The Top Ten Prospects In The World
By Matt Yanofsky: Boxing universally has quite a few blue chip prospects. I have decided to make a list of the top ten in the world. Many of the fighters will be names you recognize, while some may not yet be familiar due to a lack of publicity. The man who many have number one, Alexander Povetkin is now off my list because he recently stopped long time Heavyweight title holder Chris Byrd, and is one victory away from a showdown with the Wladimir Klitchko/Sultan Ibragimov winner, putting him above a prospect. I have also added an honorable mention of prospects that fell just short of the top 10..
Article posted on 25.12.2007
1. Amir Khan 15-0 (12 KO’s) (Lightweight)
This 2004 Olympic silver medalist captured the British Lightweight title by earning a hard fought TKO over the 28-1 Willie Limond in July. Following the Limond win, he stopped veteran Scott Lawton to set up what would be the best victory of his young career. On December 8th, Khan impressively annihilated Graham Earl in 72 seconds, the same Graham Earl who went 5 rounds in a world title fight in his previous bout.
Khan is easily the most publicized prospect in the world, and he has loads of talent. Khan’s only problem may be his chin. Limond, who only has 8 knockouts in his 28 victories, was able to drop Khan. I believe it is no coincidence that Khan has never faced a big puncher or rough fighter. Khan appears to have what it takes to become a great fighter but he needs to keep stepping up. A rough and tough fighter like Edner Cherry would be a great test for Khan.
2. Yuriorkis Gamboa 7-0 (6 KO’s) (Super Featherweight)
Gamboa was a Gold Medalist in the 2004 Olympics and a great amateur fighting in the famed Cuban system. As a pro, Gamboa has shown incredible hand speed and good punching power, as 6 of his 7 opponents have not made it to the final bell. Gamboa’s opposition level is incredible for a fighter at such an early stage. Gamboa has already sent home the 40-11 Joel Mayo, World title challenger Samuel Kebede, and former world ranked Adailton De Jesus early.
On January 5th, Gamboa will be taking another incredible step up in class by facing former WBA Featherweight champion Freddie Norwood who had 6 successful title defenses and has a record of 42-2. In addition, Norwood beat current top 5 pound for pound fighter Juan Manuel Marquez. Gamboa has a very bright future but could use some work on calming down his punches. De Jesus scored a flash knockdown of Gamboa because he was off balance from throwing a wild punch. Gamboa is one of the most phenomenal fighters I’ve ever seen this early in a career. If he keeps up his current pace, I expect him to be a top fighter and a world champion for many years.
3. Andre Berto 20-0 (17 KO’s) (Welterweight)
Berto was yet another member of the 2004 Olympic class, but was defeated in the very first round of the tournament. Initially, this somewhat limited what was expected of him as a professional. Berto showed that his early exit in Athens was a fluke and has steamrolled through all of his opponents as a pro. In Berto’s last fight, he defeated tough gate keeper David Estrada by 11th round TKO and landed some big shots.
Berto has shown both speed and power which has drawn him comparisons to Shane Mosley. He could use some work on his defense and much like Khan, his chin has been questioned. Cosme Rivera was able to drop Berto, when he got careless and was caught with a short left uppercut. If Berto continues to progress and fix his defensive liabilities, he will be a top welterweight for a long time.
4. Odlanier Solis 6-0 (4 KO’s) (Heavyweight)
Solis, the 2004 gold medal winner at Heavyweight has picked up a fast pace as a pro. Solis stopped his first three opponents, who had a combined record of 54-9. Solis was scheduled to face Wladimir Klitchko conqueror Ross Puritty and long time contender Francois Botha before both pulled out for undisclosed reasons. On December 23rd, Solis captured the WBC Latino Heavyweight crown by defeating Julius Long, winning every round on all three cards.
The man I call “Solis the Beast” is easily the best heavyweight prospect in the world. Solis’ only problem is his weight. Solis turned pro at 258 lbs, which is 58 lbs higher then his amateur weight. Solis has been slowly trimming down and weighed a career low 247 vs Julius Long. He would most definitely be at his best at around 230-235, and I expect him to get there in the next 3-4 fights. If Solis continues to dominate, there is a chance he can win a world title within 15 fights!
