Ranking the Top 10 Boxers to Debut in the Past 5 Years
Championship boxing careers generally follow a consistent progression. After turning professional the fighter gets his feet wet in four-round matches and then six-rounders.
Within a few years, he should be built up through eight-rounders to 10. Within about four to five years, he should be ready for championship 12-round fights, though probably still fighting for minor titles.
But factors such as great natural talent, a strong amateur background and good promotional connections can all greatly shorten the climb to the top.
For this list, I am using debuts in November 2008 as the cut-off date for within the past five years.
10. Deontay Wilder
Deontay Wilder won a bronze medal in the 2008 Olympics and turned pro in November of that year. He is just now reaching his fifth anniversary as a pro and like many heavyweights he has been moved along slowly and with caution.
So the quality of his opposition has limited his ranking for a list like this. But the manner he has handled that opposition demands that he be included nonetheless.
Wilder has knocked out all 30 of his opponents to date, with none reaching the fifth round. While none of his opponents have been A, or even B, quality fighters, he has dispatched tough journeymen like Kertson Manswell, Siarhei Liakhovich and Nicolai Firtha in unprecedented fashion.
9. Tyson Fury
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I don't think Tyson Fury is a legitimate world championship-quality fighter, so to the degree that he's viewed that way by many I consider him overrated.
At the same time, the 6'9" Brit has a pretty decent resume for a 25-year-old heavyweight with less than five full years as a pro.
The undefeated contender has recorded victories over Dereck Chisora and Kevin Johnson and climbed off from the canvas to knock out former cruiserweight world champion Steve Cunningham. These are all very solid wins in the heavyweight division.
8. George Groves
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When George Groves challenges Carl Froch on November 23 the IBF and WBA super middleweight titles will be secondary to what's really at stake in this fight: bragging rights in Great Britain.
Froch is the biggest boxing star in the United Kingdom at the moment. His fights sell out Soccer stadiums. If Groves can knock Froch off in just his 20th fight, he gets a boost that transcends the belts.
That's a pretty big if, though. "The Cobra" is exactly the kind of tough and intelligent veteran likely to exploit even the smallest mistakes Groves makes.
Groves' best win to date was his December 2012 unanimous decision victory over Glen Johnson. It was a near shutout and a far more dominant performance than Froch's own victory over Johnson.
But it happened just weeks before Johnson turned 43 and was his fourth straight loss.
7. Juan Carlos Sanchez Jr.
Juan Carlos Sanchez Jr. was just 17 when he turned pro in December 2008. He took a fast track to the top in his native Mexico and by May 2011 had captured the IBF super featherweight title in just his 15th professional fight.
The 22-year-old Sanchez has a lean, 5'9" frame and will likely never see 115 again. He lost his super flyweight belt on the scales in June and beat journeyman Darwin Zamora by Round 7 TKO last September.
Sanchez has the build and skill set to be every bit as competitive at bantamweight as he has been so far at 115.
6. Tomoki Kameda
Tomoki Kameda is the youngest and largest of the three Kameda brothers. His brother Koki was a world champion at light flyweight and flyweight, and his brother Daiki is currently a world champion at 112.
Tomoki is the WBO bantamweight champion, a title he won last May from Paulus Ambunda. Already 28-0 with 18 KOs, Kameda has fought and trained often in Mexico during his career, which has greatly expanded his boxing education.
Kameda should be a factor at 118 and 122 for the remainder of the decade.
5. Javier Fortuna
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A native of the Dominican Republic, Fortuna is an athletic pressure fighter with good power. In December 2012, he won the interim WBA featherweight title by unanimous decision over Patrick Hyland.
Other notable wins for Fortuna include a Round 2 TKO of Cristobal Cruz in July 2012 and a Round 1 KO of Miguel Zamudio last April.
In August, Fortuna managed just a draw against former Cuban amateur Luis Franco on ESPN2's Friday Night Fights. Franco is kind of like Guillermo Rigondeaux Light, so Fortuna's limited success against him should not be a complete surprise.
Fortuna has since moved up to super featherweight where he should be a major factor against fighters like Argenis Mendez and Mikey Garcia.
4. Carl Frampton
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A native of Northern Ireland, Carl Frampton is trained by former world champion Barry McGuigan. Frampton should be a factor in some of the biggest fights to occur at super bantamweight in the next couple of years.
Frampton is 17-0 with 12 KOs and has fought exclusively against other prospects and legitimate contenders in the past two years. This past February he beat current world titleholder Kiko Martinez by Round 9 TKO.
3. Evgeny Gradovich
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Evgeny Gradovich comes out of the elite Russian National program, but when he wanted to become a professional champion he moved to Oxnard, Calif. and signed on with the Robert Garcia Boxing Academy, currently the most successful gym in the sport.
Immersed in the gym's rich culture, Gradovich has earned the colorful nickname "The Mexican Russian." He's also made a rapid ascent to world-title status since turning professional in 2010.
Last March, Gradovich stepped in as a late replacement to face IBF featherweight champion Billy Dib on ESPN2's Friday Night Fights. Gradovich showed veteran ring I.Q. and a challenger's hunger as he outworked the champion to capture the belt via split decision.
2. Sergey Kovalev
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Sergey Kovalev has exploded onto the scene at light heavyweight over the past year. The former Russian amateur turned professional in 2009 and has crushed nearly every opponent placed in front of him.
Kovalev's current record is 22-0-1 with 20 KOs. His draw was a two-round technical decision and his two decision victories were in six- and eight-round fights. He's currently riding a six-fight knockout streak.
In January of this year, Kovalev hammered former world titleholder Gabriel Campillo by Round 3 TKO. In August, he captured the WBO light heavyweight title from previously unbeaten Nathan Cleverly by Round 4 TKO.
1. Guillermo Rigondeaux
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Guillermo Rigondeaux won two Olympic gold medals representing his native Cuba. He is one of the greatest amateur boxers of all time, and his meteoric rise as a professional is nearly unprecedented in the history of the sport.
Rigondeaux turned professional in 2009 and was a world champion by just his ninth professional fight, when he took the WBA super bantamweight title away from Rico Ramos via Round 6 KO.
Last April, Rigo faced pound-for-pound superstar Nonito Donaire, a dangerous offensive fighter with a string of knockout victories over world champions and future Hall of Famers.
In just his 12th fight as a pro, Rigondeaux put on a boxing clinic and completely shut down Donaire's offense. Many fans and writers now view Rigondeaux as a top-five pound-for-pound fighter.