Stock Watch for the Top Boxers Under 25 Years Old
Saul Alvarez is just 23, but next month he will headline his third pay-per-view, when he faces Cuban star Erislandy Lara. At 24, Adrien Broner is already a three-division world champion. Also 24, Juan Francisco Estrada is making a strong push to dominate the flyweight division.
Boxing has always been a young man's sport. But some get started younger than most.
These are the top 10 pound-for-pound fighters in the world under age 25. Some of them will be the next generation's major boxing stars.
10. Ronnie Rios
If Ronnie Rios were a stock, investors would be waiting anxiously for his big initial public offering. On paper, the 24-year-old featherweight looks promising.
He was an amateur national champion and national Gold Gloves champion. So far he is a perfect 23-0 with 10 KOs, but his level of competition has consisted mostly of trial horses and journeymen.
The biggest win of his career was against Rico Ramos, a former titleholder at 122 pounds. The victory was a nice one and garnered Rios the NABF featherweight belt. But Ramos has been devolving into a gatekeeper since getting knocked out by Guillermo Rigondeaux in 2012.
Rios will need bigger wins than that to start gaining attention.
9. Jermall Charlo
One-half of the celebrated Charlo twins, Jermall looks like a superstar waiting to happen. The 6'0" Charlo is a perfect 18-0 with 14 KOs. He has stopped 12 straight opponents.
His stock might have been already through the roof if his title fight against Carlos Molina hadn't been scrapped last March, after Molina was detained in Las Vegas the week prior to their scheduled fight. The fact that the ultra-shrewd Al Haymon was willing to match Charlo so tough, so soon tells observant fans a great deal about the 24-year-old's potential.
Charlo is trained by Ronnie Shields. Expect the young fighter to be a major player in the sport for years to come.
8. Thomas Dulorme
The outburst of national pride that has followed Miguel Cotto's sensational performance against Sergio Martinez last weekend is a demonstration of how much Puerto Rican fans value their boxing stars. Thomas Dulorme looks like he could be one of the next to emerge.
He is a lanky light welterweight with very solid boxing skills and good power. His only career setback came during his brief move up to welterweight, where he was stopped by the tough Argentine veteran Luis Carlos Abregu.
The 24-year-old's career has been back on track since returning to 140 pounds. His win earlier this year against previously unbeaten Karim Mayfield demonstrated he's clearly a top 15-20 fighter in that division.
7. Omar Figueroa
The lightweight division has begun to show real signs of life over the past year, and Omar Figueroa has been a large part of the equation. Last July he captured the vacant WBC title by beating Nihito Arakawa. This past April he survived a tough battle with his former amateur rival Jerry Belmontes to win by split decision.
The 24-year-old has excellent reach for a fighter in his weight class and an action style. He's a rising star among boxing fans in Texas.
Now 23-0-1 with 17 stoppages, if Figueroa was a stock, he would be well-positioned for a quick rise. The biggest thing slowing him down at the moment is that he's signed with Golden Boy, while many of the high-quality lightweights are with Top Rank.
6. Jermell Charlo
Jermell Charlo is younger than his twin brother Jermall by one minute, but so far his boxing career has developed at a slightly quicker pace. Then again, if Jermall's title shot at Carlos Molina hadn't fallen through last March, he might be the higher-rated brother on this list.
Either way, this sibling rivalry should pay handsome dividends for fight fans. The Charlo twins look as promising as any young fighters in the sport.
The 24-year-old beat veteran Demetrius Hopkins in June of last year. So far this year he has turned in one-sided victories over tough journeyman Gabriel Rosado and undefeated prospect Charlie Ota.
The win over Rosado was a particularly strong statement for Charlo. I thought he looked far more dominant against Rosado than WBO middleweight champion Peter Quillin and undefeated super middleweight contender J'Leon Love.
5. Javier Fortuna
Javier Fortuna of the Dominican Republic is an undefeated former WBA titleholder at featherweight. He's had some high-profile opportunities in the past few years, and now that he's moved up to 130 pounds, he should be positioned for some of the major fights in that division.
The southpaw shot to prominence in July 2012 when he knocked out former titleholder Cristobal Cruz in the second round. That December he beat Ireland's Patrick Hyland to capture the interim WBA belt on the Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez undercard.
The 24-year-old's stock took a minor hit when he fought to a draw with Luis Franco in August 2013. But Franco is a former Cuban amateur star, and the scoring of the bout was bizarre.
