Ranking Boxing's Biggest Flashes in the Pan in the Past Decade
To be a flash in the pan in a sport like boxing, a fighter needs legitimate talent. Otherwise, there would never even be a spark to create the flash.
The top fighters on this list had significant accomplishments in the sport and were true stars for at least a short time. But for one reason or another, their heyday seemed to pass more quickly than many expected it to.
Boxing is a brutal sport. The competition for elite status is fierce, and talent alone is never enough to elevate a fighter and keep him on top. To show even flashes of greatness in boxing is remarkable, even if that greatness is not destined to endure.
10. Courtney Burton
Courtney Burton looked like he should be a blue-chip prospect coming out of the amateur ranks. He won numerous national and world titles as an amateur.
As a professional, he won his first 16 decisions, mostly fighting opponents with losing records. After he beat Angel Manfredy on national television in 2003, Burton called out Floyd Mayweather Jr.
But as Burton moved up in competition, his fragile chin became impossible to hide. He lost his first fight by Round 5 KO to Eleazar Contreras. After a three-fight win streak, he was TKO'd by Julio Diaz.
At this point, the wheels truly came off. In July 2004, Burton won a highly controversial split decision over colorful, .500 journeyman Emanuel Augustus on Friday Night Fights. Boxing fans throw out the term "worst decision of all time" too casually, but Burton over Augustus might very well be the worst ever.
Over the next two years, Burton lost four more fights by stoppage, including a rematch with Augustus. He retired in 2006 but attempted a brief comeback in 2010, winning a split decision and then getting knocked out again in his final fight.
9. Seth Mitchell
Considering the late start he got in the sport, Seth Mitchell's accomplishments as a prizefighter were impressive. The former college football star tantalized fans who were hungry for an American hope at heavyweight.
Mitchell started his career with a 25-0-1 record, winning 19 fights by knockout. He had stoppages of some credible fringe contenders/journeymen and showed legitimate offensive talent.
But he never really seemed to adjust his mental outlook to accommodate boxing. I interviewed Mitchell twice. He is a smart athlete, and his insights into the difference between boxing and football were always interesting.
"Football is all about getting pumped up to deliver that big hit in the hole," he told me. "You want that adrenaline. In boxing I've had to learn to relax."
But when badly rocked, Mitchell has always shown a tendency to fall back on his football instincts and amp up the aggression when he should be clinching defensively. It almost cost him a victory against Chazz Witherspoon, and it got him stopped in November 2012 against the cagey former cruiserweight Johnathon Banks.
Mitchell came back from his loss to Banks to earn a decision victory in the rematch. However, last September he was absolutely blitzed by Chris Arreola, getting knocked out in the first.
That was less than a year ago, so it's possible Mitchell will return to action. I hope he doesn't. He's a college-educated guy who should avoid any more head trauma at this point.
Even if he attempts to come back, I feel confident his "flash moment" has passed.
8. Audley Harrison
At the 2000 Olympics, Audley Harrison became the first English fighter ever to win a gold medal at super heavyweight. The British boxing fans were sure they had found their heir to Lennox Lewis.
Harrison's career never worked out that way. After winning his first 19 professional fights, he lost back-to-back decisions to Danny Williams and Dominick Guinn in 2005 and 2006.
Harrison was knocked out by Michael Sprott in 2007 and lost to Martin Rogan in 2008. He has settled into a journeyman/gatekeeper figure in the heavyweight decision in recent years, getting knocked out by rising contenders like David Price, David Haye and Deontay Wilder.
With a 31-7 career mark, Harrison has done better than many heavyweight professionals. But the golden glow that surrounded him a decade ago has long since faded.
7. Calvin Brock
Known as The Boxing Banker due to his degree in finance, heavyweight Calvin Brock was a U.S. amateur champion who qualified to compete in the 2000 Olympics. He turned professional and developed at a cautious pace, but by 2005 he had begun to emerge at the top of the division.
He knocked out Clifford Etienne in three and came back from a knockdown to beat Jameel McCline at a time when McCline was still a highly rated contender. In 2006, The Ring awarded Brock the Knockout of the Year for the beautiful counter left hook he landed on Zuri Lawrence.
Later in 2006, Brock suffered his first professional loss when Wladimir Klitschko knocked him out in Round 7. After winning two more fights, Brock lost again by split decision to Eddie Chambers.
Brock suffered retina damage in the Chambers fight and retired. He is a happy case of a boxer who has had solid career prospects to fall back on after hanging up his gloves.
6. David Diaz
Like many of the fighters on this list, David Diaz had a career that most boxers would envy. He captured a world title and, for a brief window, looked ready to join the ranks of the sport's elite. But it was not a status he was able to maintain.
In 2007, Diaz beat Mexican legend Erik Morales in a very close, hotly contested war. After escaping with a majority decision over Ramon Montano in his next fight, Diaz dropped the belt to Manny Pacquiao via Round 9 TKO in June 2008.
After a break of more than a year, Diaz returned and won a majority decision over Jesus Chavez. But his next fight, in March 2010, was a decision loss to Humberto Soto. Diaz retired after being stopped in six by Hank Lundy in August 2011.
