Boxing’s Potential Stars
By Gamma Thohir
The past few years have seen the rise of what seems to be the next crop of superstars.
Headlined by the likes of Ryan Garcia, Gervonta Davis, and more, this generation’s most talented has certainly brought the spotlight back to our beautiful sport.
Among the few soon to be superstars, however, is a cornucopia of hungry fighters waiting to break into the scene. With competition being as high as ever, not every fighter gets the attention they deserve. Here, we take a look at three of the best prospects in 2020 that you may have never heard of.
Starting with what is arguably the most exciting division in recent years, the welterweight division is one of the most competitive divisions in boxing today.
The 147-pound weight class is littered with fighters that make up most of the consensus P4P top 25 lists. Behind the scenes, however, is 29-year-old Daniyar Yeleussinov (9-0-0, 5 KOs) who is steadily climbing up the ranks.
The “Kazakh Thunder” boasts an incredible amateur background being a two-time olympian, with a gold medal in the 2016 Olympics, and an amateur world champion and runner up with a silver and gold medal in the 2015 and 2013 AIBA World Championships respectively.
Under Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing, Yeleussinov has not faced top-level opponents yet, but from the small sample size of fights, the southpaw excels in counter punching and fighting off the back foot. Look for Yeleussinov to fight increasingly better opponents when he returns, and maybe even give some of the champions a run for their titles.
Moving up a few weight classes, we take a look at 19-year-old middleweight prospect Diego Pacheco (9-0-0, 7 KOs).
The Los Angeles native began boxing at the age of 9 where he quickly fell in love with the sweet science. As young as he is, Pacheco is highly decorated as an amateur being an 8-time amateur national champion and winning the 2016 U.S. Silver Gloves National Championships, 2016 U.S. National Junior Championships, and 2017 U.S. Silver Gloves National Championships.
His biggest fight to date was fighting in the undercard of Anthony Joshua’s rematch against Andy Ruiz in Saudi Arabia. Again, signed with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing, Pacheco is being groomed for international stardom, already fighting in three countries in his 9 appearances.
Pacheco’s last fight was in February where he won a unanimous decision victory against Oscar Riojas in the undercard of Mikey Garcia Vs Jessie Vargas.
For a middleweight, Pacheco’s physical traits give him a huge size and reach advantage in the ring, he stands at a gigantic 6’4” with a 79” reach. The knockout machine has power in both hands and partners his reach with a solid jab creating a perfect combo. With his prime years way ahead of him Pacheco, for now, will continue to build his resume with eventually becoming a world champion as the end goal.
Before our last prospect, here are some honorable mentions:
• Michel Rivera (18-0-0, 12 KOs)
• Israil Madrimov (5-0-0, 5 KOs)
• Bektemir Melikuziev (5-0-0, 4 KOs)
• Frank Sanchez (15-0-0, 11 KOs)
• Brandun Lee (19-0-0, 17 KOs)
• Guido Vianello (7-0-0, 7 KOs)
• Jared Anderson (5-0-0, 5 KOs)
• Jaron Ennis (25-0-0, 23 KOs)
• Michael Conlan (13-0-0, 7 KOs)
• Marc Castro (0-0-0, 0 KOs)
For our last prospect, we travel about 6,000 miles to Kanagawa, Japan home of flyweight contender Junto Nakatani (20-0-0, 15 KOs).
Turning professional in 2015 at only 17-years-old, Nakatani has fought increasingly tougher opponents in his campaign for his first world title. Now 22, Nakatani’s last fight ended with an impressive TKO victory over former light flyweight world champion Milan Melindo.
This coming August Nakatani is stepping up once again and fighting for the recently vacated WBO World flyweight title against the hard-hitting Filipino, Giemel Magramo.
Nakatani, a favourite to win the fight looks to follow in the footsteps of fellow countryman Naoya Inoue, who has become a P4P staple. The only knock on Nakatani is that so far he has not fought outside of Japan, but that won’t be for long as his crowd-pleasing style is bound to have promoters lining up at his door to have him fight overseas.
If there is anything I’ve learned from watching boxing is that this sport is unpredictable. Hype trains get derailed, and stars appear out of thin air. It’s still to be seen if these fighters will ever reach their true potential, but for now, keep your eyes peeled for these three to make a splash in the boxing world.