(Carl Frampton, via)
When I first began contributing to TQBR, one of my first submissions was a list of 25 prospects that I had my eye on. Throughout 2012, I tracked their progress, even turning in a mid-year report on how they had done up until that point.
This piece marks a final report card on how those 25 fighters fared. Together, they combined for an astonishing 74-4 mark with 53 KOs, something that far exceeded my expectations when I first compiled the list.
This also marks my final contribution to TQBR as a staff writer, as I have decided in 2013 to focus more of my time on my weekly boxing column with the Northern California newspaper, the Martinez News-Gazette. By doing so, I felt as though I wouldn't have enough time to be a full-time contributor to TQBR and decided with editor Tim Starks' blessing it was time to move forward. I plan on still contributing the odd freelance piece online, though no destination has yet been determined.
I greatly enjoyed my time writing for TQBR and having my writing surrounded by the work of other many talented boxing scribes. TQBR opened many doors for me as I saw my work featured in Boxing Monthly and RING Magazine over the course of 2012, as well as picking up the newspaper gig. I'd like to thank the staff of TQBR who helped improve my writing and reporting abilities, namely the red pen of Mr. Starks and deputy editor Alex McClintock.
I'd also like to express my appreciation for those of you who read me over the past year, as well as those who gave me feedback (positive or negative, it was greatly appreciated). I will move on to being an avid reader of TQBR and recommend you continue to follow their work here, as the sky is the limit.
Now that we've got that out of the way, here is my final report on the 25 prospects I deemed to be my favorite before 2012 began.
Graduation… fighters who have managed to take that next step from prospect to contender that an overwhelming majority of prospects never get to take. These are guys whose future earnings will likely be determined by their 2013s as they are at the level where they'll be challenging Top 10 fighters if they haven't already.
Eleider Alvarez, light heavyweight, 28, 11-0 (7 KOs), 4-0 in 2012
Colombian Olympian Alvarez had a pretty good year as a pro in 2012, compiling four wins with relative ease. Though his performance against Rayco Saunders on ESPN2 didn't turn many heads, he followed that up with a good win over Shawn Hawk, which was made to look even better when WBO titleholder Nathan Cleverly didn't have an easy time with Hawk in the States later in the year. Alvarez was able to fight twice in the final three months, though his wins came over middling opposition. In 2013, Alvarez will be ready to step up and face a top contender; whether he gets the call or not is another story.
Kell Brook, welterweight, 26, 29-0 (19 KOs), 3-0 in 2012
Brook endured his toughest year as a professional and definitely made the leap from prospect to contender, as he scored solid wins over Matthew Hatton, Carson Jones, and Hector Saldivia in order to earn his IBF 147-pound title shot against Devon Alexander, which takes place Feb. 23 on Showtime in Brook's U.S. debut. The Jones fight was extremely difficult, as Jones rallied late after giving away early rounds, giving Brook a major scare before losing a majority decision. The fight may have served as a wake-up call for Brook, who had a bit of a reputation as someone who maybe didn't take his training 100 percent seriously. If he's going to get by Alexander, he'll need to be at his best. If he wins, sky is the limit, as the Hatton and Jones fights built him into one of the U.K.'s top draws. An Amir Khan fight could be massive in 12-18 months.
Javier Fortuna, featherweight, 23, 21-0 (15 KOs), 3-0 in 2012
Fortuna was my pick for Prospect of the Year in 2011 as I felt his competition was of a higher level than the consensus pick Gary Russell, Jr. If you put their 2012's against each other, there's no contest; Fortuna scored two highlight reel KOs on ESPN2 Friday Night Fights against Yuandale Evans and Cristobal Cruz before picking up the WBA interim 126-pound title in a tougher than anticipated fight against Patrick Hyland on the Pacquiao-Marquez pay-per-view undercard. Though few were blown away by his performance in his first PPV tryout, he's definitely on people's radar and could be in line for some big fights if things go his way next year. Sampson Lewkowicz, who has the best eye for talent and got on board with Fortuna early on, has said that both Fortuna and WBA regular titleholder Nicholas Walters of Jamaica will take an interim fight before facing off in a fight Lewkowicz hopes he can get HBO to buy. At 23 years old, Fortuna is still young and can improve.