5. Sultan Ibragimov
Sultan Ibragimov turned professional after a stellar amateur career that saw him win an Olympic silver medal for Russia at the 2000 Games in Sydney. He turned professional in 2002 and gradually established himself as one of the heavyweight division's top rising contenders.
In 2007, Ibragimov became the WBO world champion when he handled Shannon Briggs and won by unanimous decision. He followed his title win by beating a 45-year-old Evander Holyfield in his first defense.
Ibragimov lost a unification fight to Wladimir Klitschko in 2008. Klitschko's longer frame and battering-ram jab were the difference-makers in the fight. Still, Ibragimov went the distance, giving Klitschko about as much competition as he's had over the past decade.
Ibragimov looked like a fighter who could definitely hang around as a contender and probably work his way back to another title shot. Instead, he chose to retire.
4. Mike Jones
A tall, athletic welterweight, Mike Jones looked like he could emerge as a top future star in the division in 2010. After escaping with a majority decision against the tough Jesus Soto Karass on the Manny Pacquiao-Antonio Margarito undercard, he came back three months later and won decisively in the rematch.
At a 2011 press conference to announce Jones' participation in the upcoming Miguel Cotto-Margarito II pay-per-view, I heard Bob Arum introduce Jones as a fighter he hoped to develop into a potential opponent for Pacquiao.
Jones won a one-sided unanimous decision against Sebastian Lujan on the Cotto-Margarito undercard, but his inability to finish Lujan indicated a potential lack of power. After that fight, Jones was given an opportunity to fight a past-his-prime Randall Bailey for the vacant IBF welterweight belt.
Jones was far ahead on the cards when The Knockout King caught him with a big punch and dropped him in Round 10. Another bomb finished Jones off in the 11th.
The loss to Bailey was more than two years ago, and Jones has yet to fight again. He's scheduled to finally return this weekend against 11-2 Jaime Herrera, so perhaps the final chapter has yet to be written on Jones.
But he'll have to make his comeback at age 32 and this time without the opportunities that come to an undefeated Top Rank prospect.
3. Yuri Foreman
Yuri Foreman was a great boxing story. He was a native of Belarus and an Israeli citizen who moved to Brooklyn and studied to become a rabbi while launching a successful boxing career.
Of course, Foreman's quiet and likable personality, alongside his interesting personal story, made him attractive to boxing promoters like Don King. Foreman became one of the most popular local attractions at boxing venues in the New York City-Northern New Jersey area between 2007 and 2010.
In November 2009, Foreman captured the WBA version of the light middleweight title from Daniel Santos. He parlayed that win to a Yankee Stadium main event with Miguel Cotto in June 2010.
Foreman showed a lot of heart against Cotto, but he was clearly far out of his depth and was forced to quit with an injury in Round 9. In his next fight in March 2011, Foreman got pounded by tough journeyman Pawel Wolak, getting stopped in Round 6.
Foreman then retired for two years. He returned to action last year, fighting and winning four times at the club level. I wouldn't be surprised to see him build himself back up to a fairly big payday, but I'd be shocked to see him ever again be regarded as a real factor in the light middleweight division.
2. Andre Berto
From 2008 to 2010, a lot of fans viewed Andre Berto as one of the most exciting rising stars in the sport. He captured the vacant WBC welterweight title in 2008 and successfully defended it six times, recording wins over Luis Collazo and Carlos Quintana among others.
In April 2011, Berto suffered his first career loss to Victor Ortiz. But it was a near-universal choice for Fight of the Year and the sort of fight where both winner and loser raise their profiles.
But a hotly anticipated rematch in 2012 had to be scuttled when Berto tested positive for PEDs. Whether it was the damage he took in the Ortiz fight or the result of being forced to fight clean, Berto has not been the same fighter since.
In his first fight after serving a suspension, Berto was flat-out mugged by Robert Guerrero, getting both his eyes shut by the end of the fight. Berto fought once last year, suffering a brutal Round 12 stoppage at the hands of Jesus Soto Karass.
Like some others on this list, Berto is still active. He has a fight scheduled in September. But to me, at this point he looks like a fighter who has taken way too much damage and needs to transition to the next phase of his life.
1. Victor Ortiz
Victor Ortiz has been a world champion and made a lot of money in boxing. By almost any standard, his career has been a success.
But when his achievements are measured against the flash of potential greatness so many saw in him only a few short years ago, it's impossible not to view him as the logical choice to head this list. This is a fighter who headlined the biggest fight of the year at age 24 and now appears to be finished at 27.
After his controversial knockout loss to Floyd Mayweather in 2011, Ortiz was all set to face rising superstar Saul Alvarez in the fall of 2012. But fate intervened when Ortiz quit on his stool with a broken jaw in what had looked like a tune-up fight against Josesito Lopez in June of that year.
Ortiz took a long break after the loss to Ortiz, only to return last January and get smashed by Round 2 KO against veteran Luis Collazo.
Some might protest that Ortiz is too young to be regarded as past his prime.
But in boxing, 27 is not necessarily a babe. Ortiz has been in wars. He famously quit on his stool when taking abuse from Marcos Maidana in 2009.
Ortiz has made a lot of money for a man his age and has already had nibbles of interest from the entertainment world. At this point, he'd be far better off walking away from this brutal sport. As it is, he has accomplishments that nobody can dismiss.
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