In January, one of my first contributions to TQBR was a list of my 25 favorite prospects to start 2012. Now that we have met the halfway point of the year, compiled here is a report on how those 25 prospects have fared and a grade letter assigned. Over the first six months, prospects were 41-2 with 27 knockouts. Not a bad start.
MAKING THE GRADE
Eleider Alvarez, light heavyweight, 28, 9-0, 5 KOs (2-0) B+
Alvarez didn’t sparkle against Rayco Saunders on ESPN2 in April, but returned to the Bell Centre in early June to lay a whooping on once-beaten Shawn Hawk. Alvarez needs to be a little more active at 28, and if he is able to get two fights to close out ’12 it will have been a good year for him. Next fight: N/A
Kell Brook, welterweight, 26, 27-0, 18 KOs (1-0) A-
Brook has only fought once in ’12, turning in a great performance in dropping Matthew Hatton en route to a wide points win. That fight headlined a stacked card by Matchroom Promotions, and based on the turnout indicated that Brook is ready to breakout as a bonafide contender and go after a title. Expect to see Brook on American TV, maybe before the end of the year. Next: Carson Jones (34-8-2, 24 KOs), July 7. Jones much better than record indicates, eight straight wins all by stoppage.
Frank Buglioni, super middleweight, 23, 5-0, 3 KOs (3-0, KO) A-
Though Buglioni obviously hasn’t fought anyone of note yet, he has handled himself extremely well against well-traveled veterans. Even better, Buglioni’s fanbase (known as “Buglioni’s Army”) has consistently packed the venue in his support and has earned praise from some of the U.K.’s best pundits. Buglioni is one of the many young fighters to benefit from the existence of BoxNation, given that pro debuters and pro novices are able to fight on television. How else would an American writer such as this one have any knowledge of him? Next: N/A
Thomas Dulorme, welterweight, 22, 15-0, 12 KOs (2-0, 2 KOs) B+
Dulorme is a lot of people’s favorite prospect at the moment. He didn’t look spectacular in allowing Alberto Herrera, 8-6-1 at the time, hang around for a while in their June contest. Dulorme ultimately got a 7th round stoppage, but didn’t look invincible like he had against Aris Ambriz on ShoBox in February. Considering that was a 1st round stoppage, Dulorme’s handlers would have been better to find him a fight on a quick turnaround. If they were going to wait four months, surely Dulorme should have fought a better opponent than Herrera. Next: Ivan Hernandez (29-3, 23 KOs), Aug. 31. Hernandez is a career lightweight moving up, fighting Dulorme in his native P.R. A sideways step.
Chris Eubank, Jr., middleweight, 22, 4-0, 2 KOs (3-0, KO) B+
Eubank has benefited from additional coverage in the U.K. like Frank Buglioni has, but in a different way. Terrestrial U.K. network has gotten back in the boxing game as Channel 5 has televised a few cards in the last 12 months. On each of them, Eubank has been featured thanks to the name brand he carries. He’s actually fought a fairly tough cast of low-level characters and skipped the four-round distance altogether. He’ll likely be moved pretty slowly, but as long as he is in the ring regularly and getting exposure, expect this train to keep chugging along. Next: TBA, July 7.
Javier Fortuna, junior lightweight, 22, 19-0, 14 KOs (1-0, KO) A
Yes, Fortuna has only fought once so far, but he has a meaningful fight on the books as well as one more potentially scheduled for September. The Dominican lefty made his entrance on many people’s watch lists in April when he dispatched previously unbeaten Yuandale Evans in less than a round, in rather brutal fashion one might add. Fortuna definitely had a case for winning last year’s Prospect of the Year that went to the flashier Gary Russell, Jr. Though both guys have fought once this year, Fortuna has shown himself to be at a higher level at present time. Next: Cristobal Cruz (39-13-3, 23 KOs), July 6. Forget the record, Cruz has proven to be a tough out on any given night. If Fortuna was able to stop Cruz, it would be quite a statement to make, especially considering this fight was only put together a few weeks prior.
