Vergil Ortiz Jr., the 2019 prospect of the year, returns to the ring on Friday for his first fight of 2020. Ortiz scored stoppage victories in all his four fights in 2019, and this year was supposed to be when he made the jump to title contender in a stacked welterweight division … and he’s only 22.
In putting together a list of the best 25 fighters under the age of 25, Ortiz was an obvious selection. The list, composed by a panel of ESPN boxing contributors, shines a spotlight on the best prospects in the sport, as well as some promising up-and-comers, title contenders and a few fighters who are already world champions, including Teofimo Lopez Jr., Shakur Stevenson and Ryan Garcia.
It wasn’t an easy task to rank them, but this incredible collection of talent shows that boxing is in good hands in the years to come.
1. Teofimo Lopez Jr. (15-0, 12 KOs), 22, IBF lightweight titlist
The fighter: Lopez is currently rated No. 2 at lightweight by ESPN. From the time he turned professional in 2016, Lopez consistently showed he was the Top Rank prospect with the highest ceiling. He has great counterpunching skills, incredible timing, accuracy and power.
Accomplishments/biggest moment: In an era during which many boxers win a watered-down version of a world title, Lopez went out and dominated the respected — and normally durable — Richard Commey in a second-round TKO victory in December to win Commey’s IBF belt. Sometimes it’s not if you win a title, but how you do so.
Future/ceiling/expectations: There has been talk of a showdown with unified lightweight champion Vasiliy Lomachenko, the best fighter in the division and ESPN’s No. 1 pound-for-pound in the world. A win against Lomachenko would make Lopez the sport’s youngest superstar — and he would’ve done it the right way. — Steve Kim
2. David Benavidez, (22-0, 19 KOs), 23, WBC super middleweight titlist
The fighter: Benavidez is a two-time WBC super middleweight titlist. He is ranked No. 2 in the division in the latest ESPN divisional rankings, and he has revived his career following a positive drug test for cocaine in September 2018, resulting in him being stripped of the title and kept out of the ring for 13 months.
Accomplishments/biggest moment: In September 2017, the then-20-year-old Benavidez became the youngest ever super middleweight titleholder when he defeated Ronald Gavril by split decision to win the WBC belt. Two years later, Benavidez won back the belt after stopping Andre Dirrell in the ninth round.
Future/ceiling/expectations: A big, money-spinning fight would be a clash against middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez — or if that match doesn’t materialize, a fight against any of the other world titleholders at 168 pounds. Benavidez peaked early by winning a world title at age 20, and I don’t think he can upset Canelo or dislodge Callum Smith from the top spot at super middleweight; but a unification fight with IBF titlist Caleb Plant is one he wins. Benavidez will probably move up to the ultra-competitive light heavyweight division at some point, but he should wait until getting his opportunities at 168. — Nick Parkinson
3. Shakur Stevenson (14-0, 8 KOs), 24, former WBO featherweight champion
The fighter: Stevenson, a 2016 Olympic silver medalist, was signed with much fanfare out of the Olympics, and he hasn’t disappointed. Stevenson developed quickly, and he has become one of the very best young boxers in the sport. Stevenson is a smart fighter inside the ring with an unerring confidence in his own abilities. Boxing from the southpaw stance, he has a great understanding of spacing and distance.
Accomplishments/biggest moment: Back in the fall, Stevenson decisively outpointed Joet Gonzalez to win the vacant WBO featherweight title. Stevenson’s run at 126 pounds was short-lived, as he recently moved up in weight and vacated this belt.
Future/ceiling/expectations: Hopefully, Stevenson gets to fight any of the junior lightweight titleholders — Miguel Berchelt, Joseph Diaz Jr., Leo Santa Cruz and Jamel Herring. Stevenson is the precocious type; he wants to go belt hunting as soon as possible and quickly cement his legacy at junior lightweight. — Kim
4. Devin Haney (24-0, 15 KOs), 21, WBC lightweight titlist
The fighter: Haney became one of boxing’s youngest-ever world titleholders at the age of 20 last year, and he has recently been training with former pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather. Haney has a variety of punches and is a delightful mover around the ring, making it hard for opponents to pin him down.
