If one canvases boxing’s 17 weight classes, it is striking to note just how many fighters have become “world champions.” Counting the four major sanctioning bodies—WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO—boxing can collectively have up to 68 belt-holders at a given time, and that doesn’t even include absurd tags like “regular,” “interim” or “super” champion.
This is certainly a far cry from the days when boxing crowned only one genuine world champion in the eight traditional weight classes.
But such is the sport’s present reality, and there is no sign that the assembly line list of champions is going to shrink. The plethora of world champions in boxing is both problematic and beneficial; the sheer numbers create confusion as to who is the genuine champion in each weight class, while the opportunity to win belts provides some less marketable fighters with the chance for exposure.
Of course, the problems greatly outweigh the benefits. Most boxing fans can easily spot a fraudulent champion, and the sport’s most interesting fighters are the ones who create the best matchups, as opposed to belt-collectors (it is rare for fighters to accomplish both simultaneously).
A perfect example of this was the recent Brandon Rios-Mike Alvarado bout, which certainly has the inside track for Fight of the Year. No major belts were at stake, and yet fans and pundits were buzzing about this fight as soon as it was made. Rios-Alvarado delivered (and then some), and it was abundantly clear that despite the confusion of so many world champions, boxing fans understand what actually makes an important, quality fight.
Exposure in boxing can seem arbitrary. If a fighter lands with the right manager, he can work his way onto major networks at the expense of a more deserving pugilist. While some fighters have the personality to capture the public’s imagination, others, for whatever reason, can never become marquee attractions, even if their skills suggest that they should.
With that, what follows is a short list of current champions who have flown somewhat under-the-radar in terms of marketability and landing big fights. For various reasons, all these champions appear poised for breakout campaigns in 2013, and this has to do either with who they are fighting next or their immanent opportunities.
For this list, “interim,” “regular” and “super” champions (etc.) were ignored. While those labels certainly apply to some interesting, rising fighters (Richard Abril and Austin Trout, for instance), there is enough confusion in boxing as it stands.
So, let’s examine some under-the-radar champions who should have big years in 2013.