5. Andy Lee 14-0 (11 KO’s) (Middleweight)
Like Berto, Lee had an early exit in Athens in 2004. Lee was immediately picked up by world renowned trainer Emanuel Steward and brought to Kronk Gym in Detroit. This southpaw boxer/puncher convincingly stopped former world champion Carl Daniels and 18-1 Jason McKay in 2007. Steward claims Lee would presently be able to beat Middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik.
Lee will continue to work his way up to a title shot and has a fight tentatively on February 23rd with long time contender Howard Eastman. Lee has shown few weaknesses, but does not appear ready to challenge a current top 5 fighter. The durable Eastman should be a good test for Lee, as he went the distance with world champions Bernard Hopkins, William Joppy, and Arthur Abraham. If Lee impresses vs Eastman, expect him to step up again and be featured possibly on HBO in the near future.
6. Juan Manuel Lopez 20-0 (18 KO’s) (Super Bantamweight)
The astonishing Lopez has been a fixture on Top Rank pay per view undercards. The southpaw banger broke down veterans Giovanni Andrade and Hugo Dianzo recently. Lopez has a February 9th fight tentatively scheduled with once beaten Pilipino prospect Bernabe Concepcion. If Lopez wins, expect him to get a world title shot as he has already called out everyone in his division.
7. James Kirkland (Junior Middleweight)
This southpaw powerhouse has been spectacular in continued his career following a 2 ½ year jail stint in 2003 by terminating 9 of his last 10 opponents. In Kirkland’s last two fights, he destroyed Mohammad Said and Allen Conyers within two rounds. Kirkland also showed he is improving as a boxer by winning a unanimous decision over iron chinned veteran Ossie Duran.
Kirkland came off the canvas in the Conyers fight and his chin may be questioned as he was dropped by a much smaller man. Kirkland also needs work on his defense, as Duran landed his jab way too frequently in their fight. Kirkland is tentatively scheduled for a February or March HBO date. I would love to see him face volume punching contender Eromosele Albert in what would make an incredible fight. Hopefully I am not the only one thinking of this potential match up!
8. Abner Mares 15-0 (9 KO’s) (Bantamweight)
Golden Boy Promotions’ prized prospect has continued to impress boxing fans world wide with his victories over former world champion Isidro Garcia and hard nosed Damian Marchiano. Prior to turning pro, Mares had an excellent amateur career and so far has shown his skillful boxing ability as a professional. Golden Boy will continue to step Mares until he is ready for a title shot, which I expect to be in 2009. A mega fight down the line for Mares may be up one weight class at 122 lbs for against fellow prospect Juan Manuel Lopez.
9. Jean Pascal 20-0 (14 KO’s) (Super Middleweight)
Pascal, a Canadian based Haitian has exhibited hand speed, a boxing style, and physical tools that are comparable to a young Roy Jones Jr. This past August; Pascal scored a unanimous decision victory over world title challenger Kingsley Ikeke to retain his NABF strap.
Pascal like many other promising young fighters winds up to much on his punches and has a tendency to throw wildly. Pascal has a January 11th ESPN fight against Omar Pittman of Philadelphia. Pascal’s new rival Edison Miranda will be the co feature and if both win as expected, they will fight each other later in 2008. Miranda would be a huge step up for Pascal, who will have his chin tested for the first time by the cement fisted Miranda
10. Victor Ortiz 20-1-1 (14 KO’s) (Junior Welterweight)
This aggressive southpaw took another step toward becoming a world class fighter by knocking out former WBA Junior Welterweight champion Carlos Maussa in the first round of his last fight. Ortiz also broke down durable veteran Emmanuel Clottey. Ortiz suffered an early controversial loss as he knocked his opponent out in a clinch the second the referee called for a break. He also has a technical draw in a bout he appeared to be on the way to winning against undefeated prospect Marvin Cordova.
Ortiz was rumored to be facing WBO champion Ricardo Torres but Torres ended up with another opponent. Ortiz could use another fight or two against a gate keeper in the division like Juan Luzcano, Randall Bailey, or Lovemore N’dou to prove that his promoter Top Rank will not be making a mistake by putting him into a title fight at the ripe age 20.
Honorable Mention: Gennadiy Golovkin, Chris Arreola, Kevin Johnson, Lamont Peterson, Anthony Peterson, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, Andre Ward, Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillan, Joe Greene, AJ Banal
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