Ranking the 10 Best Young Talents in Boxing Today
Funny, it seems the "boxing is dead" crowd has piped down significantly in recent months.
The silence is largely due to the success of recent high-end pay-per-view events involving the sport's marquee fighters, and it is also to an extent thanks to the efforts of the youngsters who've appeared on those cards and shown evidence that they'll some day be able to carry the torch.
When names like Bernard Hopkins and Floyd Mayweather Jr. are finally gone from the scene for good, here are a handful of fighters—who've not yet reached their 25th birthdays—who have already tasted a level of success that belies their years.
Click through to see our picks.
10. Jermell Charlo
Division: Super Welterweight
Record: 21-0, 10 KOs
Ranking: WBC 22, IBO 16
A tall Texan at 5'11" who'll no doubt get the benefit of exposure thanks to his association with high-end promotional players.
Jermell Charlo appeared at Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s recent tour stop in Houston and was most recently in action on June 8, when he outlasted veteran Demetrius Hopkins over 12 rounds on the Maidana-Lopez undercard in Carson, Calif. It was his first trip over the 12-round route and also copped him the USBA's title at 154.
9. Javier Fortuna
Record: 22-0, 16 KOs
Ranking: WBA 11, WBC 6, IBF 5, IBO 6 (super featherweight)
A long, lean southpaw at 5'7", the Dominican made a big leap as a 22-year-old when he stopped fellow unbeaten prospect Yuandale Evans in one round and TKO'd former world champion Cristobal Cruz in two rounds just more than two months later.
His appearance on the Pacquiao-Marquez IV card saw him go 12 rounds for the first time, but he got back to quick working ways one fight later with a 68-second blowout of 25-1-1 Miguel Zamudio.
8. Jessie Vargas
Record: 22-0, 9 KOs
Ranking: WBA 9, WBC 8, IBF 7, WBO 13, IBO 7
Tall and rangy, Jessie Vargas doesn't pack the power at 147 that Fortuna possesses at 126, but he's been able to get along just fine nonetheless. He did a stop a former world champion, Vivian Harris, in a single round a few weeks before turning 22 in 2011 and has since handled a recent title challenger (Josesito Lopez), a multidivision gatekeeper (Lanardo Tyner) and another former world champ (Steve Forbes) by 10-round decisions.
7. Juan Carlos Sanchez
Record: 16-1-1, 8 KOs
Ranking: IBO 2
Another freakishly tall lefty at a shade past 5'8", Juan Carlos Sanchez feasted on the carcasses of fighters while going 7-0-1 in his initial eight pro outings but saw the other side after getting dumped in two rounds by Daniel Rosas in fight No. 9.
But rather than fading forever, he was a world champion six fights later. Two successful defenses followed before he was stripped last month for failing to make weight.
6. Kazuto Ioka
Division: Junior Flyweight
Record: 12-0, 8 KOs
Ranking: WBA champion
The Osaka, Japan native, who reached age 24 in late March, was a decorated amateur in his home country while winning 95 of 105 bouts and a handful of national tournaments. Kazuto Ioka showed his skills shortly after becoming a pro, winning his first six bouts in 18 months before grabbing a world title—the WBC's at 105 pounds—in fight No. 7.
In five fights since, he's added the WBA belt at the weight, then moved up to 108 to capture the WBA's crown there.
5. Juan Francisco Estrada
Record: 24-2, 18 KOs
Ranking: WBA, WBO champion
The first fighter on our list who's met one of the others, Juan Francisco Estrada dropped a memorable eight-round decision to Sanchez in 2011 in which both men hit the canvas.
He shook off the loss and won five straight before a failed challenge of 108-pound champ Roman Gonzalez in 2012 but again recovered to deliver a surprise split decision over incumbent Brian Viloria to win the WBA and WBO belts at 112 pounds in April.
4. Keith Thurman
Record: 20-0, 18 KOs
Ranking: WBA 4, WBO 1, IBO 11 (super welterweight)
If lanky, hard-punching and self-assured welterweights are your cup of tea, then the Clearwater, Fla.-born Keith Thurman might be the fighter for you. He's become a premium cable favorite with both his skills and his persona.
He yielded a fourth-round KO that drove former welter champ Carlos Quintana into retirement and a subsequent 12-round shutout of another ex-champ, Jan Zaveck, whose previous loss had been in a title fight with Andre Berto.
3. Leo Santa Cruz
Division: Super Bantamweight
Record: 24-0-1, 14 KOs
Ranking: WBA 4, WBC 1, IBF 4, IBO 9
The elder statesman of the list at 24 years and 11 months, the Mexican native turned Southern Californian is perhaps best known as the fighter who headlined the first boxing show on CBS—in Los Angeles in December—in more than a decade.
That monotonous 12-round pounding of Alberto Guevara was the third defense of a vacant IBF bantamweight title he'd won against Vusi Malinga in 2012. A move to 122 pounds will yield a WBC title shot in August.
2. Saul Alvarez
Division: Super Welterweight
Record: 42-0-1, 30 KOs
Ranking: WBA, WBC champion
A professional since the precocious age of 15, Saul Alvarez already has more fights than anyone else on the list and will take part in the highest-profile event when he faces Floyd Mayweather Jr. in September in Las Vegas.
A champion since defeating Matthew Hatton in his 37th outing, Alvarez defended the WBC's 154-pound strap five times before wresting the WBA's hardware from Austin Trout via a close, 12-round decision in April.
1. Adrien Broner
Record: 27-0, 22 KOs
Ranking: WBA champion
Not all that long ago, winning championships in three weight classes was considered an achievement for a career. These days, Adrien Broner already had it handled a month before turning 24.
The Cincinnati native's prolonged beatdown of Paul Malignaggi gave him a trinket at welterweight and a place at the table when it comes to big fights between 140 and 154 pounds. He was a champ at 130 pounds at age 22 and added a 135-pound belt at 23.