Five to Watch in 2019
By: Oliver McManus
2018 was a sensational year for boxing, wherever you’re based. Mind you it does seem as though we say that with the passing of every annum. The first month of the new year is, always, relatively dull and mostly dedicated to looking ahead. With that in mind let’s take a look at five under-the-radar prospects for 2019.
Christian Kinsiona – Super Middleweight
We’ll start off up North with Christian Kinsiona who enters the year with a record of 7-1-1. The 28 year old’s only loss came against Scott Westgarth, narrowly, in March 2017 so not one to be sniffed at. Since then, however, Kinsion has built a strong record with four impressive victories on the trot.
Up against Curtis Gargano and Richard Harrison, two durable journeyman, Kinsiona displayed his killer instinct with stoppage victories. To close off 2018, The Grenade secured victory over Harry Matthews to claim the vacant Central Area belt. A confident and assured performance from the Sheffield-man saw him boxing patiently from the centre of the ring.
A dominant figure with imposing stature, Kinsiona has looked comfortable in the three fights of his that I’ve watched and is capable of mixing up the style. What I like the most about Christian are his body shots – it’s something really simple but Kinsiona works the body of his opponent effectively and it produces results.
Scheduled to face Mickey Ellison, in an English title eliminator, on March 30th, Kinsiona has a real opportunity to force himself into the title mix and continue his journey, guided by Stefy Bull.
Harvey Horn – Super Flyweight
Dropping down massively in weight class we’ll turn our attention to Harvey Horn who emerges as one in a number of fly / super-fly prospects coming through the ranks. Horn stands out for a variety of reasons and, off the back of a frustrating 2018, he’ll be looking to really push on over the next 12 months.
A GB Lionhearts in the World Series of Boxing, Horn has the pedigree to see him making rapid development and has honed his technical skill set over the course of four professional fights. Moving up to six rounds on the Warrington-Frampton undercard, Horn shook off the dust to claim a close contest against Adam Hutchinson.
Despite being just 23, Horn possess supreme confidence in his ability and takes to the centre of the ring and boxes with a constant, busy work-rate. The young man is willing to take a step back and evaluate the situation before landing the shot and is an intelligent boxer, not rushing into shots, as he pieces shots together nicely.
I’ve said it before but Harvey has really nice stance which is, let’s be honest, an odd thing to appreciate in a boxer but he looks light on his feet and is set up with a staunch defence that allows him the room of the ring.
Having ended 2018 on a relative high, Horn will be looking to gain some momentum over the course of the next 12 months in order for him to really push on.
Denzel Bentley – Middleweight
2 and 0 as we entered 2018, Denzel Bentley finished the calendar year boasting an impressive record of eight without defeat. A ferocious fighter, Bentley himself has admitted to not fully appreciating the scope of his power but the 23 year old really grew into his strength over 2018,
Starting out of the blocks in fast fashion, Bentley looks to impose himself straight from the off and against Daniel Urbanski, in September, Bentley did so to perfection. A searching, looping right dropped his Polish opponent within 20 seconds and on a further two occasions before the bout was waived off after a mere 71 seconds.
Perhaps more impressive was his win over Serge Ambomo (6-7) on less than 12 hours notice… Bentley turned up and blasted Ambomo out, who had never previously been stopped, within two rounds. Mightily impressive from the young man and, indeed, resulting in an ever growing fan base.
With one eye on the winner of Tey Lynn Jones vs Linus Udofia, that fight for the Southern Area title, Bentley has insisted he isn’t concerned with names on his record but simply wants to start collecting titles as soon as possible.
Edward Muscat speaks highly of him and rightly so – Denzel is some talent that Ed has got on his hands and, even better, 2 Sharp is a lovely bloke, too!
Deion Jumah – Cruiserweight
The most established of names across this list, Deion Jumah secured the first title of his career last night when he stopped Ossie Jervier in the fifth round on December 1st. The Southern Area title duly found a new home and, in equal rhythm, was vacated shortly after.
That’s a sign of the lofty ambitions that Jumah possesses – his next fight will be for the English equivalent. A professional since 2013, Jumah’s career has bounced along far more rapidly since hooking up with Steve Goodwin and the new management team has put him in a promising position.
