Wednesday, August 17, 2022  |

News

Nine who will shine in ’09

03
Jan

Whether they admit it or not, Roy Jones Jr. and Oscar De La Hoya are done as world-class fighters and attractions even if they decide to continue fighting. Shane Mosley might be a loss or two away from joining them.

Boxing’s old guard is gradually, but surely, fading out. The fighters who dominated headlines early and in the middle of this decade — Lennox Lewis, Mike Tyson, Fernando Vargas, Marco Antonio Barrera, Naseem Hamed and Erik Morales — are gone from the scene.

Even a few of the sport’s current elite are in the twilight of their careers.

The fighters ranked Nos. 2, 3 and 4 in THE RING’s
pound-for-pound Top 10 ratings are 35, 36 and 43 years old, respectively.

Juan Manuel Marquez, Joe Calzaghe and the seemingly ageless Bernard Hopkins appear to be on top of their games, but they can’t go on forever.

Which begs the question: Aside from pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao, who will make up the next generation of boxing attractions?

Are there any stars on the horizon? If so, who is ready to step into the spotlight this year?

The following fighters are among the strongest candidates. They are young, talented, skilled and hungry. They are also proven quantities whose mettle has been tested in the ring. Many have won titles, but all have earned recognition as real contenders by THE RING.

Here are nine who will shine in ’09:

CHAD DAWSON

Stats/accomplishments

THE RING’s No. 2 light heavyweight contender is an undefeated (27-0, 17 knockouts) two-time titlist who has defeated former champs Glen Johnson and Antonio Tarver and owns a victory over current RING cruiserweight champ Tomasz Adamek. And he’s only 26.

What makes him special?

Where to begin? Dawson is a skilled, but aggressive boxer with the versatility to press the action or stick and move with equal effectiveness. He has a fluid jab, stiff straight left, hard right hook, and he’s a very good body puncher. The 6-foot-3 southpaw possesses improving technique that focuses his superb athletic ability. However, what really sets him apart from other up-and-comers is his dedication to the sport and his willingness to challenge himself.

What’s next?

A pointless but contractually mandated rematch with Tarver that will be televised on HBO (in the U.S.) on March 14.

What can we hope for?

A showdown with light heavyweight champ Joe Calzaghe. Getting the future hall of famer from Wales into the ring seems unlikely but Dawson’s promoter Gary Shaw believes it’s possible. Another option could be an intriguing matchup with Danish super middleweight standout Mikkel Kessler. Dawson says he’s willing to dust off his passport and fight either man in Europe.

PAUL WILLIAMS

Stats/accomplishments

THE RING’s No. 2 junior middleweight contender is a two-time welterweight titleholder who owns impressive victories over 147-pound titlist Antonio Margarito, former 154-pound titlist Verno Phillips and welterweight contender Carlos Quintana, who upset Williams by decision last February. The 27-year-old southpaw pushed for an immediate rematch, blasted Quintana in one round and has since campaigned in three weight classes (147, 154 and 160 pounds) upping his record to 36-1 (27 KOs).

What makes him special?

Aside from a giant frame (he’s 6-foot-3 with an 82-inch reach) and the uncanny ability to make 147 pounds but also fight effectively at junior middleweight and middleweight, the swarming Southerner possesses a warrior’s heart, improving skills and a non-stop, high-volume attack that is the result of a tortuous conditioning routine.

What’s next?

Williams’ promoter, Dan Goossen, is weighing options for his first fight of ’09, which will likely take place in late March or April. Among the notable boxers who have expressed interest in facing the often-avoided fighter are former junior middleweight champ Winky Wright, current 154-pound titleholder Sergei Dzinziruk and former beltholder Sergio Mora. A southpaw showdown with Wright would likely land in the middleweight division, a title bout with Dzindziruk would take place at junior middleweight, while an interesting matchup with Mora would probably be at a catchweight between the two divisions (156 or 157 pounds). Goossen says he wants Williams to take on the most recognizable and respected opponent, which means he’s leaning towards Wright.