Accomplishments/biggest moment: Haney claimed the WBC’s vacant interim lightweight belt in September 2019 with a fourth-round knockout of Zaur Abdullaev and a month later was elevated to a full world champion when Vasiliy Lomachenko was made “franchise champion.” Haney made a successful first defense via a unanimous decision against Alfredo Santiago in November but suffered a right shoulder injury in the process.
Future/ceiling/expectations: Haney has been linked to British fighter Luke Campbell for his next fight, while there are some big potential fights at lightweight in the future against fellow young sensations Ryan Garcia and IBF titlist Teofimo Lopez Jr.. Campbell, who has twice lost world title shots on points against elite opponents Lomachenko and Jorge Linares, would be the best opponent Haney has faced so far and a true test of his potential to become a standout star in the sport. — Parkinson
5. Ryan Garcia (20-0, 17 KOs), 21, lightweight contender
Ryan Garcia shows off incredible punching speed as he works through drills at his house.
The fighter: Garcia is a reflexive fighter, with a lightning-fast counter left hook. He also is the telegenic type who is infinitely marketable. Garcia is just starting to mature physically and is honing his overall skills under the direction of trainer Eddy Reynoso. The question is, can he fight as well as he promotes himself on social media?
Accomplishments/biggest moment: He became a legitimate star when he drew over 10,000 fans to his most recent fight against Francisco Fonseca on Feb. 14 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. He has done it without having really faced a legitimate contender. You could argue that Garcia is boxing’s first Instagram creation.
Future/ceiling/expectations: It looks like a bout with Luke Campbell, which has been mandated by the WBC, is the best fight available for Garcia. A victory over the southpaw from the U.K. would truly legitimize Garcia as a professional prizefighter. — Kim
6. Jaime Munguia (35-0, 18 KOs), 23, middleweight contender
The fighter: The former WBO world junior middleweight titlist has stepped up a division and is expected to challenge that organization’s middleweight titleholder — Demetrius Andrade — in the next 12 months. Munguia stepped up a weight class, as he was struggling to make the 154-pound limit with his 6-foot frame, and he made an impressive middleweight debut when he stopped Ireland’s Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan in the 11th round in January. He is trained by boxing legend Erik Morales in Tijuana, Mexico.
Accomplishments/biggest moment: Munguia won his first world title at just 21, when he floored Sadam Ali four times in a four-round effort to lift the WBO belt. The victory justified the hype around him as one of boxing’s standout prospects. Munguia kept busy, making two defenses in as many months — against former titleholder Liam Smith and contender Brandon Cook — and five defenses in total.
Future/ceiling/expectations: Munguia is on a long list of future opponents for Canelo Alvarez, one of boxing’s biggest global stars. But as Munguia continues winning, an all-Mexican clash with Canelo at middleweight or super middleweight becomes a bigger possibility. In the meantime, Munguia can try to climb closer to the middleweight top — he is ranked No. 10 in the latest ESPN divisional rankings — and fights against rival contenders Sergiy Derevyanchenko, Liam Williams and Matt Korobov are good stepping stones over the next year. In time, and depending on which division Canelo and an aging Gennadiy Golovkin are operating at, Munguia is a potential global middleweight ruler. — Parkinson
7. Vergil Ortiz (15-0, 15 KOs), 22, welterweight prospect
The fighter: Ortiz is the steak to Garcia’s sizzle under the Golden Boy Promotions banner. This young man is a hard-hitting welterweight with legitimate power in both hands. Ortiz, who trains under the guidance of Robert Garcia, had an impressive 2019 as he defeated veterans Mauricio Herrera and Antonio Orozco in impressive fashion.
Accomplishments/biggest moment: Last year, he faced the trio of Herrera, Orozco and Brad Solomon, three fighters who never had suffered stoppage losses. Ortiz pulled off the hat trick in that regard, and finished them all with none of the fights going past six rounds.
Future/ceiling/expectations: Ortiz returns on July 24 to face Samuel Vargas,and many already consider Ortiz a contender at welterweight. He will be maneuvered by Golden Boy into a title shot as soon as possible. — Kim
8. Jaron Ennis (25-0, 23 KOs), 23, welterweight contender
The fighter: Ennis looks to be the next great Philly fighter. While he’s been a tad under the radar, boxing insiders have known about him for years. Coming from a boxing family, Ennis has been blessed with innate abilities inside the ring. Many compare him to Terence Crawford for his ability to seamlessly switch-hit between conventional and southpaw stances.
