(Photo © Golden Boy Promotions)
Over the past decade or so, we’ve become accustomed to witnessing the likes of Carl Froch, Erik Morales, Brandon Rios and Company thrilling us regularly. The aforementioned trio are rarely if ever in anything other than barnburners. They’re can’t-miss-TV.
It would be unfair not to mention several others who are also in thrill-a-minute bouts including Marco Huck, who for several years has shed blood to the behest of his German countrymen. Middleweight standout Gennady Golovkin is creating quite the buzz at the moment much like Lucas Matthysse at light welterweight. Of course, Rios’ partner-in-crime, Mike Alvarado’s last four fights have been “Fight of the Year” candidates. Michael Katsidis was another who regularly took part in barnburners. And for almost 20 years, Jorge Arce was involved in some terrific, all-action fights.
You get the picture. Apologies to the countless other individuals who I have been remiss not to mention. Here are six young guys who may not be the most talented in their own weight classes, never mind the world, but what they lack in technical skills, they make up for in sheer heart and will. They guarantee all-out action whenever they fight.
Tyson Fury - 21-0 (15), heavyweight contender
A polarizing figure who, at the moment, makes Adrien Broner look modest. The self-proclaimed “Best Fighter Who Ever Lived” isn’t as good as he makes himself out to be. However, the 25-year-old Englishman who’s been a pro for approaching five years now has shown marked improvement from the young out-of-shape guy who, at the start of his career, frankly looked more of a circus act. To his credit, Fury moved quickly with his size often being key. He‘s every bit the modern-day heavyweight at 6’9” and 250-plus pounds.
Fury was lucky to escape with a decision inside his first year as a pro against John McDermott though shut the naysayers up several months later, stopping him. Has a nice win over Dereck Chisora, who he outpointed to win the British and Commonwealth titles. However, it should be noted that Chisora weighed a career-high 264 which affected his performance. Of course, that’s not Fury’s fault. Last year, he chiseled his frame to a more athletic look, something that has doubtlessly helped his conditioning. Though he’s been on the canvas twice most recently during the second round of his American debut versus Steve Cunningham, what can’t be dismissed is his heart, which he’s shown on numerous occasions having been buzzed.
What’s next? - Full steam ahead toward an all-British extravaganza when he meets David Haye on the 28th September. Fury’s a heavy underdog but is talking a good game. If he pulls the upset, he’ll be one of the hottest commodities in the sport. If he loses, he’s still plenty young enough to rebound in the future.
George Groves - 19-0 (15), super middleweight contender
Enjoyed a successful amateur career that saw him twice win ABA titles and represent his country in various tournaments around the globe as well as beat James DeGale. However, it wasn’t enough to earn him the middleweight berth in the 2008 Olympic team.
It has certainly not held Groves back. He moved quickly in just his ninth fight; in less than 18 months as a pro, he successfully captured the Commonwealth super middleweight title with an eye-opening sixth round stoppage over Charles Adamu, dropping him three times along the way. In doing so, Groves became the first man to stop the teak-tough Ghanaian. In his first defence, he was dropped by grizzled Scottish boxer Kenny Anderson, showing his colours to bounce back and stop Anderson in the sixth round. Groves unified his Commonwealth crown with the British title, upsetting bitter rival DeGale via close majority decision despite being rocked.
Since then, he’s won six outings with five of them won inside six rounds, the one dissenting fight being an impressive twelve-round decision over always durable Glen Johnson. In some ways, “Saint” George conjures images of a Nigel Benn in that he’s heavy-handed and presses the action sometimes in an overly aggressive manner and can be caught and dropped.
What’s next? - Moved into the mandatory position with the IBF, the 25-year-old gets his chance at a major title when he meets Carl Froch later this year. Froch, much like Haye over Fury, will be a sizeable favourite to hang the first loss on his rival’s record. Interestingly, they share two common opponents, Adamu and Johnson. Both won but Groves stopped Adamu while Froch went the distance (though it should be noted that Froch fought Adamu six years previous). Groves won a near-shutout over Johnson though Froch, 18 months prior, had won just a majority decision. Of course, again, Johnson had been through a lot of tough fights with the Froch fight seemingly his last great stand.
Antonio Orozco - 17-0 (13), light welterweight contender
Unlike everyone else on this list, Orozco isn’t a world champion, top 10 contender or is even close to a big fight; however, you can expect the 25-year-old to be among the next batch of light welterweights to emerge. He’s physically mature and has a style that his nickname, “Relentless” aptly fits. Orozco’s somewhat of a grinder. His sole fight this year was a seventh round beatdown of Jose Reynosa in May. Comes from the same part of the world that gave us Brandon Rios and Victor Ortiz and intends to join them on the world scene. Everything appears in place for Orozco to break out in 2014 after a fight or two this fall to season his already impressive game.
