Coachella, and more bouts at the popular resort are likely in 2011.
Dmitry Chudinov Weight class: middleweight/super middleweight Age: 24 Record: 5-0 (3) The skinny: The former standout on the Russian national amateur team only fought twice last year due to the struggling promotional company (TKO Boxing) that he was signed to, but he looked sharp in both outings and, along with his younger brother Fedor, stayed busy as quality sparring partner for the likes of Alfredo Angulo and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in the competitive gyms of Southern California. The Chudinov brothers were released from TKO Boxing at the end of 2010. They have a Russian TV deal, according to manager Ed Goumachian, but they are looking for a U.S. promoter. Strengths: Extensive amateur background, good technique, physical strength, guts, managed by Goumachian, trained by Mario and Ramon Morales. Weaknesses: Lack of speed and defense. What’s next? Chudinov is currently back in Russia but is expected to return to the U.S. in the first quarter of 2011 and is aiming for six bouts this year to make up for lost time.
Feder Chudinov Weight class: middleweight/super middleweight Age: 23 Record: 4-0 (3) The skinny: The younger brother was not as accomplished as Dmitry in the amateurs and possess a more raw fighting, which makes his fights fun to watch. Whether sparing with a “Perro” Angulo in the gym or battling a tough journeyman in a real bout, the younger Chudinov always strives to out-will his opponents. Strengths: Strong amateur background, heavy hands, physical strength, guts, managed by Goumachian, trained by Mario and Ramon Morales. Weaknesses: Inactivity (only fought once in 210), immaturity, lack of speed and defense, loose technique. What’s next? Nothing scheduled.
Denis Douglin Weight class: middleweight Age: 22 Record: 12-0 (8) The skinny: The New Jersey-area amateur standout who is trained by his mother fought six times in 2010 and was particularly impressive at the end of the year when he scored first-round stoppages of Orphius Waite (5-1-1) and Matt Berkshire (11-2-2). Douglin was impressive enough to attract the attention of powerful adviser/manager Al Haymon who recently signed the East Coast prospect. Strengths: Extensive amateur background, tight technique, southpaw stance, combination and body punching, managed by Haymon. Weaknesses: Methodical, somewhat plodding, average hand speed. What’s next? A six-round bout on the undercard of the Fernando Guerrero-Saul Roman Friday Night Fights main event on Feb. 18.
Joseph Elegele Weight class: junior welterweight Age: 26 Record: 9-0 (7) The skinny: The tall boxer-puncher from Melbourne, Fla., reminds some observers of Thomas Hearns because of his tight punching technique and his elongated but powerful frame. Elegele fought seven times in 2010, culminating in an entertaining third-round KO of Willie Walton (4-1) on the July 2nd edition of Friday Night Fights. Despite being badly hurt in the second round, he came back to stop Walton in the third. The rangy southpaw is a frequent sparring partner of Andre Berto and shares the trainer of the welterweight belt holder, Tony Morgan. Strengths: Strong amateur background, height and reach, good offensive technique, KO power, trained by Morgan. Weaknesses: Defensive holes, suspect chin, promoted by troubled company (TKO Boxing). What’s next? Nothing scheduled.
Shawn Estrada Weight class: middleweight Age: 25 Record: 10-0 (9) The skinny: The 2008 Olympian from East L.A. should be competing in 10-round bouts by now (as most of his amateur rivals are), but chronic training injuries have hampered his activity/development, so the aggressive boxer-puncher has only recently stepped up to the six-round level. Estrada fought four times in 2010, scoring three first-round knockouts before going six much-needed rounds with Tony Hirsch (12-3-1) in November. Strengths: International amateur experience, brute physical strength, power, quick hands, versatility, tough guy attitude, promoted by Goossen Tutor Promotions. Weaknesses: Injury prone, sup-par opposition until recently, lack of rounds. What’s next? A six-round bout against once-beaten Jon Schmidt (10-1) on the undercard of the Chris Arreola-Joey Abel Friday Night Fights main event represents a moderate step up in competition.
Michael Finney Weight class: welterweight Age: 19 Record: 6-0 (6) The skinny: The teenage amateur wunderkind from Alabama turned heads with his mix of poise and explosive power in 2010. Finney, who moved to Las Vegas to be trained by veteran coach Ken Adams, fought six times last year and brutally halted all six opponents within the first two rounds. Strengths: Extensive amateur background, speed, KO power in both hands, poise, trained by Adams, managed by Cameron Dunkin, promoted by Golden Boy Promotions. Weaknesses: Too early to tell. What’s next? A hand injury will keep him out of the ring until March, but Golden Boy hopes to put him on the undercards of a March 4 Solo Boxeo show and a March 24 Fight Night Club.