Carl Frampton, junior featherweight, 25, 14-0, 9 KOs (3-0, 2 KOs) A-
Frampton was definitely active in the first half of the year, but it is past the time where he should be stepping up his opposition. His last win came against unbeaten but unheralded Raul Hirales, and Frampton had to work hard for that shutout. With the lack of a satisfying result in the Scott Quigg-Rendall Munroe 122-pound contest that would have setup a Frampton fight nicely, it leaves his team having to go another route likely. The 122 lbs. division is easily the U.K.’s brightest, meaning there are some bankable fights in-country down the road. Talks between Frampton’s team and former titlist Steve Molitor have been explored and would make a stepping stone for an anticipated clash with European champ Kiko Martinez. That fight needs to be made quickly as Kiko is on his last legs. Next: N/A
Joe Hanks, heavyweight, 29, 20-0, 14 KOs (2-0, 2 KOs) B+
Though one unknown American heavyweight made a splash so far in ’12, it wasn’t Joe Hanks, though he is definitely starting to move in that direction. Hanks partnered up with Joe DeGuardia’s Star Boxing, who has found success getting televised on ESPN2 and other more obscure networks in the past. Heavyweights are given a more generous amount of time to develop, and the division is always deeply stocked with opponents that will provide Hanks with steps up, bit by bit. So far, his two wins this year came against cannon fodder opposition, and for it to be a successful year Hanks will have to be on more people’s minds when the subject of best U.S. heavyweight prospect comes up. Next: N/A
Omar Henry, junior middleweight, 25, 12-0-1, 9 KOs (1-0) B
Henry hasn’t been the most active fighter on this list, having not fought three full rounds since 2010 prior to a few weeks ago. Henry showed some promise in going 10 rounds having never gone more than four previously. Though it came against an unspectacular opponent, making that kind of jump in any regard is something worth noting. The scrap with Tyrone Selders was also televised by the Pursuit Channel (what?), but hopefully Henry gets some real TV time before the year is over. At least two more fights would be key as well.
Dierry Jean, junior welterweight, 30, 22-0, 14 KOs (2-0, KO) B+
Jean is at that age and point in his career where we need to see what he’s really got, and it looks like that could be around the corner. 140 is an extremely deep division and sooner or later he is going to have to fight a fellow young and hungry opponent to find out where he is at. Against the two gatekeepers he’s fought so far, he looked short of spectacular but still rather solid. One would hope to see him showcased on TV outside of Canada pretty soon as well. Next: Cosme Rivera (35-14-3, 24 KOs), Aug. 17. Unlike Cristobal Cruz, Rivera is very much his record and Jean should find a way to get a stoppage if he wants to make an impression with this fight.
Tomoki Kameda, bantamweight, 20, 23-0, 15 KOs (1-0, KO) B+
It is always a shame to see a young fighter’s activity reduced to one fight in six months, but for 20-year old Kameda, who has already had 23 pro fights, it could be a good thing. Kameda has reportedly been staying sharp in Mexico sparring some world class guys. He could be the best of the three Kameda brothers, but one hopes that winning a meaningless silver title doesn’t slow down his activity to the once every six-eight months of today’s standard of a world champion. There are heaps of fights Kameda could make in the loaded bantamweight division, lets hope his team doesn’t avoid them for long.
