10 Under-the-Radar Boxers Whose Names You Need to Know
Naoya Inoue won a world title in one of boxing's lightest divisions this past April in just his sixth professional fight, and heavyweight Carlos Takam came out of obscurity to record a hard-fought draw against world-title contender Mike Perez. They are more than 100 pounds apart in weight, but Inoue and Takam are just two relatively under-the-radar fighters whom boxing fans need to know.
Boxing is a huge, global sport, with hungry new talent entering the ranks every month. Keeping up on everybody is impossible.
Some of the names on this list actually are big stars in other countries but still haven't gotten the recognition they deserve from North American fans. Others are potential stars who are just waiting for the right break.
Naoya Inoue, Light Flyweight
In April, Naoya Inoue blasted talented Adrian Hernandez by Round 6 TKO to capture the WBC light flyweight title. Followers of the lowest weight classes and the Asian scene are all aware of the rising phenom. But that's not a huge percentage of boxing fans, and everybody who is serious about the sport should know about this emerging superstar.
He turned 21 just four days after beating Hernandez. In addition to his great natural speed and power, Inoue has shown solid ring intelligence and maturity for his age and experience level.
In the past decade, Nicaraguan Roman Gonzalez has developed as a destructive superstar at strawweight and light flyweight. Now campaigning at full flyweight, he has yet to find a truly worthy rival.
But if Inoue keeps developing on pace, there might be the potential for an international superfight at 112 pounds.
Tomoki Kameda, Bantamweight
At just 22, Tomoki Kameda is the youngest of the three Kameda brothers. He is the WBO bantamweight champion and already 29-0 with 18 KOs.
When discussing him, under-the-radar has to be viewed as a relative term. Serious fans are aware of him and excited about him. The Japanese native has trained in Mexico since his amateur days and has developed a popular following there, earning the nickname "The Little Mexican" from fans.
His other nickname is "The Ultimate Weapon of the Kamedas," which indicates the expectations already being placed on the youngest of the three brothers. At 5'8", he should have the frame to move up and compete as a featherweight and junior lightweight.
Koki Kameda, Bantamweight
The oldest of the three Kameda brothers, Koki Kameda is one of the most popular fighters in the world. But in the United States, he is still much farther off the radar than he should be.
The 27-year-old southpaw is a three-division world champion and looks like a solid bet to win in at least a fourth division before he is done. He could make some great fights at 122 pounds, including with pound-for-pound star Guillermo Rigondeaux.
I'd also like to see Kameda fight fellow bantamweight champion Anselmo Moreno.
The only loss of his career came in 2010 against Pongsaklek Wonjongkam by decision. Wonjongkam is one of the top flyweights of the past decade and was vastly more experienced than the then 23-year-old Kameda at the time of the fight.
Carl Frampton, Super Bantamweight
Readers from the United Kingdom, and many fans in general, will no doubt scoff at Carl Frampton's inclusion here. He is almost universally regarded as a top-five fighter at super bantamweight.
But I'd argue that given his accomplishments to date and potential for the future, he gets far less attention than he deserves in North America, where the biggest fights generally get made. The undefeated fighter should be spoken of routinely as a likely candidate for Leo Santa Cruz or Guillermo Rigondeaux.
So far Frampton has yet to even fight in the United States. As of now, IBF super bantamweight champion Kiko Martinez, whom Frampton stopped in eight rounds, gets far more coverage in the U.S.
Luis Carlos Abregu, Welterweight
Luis Carlos Abregu has had some coverage in the North American market. He received his only career loss against Timothy Bradley in 2010, fighting most of the bout with an injured hand.
In October 2012, he was brought in as an opponent against the highly touted Thomas Dulorme. But Abregu systematically broke down the unbeaten Puerto Rican prospect and stopped him by TKO in Round 7.
Abregu is a heavy-handed puncher-boxer with very good ring intelligence. A lot of his under-the-radar status can be attributed to the fact that he fights in the crowded welterweight division.
But if he gets the right fights, he could be the next Argentine boxer to make a big splash on the U.S. scene.
Willie Monroe Jr., Middleweight
Willie Monroe Jr. comes from one of the best boxing families in the Northeast. His father Willie Sr. was a super middleweight contender in the 1990s. His great-uncle, Willie "The Worm" Monroe, is a Philadelphia legend and the only fighter to ever beat Marvin Hagler by undisputed decision.