Adrian Granados Weight class: junior welterweight Age: 21 Record: 6-1 (4) The skinny: The Chicago-area amateur standout turned pro in late 2008 but spent most of 2009 as a regular sparring partner of lightweight champ Juan Manuel Marquez while under the guidance of Nacho Beristain in Mexico. The popular youth, who caught Beristain’s eye as an alternate on 2008 Olympic squad, made up for lost time (after fighting only once in 2009) by fighting four times in 2010. Strengths: Strong amateur background, good technique, fast hands, local fan base, promoted by 8 Count Productions. Weaknesses: Overly aggressive at time. What’s next? Nothing scheduled.
Frankie Gomez Weight class: junior welterweight Age: 19 Record: 7-0 (6) The skinny: The East L.A. product is easily the most ballyhooed fighter Golden Boy Promotions has ever signed out of the amateurs. The aggressive teenage power-boxer, who won a silver medal in the 2009 world amateur championships at age 17, turned pro last April and fought seven times before the year was out. Gomez was impressive in his final fight of the year, a six-round unanimous decision over Montano (17-7-2), as the tough and game veteran was unable hold off his swarming offense. Strengths: International amateur background, speed, very heavy hands, relentless offense, body attack, promoted by Golden Boy Promotions. Weaknesses: Lack of a consistent jab, sometimes overly aggressive. What’s next? A six-round bout against Hensley Strachan (5-8-1) on the undercard of the Lara-Raines Solo Boxeo main event on Jan. 14.
Omar Henry Weight class: junior middleweight Age: 23 Record: 10-0 (8) The skinny: The accomplished amateur boxer-puncher who split time between his native Chicago and Houston, signed a deal with Top Rank in 2009 but was reportedly in hot water with the promotional giant by mid-2010 over a number of social networking pranks (including a fabricated press release he sent out via Twitter and Facebook stating that he had hired Floyd Mayweather’s right-hand man Leonard Ellerbe as his new adviser) and internet message-board battles with fans and the boxing media. Henry hasn’t fought since winning a one-sided four-round decision over tough Hilario Lopez in June, which suggests that Top Rank has indeed put him on “ice.” Henry has told numerous sources that he has retired from boxing. That’s unfortunate, if true, because he looked like the real deal while blasting out unbeaten young fighters Francisco Javier Reza (6-0) and Orphius Waite (5-0-1) in one and two rounds, respectively, in early 2010. Strengths: Strong amateur background, tight technique, KO power in both hands, combination and body punching, confidence. Weaknesses: Combative and narcissistic personality, promotional uncertainty. What’s next? Who knows?
Jaime Herrera Weight class: welterweight Age: 21 Record: 5-0 (3) The skinny: The lanky Chicago-area boxer-puncher is quickly cultivating a loyal local following on 8 Count Production shows held at the UIC Pavilion, where he’s fought all five of his pro bouts. Strengths: Good height (5-foot-10/178cm) for a welterweight, hand speed, decent power, fan-friendly style, local fan base, promoted by 8 Count Productions. Weaknesses: Too early to tell. What’s next? A six-round bout against Alex de Leon (2-2-1) on the undercard of the David Diaz-Robert Frankel main event at the UIC Pavilion on Jan. 28.
Jaime Kavanagh Weight class: junior welterweight Age: 20 Record: 4-0 (2) The skinny: The former captain of Ireland’s national amateur team, who won the silver medal at the 2008 world amateur championships at age 17, journeyed from Spain (where’s he had lived since he was 11) to L.A. to train with Freddie Roach at the famous Wild Card Boxing Club in early 2010 and he hasn’t looked back. Kavanagh looked sharp in two televised Fight Night Club bouts, in June and in September, in which he scored four-round decisions. He ended the year with a first-round stoppage of Jacob Thornton (2-1) on the Amir Khan-Marcos Maidana undercard in November. Strengths: International amateur background, poise, versatility, combination and body punching, good footwork, timing, co-trained by Roach. Weaknesses: Lack of a consistent jab, average speed and power. What’s next? Will likely be featured on the February or March Fight Night Club shows.