Karim Mayfield, junior welterweight, 31, 16-0-1, 10 KOs (1-0, KO) B+
Mayfield scored his most significant victory to date in an ESPN2 televised main event against Ray Serrano in May, stopping him in round 5. Word on the street is that Mayfield could end up going to Russia to fight Khabib Allakhverdiev later this year. If that fight happens and Mayfield comes through with a win on the road, he could be in line for a title shot pretty soon after. Next: N/A
Ivan Morales, junior bantamweight, 20, 17-0, 12 KOs (2-0, 2 KOs) B
The younger brother of Erik and Diego, Ivan has yet to step up his competition but given his age, he will approach 25-30 fights before we see that kind of step up. According to his Twitter account, Ivan has signed with Golden Boy Promotions, which could mean an American debut soon to follow. The rumored date is Sept. 8 in California. One hopes that whatever happens, Ivan’s activity level isn’t slowed the way Saul Alvarez’s has since joining up with GBP, because inactivity will stall improvement. Next: N/A
Roman Morales, junior featherweight, 20, 10-0, 6 KOs (2-0, KO) B
A favorite of this list, Morales makes his ShoBox televised debut in late July, right on schedule from this list predicting in January a ShoBox televised appearance by the end of 2012. After fighting eight times in 2011, Morales has only been in the ring twice so far, but could finish the year on a busy schedule. An ESPN appearance in a swing bout against Rufino Serrano in March showed glimpses of his potential but it wasn’t exactly a star making performance. Next: Alexis Santiago (11-2-1, 5 KOs), July 20. Santiago gave fellow prospect Randy Caballero all he could handle no matter what the scorecards say and should allow Morales to measure himself against his potential future adversary.
Thomas Oosthuizen, super middleweight, 24, 19-0-1, 13 KOs (2-0, KO) B+
“Tommy Gun” showed some chinks in his armor against the supremely game Marcus Johnson, but also showed he could handle adversity, closing the show down the stretch. He’s already in the thick of Ring Magazine’s ratings at 168 but will need to test himself against the better the division has to offer pretty soon. His next opponent won’t hardly do that, but one can hope someone does before the year is out. Next: Rowland Bryant (16-1, 11 KOs), Aug. 2. Bryant upset a shot Librado Andrade on a Sho Extreme televised undercard fight. Good to see him get a meaningful fight off of it, but he will be in over his head.
David Price, heavyweight, 28, 13-0, 11 KOs (2-0, 2 KOs) B+
Price has proven himself to be a formidable heavyweight prospect, and his grade only suffers because of the limited opportunities he will now have if he sticks with Frank Maloney. Not only did Maloney lose his Sky Sports dates, but an opportunity to fight in America this year seemingly evaporated as well. It’ll be back to the drawing board for the promoter but hopefully Price doesn’t suffer as a result, because he has really shown some improvements and garnered some momentum on the UK circuit thanks to impressive KOs of John McDermott and Sam Sexton. Next: N/A
Billy Joe Saunders, middleweight, 22, 14-0, 9 KOs (2-0, KO) A-
With James DeGale settling into the background, B.J. Saunders is showing why he deserved to have all the attention all along with a banner 2012 so far. Though his Olympic teammates got more exposure out of the amateurs, Saunders is proving he might have the most staying power. He is definitely ready to step up the level of competition as he has shown little wear from his opponents thus far. Next: N/A
Yohei Tobe, junior bantamweight, 25, 4-0, 2 KOs (1-0) B+
Though Tobe has only fought once in the first half of ’12, it came against experienced Ryan Bito, a pretty good step for a fighter with less than five pro fights. He has received rave reviews in toppling Kohei Kono and Wandee Singwancha, a former title challenger and titlist respectively, last year. Kazuto Ioka won a belt before reaching double digit wins, Tobe looks destined to try and duplicate that feat. Next: Ryo Akaho (18-0-2, 11 KOs), Aug. 13. Akaho will be Tobe’s first appearance in a 12-round bout, so there will be an opportunity to gauge more progress if this goes rounds.
