Stock Up, Stock Down for Boxing's Top Young Stars
So many young boxers show promise and potential until they move up to either a weight or class of opponent they are not ready to face. All that potential goes right out the window after a big punch puts them on the canvas.
Rarely does a fighter ever go undefeated over his entire career. Just look at future members of the Hall of Fame like Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez, who have a combined 12 losses between them.
Even great fighters will lose; what matters more than a single loss is how they bounce back after tasting defeat for the first time.
For three of these fighters, how they responded in their next fight after their first loss weighed heavily in the decision of whether or not their stock was up or down.
For the purpose of this article I will only consider champions or top prospects under the age of 27. I could have cut it off even younger, but age 27 is about when most pro athletes seem to hit their physical prime.
While 27 to most of us is still young, the same isn't necessarily true in pro sports.
Stock Up: Canelo Alvarez
The man nicknamed cinnamon has put himself in a place where he can pick his own opponents and be the "A-side" for most pay-per-view main events. An elite level that only two other fighters in the sport currently occupy—Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao—and he's achieved that level before reaching the age of 24.
Saul "Canelo" Alvarez has reached a stage in his career that most fighters don't get to until their 30s; his stock isn't rising, it's soaring.
There is reasonable debate on whether or not he really won the fight against Erislandy Lara, but what isn't up for debate is his willingness to take on tough opponents who fight unfavorable styles. That trait is rare today and should be applauded because Alvarez certainly could have gotten away with scheduling a much easier opponent.
Despite the fight being close, Alvarez still displayed why he is such a fan favorite in his split-decision win over Lara. Alvarez came forward all night, attempted to cut off the ring and landed thunderous body shots to the Cuban whenever he was in range.
Alvarez fights a very fan-friendly style and also has shown to possess a good personality during his interviews, which further increases his appeal.
If Canelo Alvarez can develop conversational English, he can be a huge star in the U.S. Good looking, big puncher, personable. Big potential— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) July 13, 2014
Another indication of his stardom are the opponents people talk about him fighting next.
De La Hoya said Canelo will be back in November. GGG, Cotto, James Kirkland are on his list of future opponents.— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) July 13, 2014
Fighting Gennady Golovkin would be a mistake at this point, and Miguel Cotto is doubtful to take that fight this year in my opinion, but a match against James Kirkland would be fantastic for TV.
Regardless of who he fights, Canelo is one of the top three stars in all of boxing.
Stock Down: Jessie Vargas
I'm sure some of you are scratching your heads right now. He's a world champion, so saying that his stock is down is a difficult argument to make; allow me to give it a shot.
Despite winning a junior welterweight title on the undercard of the rematch between Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley, Jessie Vargas didn't win many fans over with his performance and the style of the fight.
The undefeated prospect's list of opponents wasn't very impressive leading up to the fight against Khabib Allakhverdiev; fighting on a major PPV was a huge opportunity for Vargas. The fight ended up being rather boring, and many believed that Allakhverdiev deserved to win the fight instead of Vargas.
Vargas will defend his title in August, but he'll need to not only win the fight, but also win over fight fans. He may hold onto his belt for a long time—though the true champion at 140 pounds is Danny Garcia—but without a more impressive performance and a fan-friendly style, Vargas may seriously damage his potential for future earnings.
Look no further than Guillermo Rigondeaux for an example of how you can be a champion in the ring but not win at the box office. Despite being one of the best fighters in the world, Rigondeaux won't be shown on HBO for his title fight on July 19. Instead, his fight will be shown on same-day tape delay on UniMas.
Quite a fall.
Rigondeaux and Vargas don't fight the same style, but the results could be the same. Belt or no belt, Vargas better perform and be more entertaining if he wants to avoid a similar fate.
Stock Up: Vasyl Lomachenko
There might not be a faster rising star in all of boxing than Vasyl Lomachenko.
After dealing with a rough "welcome to the big leagues" moment during his split-decision loss to Orlando Salido in March, Lomachenko reminded us in his last fight why so much hype surrounded his potential.
In the fight against Gary Russell Jr. for the vacant featherweight title, Lomachenko pressured all night, did great work to the body and walked through the pillow-shots from Russell to land jabs and counters to the head.
Technically, he's still only had three career pro fights, but his performance against Russell matched the hype leading up to his debut. Despite saying all that, Lomachenko—who tied the record for fewest fights before winning a world title—still has plenty to work on.
Despite being the better fighter by a landslide, Lomachenko didn't dominate Russell as much as he should have as was indicated by the two scorecards that had him winning by a 116-112 margin. For as great as the difference in talent was in that fight, Lomachenko should have won by a 10 rounds to two margin at least instead of just eight to four.
Too often during the fight Lomachenko would back up and reset before continuing his offense after Russell would pump out a double or triple-jab. Those jabs had nothing on them and were coming from the same angle every time; Lomachenko can't let things like that cause him to be inactive.