What can we hope for?

A highly anticipated rematch with Margarito (at 147 or 154 pounds) and/or a challenge to middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik.

JUAN MANUEL LOPEZ

Stats/accomplishments

THE RING’s No. 3 junior featherweight contender holds a title he won by blasting Daniel Ponce DeLeon in a shocking display of precision power punching last June. The 25-year-old Puerto Rican’s decorated amateur background (he was a five-time national champ and 2004 Olympian) enabled him to progress quickly as a pro and literally jump from prospect to contender status with his quick KO of DeLeon. The undefeated (24-0, 22 KOs) southpaw boxer-puncher defended his title twice in ’08 with ridiculously easy first-round stoppages of normally durable opponents (Cesar Figueroa and Sergio Medina).

What makes him special?

Obvious power that is backed by excellent technique and poise that belies his age. But what stands out as much as Lopez’s electrifying knockouts is his affable and out-going personality. He has a passion for the sport and his fans that is contagious. Lopez is also a student of the game who works hard at correcting his technical shortcomings and improving on his performances every time he’s in the gym.

What’s next?

Another title defense tentatively scheduled for March, according Bruce Trampler, matchmaker for Lopez’s promotional company Top Rank. “It’s too early to know who the opponent will be, but off the Medina fight, it’s important to us and to Lopez to find someone who is tough and can take him rounds,” Trampler said.

What can we hope for?

High-profile challenges to RING champ Israel Vazquez or RING No. 1 contender Rafael Marquez. Should fights with those pound-for-pound players fail to come off, intriguing showdowns with fellow titleholder Celestino Caballero or former bantamweight beltholder Jhonny Gonzalez will more than suffice.

EDWIN VALERO

Stats/accomplishments

THE RING’s No. 1 junior lightweight contender stopped each of his first 18 pro opponents by knockout(equaling a world record at the time) before being taken into the second round in his 19th fight. In his 20th bout, he went to war with dangerous titleholder Vicente Mosquera (ranked No. 4 by THE RING at the time), stopping the Panamanian in the 10th round to claim a 130-pound belt. The 27-year-old Venezuelan southpaw defended the title four times, all by knockout, advancing his amazing record to 24-0 (24 KOs).

What makes him special?

Raw bone-crunching power and a predator’s mentality to go with it.

What’s next?

Valero, who recently abdicated his 130-pound title to campaign at lightweight, is scheduled to fight Antonio Pitalua for the WBC’s vacant 135-pound title sometime in the first quarter of the year. Valero has been promoted by the Japan-based Teiken Boxing Promotions since 2006, but he’s weighing offers from U.S.-based promoters. Which one Valero signs with (DiBella Entertainment and Top Rank are rumored to have made offers) will determine where he goes after the Pitalua fight and whether the wayward slugger, who has been banned from fighting in the U.S. because he failed an MRI, appears on American TV.

What can we hope for?

Exposure on U.S. television and matches against the best lightweights and junior welterweights in the world.

ANDRE BERTO

Stats/accomplishments

THE RING’s No. 10 welterweight contender holds victories over tough grinders Cosme Rivera and David Estrada. The 25-year-old former amateur standout, who represented his father’s native Haiti in the 2004 Olympics, won a vacant title in his 22nd pro bout and defended the belt with an impressive decision over experienced, but undersized Steve Forbes, upping his record to 23-0 (19 KOs).

What makes him special?

Squat build (he’s only 5-foot-8, if that) and strong core contributes to his explosive speed and power. His combination of killer instinct, underrated heart and questionable chin make him fun to watch.

What’s next?

His second title defense against crafty, but light-punching former beltholder Luis Collazo in the main event of an HBO-televised card from Biloxi, Miss.

What can we hope for?

Further tests against proven punchers in the division, such as Miguel Cotto and Kermit Cintron.