Accomplishments/biggest moment: Ennis’ biggest moments are in front of him, but he has become a staple of the “ShoBox” series in the last year or so, and in his most recent outing he stopped Bakhtiyar Eyubov in four one-sided rounds.
Future/ceiling/expectations: Ennis will challenge for a welterweight title. I can easily see him winning a belt at 147 and with his athleticism and ability to switch hit, be as good as anyone in the division. He will also be a force at 154 and 160 pounds as he moves up, cementing his status as one of the best boxers in the world. Insiders have believed for a while he is the next standout from the fighting city of Philadelphia. — Kim
9. Daniel Dubois (14-0, 13 KOs), 22, heavyweight contender
The fighter: You know all about Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua and may even know a bit about Dillian Whyte and Dereck Chisora. Dubois is the other British heavyweight — and if you don’t know much about him yet, you soon will. Dubois is an exciting, big puncher who has stopped all but one of his 14 opponents.
Accomplishments/biggest moment: Dubois was British and Commonwealth champion by the age of 21, and is already in the top 10 of two of the world’s governing bodies. His punching power has ensured an end to nine of his 14 fights within the first two rounds. A fifth-round KO win over Nathan Gorman for the British crown a year ago is perhaps his best moment to date, and made him the third-youngest British heavyweight champion in history, behind Joe Bugner and Herbie Hide.
Future/ceiling/expectations: If Dubois gets past Joe Joyce (a fight currently scheduled for October), there will be a clamor to see him against some other British rivals — Whyte, WBC world champion Fury and WBA-IBF-WBO world champion Joshua. But those three are tied up over the next year, so what is more likely are fights against others lower down in the world top ten, and a US debut. “As long as I keep performing, eventually I will fight them [bigger names],” Dubois said. “It’s a journey and I’m not in a rush.” — Parkinson
10. Erickson Lubin (22-1, 16 KOs), 24, junior middleweight contender
The fighter: The Orlando, Florida-based southpaw gained momentum with three wins in 2019, including stoppages over Ishe Smith and Zakaria Attou. Lubin has successfully rebuilt his career since a devastating first round defeat to Jermell Charlo for the WBC world title in October 2017.
Accomplishments/biggest moment: Perhaps Lubin faced Charlo too soon, and his biggest achievement has been recovering from that crushing setback so well. Three KO wins in four fights has put Lubin back in title contention.
Future/ceiling/expectations: Junior middleweight is a wide open and changing division, and over the next few years Lubin will feature in the power grab. A chance at redemption in a rematch against Charlo, Lubin’s No. 1 target, is in play, as Lubin is back as the No. 1 contender in the WBC rankings. Over the course of the next year expect the 24-year-old to continue showing how he has since improved his boxing IQ. Lubin has impressive power — he has won three inside the distance fights since the Charlo nightmare — and while he waits for a Charlo rematch for the WBC world title (which may be a while) there are other big fights for him to gain experience and popularity from against Tony Harrison, Nathaniel Gallimore and Julian Williams. Junior middleweight is a wide open and changing division, and over the next few years Lubin will feature in the power grab. A chance at redemption in a rematch against Charlo, Lubin’s No. 1 target, is in play, as Lubin is back as the No. 1 contender in the WBC rankings. Over the course of the next year, expect the 24-year-old to continue showing how he has since improved his boxing IQ. Lubin has impressive power — he has won three inside the distance fights since the Charlo nightmare — and while he waits for a Charlo rematch for the WBC world title (which may be a while) there are other big fights for him to gain experience and popularity from against Tony Harrison, Nathaniel Gallimore and Julian Williams. — Parkinson
11. Brandon Figueroa (20-0-1, 15 KOs), 23, WBA junior featherweight titlist
The fighter: Figueroa, the younger brother of former lightweight world titlist Omar Figueroa, holds a secondary version of the WBA junior featherweight title. The entertaining Figueroa has won seven of his last eight fights by stoppage and is ranked No. 7 in the division by ESPN.
Accomplishments/biggest moment: Figueroa emulated his brother’s success by winning a world title when he forced the experienced Yonfrez Parejo to retire on his stool after the eighth round to win the vacant WBA interim junior featherweight title at 22. It was his best moment to date. Figueroa knocked out Javier Chacon, then 38, four months later, and fought to a split-decision draw against Julio Ceja in November after being promoted to “regular” champion status.
