Alex Theran, 10-0 (7) - Unlike many of his compatriots, “El Principe” isn’t just a puncher; he’s far more rounded as a fighter, which comes from a strong amateur background. This experience has clearly helped the recently turned 22-year-old who’s quickly advanced into double figures, winning all five of his bouts last year with three stoppages. Along the way, Theran won the Colombian middleweight title as well as scoring a lopsided win over countryman Samuel Miller, his toughest assignment to date. It can be expected that he’ll continue to progress and step up over the next year, maybe stepping up to South American-level or go stateside for the first time. At the moment, Theran doesn’t have anything in the works.
Christopher Pearson, 7-0 (6) - It was a busy year for Pearson who won all six of his bouts in 2012. After going the distance in his first fight of the year, none of the remaining bouts went past five rounds (one contest was scheduled for eight). We can expect “Sweet Pea” (an Al Haymon client) to have another active year and reach double figures. Pearson probably won’t be significantly tested over the next 12 months but he’ll hone his skills further for bigger challenges down the road.
Juan Saucedo, 7-0 (5) - There’s no doubting the young Texan’s power. That was visible for all to see in his latest win, stopping Eddie Cordova in three. All totaled, Saucedo went 6-0 (4), fighting almost exclusively in his home region. Still only 18, he looks to have a bright future and will be carefully built up by Top Rank, the best in the business at bringing young talent through. It’s still two or three years away but they seem to have something here.
Michael Finney, 9-0 (7) - A quiet year for Finney; both his fights went the distance, though that is more likely to do with him not being as active as opposed to his power dropping off. No longer aligned with Golden Boy Promotions, Finney’s team is mapping out his future, so a move to Top Rank is possible. Still only 21, time is on his side and I expect him to be much busier in the New Year and make up for his lack of ring action.
Terence Crawford, 19-0 (15) - The 25-year-old Nebraska native won all four of his fights inside the distance in 2012 and enters 2013 as a fringe contender. There are no questions regarding his power and Crawford looked highly impressive taking out usually durable former Manny Pacquiao sparring partner David Rodela in two rounds. Got buzzed early against Hardy Paredes, though he quickly shook that off and stopped Paredes in four. Looks primed for a step-up to meet a solid veteran and with a fight or two more, a former world champion.
Claudio Marrero, 14-0 (11) - The Dominican Republic native went 5-0 (3), stepping up to 10-rounders, going the distance twice by beating Gerardo Zayas and former contender Emmanuel Lucero in almost shutout decisions. Marrero then showed he can pick an opponent apart and stop them, taking out his next two opponents and winning fringe titles in the bargain. The featherweight division is strong, so his handlers will have to pick and choose their moments with him but Marrero’s talent seems to suggest he can make the leap and mix with the world-class.
Dodie Boy Penalosa, 10-0 (10) - Not especially active, though continued his 100% win/KO ratio and was inactive for eight months prior to his American debut on the Juan Manuel Marquez-Manny Pacquiao IV undercard. A work in progress, still looks raw and will likely continue to develop back in the Philippines and make the odd appearance in America.
Yohei Tobe, 4-1 (2) - Continued where he left off, beating experienced journeyman Ryan Bito easily enough on points. However, it proved a bridge too far when he met Ryo Akaho for the OPBF crown over the summer and was stopped late in the eighth round. Holds a win over current WBA 115-pound titleholder Kohei Kono so shouldn’t be dismissed. Has yet to fight since losing to Akaho and has nothing scheduled. Tobe showed enough promise prior to the loss to indicate that he can make it to the top, just needs more seasoning.
Jonathan Gonzalez, 11-0 (10) - Not to be confused with his namesake who fights at 154, “La Bomba” looks like he could be the guy to replace Ivan Calderon on the island. Won all four of his fights in 2012 inside the distance; still making his way, 2013 could be a very big next year for him. Gonzalez’s weight was a career-high 115 last time out, so he likely needs to get back to 112. At just 5’2”, he probably needs to be fighting guys his own size when he gets to the next level. At the moment, natural talent is getting him by.
This year’s talent...
Isa Akberbayev, 10-0 (7) - At 29, the Kazakhstani is the oldest on the list but turned over late. Just one fight in 2012, a technical decision win over Mauro Ordiales, who retired at the end of the third round. Now training in Big Bear with countryman Gennady Golovkin under the watchful eye of Abel Sanchez. Still a work in progress who needs to be more active in the cruiserweight division, which seems to be producing a fair bit of talent. Kicks off the New Year in the Big Apple on the same card as Golovkin.
Trevor McCumby, 9-0 (8) - The Arizona native by way of Illinois made plenty of noise in the latter half of the year. Though he won all six of his fights, five inside the distance, four of his fights took place in the last four months of the year when we got to see the best of him. Still only 20, he debuted back in 2010, just a month after his 17th birthday. Started out working under the expert eye of Kenny Adams in Las Vegas before switching to Robert Garcia in Oxnard. Even at his young age, McCumby’s power is highly impressive. He’s always in shape and has loads of natural ability that has been refined by working with the likes of Adams and Garcia. Expect him to continue to develop and by the end of the year, he could be catching the eye of the masses.