Carl Frampton, junior featherweight, 25, 15-0 (10 KOs), 4-0 in 2012
Prior to 2012, Frampton was mostly only on the radar of keen U.K. prospectors. By the end of it, he had made it into the RING Magazine rankings at 122 pounds and notched his first victory over a former titlist, stopping Steve Molitor rather easily in his last fight of the year in September. Frampton also showed he could go the 12 round distance without difficult, shutting out unbeaten and awkward Raul Hirales, who would follow up that loss with an upset over Oscar Gonzalez on a Top Rank card. Frampton has been hyped by manager Barry McGuigan since his early days as a pro, but the Irish kid with a lot of moxie has so far proven his teacher bright. Frampton will face a big test when he fights Kiko Martinez in February for the European title, which would put within a few fights of challenging for a major title. With Scott Quigg also rising up the ranks simultaneously, that could be one of the U.K.'s biggest fights in years if the pieces come together correctly.
Dierry Jean, junior welterweight, 30, 23-0 (15 KOs), 3-0 in 2012
Though Jean didn't notch a win over a top 10 opponent, he made an impression as he didn't lose more than one round in his three appearances combined. His last win, where he stopped Ivan Cano in 11 rounds, headlined a WealthTV broadcast in late October and he made the most of it. If 2013 goes the right way for him, he could easily be battling for an alphabet strap before the year is out. At 30 years old, he doesn't have as much longevity as some of the others on this list, but it could also mean he's more willing to take a risk. Stylistically, he is a difficult out for anyone at 140, even the top names. He just needs some more experience before he is ready for them.
Tomoki Kameda, junior featherweight, 21, 26-0 (17 KOs), 4-0 in 2012
Kameda's best win to date is still a razor-thin decision over a then unbeaten Stephane Jamoye back in 2010, but that victory gained new life after Jamoye scored a stoppage over Lee Haskins in a thriller last month. Kameda was just 19 when he outlasted Jamoye, and in 2012 he didn't compile any wins over any ranked fighters but showed why he is likely to be the best of the trio of Kameda brothers. That Kameda didn't lose so much as a round in 2012 is pretty impressive regardless of the level of opposition. By the end of 2013, expect Kameda to really be tested by a legitimate opponent, and also expect him to ace that test.
Karim Mayfield, junior welterweight, 32, 17-0-1 (10 KOs), 2-0 in 2012
Though once again inactivity hindered Mayfield a bit, he had easily his best year as a pro, notching two wins that were televised. His TKO5 of unbeaten Raymond Serrano made ESPN SportsCenter's Top Plays that night, which rarely happens despite the fact that the fight was televised by ESPN2's Friday Night Fights. Mayfield was supposed to fight Mauricio Herrera in his hometown on ESPN2 but the fight fell apart, which ended up serving the both of them as it was picked up as part of a tripleheader on HBO Boxing After Dark. Mayfield grinding down Herrera en route to a decision win and also showed improved technique under the guidance of trainer Virgil Hunter. Mayfield is up there in years and likely has only one shot at a career here, but coming off an HBO-televised win, he'll be looking to take a risk as soon as possible. Even as a raw talent he was something, and now that he's added a bit more style to his game, he could make more than a dent in the deep 140 pound division.
Thomas Oosthuizen, super middleweight, 24, 21-0-1 (13 KOs), 4-0 in 2012
After 2012, there will be no turning back for the South African Oosthuizen, who scored a ShoBox televised win over Marcus Johnson while also fighting twice at home in South Africa. Oosthuizen didn't exactly walk through Johnson, but it was a solid win nonetheless. With 168 pounds featuring a number of up-and-comers like George Groves and Edwin Rodriguez, Oosthuizen is going to probably have to fight one of them in order to separate himself as a threat to some of the old stalwarts that sit atop the division. Oosthuizen has a lot of tools that make him a live opponent for anyone at this stage.