Three fights last year, after an absence of 26 months, saw the 29 year old rack up three knockout victories with a particular penchant for body shots. The Ghost is one of the hottest prospects flying under-the-radar on the small hall circuit and it’s only matter of time before he starts headlining arena shows.
It is easy to see the distinguished amateur background within Jumah, not least in terms of his patience within the ring. Make no mistake, when there’s blood in the water, Deion is merciless in his hunt but he’s not reckless and that, for me, that temperament and level-head is what sets him apart from the rest of the troops.
James Beech Jnr – Super Featherweight
The current Midlands Area Super Featherweight champion, James Beech Jnr, burst onto the scene in dramatic fashion towards the back end of last year. Already growing a fan base in and around the West Midlands, his four fights in 2018 saw him step up to eight rounds for the first time and, subsequently, win his first career title.
21 years of age and already boxing like a seasoned professional, Beech stepped up in weight to take on the experienced Louis Fielding for the vacant Area title. The dazzling fighter, promoted by BCB Promotions, was quick out of the blocks and established his dominance from the off. Beech looked in fine form and maintained his front foot pressure even after a nasty gash emerged above his eye in the fourth. Beech controlled the bout but came out in the ninth with a renewed urgency, with a flurry of right hands bowling his opponent over to the canvas in sensational style.
But it’s not just the big occasions in which James has stepped up to the plate, across his nine professional fights, Beech has visibly matured and shown an eagerness to develop. Adapting to the opponent, the Bloxwich-resident has racked up 48 rounds in two rounds and looked impressive throughout.
With two years left of his BCB management, I’m sure Errol Johnson will be looking to push this young fighter on towards bigger things because his talent and development shows no sign of slowing down.
Boxing Insider Interview with Kathy Duva: “So Much Opportunity for Elite Fighters”
By: Henry Deleon
During the Sullivan Barrera vs. Seanie Monaghan media workout at the Mendez Boxing club in NYC, Boxing Insider had the pleasure of interviewing the CEO of Main Events Promotion, Kathy Duva.
Boxing Insider – Boxing insider here with Kathy Duva. Kathy, what is your opinion on HBO no longer televising boxing?
Kathy Duva – Oh I feel like it’s a death! It’s been 45 years! longer than I’ve been in the sport and they’re aren’t too many things that have been in the sport longer than me. I’m really going to miss it.
Boxing Insider – Do you feel that with HBO getting out of the picture, is it going to have a huge impact on boxing how is being televised?
Kathy Duva – I think it’s happening already. When boxing went to HBO, all the big fights started going there. The other networks lost interest because they couldn’t compete. But now you can see them on ESPN they’re already out there. FOX is already out there and there may be others coming up soon too, you never know.
Boxing Insider – Rumor is that the Kovalev vs. Alvarez rematch is set to be on ESPN, is this true?
Kathy Duva – That is true. It’s going to be on ESPN February 2nd, 2019
Boxing Insider – How did you feel with the results of Kovalev’s last fight against Eleider Alvarez?
Kathy Duva – Obviously I was not too happy. I think we saw this happening in the Ward fights. He got so tired, first of all Ward’s people did an amazing job of getting into his head, It was like watching a master class and I think I learned from it. Sergey was convinced that you had to try harder and work harder, because you know you’re a guy who like to party and have fun, and the worst thing for a guy who’s in his mid 30’s to do is to try and work harder because when you get older you have to work smarter not harder. Unfortunately, Sergey being Sergey just did not believe that. As he got tired, he would just continue to work harder and all he did was set himself up so that he runs out of gas. So now you have a guy who is 35 and is trying to fight and train like he’s 25. He needs to learn to train and fight like he is 35 and he’s doing that now with Buddy McGirt. He has made some changes to his training regime and hopefully it will all work out.
Boxing Insider – So what you’re saying is we are going to see a different Kovalev come this rematch?