Mike Lee Weight class: Age: 23 Record: 3-0 (2) The skinny: The well-spoken Norte Dame graduate who discovered boxing while studying economics in college signed with Top Rank and moved to Houston to train with Ronnie Shields in early 2010. Lee’s first three pro bouts have been on high-profile Top Rank cards, such as his final fight of 2011, which was on the undercard of the Manny Pacquiao-Antonio Margarito fight at Cowboys Stadium. So, it’s clear the promotional company has plans for the raw but charismatic boxer-puncher from Chicago. Strengths: Maturity, quick student in the gym, physical strength, heavy hands, body punching, self-belief, potential fan base with Notre Dame alumni, trained by Shields, promoted by Top Rank. Weaknesses: Late start, lack of an amateur background. What’s next? A four-round bout on the undercard of the Miguel Acosta-Brandon Rios lightweight title fight on Feb. 26.
Jesse Magdaleno Weight class: featherweight Age: 19 Record: 1-0 The skinny: The younger brother of undefeated junior lightweight prospect Diego Magdaleno was a highly regarded U.S. amateur from Las Vegas that local promotional company, Top Rank, was very proud to sign last October. Magdaleno, who is trained by Pat Barry and former featherweight contender Augie Sanchez, impressively stopped Matthew Salazar in one round in his pro debut on the undercard of the Juan Manuel Lopez-Rafael Marquez in November. Strengths: Extensive amateur background, tight technique, sharp jab, good footwork, combination punching, trained by Barry and Sanchez, promoted by Top Rank. Weaknesses: Too early to tell. What’s next? A four-round bout against Cain Garcia on the undercard of his brother Diego’s 10-round Top Rank Live! main event against Marcos Jimenez on Jan. 22.
Fidel Maldonado Jr. Weight class: junior welterweight Age: 19 Record: 7-0 (6) The skinny: The charismatic Albuquerque native has the potential to replace popular former champs Johnny Tapia and Danny Romero as the boxing darling of the New Mexico capital. The aggressive southpaw has the wild-child persona of Tapia and powerful hands like Romero. Maldonado fought six times in 2010, including Fight Night Club bouts against journeymen John Willoughby (TKO 1) and Luis Sanchez (UD 4). The southpaw puncher got up from a flash first-round knockdown to outpoint Sanchez in his first distance bout. Strengths: Strong amateur background, KO power in both hands, aggressive/flamboyant style, managed by Dunkin, promoted by Golden Boy Promotions. Weaknesses: Can be overconfident and wild at times, making him more vulnerable than he should be. What’s next? Will be back in a late-January Solo Boxeo card, according to Dunkin.
Trevor McCumby Weight class: light heavyweight Age: 18 Record: 1-0 The skinny: The Illinois-born, Arizona based junior amateur standout entertained fans with his wild third-round stoppage of debuting Sharieff Hayes on the October edition of Fight Night Club last year, but the recent high school grad also showed that he has much to learn in the pro ranks by hot-dogging and taking unnecessary risks with his attack. Strengths: Extensive amateur background, physical strength, heavy hands, confidence, trained by Adams, managed by Dunkin. Weaknesses: Immaturity, loose technique, showboats at times. What’s next? Nothing scheduled.
Javier Molina Weight class: welterweight/junior middleweight Age: 21 Record: 5-0 (4) The skinny: Like his Olympic teammate, Estrada, the youngest member of the 2008 U.S. squad should be farther along in his pro career than he is. A chronic hand injury kept Molina, the younger brother of undefeated lightweight prospect Carlos Molina, out of the ring for most of 2010. However, the well-schooled Southern Californian got two bouts in (a first round stoppage of Marco Antonio Arauz and four-decision over Francisco Rios Gil) before the end of last year. Strengths: International amateur experience, excellent technique, educated jab, poise, counter-punching and infighting ability, promoted by Goossen Tutor. Weaknesses: Injuries, inactivity. What’s next? Nothing scheduled.
Antonio Orozco Weight class: junior welterweight Age: 23 Record: 8-0 (5) The skinny: The San Diego-area talent made important moves in 2010, signing a managerial deal with Frank Espinoza and finishing the year with a televised six-round victory over young journeyman Humberto Tapia on a Fight Night Club card in August. Strengths: Patience, technically sound, solid footwork, physical strength, heavy hands, managed by Espinoza. Weaknesses: Can be overly methodical, average hand speed. What’s next? Espinoza says Orozco will be back in the ring sometime in February.