Fortuna has won three straight fights since and is ready for a title run at 130.
4. Adrien Broner
If Adrien Broner were a stock, he'd be that company that was hot out of the gate and then began to level and dip as investors started to have second thoughts.
Make no mistake: There is plenty in the Broner prospectus that looks very good. He has obvious physical tools and was a three-division world champion by age 23.
But looking behind the numbers shows a cause for concern. He was essentially walked into his world title at 130 pounds. His championship victory at lightweight over Antonio DeMarco was definitely impressive, but his promoter's magazine The Ring seized on it as an excuse to throw him into the pound-for-pound top 10.
Broner captured a world title at welterweight by barely getting past light-hitting Paulie Malignaggi. The performance showed he was clearly not a pound-for-pound top-10 fighter. In his first defense, he was pummeled by Marcos Maidana and stormed from the ring without granting a post-fight interview.
He rebounded from that loss by moving down to 140 and beating journeyman Carlos Molina. The victory was hardly as impressive as Broner tried to make it out to be in his brag-filled, obscenity-spewing, post-fight interview with Showtime's Jim Gray.
Broner sells tickets, so he'll get at least a few more big fights. If he can win those fights, everything is lined up for him to become the superstar he says he is.
But it's worth noting by way of comparison that young welterweights Shawn Porter and Keith Thurman manage to sound every bit as confident as Broner without insulting opponents. And they have both looked far more impressive in the ring, where it really counts.
3. Tomoki Kameda
Tomoki Kameda is the undefeated WBO bantamweight champion with a professional record of 29-0 with 18 KOs. At age 22 he is the youngest of the three celebrated Kameda brothers of Japan.
Tomoki's older brother Koki is the WBA bantamweight champion and perhaps the biggest boxing star in Asia. But expectations are high for the youngest sibling. His nickname "Kameda-Ke Saishu Keiki" translates to "The Ultimate Weapon of the Kamedas."
If Kameda were a stock, he'd be the hot new tech company out of Silicon Valley that investors were lining up for. While the Kameda brothers are huge in their home country, Tomoki has fought and trained in Mexico since his amateur days, where his popularity is on the rise with the boxing-obsessed public there.
His all-action style has earned him a second nickname: "El Mexicanito" or "The Little Mexican." For a popular Asian fighter to have the Mexican fans on board with him so early all but guarantees big-time fights in his future.
2. Juan Francisco Estrada
Juan Francisco Estrada is the WBA and WBO flyweight champion. He's 26-2 with 19 KOs. If he were a stock, he'd be a seriously undervalued blue-chipper.
His first loss came early in his career to future super flyweight champion Juan Carlos Sanchez. In November 2012 Estrada dropped down to light flyweight and lost a decision to Roman Gonzalez, giving the Nicaraguan phenom one of his closer fights.
Estrada burst onto the scene in April 2013 when he captured his world titles from longtime veteran Brian Viloria in Macau, China. He won by split decision, but I think one of the judges gave the benefit of the doubt to Viloria in way too many rounds, because that fight was clearly a win for Estrada.
Since winning the belts, Estrada has defended against legitimate contenders, which isn't always the case in the 112-pound division. In July 2013 he beat previously undefeated Milan Melindo. Last April he stopped Richie Mepranum in 10.
1. Saul Alvarez
Saul Alvarez turned professional at age 15 and has been viewed as an emerging star since at least 2010, so it's almost surreal to remember that he's still just 23. He's already compiled a record of 43-1-1 with 31 KOs.
With his signature red hair and action style, "Canelo" has captured the imagination of Mexican boxing fans since he was a teenager, and many fans north of the border have been quick to jump on board with him. If he were a stock, he'd already be as well-established as Apple.
His showdown with Floyd Mayweather last September set pay-per-view records, and the red-headed kid was a big factor in that happening. He has already headlined his own pay-per-view this year, stopping tough Alfredo Angulo in Round 10. He'll headline another next month when he takes on Erislandy Lara.
Fans will learn a lot about Alvarez based upon his performance against Lara, a former Cuban amateur star with elite skill. Frankly, I'm inclined to pick Lara. Then again, Alvarez has shown improvement in every one of his fights over the past few years.
Even if Alvarez loses against Lara, it will merely mean he was beaten by a great fighter. I don't think it will seriously destroy his popularity.
His stock will no doubt level off for a bit if it happens, but eventually it will rise again.