Don’t mistake this list as one to bank future successes of any of these fighters on, though I have faith that more than a handful of them will break through to the top level of the sport. No, what this list serves as is my 25 favorite prospects that I will be keeping an eye on in 2012 and beyond. What this means is the rubric is more than just in-ring ability. It takes into account whether or not they likely will emerge as big time ticket sellers, as determined by their fighting styles and personalities, among other things. One thing you can count on is this list features quite a number of names you won’t see elsewhere.
Sadam Ali, welterweight, 23 years old, Brooklyn, New York, U.S.A. [14-0, 8 KOs]
The quick-fisted Ali was the first Arab-American fighter to box in the Olympics when he made the U.S. team in 2008. Since turning pro in January of 2009, the sharp punching Ali has yet to face a real test. He may be a bit undersized at welterweight and would probably find more success at 140 when he steps up his level of competition. After encountering managerial problems early in his career, Ali has begun to guide his own career. It will be interesting to see how Ali’s plans of getting to the top will work out without a major guiding influence. At 23 years old, Ali has a fair amount of time to get there.
Eleider Alvarez, light heavyweight, 27, Montreal, Quebec, Canada via Colombia [7-0, 5 KOs]
In just his seventh pro fight, Colombian standout Alvarez won the WBO NABO light heavyweight title via 1st round knockout. Alvarez went 3-0 in his opening year as a pro and then took all of 2010 off before returning this past year with four straight wins. Alvarez heads a class of heralded Colombian prospects to emerge in the last year, yet he seems to be flying in under the radar compared to the others.
Demetrius Andrade, junior middleweight, 23, Providence, Rhode Island, U.S.A. [15-0, 10 KOs]
Of the 2008 U.S. Olympic team, no fighter has been more visible than Andrade, who has fought a majority of his professional career on television. Andrade has fought fairly tough competition for being at this stage of his career, and has quality wins that include a stoppage of the usually durable Saul Duran this past year. This year, Andrade also outpointed veteran Grady Brewer, who was coming off a huge upset win over former blue chip prospect Fernando Guerrero. Andrade is a well-rounded fighter without any glaring weaknesses and will fight Derek Ennis in an IBF eliminator in February.
Kevin Bizier, welterweight, 27, Saint-Emile, Quebec, Canada [17-0, 12 KOs]
While fellow countryman Pier Olivier Cote seems to be garnering a lot of attention on these prospect lists, Bizier usually garners more appreciation amongst the Canadian boxing press, and for good reason. Bizier went 4-0 in 2011 with 3 KOs and showed he can go twelve rounds as he decisively outpointed Lanardo Tyner in his last outing to win the NABA welterweight title. Bizier’s trainer Pedro Diaz also trains Miguel Cotto, and the two worked in the ring together in Orlando as Cotto prepared for his rematch with Antonio Margarito. Bizier will look to move into the top 10 of a sanctioning body or two in 2012.
Kell Brook, welterweight, 25, Sheffield, Yorkshire, U.K. [26-0, 18 KOs]
A pro for seven years, it is hard to call Kell Brook a prospect anymore, especially when considering the level of competition he took down in 2011. The main reason Brook is included on this list is that despite his in-ring accomplishments, he is still far from known outside of the U.K. Brook hopes to have changed that a bit by making his stateside debut on the Ward-Froch card in Atlantic City, where he stopped Luis Galarza in five rounds. The win didn’t stack up to his other two victories in 2011, as Brook stopped Rafal Jackiewicz in six, serving as the first time the Pole didn’t see the distance in defeat. Brook also widely outpointed tough former world champion Lovemore N’dou, who Brook came as close to stopping as anyone had previously. Look for Brook to make his major US network debut sometime in 2012, perhaps under Carl Froch’s return, as both are backed by Matchroom Sports.
Frank Buglioni, super middleweight, 22, Winchmore Hill, Enfield, London, U.K. [2-0, 2 KOs]
I am not often impressed by how easily a young fighter tears through their opposition in their first handful of fights, but after watching both of Buglioni’s first two contests I have him tabbed as a future star with a high ceiling. Buglioni possesses top flight power and was long considered one of Britain’s best amateurs before turning pro near the end of 2011. In his last fight, Buglioni tore through the usually durable Paul Morby in less than a round. Buglioni has star quality and thanks to the extended coverage provided by BoxNation in the U.K., he could catch on quicker than most young prospects.
Thomas Dulorme, welterweight, 21, Carolina, Puerto Rico [13-0, 10 KOs]
Dulorme has caught fire with a lot of the mainstream boxing media, largely due to ESPN.com’s Dan Rafael making note of him after catching him live in his American debut in March of this year off-TV on the Sergio Martinez-Sergiy Dzinziruk card. This writer has only been aware of Dulorme since one bout prior to that. I was able to get footage of Dulorme’s American debut and was also impressed, though that fight came against a guy who had been off for six years prior to fighting the prized Puerto Rican prospect. Dulorme’s comprehensive decision wins over DeMarcus Corley and Charlie Navarro serve as much better evidence of his abilities. Corley is still a guy that gives prospects a run for their money and Dulorme shut him out. Dulorme is a great body puncher with a tremendous jab and is being groomed to fill Miguel Cotto’s shoes as the biggest thing in Puerto Rican boxing once he hangs them up.