Sadam Ali, welterweight, 23, 15-0, 8 KOs (1-0, KO) C+
Sadam is the only fighter listed in charge of promoting their own fights. He hasn’t been wildly active, but at 23, he has some room for growth. The problem will be whether or not his father prevents him from moving up when the time comes. Ali is a former US Olympian and should have been showcased on ESPN by now, yet his last fight took place on internet PPV on gofightlive.tv. Ali didn’t look great in stopping Franklin Gonzalez on that card, needing nearly the entire distance to do so. He looked a bit amateurish at points and will need to work on some things. Hopefully he joins up with a real promoter soon so he can focus on finetuning his game. Next: N/A
Demetrius Andrade, middleweight, 24, 17-0, 12 KOs (2-0, 2 KOs) C+
Though Andrade got some exposure on ESPN2 this year, the level of the opponent has been so dreadful that we have learned nothing about where he stands. There are a plethora of fighters Andrade could test his mettle against at the gatekeeper level that would be three steps above who he has currently fought. Now with Andrade pulling out of a reported July fight with an injury, one expects he will find work against similarly easy opposition until they are sure he is good to go. Not great. Next: N/A
Marco Antonio Periban, super middleweight, 27, 17-0, 11 KOs (1-0, KO) C-
Periban may be the crudest fighter on this list, but he definitely is exciting. He is also a rare Mexican super middleweight and fought for the Mexican national team in an impressive run as an amateur. His one bout in 2012, however, was memorable for the wrong reasons. Against unregarded Gerardo Diaz in March, Periban would taste the canvas from a right hand in the opening round then storm back for the stoppage in round 2. It is never good to see a prospect get dropped by a journeyman, but many greats, including Andre Ward, have done so. Still, Periban needs to be more active being on the other side of 25. Next: N/A
Gary Russell, Jr., featherweight, 24, 20-0, 12 KOs (1-0, KO) C
The ESPN Prospect of the Year Award is like the Madden Cover Curse. For those not in the know, being on the cover of EA Sports’ Madden NFL Football video game almost guarantees a subpar year. Russell was inactive until last weekend, and though he dismantled his opponent, many expected him to be in with better by now. Boxing fans thought they’d get their wish when he was set to fight Luis Franco in an eliminator, but he was pulled from the fight in order to fight Christopher Perez on ShoBox. Russell got the anticipated victory and is falling behind fellow prospects in terms of level of competition. If he were to fight fellow blue chipper Fortuna, he might be in over his head. He needs to get at least two more fights before the end of the year and at least one needs to be against an established opponent. Russell Jr. is also the third of 3 2008 US Olympians on the Needs Improvement list. Next: N/A
SEE YOU IN SUMMER SCHOOL
Lonnie Smith, lightweight, 25, 14-4-2, 10 KOs (0-2) D+
Of all the prospects on this list, the only one to lose a fight was Lonnie Smith, who lost two. That said, of everyone on this list, who was really tested as much as he was? Though he didn’t pass either test, he showed he could come back from a bad loss (KO1 to Vicente Escobedo) and be competitive against another prospect (unanimous decision loss to Mason Menard). One imagines Smith will take over a role as spoiler from this point on in his career. Next: N/A
Kevin Bizier, 27, 17-0, 12 KOs
Bizier unfortunately hasn’t been in the ring in 2012, but was rumored to be fighting Matthew Hatton in Canada underneath Jean Pascal vs. Tavoris Cloud. It looks as though his promoters have moved away from that idea, but whatever they decide hopefully we see him in the ring soon. He is one of the prospects closer to being ready for a big opportunity, but one doesn’t want to see that come when he’s been on a long layoff. Next: N/A
Deontay Wilder, 26, heavyweight, 23-0, 23 KOs (3-0, 3 KOs)
Wilder was definitely one of the more active prospects featured on this list, but none of those fights came against anyone with a pulse, and it doesn’t look like we will be seeing a live opponent anytime soon. He did face former prospect Owen Beck last time out, but the version of Beck that Wilder faced had just lost to a fighter making their professional debut. His lack of amateur experience has put Golden Boy Promotions in the position of moving him slowly. With the level of guys he has been in with, he hasn’t really been able to improve much within the context of a fight, though one imagines he is making strides in the gym. He has the intangibles, hopefully he is developing the skill set.
Mark Ortega can be reached via e-mail and followed via Twitter. Mark also contributes to renowned boxing publications RING Magazine and Boxing Monthly, and is a member of the Boxing Writer’s Association of America and RING Ratings Advisory Panel.