Kathy Duva – yeah, you know Buddy is the guy who brought back Arturo Gatti and responsible for the incredible resurgence at the back of his career. Buddy knows what to do with an old fighter, and Sergey at his age has to start fighting like an old fighter which is not something negative. Some of the greatest fights you’ve ever seen involved guys who have that experience and are now challenged in the sense that they don’t have the stamina they once did when they were younger. All that plays into a guy who is a really dominant fighter suddenly getting into fights that are very competitive. So, I believe we are going to see that and in the end the fans are going to be very entertained.
Boxing Insider – So coming into this rematch, do you feel Sergey will have a different outcome?
Kathy Duva – you know Sergey won 5 out of the 7 rounds. He is by far the better fighter. The problem was that he ran out of gas after the 6th round. I remember leaning over to Sergey’s manager before the 5th round and said “I don’t know how he’s going to keep up this pace, what is he doing?”. Sergey’s going to have to learn to beat Alvarez at a slower pace and he is going to have to learn to train in a way in where he doesn’t leave it all in the gym. If he does those things he’s going to win, and if he doesn’t do those things he’s going to lose. That’s what’s going to make this fight very interesting.
Boxing Insider – What is your opinion on what Eddie Hearn and DAZN are doing for boxing?
Kathy Duva – You have people who want to invest in boxing. It’s a great time to be an elite fighter, so much opportunity for elite fighters. How can one be opposed to that, it’s terrific!
Boxing Insider – What’s your take on Saturdays main event between Sullivan Barrera and Seanie Monaghan?
Kathy Duva – This is a terrific fight! This is the greater fight that isn’t happening in places like DAZN, ESPN, or FOX. You’re looking at high level elite fighter, fighters who are world title fighters. If you look at the history of our sport, and I did the other day. I looked at all the “fight of the year” fights and what I found, dating back to 1922, is how rarely the “fight of the year” is one of the “BIG” fights. Its usually a fight like this. Look at when Gatti and Ward fought, you had two guys who people considered to be on the downside of their career and look at what they did! This is one of those fights, now I will never say a fight will be as good as Gatti and Ward, but what I am saying is that you have the same dynamic in fight with Barrera vs. Monaghan. I think if our sport is missing anything right now, its fights like these.
Boxing Insider – Is there any other up and coming fighters under your promotion that you want fans to keep an eye out for?
Kathy Duva – We actually have quite a few. Some of them you will see on Saturday, others you will see in the upcoming months. Leshawn Rodriguez (9-0 7KO) unfortunately had to pull out due to an injury but he’s a terrific fighter. Cassius Chaney (13-0 6KO) is a terrific heavy weight fighter. We just signed Denis Douglin (21-6 13KO) he’s one of those guys who has a lot going for him. He took some bad advice on a fight once and suddenly his career was going to waste, but no we are going to make a career for him. We have Madiyar Ashkeyev (10-0 6 KO), Meriim Nursultanov (8-0 5KO), Enriko Gogokhia (8-0 3KO) and Frank Galarza (20-2-2 12KO). We have a lot of really talented young fighters who are going to be the next generation of people you hear about. We to say this last big group of the Pacquiao’s, the Mayweather’s, the Klitschko’s they all lasted beyond the prime of fighters of generations past because we know more about nutrition, and training. They’ve extended their athletic careers so, it’s been a while since a new crowd has come along and took over. I believe this is going to be the beginning of that and I hope that the people I just mentioned and a few others are going to be in the vanguard of that and I look forward to being part of it.
Boxing Insider – Thank you so much Kathy. Wishing you all the best.
Kathy Duva has over 38 years of experience in the business of professional boxing and is the CEO of Main Events promotions. Kathy has helped promote many legendary careers such as Evander Holyfield, Fernando Vargas, Vinnie Pazienza, Lennox Lewis and many more.
Tune in Saturday Nov 3rd for Sullivan vs. Monaghan live globally on Facebook Watch via the Golden Boy Fight Night Page beginning at 6:00 p.m. PT/ 9:00 p.m. ET.
British Prospects to Watch
By: Oliver McManus
With so many young prospects coming through the ranks in British boxing it’s hard to come up with new categories for these articles so I’m not even going to try – here are just five of the most eye-catching prospects in British boxing as it stands –
Photo of Tey Lynn Jones
‘Sniper the Boss’ seems to be, to me at least, the forgotten man from Frank Warren’s stable of fighters and I mean that in the nicest way possible because for someone of his talent he’s getting very little in way of opportunities from his promoter.
