5 Up-and-Coming Southpaws Who Could Be the Next Manny Pacquiao
Manny Pacquiao is the greatest southpaw fighter of all time. He was won titles in a record-setting eight weight classes. He could go down as the greatest fighter of his generation and just maybe of all time if he is able to defeat the current pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr.
To follow in Manny’s footsteps might be impossible, but the following is a list of left-handed fighters who one day may be able to become dominant in the sport.
1. Javier Fortuna
Javier Fortuna, 23, of the Dominican Republic, could well be the next Manny Pacquiao.
The undefeated Fortuna has scored 15 knockouts in his first 20 bouts and packs devastating power in both hands. In April of this year in a matchup of undefeated prospects, Fortuna scored a devastating knockout over Yaundale Evans on ESPN Friday Night Fights.
Fortuna followed that win up by knocking out former title contender Cristobal Cruz in just two rounds. Cruz had gone all 12 rounds with current WBO featherweight Orlando Salido just a few fights back.
Although Fortuna’s style in the ring could be described as crude, so was Pacquiao's at that point in his career.
Prospects in the featherweight division like Gary Russell Jr. should steer clear of Fortuna unless they want to have their careers set back like Evans’ was. Look for Fortuna to fight for a world title in 2013, if any of the champions will dare face him.
2. Mercito Gesta
Mercito Gesta, 24, has 26 wins and 14 knockouts in his first 27 fights with one draw. The lefty is originally from Mandaue City in the Philippines, but now fights out of San Diego.
Although he may not pack as much power as Manny Pacquiao does, Gesta does have some snap to his punches. That was evident in his recent showdown with Ty Barnett on ESPN Friday Night Fights. He knocked the tough Barnett down twice in the ninth round and the bout was called to a halt.
Gesta did show some flaws. He was easily hit with Barnett’s straight right hand throughout the bout. Pacquiao also wasn’t the soundest guy defensively at 24, so Gesta has some time.
He will get bigger with time. So just like the legendary Pacquiao, look for Gesta to fight in multiple weight classes before his career is over.
3. Gary Russell Jr.
Gary Russell Jr., 24, was a highly decorated amateur, a former Olympian and was the ESPN Prospect of the Year in 2011. Russell Jr. has been inactive for most of 2012 and needs to step up his level of competition if he wants to achieve the greatness of Manny Pacquiao.
At this point in his career, he needs to have a fight that sets him apart from the other prospects in the division. I think a fight with Javier Fortuna could be very dangerous, so I think his best bet for a world title would be Australia’s Billy Dib, the current IBF champion.
Russell Jr. does have arguably the fastest hands in the sport, and blazing speed is something Pacquiao is known for. Russell Jr. is also roughly the same size as Pacquiao, but I don’t know that he will continue to move up in weight the way that the Filipino icon has.
I look for Russell Jr. to end his career at junior welterweight. If he can capture titles from featherweight on up, that would still make for a great career.
4. Ryosuke "Eagle Eye" Iwassa
Ryosuke Iwasa, 22, is Japanese southpaw who has one loss in his young career. With 13 wins and 11 knockouts, Iwasa is certainly showing he can punch much like Manny Pacquiao.
Some people forget that Pacquiao is not an undefeated fighter. He, too, suffered a couple of setbacks early in his career. Since Iwasa’s lone setback, he has rattled off four straight wins, with three coming by stoppage.
Iwasa, though, appears to be much more polished than Pacquiao was at this point in his career. With Iwasa only being 22 and tall at 5’7 for the bantamweight division, look for him to continue to move up.
Pacquiao started his career at junior flyweight, so you never know how much Iwasa could move up. I ultimately see him competing at junior lightweight or so. But only time will tell.
5. Koki Kameda
At 25, Koki Kameda is the oldest fighter on this list and is already a three-time world champion. Kameda won his first title in only his 12th pro fight. His record is an impressive 28-1, with 17 wins coming by knockout.
The lefty from Japan has held titles in the light flyweight, flyweight and bantamweight divisions. With Manny Paquiao having won titles in a record-setting eight weight classes, Kameda is almost halfway there.
Kameda does have one loss, which he suffered by majority decision to Pongsaklek Wonjongkam of Thailand. Look for Kameda to continue to move up in weight.
Let's hope Kameda brings his talents to the U.S. to take on the likes of Nonito Donaire and Guillermo Rigondeaux at super bantamweight. Those would both be tough fights, but another title would put Kameda that much closer to the great Pacquiao.
You can follow Michael Walters on Twitter @MWalters202