The Top 10 Pound-for-Pound Boxers Under 25
There is no doubt that fighting is a pastime for young men. And yet the skill set required to become a true master generally requires years in the gym, and years more beyond that slowly building up experience in the ring.
Still, it's not unusual for boxing stars to begin collecting world titles in their early twenties. Arguably, the current No. 1 fighters in four different weight classes are under 25–at 115, 135, 140 and 154.
A look at the top 10 pound-for-pound fighters under 25 provides insight into the sport's present and future at the same time.
10: Milan Melindo
Milan Melindo is 24-year-old flyweight from the Philipines with a 28-0 (11 KOs) record. The Ringcurrently ranks him No. 5 at 112.
Melindo has not fought an extremely high level of competition, but he is a very technically solid contender. He throws crisp, straight combos and attacks the body well.
The promotional organizations seem to be especially prone to proliferating interim belts at the lowest weight classes, so expect to see Melindo wearing some sort of alphabet soup title in the next year or so.
Hopefully he'll also test himself against somebody along the lines of Moruti Mthlane or Hernan Marquez.
9: Keith Thurman
24-year-old Keith "One Time" Thurman is ranked lower in his division than any other fighter on this list, but he has also campaigned in the highly competitive 147 and 154-pound divisions.
In 2012 he emerged on the national boxing scene with an exclamation point.
He fought four times and stopped all of his opponents within six rounds. The highlight of his year, and his career to date, was a one-sided four-round TKO in November over the extremely cagey Carlos Quintana.
With a 19-0 record and 18 stoppages, Thurman has the type of explosive punching power that can make a fighter a star. Look for him to remain on the fast track in 2013.
8: Tyson Fury
I don't ever expect to see the 6'9' Tyson Fury capture the world heavyweight title. But I cannot deny that he has already established a pretty impressive career for a fighter at just 24 years old.
Fury has a 20-0 record with 14 stoppages. He has recorded wins over fellow unbeaten prospects like Derek Chisora and Neven Pagkic.
In December Fury turned in his biggest win yet, a near shutout unanimous decision over former world title challenger Kevin Johnson. It was the type of victory that should position him for a shot at one of the Klitschkos, if his people think he is ready for the challenge now.
7: Thomas Oosthuizen
Thomas Oothuizen is a 24-year-old, undefeated super middleweight from South Africa. The Ring has him ranked No. 4 at 168.
Oothuizen is almost absurdly tall for a modern super middleweight, standing 6'4". In the future search to find suitable opponents for Andre Ward, expect the ultra-long Oosthuizen to emerge as an intriguing contender.
6: Hernan Marquez
With a professional record of 34-3 with 25 KOs, Hernan Marquez is an extremely experienced fighter for his 24 years. He has been collecting belts and fighting elite, world-class talent for years.
In November Marquez suffered a tough round 10 TKO loss to Brian Viloria. His last loss before that came against Nonito Donaire, so at least he is only dropping fights to all-time greats.
Marquez is coached by perennial Trainer of the Year Robert Garcia. Even coming off a setback, his future would seem to have a big upside.
5: Juan Carlos Sanchez
IBF super flyweight belt holder Juan Carlos Sanchez is currently the youngest world champion in the sport. Last February, he captured the belt by beating Rodrigo Guerrero.
Sanchez is a physically imposing southpaw who should have at least some room to grow and move up in division. Mayol should start getting some of the attention he deserves when he moves up to full bantamweight.
Sanchez is coming off an impressive win over the very experienced Rodel Mayol.
4: Leon Santa Cruz
I have to give reader Eddie in the comment section below full credit for rectifying what would have been a criminal omission from this list. For some reason I thought Leo Santa Cruz had turned 25 and unfortunately i didn't double check. But the 24-year-old IBF bantamweight champion is clearly one of the top pound for pound fighters in the world under 25-years-old.
Santa Cruz claimed this kind of status during his very impressive 2012 campaign, in which he went 5-0 and captured the belt.
Among the year's highlights for Santa Cruz would have to be his Round 5 stoppage of former world champion Eric Morel, a very talented veteran who quit on his stool against the rising phenom. Santa Cruz also pounded out an action-packed TKO victory over the game and gallant but over matched Victor Zaleta on the Abner Mares-Anselmo Moreno under card in November.
Just one month later who was back in action again, earning a unanimous decision over 16-0 Alberto Guevara.
Santa Cruz is ready to move up in weight and put himself in the mix in the exciting 122 pound division.
3: Saul Alavarez
Still just 22, Saul Alvarez has already compiled a professional record of 41-0-1 with 30 stoppages. He is the WBC junior middleweight champion and one of the most popular fighters in North America.
Alvarez has had the tough task of continuing to develop as a fighter while already being hailed as a major box-office star. He has had his own big pair of shoes to fill.
So far, his steps have been steady but sure. I sympathize with boxing fans who long to see Canelo tested at a higher level. But it's only fair to acknowledge that the resume he has put together so far is still pretty impressive for a 22-year-old.
Look for 2013 to be the year Alvarez starts to reach his potential more fully in the ring. Despite losing to Austin Trout in December, I still think Miguel Cotto will fight Alvarez in May. And I expect Alvarez to win.
From there, I predict he will fight Floyd Mayweather on Mexican Independence Day weekend in September. Those will be the deepest waters he's ever seen, by an order of magnitude. Expect the young but already experienced veteran to hang in and acquit himself better than expected.
2: Danny Garcia
In 2012, Danny Garcia pushed himself to the forefront of the boxing scene. In March he captured the WBC light welterweight crown when he bested the legendary Erik Morales by unanimous decision.
But the true highlight of Garcia's year came in July, when he unified the WBC, WBA and Ring titles by stopping Amir Khan in four rounds. After dropping the first two rounds to the Brit, Garcia caught up to Khan with a brutal lead hook in Round 3.
Khan finished the round but never fully recovered. After absorbing further damage and being dropped twice more in Round 4, Khan was saved by a referee's intervention.
Garcia finished the year by crushing Morales with a one-punch KO in November at the newly-opened Barclays Center.
1: Adrien Broner
During 2012 Adrien Broner turned 23 and emerged as the most exciting young star in boxing. After recording Round 4 and 5 TKOs over Eloy Perez and Vicente Escobedo, he stepped up to the full lightweight limit of 135 and challenged Antonio Demarco for the WBC crown.
This was supposed to be the sort of fight that would finally challenge Broner. Instead, he simply delivered one more brutal beatdown.
As Broner boasted to me during an interview last year, 'I make everybody look like nobodies."
Broner will likely stick around lightweight long enough to capture another belt or two. Broner versus former featherweight champion Yuri Gamboa would be a much-anticipated showdown.
I'd also be curious to see Broner against a physically imposing bull of a fighter like Brandon Rios. I suspect Broner would make like a master Toreador, but it would be a thriller while it lasted.