Campaigning at super middleweight, the 25 year old looked like kicking on when he won, Warren’s trademark, WBO European title in November of last year but since then his progress has stagnated with just a single six rounder to his name this year.
None of that is Richards’ fault who, earlier this year, told me he wanted a shot at the English title by the end of 2018 and you’d suggest, certainly, on his talent that he is a man more than deserving of such a fight.
Incredibly mature in the ring with a strong, established jab and fantastic amateur pedigree, Richards is a commanding presence at the centre of the canvas, working the angles, cutting of the ring with ease and packing a ferocious left hand.
Having sparred with the likes of George Groves and Lerrone Richards there can be no doubting his class in the ring and, hopefully, it’s only a matter of time before we see him getting the opportunities he deserves.
Possibly the classiest man both inside and outside of the ring, Umar Sadiq has already attracted a huge fan base thanks to his impressive performances and innovative use of social media.
It sounds like something so simple but ‘Top Boxer’, as he’s known, really has mastered Twitter and YouTube in order to connect with his fans – myself, included – and whilst I’ve wanted to interview him for quite some time, I’ve not managed to do so yet, his manner in everyday life makes it, near, impossible to not want him to do well.
That’s all by the by, however, what really matters is his ability in the ring and having come from a strong amateur background he already looks at ease, moving through the motions quickly, and stamping his authority over his three opponents thus far.
Back in June Umar looked at his most complete, yet, with a masterful control of the fight tempo, insightful shot select before unfurling a vicious left hook into the body of Kamil Al Temimi to send the Polish fighter crumpling to the canvas with consummate ease.
Arguably the most terrifying thing about Sadiq is that he’s not even looked out of breath upon the conclusion of his three professional fights – I know they’ve only been four and six rounders, thus far, but it bodes well for the big bouts.
Targeting a clash with “Chihuahua” Darryll Williams, Sadiq looks likely to face Zak Chelli next in October but his rise to the top is surely going to be as quick as it will be stylish and sophisticated.
Explosivity personified, Dan Azeez is part of Britain’s burgeoning light-heavyweight scene looking to force their way into title contention and with the Southern Area belt currently vacant then your money would be firmly on Azeez to be the next champ.
Backed by the big boys at MTK Global, Azeez dropped his first three opponents a total of six times to instantly raise the eyebrows of many a fan and fighting with such fierce regularity – September 21st will be his fifth fight in just over six months – ensures that his development is constant, he’s always learning, there is no standstill for Dan Azeez.
And that last fight, on July 13th, against Adam Jones was a fight where you could see Dan thinking on the job, having to adapt, you could see all his training coming to the fore because, as much as I wanted to see a fourth knockout on the trot, Jones was awkward and forced Dan to go one step further than his comfort zone and, ultimately, it’ll pay off in the long run.
Stepping up to six rounds in his next outing, I’m torn between whether I want to see more of that vicious punch power – which we all know Dan possesses in spades – or if I want to see him in with those opponents that are going to be awkward, aren’t really going to come to fight because as boring as that sounds and as bad it would be, these fights are going to test Dan but my money says, regardless of opponent, he will always find an avenue to launch that knockout shot because he is just constantly thinking, he’s a smart boxer and I, for one, cannot wait to see him knocking on the door for those titles.
Tey Lynn Jones
Southern Area middleweight champion Tey Lynn Jones makes this “prospect” list despite already being quite established in the domestic scene because, to be honest, he has just got bags and bags of potential.
In claiming the Southern Area crown against MH Legg earlier in the year he looked destructive, dropping Legg in the first round and easing his way to the win – Legg retired after the seventh – but his first defence, against Darren Codona was, by reports, not entirely convincing.
Now I don’t mean that to sound horrible, you’re allowed off nights, and having first seen Tey back in February 2017 it would be impossible to deny just how far he’s come in that, relatively, short space of time.