David Price, heavyweight, 29, 15-0 (13 KOs), 4-0 in 2012
Price won ESPN's Prospect of the Year after turning in an impressive year, obliterating all four opponents he faced. It isn't as though Price's opposition was of the highest order, but the ease with which he dispatched them is what stands out. Even at his advanced age, Matt Skelton was a pretty durable guy, and Price took care of him in two rounds. Price begins 2013 with a tough assignment, American heavyweight Tony Thompson. Though Thompson didn't really show up in his rematch with Wladimir Klitschko last year, he is still a big step up from Skelton, and will solidify Price's standing as a true threat to the heavyweight throne.
Billy Joe Saunders, middleweight, 23, 16-0 (10 KOs), 4-0 in 2012
Though he was the least exposed of his Olympic teammates to come out of the 2008 Games, many keen observers felt that Saunders had the highest ceiling of them all, which is quite a compliment. At 23, Saunders has a little bit of time to settle in at the domestic level, but in 2012 he showed he is well beyond fighting that level of opponent for long as he hardly struggled until his most recent win, a close decision over game but outclassed Nick Blackwell last month. Aussie Jarrod Fletcher was expected to provide a decent test for Saunders in September, but Saunders walked through him in two rounds. Saunders should be entering European level at some point in 2013, and though he can still be considered a prospect, his talent thus far has given a good glimpse into his future. It was tough to determine whether Saunders belonged in this category or the next.
Making the grade… fighters who passed their courses in 2012 but still remain at the level where they'll probably be favored in most if not all of their fights in 2013. They're not quite ready for the world level but have reinforced why they were on this list to begin with.
Frank Buglioni, super middleweight, 23, 7-0 (5 KOs), 5-0 in 2012
Though it would have been nice if Buglioni could have been a tad more active than he was, he didn't lose a round in 2012 and went six rounds for the first time against durable Jody Meikle. Though he hasn't fought anyone with a winning record as of yet, the UK prospects get moved a lot quicker than almost anywhere else, meaning Buglioni is probably not far away from fighting guys with better than a .500 standing. Buglioni has established he can draw a crowd with the best of them, so it shouldn't be difficult finding a spot for him on most cards. Expect him to be faced with at least one good test in 2013.
Chris Eubank, Jr., middleweight, 24, 9-0 (4 KOs), 8-0 in 2012
You have to love the activity level at which Eubank fought in 2012. Winning eight fights in one year alone would be enough to give the famous fighting son a passing grade, but against the experienced opposition that he faced made it even more impressive. Sure, he struggled a bit with Terry Caruthers in July, but the growing pains he experienced will only make him a better fighter. To open December, he beat solid gatekeeper Bradley Pryce by points in eight rounds, then a week later scored a two round stoppage of outclassed Olegs Fedotovs. The exposure he got on Channel 5 and WealthTV last year will also help more people become aware of him. All in all, as good of a year as you can ask for from a budding prospect with high expectations.
Ivan Morales, junior bantamweight, 21, 19-0 (12 KOs), 4-0 in 2012
Morales made both his American debut and U.S. television debut in the second half of 2012, winning a technical decision over former title challenger Luis Maldonado on TeleFutura's SoloBoxeo in September. Morales didn't win a shutout, but he looked like he belonged in there against the sturdy veteran. It was a gigantic step up from the type of opponent he had been routinely dispatching in Mexico and he passed the test. He's still probably a good 12-18 months from stepping up and fighting a contender, but his progress has been substantial. Let's hope he fights more fights like the Maldonado one and less like the stay busy ones in 2013.
Roman Morales, junior featherweight, 21, 13-0 (6 KOs), 5-0 in 2012
As predicted in the January listing of the Top 25 Prospects, Morales made his ShoBox debut in 2012, winning decisions over both Alexis Santiago and previously unbeaten Jonathan Arrellano on the program in the year's final five months. Both were good measuring sticks for his progress, as he did better against Santiago than potential future adversary Randy Caballero did. Morales struggled a bit with Arrellano while Top Rank prospect Jesse Magdaleno had an easier time with him. Morales showed the ability to adjust as Arrellano dropped him in the 3rd before switching things up and dropping Arrellano in the 6th. Morales showed tremendous poise beyond his years and his team attempted to make a fight with Caballero but were turned down. That being said, it is obvious Morales' promoter Gary Shaw is ready to move him up, meaning he could be in some make or break fights in 2013.