Gilberto Ramirez, 24-0 (19) - Further along than the other guys listed here but still seems to be a little under the radar. In typical Mexican fashion, turned pro in his teens and is still only 21. At 6’2½” and a middleweight, Ramirez is different from your average Mexican fighter. Don’t let that fool you, however; this guy looks the real deal, already making six defences of his WBC Youth world title, four in the past year. Three of them went the distance, so perhaps “Zurdo’s” power is levelling off. He has yet to fight outside of Mexico but with the big name promoters reportedly interested, that will likely change very soon.
Ronald Ellis, 6-0 (5) - The Boston native came from nowhere to win the 2010 National Golden Gloves with less than 20 amateur fights, beating eventual American Olympian Terrell Gausha. Was to then turn pro under the radar in Puerto Rico before award-winning manager Cameron Dunkin cast his gaze upon “Akeem.” Liking what he saw, Dunkin brought him to Oxnard, California, where he teamed him up with well-regarded trainer of champions Robert Garcia. Since then, he’s won three straight. The 23-year-old boxer-puncher gets his year underway on the star-studded bill in New York on the 19th January.
Mikael Zewski, 17-0 (13) - It’s been a very good past 12 months for the pride of Trois-Rivières, Canada. He won all five of his contests; even more impressively, they were all stoppage wins. Backed by Cameron Dunkin and Top Rank, who will bring him back on 19 January when he is scheduled to meet Brandon Hoskins at Madison Square Garden. It’s also likely that while Zewski will continue to fight on the undercards of big shows in America, he’s also likely by the second half of the year to headline his own shows in Canada. He’s certainly popular enough with regular articles appearing in his region’s paper and prior to his last fight, he had two meet-and-greets in which a few thousand turned up on each occasion. Make no bones about it; this guy has a bright future and could well be the next franchise star up in the Great White North.
Jomthong Chuwatana, 4-0 (3) - An impressive year for the 23-year-old Thai. Debuting in 2010, having just a single fight, he did the same in 2011 before taking a quantum leap of faith heading to South Korea where he met Dong-Hyuk Kim, stopping him in nine (of a scheduled 12 in just his third outing!) rounds to claim the OPBF super featherweight title. Since then, he’s again gone on the road, this time to China where he bested Ranel Suco over 12 rounds. Chuwatana has shown he’s more than capable of fighting on the road and winning, something many Thai fighters have found great difficulty with. Needs to be more active than he has been in three years, only having four fights. With the regional title he has, that should be possible and 130 isn’t the strongest of divisions, so Chuwatana could be capable of finding his way to the top.
Evgeny Gradovich, 15-0 (8) -The physically mature 26-year-old Russian has had all his fights in America, winning four in the past year with the most notable win over teak-tough Francisco Leal, who left the ring on a stretcher. Gradovich is another who trains in Oxnard with two-time “ESPN Trainer of the Year” Robert Garcia, a rugged guy who has better power than his record indicates, also fighting under the Top Rank banner. He comes from solid amateur breeding, having had 150 bouts, and made it on to the Russian team.
Julian Ramirez, 5-0 (4) - Ramirez enjoyed a solid debut year. He’s handled by Oscar De la Hoya’s father, Joel, and promoted by Golden Boy Promotions. His uncle is the late Genaro Hernandez and though he doesn‘t have a wealth of amateur fights behind him, Ramirez does have a solid grounding which shows in his style. Despite his young age, he‘s more advanced than many. The 19-year-old southpaw forged a friendship with WBA interim 122-pound champ Scott Quigg at the Wild Card Gym over the summer and then came to Britain to help prepare Quigg for his rematch with Rendall Munroe. Fights in Indio, CA on 11 January.
Khalid Yafai, 6-0 (5) - The 23-year-old from Birmingham in the U.K. only debuted in back in July but has been kept very busy by promoter Matchroom in England, already trailblazing past the usual suspects. However, a lengthy amateur background more than helps; Yafai represented his country at the 2008 Olympics and 2009 World Championships as well as winning an ABA title. Has many in Britain tabbing him as a future star, looks the best prospect currently in British boxing. It’ll be a fine balancing act for his team; the bantamweight scene in Britain is relatively thin and fights with the likes of Lee Haskins and Jamie McDonnell are still several fights away. Needs the correct fights now to help him bridge that gap but there seems no reason why Yafai won’t continue his rapid progress and win the British, Commonwealth and maybe even an international title of sorts in the coming year. Due to fight next on the 19th January against TBA in an eight-rounder.
Naoya Inoue, 2-0 (2) - Perhaps I should have learned my lesson last year going with a fast-moving prospect but once again, this Japanese fighter seems to have the talent to make a big impression in boxing’s smallest weight classes. The doyen of Japanese boxing, Joe Koizumi, was suitably impressed after Inoue’s debut back in October to label him a future star. Doesn’t turn 20 until April and has a wealth of amateur experience including fighting at the 2011 World Championships and narrowly missing last summer’s Olympics. Seven national championships seem to suggest that in the coming years Inoue could well become a staple in the lower weight classes. Kicked of 2013 campaign drilling Thai national champ Ngaoprajan Chuwatana on 5th January at the iconic Korakuen Hall in Tokyo in a single round.
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