Chris Eubank Jr., middleweight, 22, Sussex, U.K. [1-0, KO]
Though this writer is not usually one to follow a fighter on namesake alone, Eubank has come up the hard way, despite being the son of one of Britain’s most famous fighters of the past few decades. Eubank was a 160 and 168 pound champion during a time when the U.K. was arguably deeper in those divisions than at any other time. Eubank sent his son to the South Bronx in New York, away from the publicity that would have come with possessing famous bloodlines. Eubank saw more value in his son coming up the hard way, the way that Marvin Hagler did. That Eubank is set on earning his way up the ladder goes against what most famous sons like Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. have been known for. Eubank Jr. seems mature above his years, and it doesn’t hurt that he possesses the smoothness in the ring of his dad as well as his overhand right. That his pro debut took place on terrestrial television shows how much belief there is in the 22-year old. As well, if Eubank Jr. is able to make something of his career, it would likely be to heavy fanfare.
Javier Fortuna, featherweight, 22, La Romana, Dominican Republic [18-0, 13 KOs]
Fortuna is who I have tabbed as 2011′s best prospect, as he took on some fierce competition without much problem and has definitely risen on most people’s watch lists as a result. Fortuna began the year with a solid victory over spoiler Derrick Wilson in March alongside Thomas Dulorme under Martinez-Dzinziruk. Fortuna showed his superior in-ring skillset as he outsmarted the game slugger, ultimately wearing him down to a KO in the eighth round. Fortuna followed with three wins south of the border before taking out former title challenger Miguel Roman by decision, though he had to survive some tough late fight moments in order to do so. Fortuna is backed by super scout and advisor Sampson Lewkowicz, who brought Fortuna to the attention of Lou DiBella, who now promotes the young fighter. Fortuna is also trained by Gabriel Sarmiento, whom he shares with world middleweight champion Sergio Martinez. Fortuna’s style is similar to Martinez’, though he also enjoys banging it out with the best of them.
Carl Frampton, junior featherweight, 24, Belfast, North Ireland, U.K. [11-0, 7 KOs]
Perhaps one of the best Irish prospect in years, Frampton caught the eye of former world champion Barry McGuigan, who has taken on the role of guiding his career. Frampton was on the verge of a signature fight with European super bantamweight champion Kiko Martinez, who pulled out of their fight citing sickness. Frampton is poised for a make or break 2012, as the only guys in the UK that are between him and a British and European title have him dwarfed in experience. McGuigan and Frampton both seem determined to move him up the ladder quickly. Frampton’s offensive repertoire should have him holding a major regional title in no time, though he must be more worried about his defense as he takes on tougher opponents. Frampton also possesses a charisma that has him already considered one of the region’s fan favorites. Frampton has also seen good visibility on Sky Sports in the U.K. as chief support bouts on major cards.
Omar Henry, junior middleweight, 24, Houston, Texas, U.S.A. [11-0-1, 9 KOs]
Those who have followed the standout Puerto Rican have experienced a rollercoaster of heavy ups and downs, but I still consider him someone that people should keep an eye on. Whether he ends up like a Ricardo Williams Jr. or Francisco Bojado and never lives up to his potential is totally up to him. Henry signed with Top Rank quickly out of the gate after a decorated amateur career and one pro fight, but the two parted ways in May of 2011. Henry was enjoying the celebrity that came with being a touted pro fighter, and spent more time making headlines on TMZ than in the ring. Henry patents his style after fellow Puerto Rican Cotto. Henry turned down an opportunity to spar with Manny Pacquiao in preparation of his fight with Cotto. Henry’s run-ins with the tabloid media caused Top Rank to question his dedication to the sport, and the last straw seemingly was when Henry was seen rubbing elbows with Top Rank rival Oscar De La Hoya at a Golden Boy card earlier in the year. Henry then signed on with Don King Promotions, which shouldn’t do much to help his long standing bout with inactivity, as King is known for shelving many of his fighters. Henry was set to meet his toughest opponent off-TV of the Abner Mares-Joseph Agbeko rematch in December, which came to an unfortunate early end when his durable opponent Lester Gonzalez suffered a bad cut from a headbutt early in the fight, causing a no decision. With King’s dates more limited than ever before, it will be interesting to see how Henry’s career moves from here on out, despite him being one of the more naturally gifted young fighters in boxing today.
Dierry Jean, junior welterweight, 29, Montreal, Quebec, Canada [20-0, 13 KOs]
One of Canada’s most promising prospects, Jean was off for nearly a year before returning in October to pick apart tough gatekeeper Francisco Lorenzo over ten lopsided rounds. In recent years, Lorenzo had been the source of tougher nights for the likes of Erik Morales, Jorge Linares, and Luis Ramos before Jean shut him out. Jean could be another in a line of recent Haitian-Canadians to reach the world level, as Jean Pascal and Joachim Alcine have been able to do in the last half decade. As with Bizier, Cote seems to be grabbing more of the global spotlight, but many in the Canadian boxing media prefer Jean’s chances at earning success at the elite level. In the Lorenzo fight particularly, Jean showed how well he can mix up his punches, hurting his veteran opponent with a wide assortment of power shots, most notably an uppercut. Jean will likely see American television somewhere in 2012.
For the remaining prospects, click here to read Part 2…
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.