Summer school… fighters who showed promise in 2012 but still have a few things they could work on before moving up, or need to finally step up and fight a live body.
Sadam Ali, welterweight, 24, 16-0 (10 KOs), 2-0 in 2012
Ali, who is the only fighter on this list who is his own promoter, should probably think about finding someone else to handle his career. He had talks with Main Events before turning pro, but opted to be in charge of his own destiny. That may have proved to be a mistake, as Ali easily could have been featured on these NBC Sports broadcasts, maybe even factoring into boxing's return to network TV last month given his being a former Olympian. Instead, Ali toiled with obscurity and inactivity, fighting only twice before the year was out away from major TV. His win over Ronnie Warrior Jr. in October was nothing to write home about as Warrior hadn't won a fight since former Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid was in a Super Bowl. Hopefully 2012 will prove a learning lesson for Ali and he'll let someone with experience take the reins.
Demetrius Andrade, middleweight, 24, 18-0 (13 KOs), 3-0 in 2012
An Olympic teammate of Sadam Ali, Andrade had no problem making TV, as two of his three appearances were aired by ESPN2 Friday Night Fights. They might as well not have been, because most of the buzz about those fights was the lack of competitiveness, particularly the one against Angel Hernandez in February. Wins over Rudy Cisneros and Alexis Hloros left much to be desired, but hopefully the pairing with Andre Ward trainer Virgil Hunter can take Andrade to another level. Andrade does have a step up scheduled this month against Freddy Hernandez, which is set to happen on ShoBox.
Kevin Bizier, welterweight, 28, 19-0 (13 KOs), 2-0 in 2012
Bizier didn't have a fight for the first half of 2012 and was rumored to be fighting Matthew Hatton in what would've been his biggest step up in the second half. Unfortunately that didn't come together and he instead beat lesser names Patryk Litkiewicz and Doel Carrasquillo in Montreal. It seems as though Bizier's team is ready for him to step up considering the possibility he was going to face Hatton, I'd just like to see a similar fight come together early in 2013.
Thomas Dulorme, junior welterweight, 22, 16-1 (12 KOs), 3-1 in 2012
Yes, Dulorme was knocked out in his first big step up in October against Luis Carlos Abregu on HBO. Yes, prior to that he was hailed as the next Felix Trinidad by many. But in that loss, he did show one thing similar to Trinidad: he got knocked down, and he kept getting back up. Dulorme had no signature win in 2012 but his team mentioned he'd be moving down to 140 pounds following the defeat, which could give his career new life. People were high on the kid for a reason, and those intangibles still exist. Even in that loss he showed a lot of heart, which could come in handy if he is able to rebound from the loss. The loss didn't come at the hands of someone completely incapable as Abregu can crack as good as anyone at 147. Dulorme will be given another opportunity to succeed, but his 2013 will probably be used to get him back on track.
Joe Hanks, heavyweight, 29, 21-0 (14 KOs), 3-0 in 2012
Hanks is the least known of the American heavyweight prospects, but he could still possibly emerge as the best. Seth Mitchell suffered his first loss and it was Bryant Jennings and Deontay Wilder who took his place as the next big thing out of the U.S. Hanks didn't exactly fight anyone with a pulse in 2012, but that seems to be the way you move a guy in this division. He's got the look of a future heavyweight great; now it is time for him to put some substance behind it. At 29, he is still young for a heavyweight, but he is going to need to step up soon if he is going to make a believer out of anyone.
Marco Antonio Periban, 28, 19-0 (12 KOs), 4-0 in 2012
Periban took some big steps forward but also showed some glaring weaknesses in doing so in 2012. He fought on Telefutura SoloBoxeo against game journeyman Lester Gonzalez, but struggled along the way to stopping him on his stool. From there, Periban ended his year with a tough assignment in Francisco Sierra, who had previously given a number of prospects a scare. Periban skated with a 10-round majority decision in a fight that could have gone either way. With it taking place in Mexico, it was no coincidence that Periban got the nod. Periban could soon be moved into a serious challenge given that Golden Boy doesn't really have much invested in the Mexican Olympian. Don't expect him to be a B-side to someone with a name coming off a loss or rising up the ranks.