‘Teysty’ is no longer rushing his shots, he’s taking his time and remaining patient but, in equal measure, he’s not afraid to go for the stoppage when there’s blood in the water and he’s always looking to exploit his opponents weakness – I think that’s, for me, one of the most tell-tale signs that the 24 year old has learnt SO MUCH since his loss to Nicky Jenman in March last year.
He’s gone away, worked his nut off, thought “okay, how can I get better?” and is now reaping the rewards so hat’s off to him and for as long as he stays in these title fights then he’ll always be pushing himself to get better and there’s some real good opportunities out there for the Essex man to push his name up the rankings.
Chris Billam Smith
Now Chris Billam Smith is a man I have been excited about for a long time and I know Barry McGuigan shares that excitement so the young cruiserweight must be doing something right!
I’ve said it before but the Bournemouth man has a style that makes you want to watch him, his fast footwork makes him hard to hit but his long, lanky – in a nice way – stature means you’re seemingly never out of his reach and when he starts to get into his rhythm he packs one hell of a right hook.
A fighter who prominently targets the body of an opponent, Billam Smith has mastered the art of teeing up the shot with sharp combinations to the head before dropping down and slamming home that right hand into the ribcage of his opposite man.
Last time out the 28 year kid faced Michal Plesnik and was convincing on his way to securing a shut-out points victory over eight rounds, setting him up nicely for title challenges and I like that every time you see him out in the ring you see his boxing maturity, he doesn’t rush shots to try to force the stoppage but is patient in working the angles and that is a characteristic that, more often than not, brings success.
They call him the gentleman but, trust me, there’s nothing chivalrous about him when he’s in the ring!y
I trailed this piece on Twitter by asking what these guys had in common and whilst I’m sure they’ll probably have quite a lot in common, the main factor is that they’re just ridiculously good fighters so make sure you keep an eye on them before the whole bandwagon rolls in.
Five Fighters to Watch in the United Kingdom
By: Oliver McManus
British boxing has got it GOOD at the moment, you’d go as far as to say we’ve never had it any better but it’s not just at the top with Anthony Joshua, Dillian Whyte and Tony Bellew in which we’re excelling, there’s talent across the board and here are five of the best lower weight class fighters you’d be a fool not to keep an eye on.
*DISCLAIMER* Lower weight = Super lightweight and under
QAIS ASHFAQ – Bantamweight
Gold medallist at the 2011 Commonwealth Youth Games, Silver in the 2014 Commonwealth’s and 2015 European Amateur’s and a bronze at the 2015 European Games, Qais Ashfaq left a mark on the amateur scene and there’s no doubt he’ll do the same in the pro ranks.
Initially signing a deal last year with Hayemaker Ringstar, Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing announced the signing of Ashfaq in February of this year and quickly set him to work against a durable Brett Fidoe.
A comfortable points victory put the bantamweight on the path to glory. Now 2 and 0 – thanks to a victory over Ricky Starkey in April – the 25 year old has already shown over the course of eight rounds just why he is such a hotly tipped fighter.
Fast with the feet, his game is all about dominating his opponent with superior movement, bouncing around the ring, before landing some crushing counter-punches. The style has brought him incredible success and being a pressure fighter with lightning fast hand speed, Ashfaq is always going to be one of those fighters you just love to watch.
JEFF OFORI – Super Featherweight
King Jeffy, as he’s known, Ofori made his debut in May of last year and has notched his way to five victories without defeat since – his 6th bout will come this weekend (May 19th) and in only his second bout at Super Featherweight he’ll be looking to send some statements.
A dominant third round TKO victory over Aleksandrs Birkenbergs in April saw Ofori display expertly the sort of power needed to mix it at the top but most impressive was his temperament to deal with an awkward opponent who came to duck and weave.
Ofori, himself, was critical and said he thought he tried too hard in the first couple of rounds to get the stoppage and whilst that may be true, the Tottenham-fighter kept a cool head when it came to crunch time to lay it on the Latvian and give, referee, Mark Bates no choice but to stop it.
Targeting a Southern Area title by the end of the year, there’s no doubt in my mind that Jeffy is just going to keep better with every fight he has – who knows where he can end up…
RYAN GARNER – Super Featherweight
It’s not hard to understand why Ryan Garner is known as The Piranha given the ferocious way in which he attacks his opponents in the ring.
