2016 has been a great year for young fighters, some have taken a safe route with their fights and are moving slowly along. Others have made a splash on the scene and have caught the eye of many of the sanctioning bodies. They’re electric in the ring, have the attention of the boxing media and are shooting up the ranks. In this article, I take a look at some of the top prospects who I believe are on the verge of greatness. Each of these individuals are elite athletes with the potential to quickly become a household name. Some have stellar amateur records others are natural talents. Here’s a look at my top five prospects of the year.
#5. The 21 year old, Erickson “The Hammer” Lubin, 16-0, 11 KO’s is a Super Welterweight and kicks off my list as a top boxing prospect to watch. Lubin is an Orlando, Florida native who comes from a stellar amateur background, and would have been a favorite to win Gold in Rio this year. As an amateur, he amassed an astounding 143-7 record, which included Open titles won in the 2013 National Golden Gloves, 2013 PAL Championships and 2013 Independence Cup, where he had a major upset win over 2012 Olympic Bronze medalist Yasniel Toledo in the tournament semifinals.
Lubin turned professional at the age of 18 when he was signed by Mike Tyson to the dismay of USA boxing. Now because of Iron Mike Productions folding Erickson is is fighting for Al Haymon and is coming off a big win this past July over Ivan Montero. Look for Lubin to fight one more time this year and make noise in the division come 2017.
#4. Danny “The Baby Face Assassin” Roman, 20-2-1, 7 KO’s. The Super Bantamweight from Los Angeles now occupies the No. 5 position in the WBA rankings. The move into the top five launches Roman into serious world championship consideration. Roman, who currently holds the NABA Title, first appeared on the WBA list in August of 2015, and ever since then, has been inching closer to the top spot with every win. During his twelve fight win streak, Roman has produced impressive, one-sided wins against veteran opposition.
The growing list includes, Enrique Quevedo, Chris Martin, Daniel Noriega, Giovanni Caro, and Erik Ruiz. Roman won the vacant NABA Championship last July against Noriega and has made four successful title defenses. The most recent came against Quevedo in August. I recently asked Ken Thompson of Thompson Boxing Promotions about Roman and he stated “Daniel is ready for a world title shot, it’s just a matter of time now.” Daniel may possibly fight one more time in 2016, but 2017 will definitely be a big year for Roman.
#3. David “El Bandera Roja” Benavidez, 16-0, 15 KO’s is the 19 year old younger brother of Jose Benavidez, and bursting through the rankings while displaying his power in each of his victories as he has knocked out his last eight opponents. The Super Middleweight from Phoenix, Arizona but trains out of Long Beach has stayed busy in 2016 fighting four times. In his last fight in August at the 2300 Arena in South Philadelphia, Benavidez wore down and stopped veteran Denis Douglin, 20-5, 13 KO’s in the tenth and final round of their ESPN-televised main event.
After the fight Benavidez stated “It feels amazing to be in this position, everything that has happened wasn’t expected, but we worked hard to get to this point and I feel like I just have to keep working hard, stay in the gym and stay determined and dedicated. I want to be ready for any opportunity that comes up.” Benavidez who is now ranked #10 by the WBA is scheduled to fight again in December and has sparred this year with unbeaten 168-pound southpaw champion Gilberto Ramirez, as well as right-handed contenders Vyacheslav Shabranskyy and Alexander Brand, and Middleweight World Champion Gennady “GGG” Golovkin. Fans should look for Benavidez to be fighting for a major world title in 2017.
#2 England’s Josh “The Leeds Warrior” Warrington, 24-0, 5 KO’s is the current WBC International Featherweight Champion and another name to throw into an absolutely stacked division. Warrington who’s last win came against Patrick Hyland in June defended his WBC International title for the third time against Hyland, the Irishman that challenged the WBC Champion Gary Russell, JR. in March.
Warrington’s victory over Hyland made him the #1 contender for Russell, JR. but that match seems unlikely. Warrington has fought twice in 2016 and promoter Eddie Hearn looks to have him back in the ring before the end of the year against a veteran like Christian Mijares. Fans can also look for Warrington in a big fight in 2017, with possibly Joseph “JoJo” Diaz, Oscar Valdez, Lee Selby or even a possible British “Super Fight” between Warrington and current featherweight champion Carl Frampton.
#1. Egidijus “Mean Machine” Kavaliauskas, 15-0, 12 KO’s is an undefeated Lithuanian Welterweight who trains and fights out of Oxnard, California under the guidance of famed trainer Robert Garcia. Kavaliauskas represented Lithuania at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics Games and although he didn’t medal, since turning professional in 2013 Kavaliauskas has signed with Top Rank and is quickly making his name known among the true boxing fans. Kavaliauskas has power that reminds me of a mix of “GGG” and Ruslan Provodnikov. Kavaliauskas has dominated his opponents in his young career and is coming off a unanimous decision victory over Cameron Krael last Friday night at the Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City.
Kavaliauskas who knocked out eleven opponents in a row after getting his first professional win is an aggressive come forward style fighter who is a clear threat to any fighter in the Welterweight division. With over 400 amateur fights under his belt, he’s already a well-schooled veteran and has the advantage of having great trainer Robert Garcia in his corner who has no problem transitioning his fighters from amateurs to professionals. Kavaliauskas is scheduled to fight on the Pacquiao Vs Vargas undercard November 5th, but due to a cut suffered in his last fight, that fight is now in question. Fight fans should look for Kavaliauskas to take on a top 10 opponent in the beginning.Contact the Feature Writers