Gary Russell, Jr., featherweight, 24, 21-0 (13 KOs), 2-0 in 2012
Russell endured a letdown of a year in 2012 as the first half of it was nearly lost. His two fights both produced highlight reel KOs but against opponents without much substance. There were rumors of him fighting former titleholder Jhonny Gonzalez but so far Russell is listed against a common opponent for him, TBA, on March 2. Russell Jr. was a near consensus Prospect of the Year in 2011 and followed it up with a dud, so expectations will be high in 2013. If he doesn't step up the opposition soon, he'll move to the back of people's minds.
Yohei Tobe, junior bantamweight, 25, 4-1 (2 KOs), 1-1 in 2012
Tobe fought only twice, going 1-1, which would usually make you believe he had proven his prospect status a mirage given the loss came in his first handful of fights. But what makes Tobe different is the level of opponent he was fighting from the outset. Kohei Kono, a guy Tobe beat in 2011, just won the WBA 115-pound title to open 2013 in an upset of Tepparith Kokietgym while Tobe beat him on points. Tobe took a huge step up in August, fighting unbeaten Ryo Akaho in a 12-rounder. Akaho would stop Tobe in the 8th with his rough and tough unorthodox style, something Tobe had a hard time adjusting to. It doesn't mean you should out the lights on Tobe's future potential, but it has dimmed a bit. Maybe they'll slow things down a bit for him as he's only 25 and still with room to grow.
Deontay Wilder, heavyweight, 27, 26-0 (26 KOs), 6-0 in 2012
Wilder was given an incomplete at the halfway point in the year as he scored more knockouts over guys that were barely considered pro fighters. Though he took the unbeaten records of two guys in the second half, both of those guys were far from respectable. Still, Wilder showed that tremendous athleticism and natural ability that has more people believing in him than there were in the early part of the year. The way he knocked out Kelvin Price in December with ease in his Showtime debut was something else. His proclaiming he wants fellow American heavyweight Bryant Jennings in 2013 is another thing that has me excited about his future. You could tell he is ready for a real challenge and more than that, wants one. Expect him to fight a couple of former names in 2013.
Flunked out… fighters that showed they have moved from prospect to gatekeeper status and would need more than just one good win to turn things back around.
Lonnie Smith, lightweight, 25, 14-4 (10 KOs), 0-2 in 2012
When I first compiled this list, Smith was my wildcard and I marked him as such. He was as exciting of a fighter as there was on the swing bout circuit, but maybe that should have cautioned me rather than convinced me of future success. In his first step up of 2012, he was blasted out by Vicente Escobedo in less than a round and followed up by losing a decision to unheralded but unbeaten Mason Menard. Smith was a fringe prospect even before those losses and now can really just be looked at to fill out a card as perhaps a good B-side that could make a fight exciting. If that's all he becomes, it isn't a total loss, because boxing needs more guys like Smith.
????… This last fighter fits into his own category because his circumstances are bizarre and don't really fit anywhere else.
Omar Henry, junior middleweight, 25, 12-0 (9 KOs), 1-0 in 2012
Henry's first fight took place in June on the opening WealthTV broadcast and he was set to make a ShoBox appearance later on that year. Unfortunately, those plans were scrapped when Henry became ill, and the actual diagnosis was worse than what anyone thought it would be. Henry was diagnosed with gall bladder cancer and at this point there is no certainty whether or not he will recover, let alone continue his career. A sad story for a guy whose career was always plagued by bad luck.
Mark Ortega is the weekly boxing columnist for the Martinez News-Gazette and a member of the Boxing Writers Assoc. of America. His work has appeared in both Boxing Monthly & RING Magazine. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com and followed via Twitter at www.twitter.com/MarkEOrtega.