Future/ceiling/expectations: If Figueroa gets through a potentially tricky mandatory defense against Ronny Rios, the 23-year-old can become one of the standout stars at junior featherweight in 2021. Figueroa’s last fight — a draw against Julio Ceja — was an entertaining slugfest when the Texan, who is known as ‘The Heartbreaker’, showed plenty of heart which left viewers wanting more. As well as a mandatory defense against Rios, a rematch with Ceja also makes sense for Figueroa when he can work on correcting some defensive faults he showed against Ceja. Win those fights and Figueroa, who has a dangerous right hook, will be eying big pay days against the likes of Danny Roman, WBC champion Rey Vargas and WBA-IBF champion Murodjon Akhmadaliev. If Figueroa gets through a potentially tricky mandatory defense against Ronny Rios, the 23-year-old can become one of the standout stars at junior featherweight in 2021. Figueroa’s last fight — a draw against Julio Ceja — was an entertaining slugfest when the Texan, who is known as ‘The Heartbreaker’, showed plenty of heart which left viewers wanting more. As well as a mandatory defense against Rios, a rematch with Ceja also makes sense for Figueroa when he can work on correcting some defensive faults he showed against Ceja. Win those fights and Figueroa, who has a dangerous right hook, will be eying big pay days against the likes of Danny Roman, WBC champion Rey Vargas and WBA-IBF champion Murodjon Akhmadaliev. — Parkinson
12. Edgar Berlanga (14-0, 14 KOs), 23, super middleweight prospect
The fighter: Berlanga is a pure puncher, to a point where he has not only knocked out every opponent he has faced, but knocked out all 14 in the first round. He’s right handed, but has power in both hands. Given the fact he’s a fighter of Puerto Rican descent from New York, you can envision him headlining at Madison Square Garden one day.
Accomplishments/biggest moment: Not having seen the second round despite being 14 fights into your pro career is pretty impressive. Yeah, it could be the byproduct of favorable matchmaking, but Berlanga has faced some decent opposition in Cesar Nunez and Jaime Barboza, and got each of them out of there in quick fashion.
Future/ceiling/expectations: He fought inside “the Bubble” on July 21, and defeated Eric Moon by … first round KO. Berlanga could become a title contender by early next year. He will be one of the most exciting punchers in boxing, and will become the next big draw on the Eastern seaboard, where he’ll headline the traditional boxing card in early June at Madison Square Garden on Puerto Rican Parade Day weekend. But you’d first like to see how he fights past one round. — Kim
13. Lamont Roach Jr. (19-1-1, 7 KOs), 24, junior lightweight contender
The fighter: Roach is a solid, all-around technician who’s adept at boxing. Outside of pure punching power, he does everything else well inside the ring. The only question: Whether or not he is tough enough for the elite fighters in the division.
Accomplishments/biggest moment: While he started out slow in his defeat against Jamel Herring — a fight for the WBO 130 pound title back in November — Roach had some nice moments late in the fight. This experience should serve him well in the future.
Future/ceiling/expectations: His promoter Golden Boy has scheduled Roach in for a late August boxing card. He should remain a player at junior lightweight for the next few years. Roach is a solid all-around boxer, and the only thing really missing from his arsenal is power. You get the sense that the experience he gained in the loss against Herring will prove to be valuable when he fights again for a title. Will he fight with enough passion when he gets that chance? That’s the big question. — Kim
14. Chris Colbert (14-0, 5 KOs), 23, junior lightweight prospect
The fighter: Colbert is a slick, flashy boxer with a lot of speed. He’s not a great puncher, but he can keep guys off him with his ability to strike quickly and move out of the way.
Accomplishments/biggest moment: In defeating Jezreel Corrales back in January Colbert captured the WBA interim 130 pound title. It wasn’t the most exciting fight, but Colbert gained valuable experience in the process.
