Boxing prospects are a tricky fig. Some pan out, many do not, and some hit the wall gloriously, flaming out massively before it ever really gets to click. Many even flame out and then rebound, having the strong careers expected of them.
Some of the recent top prospects in boxing have already had their troubles. Joel Julio caved when faced with top opposition, though he remains a bankable fighter in terms of excitement. Amir Khan was iced in 54 seconds by Breidis Prescott, and already has turned his career around enough to become a solid titlist at 140 pounds, looking for a U.S. breakthrough in 2010. My pick for Prospect of the Year is a guy I just can't see failing. He's as can't-miss as they come.
2009 Bad Left Hook Prospect of the Year: Guillermo Rigondeaux
It almost feels unfair to call Rigondeaux a prospect. He's that talented, that accomplished, and that flat-out good. Take a look at his amateur achievements:
- Seven-time Cuban national champion (2000-06)
- 2001 World Amateur Champion
- 2002 World Cup Champion
- 2003 Gold Medalist - Pan-Am Games
- 2005 World Amateur Champion
- 2005 Gold Medalist - World Cup
- 2006 Gold Medalist - Central American Games
- 2006 Gold Medalist - Nations Cup
Saying he dominated as an amateur is an understatement. On May 22 of this year, Rigondeaux finally turned pro, and after some contract disputes about managerial rights, it looks like he's set for the time being. Rigondeaux won four fights this year, three by stoppage, and at 29, is already being slated as a world title challenger in 2010. There's recently been talk of him facing Celestino Caballero, a huge task for anyone, especially a fighter with just four pro bouts.
But if anyone can take a title this early, Rigondeaux can. Sure he'll fight at least a few more times before challenging for a major belt, but keep in mind it took fellow Cuban Yuriorkis Gamboa just 14 fights before he challenged for a major title, and Gamboa (good as he was) was no Rigondeaux as an amateur boxer.
Knock on wood and all that, but Rigondeaux is as real as the deal comes.
I have not abandoned my love for Maryland's Fernando Guerrero. Guerrero is one of those guys whose pure athleticism astounds me. He's still pretty raw all things considered, and has a lot to learn yet, but he's made good strides in 2009, getting a couple of hard-earned wins over strong trial horses Gabriel Rosado and Ossie Duran.
Welterweight Mike Jones will finally get a chance to show his stuff on TV on February 27. Reportedly, he'll face Henry Bruseles (fingers crossed). The Philly prospect is the most unfortunately ignored of all the top prospects in boxing.
Here's hoping that the failure to make weight (115) in November was just a blip for the ultra talented Filipino Marvin Sonsona. He'll be moving straight up to 122 pounds next year. He's already a legit contender at all of 19 years old, having won a title in a tremendous fight with Jose "Carita" Lopez in September.
Cuban Erislandy Lara is making fast strides, and has been very impressive in his several TV opportunities. Middleweight Matt Korobov is quietly among the best prospects in the sport, too. He gets his hype, but not quite on the level of some others. I think he's a better prospect than Daniel Jacobs, who is no slouch himself.
Who are some of your favorites?