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Under-the-Radar Prospects for 2012

By Anson Wainwright


It’s the time of the year when everyone writes their various articles spotlighting their “Fighter of the Year,” “Fight of the Year,” “Knockout of the Year”, et al. You name it, there’s a list for it. One that is always particularly interesting to me is the list of prospects to look out for. However, while many pundits list blue-chip prospects like Gary Russell Jnr., Jose Benavidez Jnr. and a host of other familiar names, I’ve compiled a list of talented guys who are either in the very infancy of their careers or just off the general boxing public’s radar.
 
Luis Garcia - The 24-year-old Cuban recently made his American debut on the undercard of Jermain Taylor and Andre Dirrell’s comeback fights, scoring a shutout victory over previously unbeaten Alexander Johnson. It marked the end of nearly 14 months of inactivity; however, by heading to America and putting on such a polished display, Garcia opened many fans’ eyes to his immense talent which should signal more TV dates in 2012. In his previous outing, he beat former world champion Byron Mitchell, blitzing him in just two rounds, likely scaring off challengers (which could have contributed to his hiatus). Like many Cubans, he was a very impressive amateur eventually becoming World Junior Champion. Though he comfortably outpointed Emilio Correa, it was Correa who was picked for the Olympics where he ended up winning a silver medal. Disillusioned with the politics, Garcia left the amateurs and headed for Cork, Ireland where he is currently based with countrymen Ismaikel “Mike” Perez and Alexei Collado Acosta since turning pro in 2008.

Alex Theran - A Colombian middleweight who despite his young age (21 years old) has plenty of experience having amassed 180 amateur fights and winning four National titles along the way. Theran’s most significant international result was winning a silver medal in the South American Games in 2010, also having success in tournaments in Cuba and the Dominican Republic. He also fought at the 2009 World Championships where he lost in the second round. “El Principe” only turned pro last July but has quickly moved his record to 5-0 (4). He makes his 2012 debut in his hometown of Barranquilla against former title challenger Milton Nunez on 27 January. Theran aligned himself with promoter Gary Shaw and is also a member of Team Colombia. We can expect them to try to bring him to America at some point in 2012 where it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him appear on “ShoBox.” While many Colombians look the part in blasting out their opponents early on, when they meet someone who fires back, they have been known to wilt. It’s fair to say with Theran’s amateur background, we can expect to see a fighter who won’t buckle when he meets those sorts of fighters.
 
Christopher Pearson – A former standout amateur who signed with the influential Al Haymon and is promoted by Golden Boy. He only debuted last November on the undercard of Adrien Broner’s title win, blasting out Steven Chadwick halfway through their opening round. “Sweet Pea” went an impressive 93-8 in the unpaid ranks where he was a US National champion, two-time Silver Gloves winner, four-time Junior Golden Gloves champion, Ringside World Champion and National PAL champion. He also competed in the World Series of Boxing, representing the L.A Matadors and beating 2008 Olympic Gold medalist Bakhyt Sarsekbayev. One possible grievance levied against the talented light middleweight/middleweight is that he was hurt and dropped in his amateur career so it’ll be interesting to see if that becomes a problem as he develops.
 
Juan Saucedo – The youngest guy on this list at just 17 years old (turning 18 in June) has many at Top Rank praising him. Only had one fight to date, a first-round KO on the Julio Cesar Chavez Jnr.-Peter Manfredo Jnr. undercard. Originally from Oklahoma City, OK, Saucedo is now based in Texas. At just 15, he impressed everyone in his hometown gym. Don’t expect a breakout year just yet from Saucedo, who will likely learn most of his trade in the gym. However, he’s certainly one to look out for in the future.
 
Michael Finney – The heavy-handed Finney, currently 7-0 (7), was a solid amateur, going 119-29 in the unpaid ranks and was ranked number one in America as a Junior Olympian in 2008. He currently campaigns at light welterweight where he’s managed by the auspicious Cameron Dunkin, who brought Finney from Smith’s Station, Alabama to Las Vegas. There he learned his trade under Kenny Adams, who helped mould the beginning of Finney’s success. Though Finney was inactive for most of 2011, he did move to Oxnard, CA, where he’ll now train under Robert Garcia alongside Antonio Margarito, Brandon Rios and Nonito Donaire. Training with those guys can only help prepare Finney for the next level. Some experts have even compared him to a young Kelly Pavlik. 
 