Future/ceiling/expectations: Colbert will hopefully get a chance to win the full version of the WBA title against Rene Alvarado down the line. He’s probably slick enough to outpoint Alvarado (although it won’t be easy), but you wonder how he will do against guys who are a bit younger and fresher. Colbert will win a belt, he’s that good, but his lack of power could be problematic as he moves up to 135 in the future. — Kim
T15. Junto Nakatani (20-0, 15 KOs), 22, flyweight contender
The fighter: Nakatani, a flyweight from Japan, is a tall, angular southpaw who likes to control the center of the ring and unfurl his left hand from distance. Since turning pro in 2015 Nakatani has developed steadily and now looks poised to be the next world champion from this country. He is now rated third by the WBO.
Accomplishments/biggest moment: In his last fight, Nakatani stopped former world titleholder Milan Melindo in a six-round TKO victory.
Future/ceiling/expectations: On Aug. 21, Nakatani is scheduled to fight for the vacant WBO flyweight world title against Giemel Magramo in Tokyo. He should be the next standout from Japan who will win titles in multiple divisions. He’s just 22 and the future is very bright. — Kim
T15. Charles Conwell (12-0, 9 KOs), 22, junior middleweight prospect
The fighter: The 2016 US Olympian is looking to break into the world’s top ten at junior middleweight after compiling an unblemished 12-fight record. Conwell is perhaps best known for the tragic circumstance of his fight last October when his opponent Patrick Day fell into a coma after getting knocked out in 10 rounds, and then died the next week from brain trauma suffered in the fight.
Accomplishments/biggest moment: Conwell looked sharp in his last outing against Ramses Agaton, which may have been low-key away from the television cameras but was an important step forward in his career. Conwell especially looked good with his attacks to the body, which forced Agaton to retire on his stool after four rounds in February. This fight showed Conwell’s strength at the weight and was his fourth win inside the distance in his last five fights. Conwell has been in consistent form over the last couple years.
Future/ceiling/expectations: Conwell has yet to go 12 rounds and needs more experience against other contenders looking to secure a title shot. Keeping busy will be the No. 1 priority, but he is heavy-handed and can be expected to climb closer to a title shot in 2021. — Parkinson
17. Wilfredo Mendez (16-1, 6 KOs), 23, WBO strawweight titlist
The fighter: Mendez, a southpaw, has made two defenses of the WBO strawweight title and he is part of a younger generation coming through to challenge the established order in boxing’s lightest division.
Accomplishments/biggest moment: Mendez won a world title in only his 14th fight with a shocking, unanimous decision over Victorio Saludar in which he displayed good boxing skills.
Future/ceiling/expectations: Wanheng Menayothin leads the way at strawweight, but at 34 there are doubts as to how long Menayothin can continue. Padro Taduran, the IBF titleholder from the Philippines is 23 like Mendez, and that would be an interesting matchup to decide the king-in-waiting of the division. Mendez could own the division in the near future. — Parkinson
18. Ruben Villa (18-0, 5 KOs), 23, featherweight contender
The fighter: California’s Villa is a talented southpaw who had a good amateur career — he was a two-time US National Golden Gloves champion — and his rapid rise as a professional is no surprise.
Accomplishments/biggest moment: Villa has made fights that were meant to be tests look comfortable through his boxing skills, utilizing his jab rather than flattening opponents. As an amateur, he beat Stevenson and Haney.
Future/ceiling/expectations: Villa could get a shot at the WBO belt recently vacated by Stevenson next year. Emanuel Navarrete will get a shot immediately after stepping up a division and relinquishing his WBO junior featherweight belt recently. Northern Ireland’s Michael Conlan, the 2012 Olympic bronze medalist, is No. 1 and Villa is No. 2 in the WBO rankings. Villa may have to face Conlan before he gets his title shot, and Conlan would be favored to win that fight. Navarrete also has too much for Villa. Winning a world title is possible for Villa once he gets more experience over the next two years, but until then, he will be a tough title contender. — Parkinson
19. Elwin Soto (17-1, 12 KOs), 23, WBO junior flyweight titlist
The fighter: Soto has made one defense of the WBO junior flyweight title in a year-long reign and has impressive power.
Accomplishments/biggest moment: Soto caused an upset when he knocked out Angel Acosta for the belt in June last year, which is probably his best win. Soto, who earned a unanimous decision over then-unbeaten Edward Heno in October, can bang, and this was also evident in a one-round wrecking job on Javier Alejandro Rendon in a non-title bout in February.
