Part II of our list brings us to some promising youngsters who, for one reason or the other, have some ding on ’em that those in Part I don’t. Maybe they haven’t proven themselves as much, or maybe they’ve shown themselves to be limited in some way. Maybe they’re rebounding from a loss, or maybe they’re not inclined to fight in the United States.
Here’s the second tier, with honorable mentions. We’ll start with Cinnamon, pictured below.
Saul Alvarez, junior middleweight
Upside: He’s one of the two most popular fighters in Mexico right now, and he’s surely the major reason fans came out to the Staples Center in the fall for a show headlined by Shane Mosley. Learning English and moving to L.A. will help him in America, too. Some girls find him and his unusual-for-a-Mexican red hair — the source of his nickname — adorable. He’s got power and has made some fun fights.
Downside: He’s still unproven, and opinions of his talent level vary widely. ESPN’s Dan Rafael labeled him Prospect of the Year, and some think he can be special. Others think he’s slow as molasses and will get beaten by the first fast guy he faces.
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., middleweight
Upside: Chavez is the other part of the Mexico duo with Alvarez. Obviously the name means a lot there, and like Alvarez, he tends to be in fun fights. The genetics help him in the ring, certainly, but under trainer Freddie Roach, he has shown major improvement; the name is no longer just a name. If Alvarez and Chavez fought, it would be massive in Mexico and among Mexican-Americans, absolutely massive.
Downside: His discipline level still leaves much to be desired — Roach says he’s good once he gets into camp, but getting him there isn’t easy and he reportedly doesn’t take care of himself between bouts. Like Alvarez, there are significant doubts about how good he can be. Alvarez-Chavez seems very unlikely, by the way, at least for a few years.
Andre Ward, super middleweight
Upside: He’s looked virtually unbeatable since stepping up in competition last year, with a cerebral style and natural speed, and he’s doing it in one of boxing’s best divisions. Some, such as myself, already have him in their pound-for-pound top 10. He’s sold some tickets in his native Oakland.
Downside: His style isn’t everyone’s flavor, since he doesn’t have much power and tends to be in foul-filled affairs. His personality — confident to the point his nickname is “Son of God” — cuts both ways, with some liking it and some not. And for whatever reason, he’s sold fewer tickets in Oakland in successive shows.
Alfredo Angulo, junior middleweight
Upside: As a come-forward, no-defense Mexican offensive machine, he is the natural successor to Antonio Margarito. That means action and more action. HBO brass seems to like him.
Downside: There are some immigration problems that could prove quite serious. For some reason, he hasn’t yet proven to be much of a live gate draw. He’s also super-slow and might well get outclassed the first time he steps up the competition again, as we saw when he lost to Kermit Cintron.
James Kirkland, junior middleweight
Upside: There is nothing but dynamite in those fists. As such, he fights with an almost feral quality, as if he doesn’t care what you do to him, because all that matters is that he does what he wants to you. Naturally, that isn’t boring.
Downside: The only thing he seems to like more than fighting is parole violating; he does it serially, and has spent some time in jail, including recently. His decision to split from trainer Ann Wolfe robs him of a good-news story, so there’s a dark cloud over the guy that isn’t dispelled or mitigated in any way. Talent-wise he’s a top junior middle, but it might take him a while to warm back up to where he was before his latest jail stint.
Brandon Rios, lightweight
Upside: Maybe it’s not Angulo who’s the Margarito successor; maybe it’s Rios. Personality-wise, he has a roguish quality that is often amusing, and if nothing else, maybe he can become one of boxing’s amiable “bad guys.” He’s risen to the top five of the lightweight division according to Ring Magazine’s rankings.
Downside: From homophobic remarks about Victor Ortiz to mocking Roach’s Parkinson’s disease, his “bad guy” schtick might be TOO bad of a bad guy schtick. And he looks like the kind of fighter who could have real trouble with speed and movement, limiting his ability to climb the rankings.
Paul Williams, welterweight
Upside: Even though he was brutally knocked out in his last fight, he’s the kind of boxer who “makes things happen” one way or the other — and that makes him good TV. He was in the pound-for-pound top 5 prior to the loss to Sergio Martinez, which came at middleweight, a weight where his team has long argued he is ill-suited. If he can move down to welter, his length advantages become more pronounced. And he’s become pretty hilarious with his quotes.
Downside: There are reasonable questions about whether he will recover from that knockout, or even ever recovered from the first Martinez fight, which he won but where he took a bunch of punishment. And there are reasonable questions about whether his style — not much defense — is sustainable.
Chad Dawson, light heavyweight
Upside: Despite his loss to Jean Pascal, he still gives off the impression as one of the most naturally talented fighters in the game. Like Williams, he was a pound-for-pound top 5 guy before that defeat. In the bout, he took too long to show any urgency, but when he did he was pretty awesome. New trainer Emmanuel Steward could help with that.
Downside: Steward hasn’t made anyone fight with more urgency in at least half a decade, and Dawson’s constant trainer changes could be damaging to his makeup. His style as-is turns almost everyone off; he can’t even sell tickets in his native Connecticut. Personality-wise, he’s as bland as eating cardboard.