Bastie Samir Weight class: middleweight Age: 24 Record: 7-0 (7) The skinny: The Ghanaian 2008 Olympian missed all of 2009 due to visa issues but made up for lost time in 2010 by brutally smashing all four of his pitiable opponents in two rounds or less. Samir, who is trained by Ken Adams in Las Vegas, has that special blend of blend of aggressive speed, brute strength, and raw power that is intoxicating to fights fans. Strengths: International amateur experience, KO power in both hands, speed, immense physical strength, trained by Adams, managed by Cameron Dunkin, promoted by Golden Boy Promotions. Weaknesses: Loose technique, defensive holes. What’s next? His first six-round bout against Greg Hackett on the undercard of the Lara-Raines Solo Boxeo main event on Jan. 14.
Andy Ruiz Weight class: heavyweight Age: 21 Record: 7-0 (5) The skinny: The 21-year-old Mexicali native is a baby by heavyweight standards and with his considerable girth (he was nearly 300 pounds for his pro debut) he actually looks like a giant baby, but those who have seen the amateur standout fight are excited about his professional prospects. Freddie Roach, who trains Ruiz, is among the fighter’s most ardent believers. Strengths: Extensive amateur background, quick hands, good footwork, combination punching, body punching, trained by Roach. Weaknesses: Still too heavy (even though he’s down to 260 pounds), short arms. What’s next? A four-round bout against Enrique Lobatos on the undercard of a Vanes Martirosyan-headlined Top Rank Live! card from Maywood, Calif., on Feb. 5.
Gary Russell Jr. Weight class: featherweight Age: 22 Record: 13-0 (9) The skinny: The most promising member of the 2008 U.S. Olympic team has not disappointed in the pro ranks. The Maryland-area speed merchant fought seven times in 2010, stopping all but one opponent (iron-jawed journeyman Guadalupe DeLeon) in one or two rounds. Russell fought two televised Fight Night Club bouts, including a quickie stoppage of former titleholder Mauricio Pastrana (TKO 1) in July. Strengths: International amateur experience, phenomenal hand speed, KO power, good jab, combination and body punching, infighting ability, managed by Al Haymon. Weaknesses: Short and stocky (5-foot-5/165cm with a 61-inch/155cm wingspan) even for a featherweight. What’s next? Nothing scheduled.
Leo Santa Cruz Weight class: bantamweight/junior featherweight Age: 22 Record: 14-0-1 (6) The skinny: The younger brother of former lightweight contender Jose Armando Santa Cruz has developed into a terrific body puncher, having won his last four bouts by stoppage, all with paralyzing body shots. Unfortunately, after a busy 2009, Santa Cruz only fought twice in 2010 like many TKO Boxing-promoted fighters. Strengths: Strong amateur background, comes from fighting family, body attack, poise, infighting ability, versatility, managed by Cameron Dunkin. Weaknesses: Promotional situation, trained by inexperienced father. What’s next? Nothing scheduled.
Deontay Wilder Weight class: heavyweight Age: 25 Record: 14-0 (14) The skinny: The physically imposing Alabama Adonis physically looks the part of a future heavyweight champ but despite winning a bronze medal in the 2008 Olympic Games the young heavyweight is extremely raw in terms of his technique and fighting poise. Wilder annihilated all six of his opponents in 2010, including a first-round KO of unbeaten Shannon Caudle (9-0-1), but veteran journeyman Harold Sconiers was able to drop and hurt him before being overwhelmed in four rounds in October. Strengths: International amateur experience, possesses modern heavyweight size (6-foot-7/ 201cm with an 84-inch/213cm wingspan), fast, powerful, co-trained by Mark Breland, promoted by Golden Boy Promotions. Weaknesses: Sub-par opposition so far, crude technique, suspect chin. What’s next? Golden Boy is looking for a date in March or April to showcase Wilder in his home state.
Mikael Zewski Weight class: junior middleweight Age: 21 Record: 6-0 (4) The skinny: The four-time Canadian national amateur champ from Trois-Rivières, Quebec, lived up to the considerable buzz he created while on the international circuit by dominating his first six pro opponents in 2010. Zewski, who fought four times in the U.S. and twice in Quebec last year, signed with manager Cameron Dunkin upon turning pro and joined Golden Boy’s vast promotional stable in September, ensuring that American and Canadian fans will be watching his progress in 2011. Strengths: International amateur experience, patience, poise, power in both hands, economical punching, body attack, managed by Dunkin. Weaknesses: Inconsistent jab, sometimes waits too long to get off, covers up too much when opponents get close. What’s next? Golden Boy found a spot for him on the undercard of HBO’s Saul Alvarez-headlined Boxing After Dark show in Anaheim, Calif., on March 5.