By Cliff Rold
There's always something exciting about new talent in boxing’s glamour classes. Blue chip at heavyweight, middleweight, welterweight means more than just talent. It also means the potential for a high-dollar stardom that can be harder to achieve in most other divisions.
Last year, these honors went to a fighter some staffers here still view as a prospect, Heavyweight Anthony Joshua. Joshua (15-0, 15 KO) went 5-0 with 5 knockouts in 2015, including a test against fellow undefeated Dillian Whyte. Joshua closed the year rated in the top ten by three of the four major sanctioning bodies, the TBRB, and Ring Magazine.
He’s made the move to fledgling contender. By the end of 2016, he may be closing in on a title. Not far behind him may be the man who took honors here at BoxingScene. 5-0 with 4 knockouts in 2015, our choice faced a spread of opponents with a combined record of 95-20-3 and seemed to get better each time out. At 5’11 and only 20 years of age, he fights today at Jr. middleweight but the future is higher on the scale.
2015 Prospect of the Year: Erickson Lubin
If Joshua looks like a potential future for the big men, Florida’s Lubin (13-0, 10 KO) shows all the tools of a possible middleweight heir. Height, skill, speed, power, and finishing ability come in a southpaw package. Lubin would have been a strong potential medalist had he opted to stay in the unpaid ranks and aim for the 2016 Games. In 2013, at only 18, he decided it was a better idea to get paid for his labor.
Professional boxing suits him well. Lubin turned heads with his last two appearances of the year. Matched with veterans Orlando Lora and Alexis Camacho, Lubin showed poise, consistency, and the sort of talent that gets fans excited. Will he accelerate his development in 2016 or will his handlers take their time given his age? Can Lubin’s talent be marketed into the sort of economic possibilities middleweight can produce?
We’ll be watching to find out, and it’s going to be fun to watch Lubin.
Others Receiving Honorable Mention (In Alphabetical Order)
Artur Beterbiev: Injury kept the 30-year old Beterbiev (9-0, 9 KO) from continuing what to date has been a meteoric rise. He went to scratch only twice this year but he impressed both times. Former light heavyweight titlist Gabriel Campillo was knocked out in four rounds and Alexander Johnson lasted seven. The 30-year old Beterbiev is good enough that some wanted to see him test Sergey Kovalev already. Fighting under the PBC banner, could Beterbiev be a viable contender for Adonis Stevenson by the end of 2016? The sooner the Russian is back in the ring, the sooner we can find out.
Dmitry Bivol: Beterbiev isn’t the only big hitter on the rise at light heavyweight. Born in Kyrgyzstan, Bivol (5-0, 5 KO) won four times in 2015. Only 25, Bivol isn’t being handled with kid gloves. He has yet to face a foe with a losing record or an opponent with less than 20 fights. What stands out with Bivol? Beyond the obvious power and educated punch selection, the kid has eye-catching speed and the ability to change gears in his delivery. The dominance of the former Soviet Bloc in the highest weight classes doesn’t look in any danger of abating soon.
Joseph Parker: The massively talented New Zealander is just a hair behind Joshua in terms of heavyweight hopes for the future. Parker (17-0, 15 KO) is already rated in the top ten by the WBO and added five wins by knockout as 2015 unfolded. The most recognizable name in that run was veteran former title challenger Kali Meehan. Parker has size, power, and exceptional speed. 2016 is the year we should start to see a little better opposition. At 23, he has time on his side but his talent says patience may not be a virtue.
Errol Spence: The 25-year old Spence (19-0, 16 KO) was one of the leading vote getters in 2014 and remained so this year. That he didn’t win in this category may reflect that a lot of people see him as already past the prospect phase. He’s not quite a top ten contender yet, but that says more about where he’s fighting than him. Welterweight is one of the toughest fields in all of boxing. Spence is right at the door, going 4-0 in 2015 against a roster of foes with a combined record of 97-4. Spence went home early every time with his longest fight going into the eighth round. Spence could be in the title picture sooner than later.
Previous Prospect of the Year Winners
2014: Anthony Joshua
2013: Felix Verdejo
2012: Keith Thurman
2011: Danny Garcia
2010: Mikey Garcia
2009: Daniel Jacobs
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]