What’s next? - Nothing on tape at the moment; the fight with Reynosa was Orozco’s first ten-rounder. We can expect to see him out again at least once this fall. Fights with the likes of Jose Lopez 19-3-1 (11) (though never stopped), a fan-friendly match-up with Mauricio Herrera or someone like a Mike Dallas in a classic boxer versus puncher clash would all be marked step-up fights allowing us to gauge where Orozco is and also where he is going.
Omar Figueroa - 22-0-1 (17), WBC interim lightweight titlist
The young Texan had a reputation as a puncher with several first round knockouts on his ledger. Earlier this year as one of the supporting bouts to the Saul Alvarez-Austin Trout unification, Figueroa met fellow unbeaten Abner Cotto, younger cousin of Miguel Cotto. As it turned out, “Panterita” easily took Cotto out. The win set him up for bigger business in the form of a WBC interim bout against Japanese contender Nihito Arakawa. What ensued was mindblowing, a real back-and-forth war of attrition. Figueroa often got the better of things, twice dropping his opponent. He was to sustain a nose injury, bleeding profusely for much of the contest as well as injuries to both hands. When all was said and done, Figueroa won a wide decision that in truth was a little unfair to Arakawa. Of course, it takes two to tango and Arakawa also deserves his share of the plaudits for the considerable courage and valour he displayed. It’s likely Figueroa will be off for a few months and out of action for several months (well deserved, I may add) but you can be sure when he does return, it will be must-see-TV.
What’s next? - Having just taken part in the fan-friendly war with Arakawa that saw him get banged up, it’s likely Figueroa will be out until the end of the year. When he does return, there are several interesting looking matches such as a shootout with John Molina. Antonio DeMarco recently signed with Zanfer all but ruling out another killer fight. An all-Texas war of attrition with Juan Diaz would do big numbers in the “Lone Star State.” So, the sky’s the limit for Figueroa.
Leo Santa Cruz - 24-0-1 (14), super bantamweight contender
Behind the scenes, Santa Cruz had been quietly making his way with not just wins but knockouts over Stephane Jamoye (KO 6) and Jose Lopez (KO 5), neither who’d been stopped before. These fights prepared him for a title shot, which he got last summer. He opened eyes with his 100-mile-an-hour/100-punches-a-round style that he kept up for 12 brisk rounds against the durable South African Vusi Malinga. The win propelled him into a vaunted spot on the undercard of “Knockout Kings,” headlined by Saul Alvarez-Josesito Lopez. This time, he took apart veteran Eric Morel, forcing him to quit on his stool after five rounds. Santa Cruz kept the momentum going with two more appearances in a banner year for “Teremoto,” first stopping Victor Zaleta last November, then headlining the first CBS boxing show in years when he took Alberto Guevara’s unbeaten record in another all-action fight. The tough schedule took its toll on the 24-year-old’s body, so he was given a few months off before returning on the Floyd Mayweather-Robert Guerrero pay-per-view undercard. Santa Cruz stopped former world champion Alexander Munoz up at 122 after vacating his IBF bantamweight crown. Every time the young Mexican fights, you can be sure the leather will fly. He’s highly entertaining.
What’s next? - First up, Santa Cruz will be looking to become a two-division world champion later this month when he tackles Victor Terrazas for his WBC championship. Again, this has the makings of an all-action fight. If he’s to get past Terrazas as he’s favoured to do so, in the long run, Santa Cruz is headed toward Abner Mares. The two appeared on the same card earlier this year and will do so again in Carson City.
Juan Estrada - 25-2 (18), WBA/WBO flyweight champion
Toward the end of 2012, Estrada was just another Mexican fighter, he received a call to take on the fearsome punching Roman Gonzalez at 108. He dually accepted, giving the Nicaraguan all he could handle through 12 pulsating rounds. It was enough to garner Estrada the chance to be in the opposite corner of a resurgent Brian Viloria on Top Rank’s maiden voyage to Macao. Estrada was expected to put forward an earnest performance but Viloria was expected to see his way home. In retrospect, someone forgot to tell the now-23-year-old Sinaloa native as he was to win a split decision. In doing so, he wrested the WBA and WBO laurels from his counterpart. Recently, in Macao the all-action Estrada met WBO mandatory Milan Melindo. Going in, Melindo was unbeaten; after 12 nip-and-tuck rounds, “El Gallo” was awarded a rather comfortable, wide points win. In actual fact, most believed it was a close contest Estrada only really took control of in the championship rounds, punctuating the victory with a knockdown in the penultimate round.
What’s next - It’s still too early to say but we can be sure Estrada will look to challenge himself again with the best possible opposition. Among the possibilities are WBA “regular” champ Juan Carlos Reveco and interim beltholder Koki Eto. A rematch with Viloria would again be exciting as would a shootout with fellow Mexican Hernan Marquez. However you look at it, Estrada is exciting to watch.
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