Boxing

Ranking the Boxers with the Brightest Futures

Brian McDonaldContributor IAugust 8, 2014

Ranking the Boxers with the Brightest Futures

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    Chris Carlson/Associated Press

    Eventually Floyd Mayweather Jr., Manny Pacquiao, Wladimir Klitschko, Miguel Cotto and other fighters like them will be retired. When they do, who will fill their shoes?

    That's what this article will be about. Who are the fighters next in line to become the biggest stars in the sport?

    This is not a ranking of the best prospects in boxing, so don't expect to see guys with fewer than 10 fights and who aren't champions or at least championship-caliber.

    As I mentioned earlier, you also won't see guys like Mayweather or Pacquiao because they've already reached the highest levels possible. To make this list, the fighter has to have room for growth both in his status as a boxer and in his TV and/or commercial appeal.

    Due to the latter reason, you won't see supremely talented fighters like Guillermo Rigondeaux or Erislandy Lara on this list because their style isn't attractive to the TV cameras.

    If they've already hit their peak and have plateaued, they won't be on this list. Fighters can be established stars; they just have to also have room for growth.

    All of the boxers on this list are very good to even great. What separates them as having a brighter future than other good or great boxers is that they have a chance of moving up into the top 10 for best pound-for-pound fighters and/or could become a pay-per-view draw—or in the case of one fighter, an even bigger PPV draw.

6. Demetrius Andrade

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Current Status: Undefeated WBO junior middleweight champion. Ranked fifth by both ESPN and Ring Magazine in the 154-pound weight division.

    Demetrius Andrade is capable of defeating everyone at 154 pounds except for Floyd Mayweather. Once Mayweather retires or relinquishes his belts, there's no reason why Andrade can't become the king of the division.

    Obviously, Canelo Alvarez and Erislandy Lara are both very talented fighters, but Andrade is in their class. He has solid power and good technical skill and usually fights with an entertaining style that will make him more popular among fans once he starts to fight the bigger names and gets more recognition.

    Right now, only the hardcore fans know much at all about Andrade, but his stock has plenty of room for growth. Within a couple of years, he'll be headlining cards on premium channels and be thought of as the best fighter in his division.

5. Terence Crawford

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    Nati Harnik/Associated Press

    Current Status: Undefeated WBO lightweight champion. Ranked second by Ring Magazine and first by ESPN in the 135-pound weight division.

    Terence Crawford has enough talent to make the pound-for-pound top-10 list and become one of the biggest TV draws in the sport by the time he's 30.

    Before his last fight, Crawford was a complete unknown outside of the hardcore fans. After his knockout of Yuriorkis Gamboa in what was the Fight of the Year for me so far, there is buzz surrounding Crawford.

    How much buzz, might you ask? How about a potential fight with the second biggest pay-per-view draw in the sport—Manny Pacquiao. Bob Arum has been known to throw out unrealistic hypothetical fights in the past, but a matchup between Pacquiao and Crawford in 2016 wouldn't be crazy.

    Crawford is expected to move up in weight soon, and at 5'8'' with a 70'' reach, he's actually a bigger man than Pacquiao, who comes in at 5'6.5'' with a 67'' reach.

    The Nebraska native will need time to adjust to higher weight classes, but he has a bigger frame than Pacquiao, so he's capable of putting on the weight. Also don't forget that Pacquiao once fought in the 112-pound—flyweight—division before he grew into a boxer who fought guys at 147 and 154 pounds.

    Crawford is supremely skilled and is capable of fighting a very fan-friendly style as evidenced by his knockout of Gamboa. He'll pick up fans with every fight and be a huge name in the not-so-distant future.

4. Shawn Porter

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    Luis M. Alvarez/Associated Press

    Current Status: Undefeated IBF welterweight champion. Ranked fourth by Ring Magazine and sixth by ESPN.

    Shawn Porter is the potential top fighter in his weight division of 147 pounds. Of course, he won't reach that level until Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao either retire or finally fall over the hill, but that status is in his near future.

    In the short term, Porter has the potential for a big payday as a future Mayweather opponent. A fight with Porter would give Mayweather a chance to own three of the four belts in the division, which would be an attractive option for his next fight, assuming nothing ever happens with Pacquiao.