Terence Crawford - Though he’s more experienced as a pro than anyone else on this list, the 2008 American Olympic alternate has been moved slowly by his team and is largely unknown by many. Last year, Crawford remained unbeaten in three fights; however, two things happened outside the ring that will likely benefit him going forward. First, Crawford’s manager, the well-respected Cameron Dunkin, who knows better than most how to guide and build young fighters, took him to Top Rank. Second, he spent time training and sparring with WBO light welterweight champion Timothy Bradley, who was highly impressed with the Omaha, Nebraska native. The 24-year-old is currently 15-0 (11) and during a solid amateur career, he won the PAL and Blue & Gold National Championships in 2006 as well as the US Pan American Games gold in 2007. A step up in competition is expected in the coming months as Crawford seems ready for an assault on the lightweight division in the coming months.
 
Claudio Marrero - A former standout Dominican fighter who enjoyed an impressive amateur career with around 300 fights winning various tournaments. The vastly experienced featherweight is only 22-years-old and is known as “El Matrix” because of his speed. Throw in a southpaw stance and he becomes a difficult puzzle for anyone to figure out. Marrero moved quickly to 9-0 (8) in a shade over a year as a pro, even fighting twice in America last year. He’s scheduled to meet faded former light flyweight champion Mauricio Pastrana this weekend, which should be a nice name on his record. Hopefully, Marrero can stay busy and gain more recognition this year.
 
Dodie Boy Penalosa Jnr. - Another fighter from the famous Penalosa clan in the Philippines. His father, Dodie Boy Snr. was a former light flyweight and flyweight champion who reigned in the mid ‘80s, while Uncle Gerry was a former super flyweight and bantamweight titleholder. Like his father and uncle Jnr. is a southpaw. He certainly has the pedigree and is campaigning at super bantamweight where he’s moved to a perfect 7-0 (7). Penalosa Jnr. is next scheduled to fight on 28 January. Last time out, he was on the canvas for the first time in his career though went on to stop Donriel Marcos in three. Though that’s not a good sign, it’s certainly a good learning experience.
 
Yohei Tobe – The 24-year-old super flyweight has moved extremely quickly so far. Part of that is likely a result of solid amateur credentials that saw him twice win National titles. Tobe has made huge strides so far beating vastly more experienced former two-time “interim” world champion Wandee Singwancha in two rounds in only his second fight. He followed that up with an eight-round decision over former title challenger Kohei Kono and is scheduled to meet another former title challenger Ryan Bito in his next outing in February. It’s good to see a young prospect testing himself. At the rate he’s going, Tobe could fight for a world title at some point in later 2012 or early 2013.
 
Jonathan Gonzalez – Gonzalez followed in his father’s footsteps, first gloving up at just four years old before building a very impressive amateur career, winning the 2008 AIBA World Youth Championships, two National titles and gold at the 2010 Central American and Caribbean Games. “Bomba” currently fights between 112 and 115 pounds and is 7-0 (6). Though only 20, Gonzalez looks like the guy who could take the torch from Ivan Calderon in the lighter weights in Puerto Rico, boasting similar elan, silky-smooth skills and a southpaw stance with better pop than Calderon. However, as he steps up his competition, we’ll likely see his KO ratio drop. Gonzalez is guided by the Rivera brothers, Peter and Ivan, who have a track record of building young fighters, having previously done so with Miguel Cotto and current stablemates Juan Manuel Lopez (whom Gonzalez has sparred countless rounds with) and Calderon. It’s likely he’ll appear on their undercards and if he impresses, will also gain valuable spots on Top Rank undercards in America due the promotional company’s alignment with the Riveras.
 
Contact Anson at elraincoat@live.co.uk


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