The only thing that caused Lomachenko to lose rounds was pure inactivity. I'm not sure if he was looking for only perfect moments to let his hands go, but he can't get slowed down by pillow-jabs. In his next fight, I want to see him step around the jab and fire off his straight left hand as a counter instead of backing up each time.
It's a minor flaw that is definitely easily fixable.
Lomachenko is still one of the top young fighters in the sport.
Stock Down: Gary Russell Jr.
After fighting taxi cab drivers and construction workers on his way to a perfect 24-0 record, Gary Russell Jr. was embarrassed when he stepped up in class to fight Vasyl Lomachenko for a vacant featherweight title.
Despite whatever judge Lisa Giampa thought she saw, Russell was thoroughly outclassed by the other former Olympian. Russell landed an abysmal 10 percent of his punches—83 of 806—compared to Lomachenko, who landed over twice as many during the fight.
The fight was a complete mismatch.
After waiting and waiting and waiting for Russell to finally step up and face someone with a pulse, he looked like he didn't belong in the same ring as Lomachenko. He looked confused, overwhelmed and rarely threw anything more than a weak jab that wouldn't bust a grape.
Russell looked over-matched at this level and was boring; who do you match with him next?
He obviously isn't ready to fight the top guys in his division, but you can't put him up against more club-level fighters because no one will respect those victories. His handlers will have to match him up against somebody near the middle of the road and hope Russell wins impressively.
Regardless, his stock has sunk deeper and deeper, way down; hope someone got that reference.
Stock Up: Terence Crawford
What's the quickest way to find out if a Top Rank fighter is a rising star? Bob Arum mentions him as a potential future opponent for Manny Pacquiao.
If the fighter is even close in weight to Pacquiao and wins a big fight, you can set your clock to it that Arum will bring it up in his comments after the match.
Nebraska native Terence Crawford certainly earned the high praise after he stopped Yuriorkis Gamboa in the ninth round of their terrific title fight in June. After getting dominated through the first four rounds, Crawford's change of style and strategy dramatically shifted the fight.
Better round for Crawford but I had Gamboa winning. Gamboa countered every meaningful Crawford punch & landed more. 3-1 Gamboa #boxing— Brian McDonald (@sackedbybmac) June 29, 2014
Even though Roy Jones Jr. of HBO said on air early during the fight that he didn't like the switch to a southpaw stance for Crawford, it allowed him to jab with his more powerful hand and work his way inside for combinations. By comparison, while in an orthodox stance his left-handed jab was having no impact, and Crawford was only able to throw one punch at a time because he couldn't get inside.
It was a brilliant adjustment from one of boxing's quickest rising stars.
How many outside the hardcore fans had even heard of Crawford before his victory over Gamboa?
Not many, and now he's being mentioned as a future Pacquiao opponent; his stock is shooting up faster than a rocket.
Crawford will need to move up two weight classes before he fights Pacquiao, so I think the timetable is likely two years instead of one before he feels comfortable at 147 pounds.
Before he gets to Pacquiao, interesting non-Al Haymon options—doubt Crawford's promoter Top Rank will work with Haymon—include former champion Juan Diaz, Raymundo Beltran, WBO 140 pound champion Chris Algieri and former champions Ruslan Provodnikov and Mike Alvarado.
No reason to rush into a Pacquiao fight before he's ready.
Stock Down: Adrien Broner
The fall of Adrien Broner didn't start with his lopsided loss to Marcos Maidana last December. I think we need to look all the way back to 2012 when he didn't come close to making weight for a defense of his 130-pound title against Vicente Escobedo.
Broner not only weighed in at 133.5 pounds for the first weigh-in, but he then also missed a second weight limit of 140 pounds on the morning of the fight, which cost him not only his title, but also a big chunk of the money he was set to earn.
It's not just missing weight; it's the lack of maturity that has penetrated every part of his game. It's his preparation, his attitude in the ring, the lack of respect he shows to other fighters and every other little aspect of what separates a good fighter from becoming a great fighter.
Broner bounced back with wins against Antonio DeMarco and Gavin Rees before a controversial win over Paulie Malignaggi to win the WBA world welterweight title. Broner deserved the victory, but it was closer than it should have been, which has continued to be a trend.
The split-decision win over an opponent he could have dominated should have woken up the young Broner. Of course you know the story by now and know that it wasn't the case.
Broner again didn't seem to prepare as hard as he could, took his opponent lightly and was rewarded by being knocked down twice at the hands of the always-focused Marcos Maidana.
Bruised and embarrassed, we didn't see Broner again until May when he fought on the undercard of the fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Maidana.
Broner dropped down to 140 pounds—his ideal weight in my opinion—and also returned to fighting overmatched opponents when he faced Carlos Molina. "The Problem" won the fight easily, but then in true Broner fashion, he said something stupid afterwards that made everyone forget about the fight in the ring.
That might have actually been a good thing because the match was a dud like most of Broner's recent fights.
His fighting style is boring, he's unprofessional and the only top opponent he's faced destroyed him. For those reasons, Broner's stock is down.