After reaching the National Golden Glove finals in 2007, Willie Jr. has steadily built his own reputation as a pro. He is 17-1, with his only loss coming to enigmatic journeyman Darnell Boone.
He's in good company there. Boone also holds a win over WBC and lineal light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson. Boone knocked down Andre Ward and lost by split decision to the dangerous Sergey Kovalev.
Monroe rebounded well from the setback and this year has received his first significant national exposure in the ESPN Boxcino Middleweight tournament. In the first two rounds, he recorded impressive unanimous-decision victories over Donatas Bondorovas and undefeated Vitaliy Kopylenko.
In the finals later this month, he'll face undefeated Brandon Adams, who has also looked sharp in the tournament. But Monroe is the more polished fighter of the two.
A good run this season on ESPN should position Monroe for bigger things in 2015.
Matt Korobov, Middleweight
Middleweight Matt Korobov is the most decorated amateur on this list. The Russian dominated his weight class internationally for a stretch of the first decade of this century, winning two world championships.
As a professional, he has followed the example of his countryman Sergey Kovalev, making his headquarters in St. Petersburg, Florida. So far, he is 23-0 with 14 KOs. Among the fighters he has beaten are Latif Mundy (KO 4) and Milton Nunez (UD 8).
Perhaps the most impressive performance of his career to date was a Round 9 TKO in 2013 of the tough super middleweight Derek Edwards, who just blasted the highly regarded Badou Jack in Round 1 earlier this year in a leading candidate for Knockout of the Year.
Eastern European fighters with strong amateur credentials have become a big part of the sport in recent years. Expect Korobov to be among the next wave.
Tureano Johnson, Middleweight
Tureano Johnson came out of obscurity earlier this year when he gave Curtis Stevens everything he could handle before eventually losing by TKO in the closing minute of the fight. The fight was broadcast on NBC Sports, but it came during a busy two-week stretch on the boxing calendar in early April, so it's worth noting Johnson again here.
He entered the bout unbeaten but also untested. He represented Bahamas in the 2008 Olympics and spent time training with the elite Cuban national team. But against Stevens, one of the middleweight division's biggest punchers, most fans were looking right past Johnson.
It was a mistake. He showed a solid chin and great pressure boxing to keep the rugged Stevens backing up for most of the fight. Johnson had won just about every round when the referee called it off after Stevens finally caught up to him with a monster hook that clearly rocked him.
I don't usually question stoppages at all. The referee has the most important job in the ring and deserves respect for that reason. But of this one, I will say that Johnson seemed to consistently come back from similar blows earlier in the fight and re-establish dominance.
Regardless of whether the stoppage was appropriate, Johnson showed in the fight that he is a strong, athletic fighter with skill. There should be more big fights for him at 160 pounds.
Umberto Savigne, Light Heavyweight
The light heavyweight division has been heating up over the past year, with some of the biggest fights in sport waiting to happen there. Umberto Savigne should fit in well when the class' stars are looking for fights.
He could potentially break out as a star in his own right.
He had more than 400 fights as a member of the prestigious Cuban amateur team and has the punching power to translate to the professional ranks, as he demonstrated when stopping previously unbeaten Jackson Junior by Round 4 TKO on ESPN last year.
Savigne shows the characteristics of a great Cuban amateur. He has excellent control of range and very good defense. His frame is large for a light heavyweight, and he engages in exciting fights.
The biggest knock on him would have to be his age, which is listed as 35. Between the height of his amateur career and his professional debut, close to a decade had passed.
Carlos Takam, Heavyweight
This weekend, Chris Arreola and Bermane Stiverne will meet for the vacant WBC heavyweight title. The sport is slowly moving into the post-Klitschko era.
As Carlos Takam demonstrated last January against Mike Perez, he is well-positioned to be a player in the emerging heavyweight scene. Perez entered the fight as one of the fastest-rising contenders in the division, and Takam fought him to a bruising majority draw, winning on one of the cards.
Takam represented Cameroon in the 2004 Olympics and fights out of France. He is a big, athletic pressure fighter.
He is scheduled to fight Tony Thompson in June. At more than 40 years of age, Thompson has become the division's most dangerous gatekeeper, so Takam's performance should tell a lot about how far he's likely to go.