With seven fights under his belt, the 20 year old is already learning more than you do at University and the maturity developed within the ring is clear to see since he initially turned pro back in the summer of 2016.
A patient fighter, the former junior European amateur champion, is already experienced enough to know when to step on the gas and punish his opponent but, equally, when to take a breather and just play the waiting game.
An enforced sixth month absence from the ring, due to personal issues, has only made the Piranha even hungrier and his display against Lesther Cantillano on February 24th was a perfect example of a boxer looking to go places – he showed in that fight that not only does he pack a really solid flurry of punches capable of stopping his man but, more importantly, he has the technical ability to outbox opponents.
When you can whack, dance, and out-work those who step in the ring then you’re very unlikely to taste defeat and, luckily, for Ryan he has all of that. Let’s not forget he’s only 20, too, so he’s going to get so much better as the years progress… it’s almost scary!
ARCHIE SHARP – Super Featherweight
Dubbed “the best kept secret in British boxing” by his promoter Frank Warren, Archie Sharp is a super featherweight on a mission and at 23 years of age there’s plenty of time, for the 12 and 0 Super Feather, to create his legacy.
Nine years in the amateur ranks saw him pick up nine national junior titles and Sharpshooter has wasted no time in racking up win after win in the professional game.
A clever fighter with fluid movement, Sharp takes to the centre of the ring from the outset in an attempt to draw his opponent into a proper fight and against tough, durable, journeyman Sharp has found considerable success when targeting the body of his opponent – often sending them crumpling to the canvas. Seven of his triumphs have come via knockout.
Having stepped up to eight rounds for the first time last year there can be no question marks about his stamina with Archie having the energy of a puppy throughout his eight round points victory over Rafael Castillo back in December.
Indeed the young whipper snapper isn’t far away from competing for his first title and with the widely held belief being that the classier his opponent, the better Sharp will look, he really is Hollywood.
BRING IT ON, that’s all I can say!
SAM MAXWELL – Super Lightweight
Now Sam Maxwell *just* makes the upper limit for this list and that’s not something that happened on purpose, it was a decision made beforehand that only fighters up to Super Lightweight would be included and, boy, what a decision it was because Sam Maxwell is of the most exciting boxers building a profile in the United Kingdom at the moment.
Having turned pro in October of last year the MTK Global fighter has shot to seven victories in double-quick time with the former Great British Lionhearts fighter recording six knockout’s along the way.
Already having fought on the undercard of a world title fight – that between Manuel Charr and Alexander Ustinov – Maxwell is no stranger to the big stage and, indeed, when thrust into the limelight at the SSE Arena on April 21st this year he blasted out Michael Isaac Carrero in less than sixty seconds.
The bruising super-middle is causing a stir in the domestic scene, he’ll be next out on June 9th as part of Frank Warren’s Manchester promotion and there’s a very real chance that the 29 year old Liverpool-resident will send a thunderous statement as he looks to gate-crash his way to the top of an, already bustling, British super lightweight division.
I’m only allowed five main fighters to pick but I can’t let this finish without mentioning two classy, classy fighters in Osman Aslam a 12-0 super bantamweight who brings a whole new definition to the word “technical fighter”, his movement is sublime and his shot selection incredible; and Ukashir Farooq the Scottish Area Bantamweight kingpin waiting for his postponed title tilt against Josh Wale, at just 22 Farooq still has a lot of learning to do but with experience under his belt he could well live up to his nickname – Untouchable.
NOW that’s just scratching the surface of lower weight fighters that should be in the spotlight but we’d be here all day if I was to talk about everyone with bags of talent so I implore you to get down to the small hall’s, see boxing at its purest and discover someone worth talking about because, I can’t say this enough, British boxing is having the time of it’s life!
Five Fighters to Watch in 2018
By: Eric Lunger
As the final wrapping paper gets cleaned up from under the tree, and as we collectively vow – in varying degrees of enthusiasm and conviction — to get back to sensible eating and exercise, it’s time to take a glance ahead at the upcoming year in boxing, and count down the top five fighters to keep an eye on. This is a pretty eclectic list, and no doubt you have your own picks; I’d love to read which boxers you are watching for 2018 in the comments below.
