Older fighters are on their way out or are making their last stands. From Roy Jones to Bernard Hopkins, from Oscar De La Hoya to Floyd Mayweather all are retired, partially retired or fighting at a diminished capacity. So who are the best prospects to keep on an eye in 2009 in boxing?
5. Alfredo Angulo – 154 lbs – Alfredo Angulo looks to be the best of a crop of junior middleweights that are emerging. He has a solid technical base and apparently has a chin cast in iron. His punches don’t appear that quick but make their way to their target on short, direct paths and have an accumulative effect. His next fight is against veteran crazy man Ricardo Mayorga.
4. Yuriorkis Gamboa – 130 lbs – Gamboa might not be all that he is touted as but he is nonetheless a rising star with huge talent. His deficiencies lie in his defense, or lack there of, and a chin that has already been exposed against mediocre opposition. However, one cannot ignore his dazzling offensive abilities and astounding physical talents.
3. Andre Ward/Andre Dirrell – 168 lbs – Besides sharing the first name Andre, these two share a few other things in common. They were both medal winning Olympic teammates from the 2004 U.S. Olympic Boxing team. They are also both campaigning in the professional ranks as super middleweights. And both are 17-0 with 12 knockouts… seriously. They both possess a range of offensive skills and great hand speed but neither has been tested much yet. Dirrell has at times been satisfied coasting against outclassed opponents while Ward has been hurt and almost knocked out. However, the skills are there and either one could have a breakout 2009 with the right fights.
2. Victor Ortiz – 140 lbs – Victor Ortiz is a dangerous young fighter on the move through the junior welterweight ranks. He has handily disposed of several worthwhile opponents and has scored 18 kayos amongst his 23 victories. The time to move from prospect to title challenger should be in 2009, as by all signs Ortiz appears to be ready. His next fight may be against Vivian Harris.
1. Juan Manuel Lopez – 122 lbs – JuanMa has a complete arsenal of weapons, including a pinpoint hook and power in all of his punches. Unlike some other offensive juggernauts, such as Yuriorkis Gamboa, Lopez has great technical skills and sound boxing form. He has an astounding KO percentage, 22 knockouts in his first 24 fights and seems to be improving with each performance. After winning a title belt from dangerous but sloppy puncher Daniel Ponce De Leon, he is awaiting a chance to shine against a big name. With charisma that reminds some of fellow Puerto Rican and boxing great Felix Trinidad, Lopez should soon be receiving all of the attention he richly deserves.
No Longer Prospects – Young Champions
These fighters are no longer prospects, and are actually champions in the sport. However, you might not have gotten a chance to see them yet, and they should continue to improve and shine in 2009.
Chad Dawson – Light Heavyweight – Dawson has established himself as a fighter to be watched and is already a mainstay on pound for pound lists. He is one of the most talented young fighters in any weight class, and if you don’t know who he is yet, HBO will televise his second fight with Antonio Tarver in the coming months.
Andre Berto – Welterweight – Berto recently struggled against his toughest test, Luis Collazo, and many feel he lost the fight. All of the skills seem to be there, but until Berto has a breakout performance against a big name, he’s still a rising star, and not a star. He needs to work on his defense and ring awareness.
Robert Guerrero – Super Featherweight – Despite being a two-time champion, few fans know who Robert Guerrero is. That’s due in part to a setback in his career while he was ready to break out, as well as a recent promotional dispute that has had him out of action for nearly a year. He was always technically sound but has added a layer of power punching and aggression that combine to make him a true threat to anybody in or around his division.
Keep on eye on these young prospects and champions in 2009 boxing fans.