Future/ceiling/expectations: Soto might be behind the other champions in the division at the moment, but he has youth on his side and is expected to become more of a force in 2021. Soto is still developing, getting better, and showed as much in his last world title fight against Edward Heno in October, when he was briefly dropped to a knee in the third round but then recovered to earn a unanimous decision victory. Soto can similarly get better in the next 12 months and earned unification fights against the other titleholders. Felix Alvarado (IBF) is his most realistic option as the others — Ken Shiro, Hiroto Kyoguchi — are too good right now, plus Soto would have to go to Japan to fight them. Carlos Canizales, who holds the secondary WBA title, is another option for Soto who can win another world title if he gets Canizales or Alvarado in 2021. Soto might be behind the other champions in the division at the moment, but he has youth on his side and is expected to become more of a force in 2021. Soto is still developing, getting better, and showed as much in his last world title fight against Edward Heno in October, when he was briefly dropped to a knee in the third round. He then recovered to earn a unanimous decision victory. Soto can similarly get better in the next 12 months and earn unification fights against the other titleholders. Felix Alvarado (IBF) is his most realistic option as the others — Ken Shiro, Hiroto Kyoguchi — are too good right now, plus Soto would have to go to Japan to fight them. Carlos Canizales, who holds the secondary WBA title, is another option for Soto who can win another world title if he gets Canizales or Alvarado in 2021. — Parkinson
T20. Pedro Taduran (14-2-1, 11 KOs), 23, IBF strawweight titlist
The fighter: Like another well-known left hander from the Philippines, Manny Pacquiao, Taduran is an active, quick pressure fighter who likes to come forward and let his hands go.
Accomplishments/biggest moment: By defeating Salva for the title, Taduran became the latest in a long line of boxers from the Philippines to win a major world title.
Future/ceiling/expectations: It’s not clear how much of a mark he can make, given that he’s in the smallest weight class in boxing, but Taduran is a fighter with an entertaining and relentless style. His biggest opportunities might come on undercards of bigger events. But he is still just 23 years old, and like many other fighters in the 105-pound division, a move up in weight (which is his only option) could offer more opportunities in his future. — Steve Kim
T20. Terri Harper (10-0, 5 KOs), 23, WBC junior lightweight titlist
The fighter: Harper won the WBC junior lightweight world title in just her tenth professional fight and is arguably already among the top ten women’s pound-for-pound boxers.
Accomplishments/biggest moment: Harper announced herself as an elite fighter with an outstanding unanimous decision win over Eva Wahlstrom in February. Wahlstrom was 16 years older than Harper and had made five defenses, but Wahlstrom was well beaten by the Englishwoman and was given a count in the seventh round. To put Harper’s win in perspective, Wahlstrom’s only other defeat was to Katie Taylor, one of women’s boxing’s biggest stars.
Future/ceiling/expectations: Expect Harper to climb through the weight classes quickly and unify titles. But before that, she has an interesting first defense against English rival Natasha Jonas on August 7. — Parkinson
T22. Gabriel Flores Jr. (18-0, 6 KOs), 20, lightweight prospect
Mark Kriegel breaks down Gabriel Flores Jr.’s rise in Top Rank Boxing and analyzes what he needs to do to take the next step as a boxer.
The fighter: Back in 2017 Flores made history by becoming the youngest boxer (at age 17) to make their debut with Top Rank. Since then Flores has notched 18 victories (with 6 knockouts to his credit) and he has shown solid boxing skills, as he waits for his physical maturity to arrive.
Accomplishments/biggest moment: In May 2019, when Flores stopped Eduardo Reis in four rounds at the Stockton Arena, California, it was Flores, not world champions Artur Beterbiev and Jerwin Ancajas, who attracted over 10,000 people into the building that night.
Future/ceiling/expectations: While Flores recovers from a back injury that he re-aggravated against Josec Ruiz on June 18, Top Rank will get him back into action when he’s ready and then continue to carefully choose his next few opponents. At age 20, time is on his side. Top Rank is as good as anyone at moving and nurturing young boxers, and you get the sense that one day as the current crop of 130 pound belt-holders eventually move up, Flores will be guided to a vacant title shot. — Kim
T22. Xander Zayas (4-0, 3 KOs), 17, welterweight prospect
Here is what Xander Zayas had to say in the immediate aftermath of his first professional win, a first round TKO of Genesis Wynn… Video by Steve Kim
The fighter: Zayas was coveted by all the major players as he made the decision to turn pro in 2019. With his lean frame and heavy hands, Zayas could be the next Puerto Rican star. He made his debut last October at the age of 17.