Photo Credit: WBSS
Joseph Parker (Heavyweight). The Kiwi WBO champion had a great 2017, defending his newly-won belt twice. In May, he took care of business against Razvan Cojanu, a late-minute replacement in a not-so spectacular bout, but in September, Parker traveled to Manchester, UK, to take on the talented contender Hughie Fury. Parker (24-0, 18 KOs) answered a lot of questions that night, and won over some critics. Still, there are some commentators who feel that Parker is the odd man out in the top tier of the division, that he doesn’t really belong in the same rarified air as Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder, and Tyson Fury. But with his power, his hand speed, and most importantly, his meteoric learning curve each and every outing, Parker can be a real spoiler in the division. Will he get a shot at AJ in 2018? That is tough to envision, given Team Joshua’s current aversion to risk, but as the WBO Champion, unification of the belts has to go through Parker at some point.
Oleksandr Usyk (Cruiserweight). Usyk (13-0, 11 KOs) fought on the same Olympic team as Vasyl Lomachenko, training with Lomachenko’s father, and it shows in Usyk’s footwork and use of angles. Already WBO world champion, the Ukrainian southpaw is in the semi-finals of the World Boxing Super Series Cruiserweight tournament, slated to take on undefeated WBC champion Mairis Breidis in Riga, Latvia, on January 27. Supremely confident, Usyk is one of those few European amateurs who understands that the professional game is about more than just scoring points; a fighter needs to be exciting to watch if he wants to build his fan base. With knockout artist Murat Gassiev and Yunier Dorticos in the other semi-final in February, the WBSS tournament is exciting and dynamic, and Usyk has to be the favorite to unify all the belts and lift the Muhammad Ali Trophy.
Javier Fortuna (Lightweight) A southpaw from the Dominican Republic and former WBA World champion at junior lightweight, Fortuna (33-1-1, 23 KOs) has an important title shot this coming January against undefeated IBF lightweight champion Robert Easter, Jr. Fortuna is an underdog in this fight, to be sure, but the matchup will be competitive and entertaining. The Dominican standout is a risk-taker, and he can get caught. But he is also brilliant to watch, especially when he makes intuitive adjustments in the ring or decides to ramp up the performance aspect of his game. This will be no easy tune-up for Easter, and Fortuna should not be overlooked as a potential upset of the year.
Danny Garcia (Welterweight). Garcia (33-1, 19 KOs) has always been one of my favorite fighters. A guy with deep Philly roots, he’s had tough battles with the likes of Amir Khan, Zab Judah, Lucas Matthysse, Paulie Malignaggi, and Keith Thurman. Danny is an accurate counterpuncher whose risky style is based on one of the most dominant left hooks in the game. The split decision loss to Thurman last March had to be a bitter pill for the proud Garcia to swallow. How does a fighter who has accomplished so much in the sport find the motivation to rebound from a loss like that? We will find out where Garcia is mentally and physically this February 17 as he takes on Brandon Rios (34-3, 25 KOs) in a twelve-round welterweight clash.
Vasyl Lomachenko (Junior Lightweight). Obviously, the slick Ukrainian southpaw is on top of the boxing world right now, and is a factor in everyone’s pound-for-pound discussion, but the real unknown for Lomachenko in 2018 is: whom should he fight next? Who will give him a challenge? Who will draw a big audience? Miguel Berchelt (32-1 28 KOs), who holds the WBC belt, seems like the logical next opponent for “HiTech,” but a case can certainly be made for Francisco Vargas (24-1-2, 17 KOs) or even Gervonta Davis (19-0, 18 KOs). There has also been significant social media chatter about Lomachenko moving up to 135 to fight Mikey Garcia (37-0, 30 KOs), and what a fight that would be. Unfortunately, for now, Garcia has moved to junior welterweight to face Sergey Lipinets (13-0, 10 KOs) for the IBF title. Regardless, Lomachenko remains a fighter to watch in 2018.