Michael Katsidis, lightweight
Upside: There’s arguably no one who brings it with as much intensity in every single fight as Katsidis, and as such he’s a regular contestant for Fight of the Year honors. He was already one of the most beloved warriors in the game, and his bravery in fighting on against Juan Manuel Marquez despite the death of his brother made him all the more beloved.
Downside: Although he’s shown improvement over the years, to the point where he was until recently the #1 lightweight in the world, he’s still a pretty limited fighter. Honestly, though, nobody cares. He’s reached that rarefied air where no matter how much he loses, everyone wants to see him again. Of more concern is how many more years he can fight in the style he fights without burning out.
Giovani Segura, junior flyweight
Upside: One of the purest punchers in the game, and a Mexican to boot, Segura is the rare little man whose abilities and tendencies make him more of a star than he might otherwise be. He’s a regular on “Fight of the Year” slates, too. He’s the lineal champion at junior flyweight and there are any variety of match-ups in the division and around it that are really compelling.
Downside: Really, just the size thing. His association with disgraced trainer Javier Capetillo is a bit unsavory, I suppose.
Lucian Bute, super middleweight
Upside: The most popular of the Canadian trio to close the second tier, Bute has also made in-roads in the United States by signing first with HBO then Showtime, the latter of which could put him in against the winner of the Super Six tournament. He’s got pound-for-pound top-10 talent thanks to an intoxicating mixture of speed, power and cleverness.
Downside: I’ve never heard him talk about wanting to fight in America, and why should he? He’s a superstar north of the border. He also has yet to fight a truly elite opponent; his talent probably isn’t an illusion, but for such an established guy, it still isn’t proven, either.
David Lemieux, middleweight
Upside: Power, power, power, power, power. I could say it more times and it still wouldn’t be enough. There’s nobody he’s met who can stand up to it, and he’s fought some sturdy guys. His power alone would make him a threat to anyone he steps into the ring with, but he’s also a fairly skilled fighter. He was TQBR’s Prospect of the Year.
Downside: I’m repeating myself, but like a lot of these folk, he’s still unproven. Of real potential concern are his T-Rex arms; his reach is shorter than that of former junior welterweight champ Ricky Hatton, and Hatton had short arms for a 140-pounder. Those are short, short arms. He’s talked about America, but first things first — he needs to get on HBO or Showtime. So far, he’s been an ESPN2 kind of guy.
Jean Pascal, light heavyweight
Upside: He’s the lineal light heavyweight champ and is 1-0-1 against pound-for-pound level guys Dawson and Bernard Hopkins. Both of those fights were controversial, and generally he has a tendency to be in dramatic bouts, which isn’t a bad thing. Like Lemieux and Bute, he’s a huge draw in Canada, but he’s talked more about invading the United States than they have. He’s a loudmouth, but the good kind.
Downside: There are some who wonder whether he’s a borderline talent, given that some consider the Hopkins draw a robbery of Hopkins and the increasing likelihood that a lackluster Dawson was on the verge of knocking him out before the fight was stopped due to a head butt.
Tavoris Cloud, light heavyweight: He’s in action fights all the time, but his power seems to be less fearsome than originally thought and he’s still a virtual unknown.
Miguel Angel Garcia, featherweight: Still more prospect that contender, but he’s both fun and good and the “training to be a policeman” thing is neat. He looks ready to step up soon in a prospect-vs.-prospect clash against Matt Remillard.
Mike Jones, welterweight: Sometimes he’s too passive. Sometimes he’s too aggressive. If he can find the middle ground, he has the physical tools to be good, and he already has the ability to draw in the Philly/New Jersey area.
Seth Mitchell, heavyweight: As the best young American heavyweight — Chris Arreola’s discipline problems have disqualified him — he’s by default got potential.
Marcos Maidana, junior welterweight: The loss to Amir Khan couldn’t have hurt him much; he was tons of fun in that one, and extremely competitive. But he hasn’t proven an Argentinian can be a draw in the U.S., with a pitiful 463 tickets sold for a double-bill fight he headlined last year.
Jorge Linares, junior lightweight: He’s very slowly working his way back to where he was prior to an upset KO loss in 2009. The enormous talent is still there, although some don’t enjoy his fighting style.
Dmitry Pirog, middleweight: The awesome upset knockout of Daniel Jacobs put him on the map as an exciting talent, but he’s still largely invisible. Another big performance in the United States and he’ll be a very noteworthy blip, at minimum.
Daniel Jacobs, middleweight: All of the Prospect of the Year-ish types of recent years who suffered upset knockout losses have rebounded at least a little (Khan, Linares, Victor Ortiz [although Ortiz’ unpopularity has dropped him from consideration]), and Jacobs might be able to do it, too.
Wilfredo Vazquez Jr., junior featherweight: He’s proven himself to be more than just a name, a draw among Puerto Ricans and a good brawler with some quality wins; if he gets Jorge Arce, Fernando Montiel or Nonito Donaire — all being discussed — and wins, watch out.
Robert Guerrero, lightweight: I include him every year because of his great story, but his tendency to be fantastic one minute and average the next really holds him back. A lot.
Joseph Agbeko, bantamweight: If he wins Showtime’s 118-pound tournament, he’ll get some pound-for-pound love, perhaps, and he’s already got action credentials, but it’s hard to imagine him ever becoming a ticket seller in the United States — fighters from Africa often have trouble with that.