Potential Boxing Stars Who Must Move Up in Weight to Prove Themselves
Edwin Rodriguez already has an impressive Round 1 stoppage of a light heavyweight contender, and last November against Andre Ward, he proved he can no longer make the 168-pound limit. In the ring, Rodriguez was seriously outclassed by Ward, but it would be a big mistake to think "La Bomba" has no future at 175.
In large part, becoming a true star in boxing has always involved moving up in weight class over the course of a career. This has become truer than ever since the emergence of half-classes like super featherweight and junior middleweight.
The fighters on this list have world-class talent. Most are already world champions. A successful step up in weight could propel any of them to potential superstar status.
Let's be clear, by all rights, Roman Gonzalez has already demonstrated he is a star fighting at strawweight and light flyweight. He's dominated both divisions while compiling a 37-0 record with 31 KOs.
But it's always been tough to establish true star status in the lowest weight classes. The fact that there are still pound-for-pound top-10 lists that omit Gonzalez is proof that he's still flying too far under the radar.
A continued run of success at full flyweight should cement Gonzalez's status. He already scored a one-sided unanimous decision over current WBA and WBO flyweight champion Juan Estrada when Estrada was fighting at 108.
Leo Santa Cruz
Leo Santa Cruz is already very much a rising star in the sport. He's an undefeated, two-division world champion with a reputation for excitement.
But with his young age and rangy frame, his development into main-event status will almost surely include another step or two up in class before he is all done.
Golden Boy has done a good job of developing a potential showdown between Santa Cruz and Abner Mares over the past couple of years, featuring them often on the same card. Mares' KO loss to Jhonny Gonzalez has put a crimp in that development.
But if Mares can reclaim his featherweight title in a rematch, I expect Santa Cruz would move up to 126 to challenge him.
Terence Crawford just might be the most talented fighter currently campaigning at lightweight. In February, the undefeated star gets his first crack at a world title, when he faces WBO champion Ricky Burns in Scotland.
I can imagine a good, productive run for Crawford at lightweight, including big potential fights against stars like Mikey Garcia and Yuri Gamboa.
But to reach the kind of status some have predicted for Crawford, he's probably going to have to follow the example of past greats like Shane Mosley and Oscar De La Hoya, who moved up in class. It's still a little too soon to project Crawford as a future superstar.
But if he's going to become one, he's probably going to have to move up in weight.
Demetrius Andrade captured the vacant WBO junior middleweight title last November by handing Vanes Martirosyan his first career loss, via split decision. That win will put the unbeaten 25-year-old in position for some major fights at 154.
The right opponents are out there to make Andrade a big star in a short period of time, if he can keep winning. He's got the size and elite amateur credentials to pose problems for anybody in the division.
But at 6'1" and just 25 years of age, an eventual move up to full middleweight seems inevitable for Andrade. A dominant run at 154 that gets extended up to 160 pounds could establish Andrade as one of the biggest stars of his generation.
Edwin Rodriguez received a lot of flack from boxing fans and media when he failed to make weight against Andre Ward last November. It was a fair criticism. This was Rodriguez's first title shot, and his failure to make his contracted weight cost him a big chunk of his first big payday.
But Rodriguez has a huge frame for 168 pounds, and his future was probably always going to be at 175. Last summer he recorded an impressive Round 1 TKO of Russian light heavyweight contender Denis Grachev in Monte Carlo.
Light heavyweight emerged last year as one of the sport's hottest divisions. "La Bomba" has the kind of exciting, big-punch style to make himself a major player there.