TIMOTHY BRADLEY

Stats/accomplishments

THE RING’s No. 1 junior welterweight contender shocked the boxing world by jumping from the Southern California club circuit to upset titleholder Junior Witter on the English vet’s home turf last year. The undefeated (23-0, 11 KOs) Palm Springs resident defended the title against game, but limited fringe contender Edner Cherry by a one-sided decision.

What makes him special?

A fairly extensive amateur background adds to his above-average technique, but what sets him apart from his peers is his total dedication to training and conditioning. Unflappable confidence and the ability to relax in the ring enable him to overcome or even overwhelm better-skilled and more-experienced fighters.

What’s next?

A partial title unification bout against talented fellow beltholder Kendall Holt in an April 4 main event, wich will be televised (in the U.S.) on Showtime.

What can we hope for?

A showdown with whomever holds THE RING junior welterweight title after the May 2 Ricky Hatton-Manny Pacquiao fight, should Bradley defeat Holt and if Floyd Mayweather decides not to come out of retirement.

ABNER MARES

Stats/accomplishments

THE RING’s No. 7 bantamweight contender has impressive knockouts over former flyweight titleholder Isidro “Chino” Garcia and bantamweight fringe contender Diosdado Gabi on his way to extending his record to 17-0 (10 KOs). The 23-year-old Southern Californian was an accomplished amateur who represented Mexico at the 2004 Olympics.

What makes him special?

An aggressive, but polished style seldom seen from young fighters with fewer than 20 pro fights. Mares possesses a sharp jab, strong right hand, powerful hook and the ability to box and counter-punch from a distance or pressure fight behind a brutal body attack.

What’s next?

Either a title-elimination bout with dangerous former flyweight beltholder Eric Morel or a direct shot at WBO bantamweight titlist Gerry Penalosa in the first quarter of the year.

What can we hope for?

Any fight that leads to an eventual 122-pound showdown with amateur rival Juan Manuel Lopez.

JORGE LINARES

vital stats/accomplishments

THE RING’s No. 10 junior lightweight contender is already a two-division titlist (at featherweight and 130 pounds) at age 23. The Japan-based Venezuelan holds impressive knockout victories over former titleholder Oscar Larios and tough fringe contender Gamaliel Diaz.

What makes him special?

Linares is a fluid and near-flawless technician who blends beautiful lateral movement and defensive prowess with brutal counter punching. His exemplary skills and broad-shouldered frame suggest the ability to continue to climb weight classes.

What’s next?

A low-profile defense of his 130-pound belt, probably in Japan, where his promotional company, Teiken, is based.

What can we hope for?

A high-profile title defense against a worthy 130 pounder like Urbano Antillon or former featherweight titlist Robert Guerrero that is televised on a U.S. network.

NONITO DONAIRE

Stats/accomplishments

THE RING’s No. 1 flyweight contender holds a 112-pound title he won by cold-cocking heavy favorite Vic Darchinyan in the fifth round of a bout that was a candidate for both upset and KO of the year for 2007. The 26-year-old former national amateur champ looked impressive defending his title against Luis Maldonado and Moruti Mthalane, upping his record to 20-1 (13 KOs).

What makes him special?

Donaire’s the total package. His extensive amateur background contributes to a solid foundation that includes good balance and footwork, which compliments his flashy speed and power. Being a Central California-based Filipino, he has the ability to tap into a rapidly growing Filipino fan base. And at 5-foot-6, he is very tall for a flyweight and could easily compete in heavier weight classes.

What’s next?

A fascinating challenge to ultra-talented junior bantamweight titlist Fernando Montiel in the Philippines on March 15.

What can we hope for?

Should he beat Montiel, currently THE RING’s No. 2 junior bantamweight contender, a rematch showdown with Darchinyan that will determine undisputed supremacy at 115 pounds.

Doug Fischer can be reached at [email protected]

Homepage photo of Chad Dawson by Mary Ann Owen / hoganphotos.com

close

SIGN UP TO GET RING NEWS ALERTS