    Porter also fights an aggressive, attacking and fan-friendly style similar to Marcos Maidana, which would help sell a PPV. No option would bring in as much money as Pacquiao, but Porter is at or near the top of the list among all other future opponents.

    Along with his style, something else that has caused his stock with fans to rise is his willingness to take on other top fighters. Including his fight on August 16, Porter's last three fights will have been against Devon Alexander, Paulie Malignaggi and Kell Brook—that's not murderers' row, but it's better than most top fighters agree to take on.

    Political issues between promoters and TV networks aside, Porter is quickly becoming one of the biggest fan favorites and TV draws in the 147-pound division and will continue to be a popular pick for big fights.

3. Keith Thurman

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Current Status: Undefeated fighter at 23-0 (21 KOs). Ranked eighth by ESPN and seventh by Ring Magazine.

    First off, his rank from both sites is too low. I would rank Keith Thurman above both Kell Brook and Devon Alexander, but regardless of rankings, he'll pass up both pretty soon. Thurman has the talent and skill to not only move up in the welterweight rankings but into the pound-for-pound list.

    If not for the quality of his opponents, Thurman would already be ranked higher in his division. His last two opponents have a combined 17 losses, not enough to impress the fans and media. I'll resist killing Thurman for his recent competition because it's hard to convince other fighters to fight him.

    He's not a huge TV draw at the moment, so equal or bigger money can be made against easier opponents. There's no incentive for the elite fighters to take the risk, especially since Thurman doesn't have a title for a unification bout.

    What is impressive is his talent. Thurman has very good power, is accurate with his punches and is slippery with his defense. Call me crazy, but I would pick Thurman against every welterweight except Floyd Mayweather Jr. Thurman has top-10 pound-for-pound upside and at age 25 still has a ton of room for improvement.

    Speaking of the pound-for-pound king, Thurman, along with Shawn Porter, are at the top of my wish list of potential—non-Manny Pacquiao—opponents for Mayweather in 2015.

2. Gennady Golovkin

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    Lionel Cironneau/Associated Press

    Current Status: Undefeated WBA middleweight champion. Ranked second behind Miguel Cotto by both Ring Magazine and ESPN in the 160-pound division.

    The best fighter pound-for-pound and one of the top TV draws in the sport. Gennady Golovkin isn't there yet, but he's on his way.

    Golovkin fights a very attractive style for TV, is extremely talented and has an entertaining personality. His English is far from perfect, but for a fighter who is known for being a fearsome puncher, I think the broken English actually works in his favor.

    GGG forces the action, wins every match, knocks out every opponent and is a good quote after the fight; what's not to like?

    The fan support is there; as soon as he's able to land bigger fights like the one that almost happened against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., his already surging stock will explode. With Golovkin's popularity rising quickly, the money will be there soon to attract fights against better competition.

    American boxing fans didn't get their first taste of Golovkin on HBO until the fall of 2012; in less than two years he has already headlined a show at Madison Square Garden. His rise has been crazy fast, and it's not close to stopping.

    Once Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. retire or decline, Golovkin has a chance to be neck and neck with Canelo Alvarez for the top TV draw in boxing.

1. Canelo Alvarez

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    Eric Jamison/Associated Press

    Current Status: 44-1-1 (31 KOs), third-biggest PPV draw in America. Ranked second by both Ring Magazine and ESPN in the 154-pound junior middleweight division.

    Saul "Canelo" Alvarez is on the path to becoming the biggest PPV draw in the sport. Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. are without a doubt the top dogs in the sport, but Alvarez is obviously the next in line. 

    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

    Canelo is a championship-caliber fighter and a PPV draw at the age of 24, and it's not hard to figure out how he's reached that level at a pace that can only be described as insanely quick.

    He faces top opponents and fights an entertaining style; he's very easy to sell for promoters and TV networks. After his early career was filled with cupcakes, his last four fights have been against Austin Trout, Mayweather, Alfredo Angulo and Erislandy Lara. That's impressive by any measure.

    As long as Alvarez doesn't duck anyone—his track record doesn't indicate he will—he'll continue to attract top fighters into interesting PPV fights, considering the money available to boxers who agree to face him.

    Deciding which boxer had the brightest future in terms of wins in the ring and money made on television was pretty easy.

     

    Follow me on Twitter for more boxing opinion and live scoring of big fights: @sackedbybmac

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