Accomplishments/biggest moment: When he signed his promotional deal with Top Rank, Zayas was still just 16 years old, which made him the youngest fighter ever to ink an agreement with the company.
Future/ceiling/expectations: As soon as Zayas turns 18 in early September, expect him to become much more active. He will fight often over the next few years and be given ample opportunity to sharpen his tools. Zayas is considered a high level prospect that could win titles in multiple weight classes as his body grows and moves up. His career is just beginning, lets see how he handles six round fights by the end of 2020. — Kim
24. Vito Mielnicki (5-0, 3 KOs), 18, welterweight prospect
The fighter: A recent high school graduate, Mielnicki turned pro at a very young age (17). He had a solid amateur background and has above average boxing skills and some pop in his punches. He signed a promotional deal with Premier Boxing Champions in 2019.
Accomplishments/biggest moment: In his last outing Mielnicki was part of the Fury-Wilder II undercard in one of the biggest stages in boxing at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Mielnicki took advantage of the opportunity, sending Cory Champion to the canvas in Round 2 and winning a four-round unanimous decision.
Future/ceiling/expectations: For the time being, Mielnicki will be guided carefully, and perhaps by the end of the year he’ll be in six round fights. He’s still a prospect but he seems to be a bit of a ticket seller early on. At the very least, he’ll be a fan favorite and a big attraction around his home of New Jersey. — Kim
25. David Morrell (2-0, 2 KOs), 22, light heavyweight prospect
The fighter: The 6-foot-1 super middleweight had an amateur record of 130-2 and was a regular on the Cuba national team. Now based in Minneapolis, the 22-year-old southpaw has two knockouts from as many professional fights since turning pro a year ago. The WBA governing body already has Morrell at No. 3 in its super middleweight rankings.
Accomplishments/biggest moment: An outstanding amateur record of 130-2, including international experience, indicates Morrell undoubtedly has an exciting and successful professional career ahead of him. Early signs are good in the paid ranks after a first round knockout on his debut and then a second round KO in November. As well as power, he also has great footwork and his amateur record could only have been assembled through exquisite and technically refined boxing skills.
Future/ceiling/expectations: Such an incredible amateur record, as well as his youth, makes Morrell almost a certainty to win a world title. Morrell’s promoter Warriors Boxing wants to move him quickly. Warriors Boxing President Leon Margules said a year ago on his company website: “Bob Arum thought enough of Lomachenko to put him in a world title fight in his second fight. This guy is the same thing. Five fights and he can be in with a top 10 guy. This is the kind of fighter who comes along once in a generation. You don’t go 130-2 as an amateur in Cuba unless you are an extraordinary talent.” Super middleweight would be an easier division for Morrell to move through quickly, as light heavyweight is stacked with talent and big punchers. Morrell may be exposed if thrown in too soon against the light heavyweight elite (Artur Beterbiev, Dmitry Bivol, Eleider Alvarez). He will also need time, but he could earn a lucrative shot against Canelo at super middleweight in the future. A shot against WBA super middleweight champion Callum Smith is a possibility in the near future. — Parkinson
Other fighters receiving votes
T26. Alexis Rocha, 16, T26. Sebastian Fundora, 16, T26. Josue Vargas, 16, T29. Xavier Martinez, 14, T29. Rolando Romero, 14, T31. Liam Paro, 10, T31. Sadriddin Akhmedov, 10, T31. Joey Spencer, 10, T34. Magomed Kurbanov, 9, T34. Michel Rivera, 9, T36. Jared Anderson, 8, T36. Eduardo Hernandez, 8, T38. Takuma Inoue, 7, T38. Fiodor Czerkaszyn, 7, T38. Darmani Rock, 7, T41. Diego Pacheco, 6, T41. Elvis Rodriguez, 6, 43. Abram Martinez, 4, 44. Hector Tanajara, 3, 45. Evelyn Bermudez, 2, T46. Bektemir Melikuziev, 1, T47. Joseph Adrono, 1
The voters for the Top 25 included: Steve Kim, Nick Parkinson, Crystina Poncher, Bernardo Osuna and Dan Goossen.