If boxing is left with a 2010 season that was best known for what didn’t take place at the top level, then at the very least it could have left us with hope and promise for the future.
While it remains a struggle to piece together all of the big fights for which the public clamors, it hasn’t slowed the flow of traffic at the prospect level.
Thanks to stateside prospect-based series on various networks, more fighters than ever before are provided with the opportunity to make a name for themselves on the way up rather than being forced to toil in obscurity while awaiting their chance at prime time exposure.
Two stood out more so than any other, to where both are on the verge of title contention.
That they have both advanced to the contender stage before year’s end perhaps challenge the criteria that goes into recognizing the best prospects in the sport.
Still, that both are still on the rise qualifies them as fighters that continue to learn while they earn.
One started out a little further back than the other yet managed to catch up before the end of the year in terms of career progress.
With that comes the…
BOXINGSCENE.COM 2010 PROSPECT OF THE YEAR – MIGUEL ANGEL ‘MIKEY’ GARCIA
The irony of 2010 serving as a huge breakout campaign for Miguel Angel Garcia (24-0, 20KO) was that it began with the cancellation of what was supposed to be the toughest test of his young career.
Big things were promised when the year began for the youngest member of a fighting family that includes older brother and former 130 lb. titlist Robert Garcia, who currently mans his corner. Having recently graduated from California’s Ventura County Police Academy at the time, Garcia was slated for a huge step up fight on the inaugural episode of Fox Sports’ ‘Top Rank Live’ boxing series.
So important was the fight that he invited his fellow graduates to attend the show at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. All that came of everyone’s night was disappointment. Visa issues forced his scheduled opponent, Joksan Hernandez off of the show, leaving Garcia without a dance partner for the night.
The fight was never rescheduled, and Garcia was forced to settle for a tune-up bout a couple of weeks later, with his Fox Sports debut coming a couple of months later.
So began the run of the year’s brightest prospect.
A tough fight was promised against battle-tested veteran Tomas Vila in their April headlining bout. It was supposed to be the fight where we’d find out the stuff of which Garcia’s chin and fighting heart were made.
Those questions would have to be answered on another night. Garcia never gave Villa a chance to test either area, dropping him twice inside of a minute in scoring the quickest knockout of his career.
It was that moment when Top Rank truly realized what they hand on their hands, fast-tracking the Oxnard native towards title contention. An August showdown with featherweight spoiler Cornelius Lock – which also aired on Top Rank Live – saw Garcia score the biggest win of his career to date. A pair of knockdowns paved the way for an 11th round stoppage and the guarantee of a mandatory featherweight title shot sometime in 2011.
Garcia put a final exclamation point on his breakout campaign with a violent 5th round knockout of former junior featherweight title challenger Olivier Lontchi in a December preliminary pay-per-view appearance. The statement came at the perfect time, as Top Rank revealed earlier in the day that plans for a featherweight unification between Juan Manuel Lopez and Yuriorkis Gamboa were on hold.
While it meant bad news for the boxing world, it leaves open two opportunities for Garcia to pursue as he eyes a title shot at some point in 2011. A win over either would set the bar mighty high for the rest of the sport when it comes time to discussing the best fighters of the year 12 months from now.
If that day should come, he can take comfort in knowing that his pursuit of excellence came with the honor of being recognized as Boxingscene.com’s 2010 Prospect of the Year.
RUNNER UP – SAUL ‘CANELO’ ALVAREZ
Some will glance at this part and question how he didn’t run away with top honors for this category.
Others will note his contender status as well as the fact that he was named one of the top prospects of 2010, and wonder just how long the prospect label can apply to a fighter’s career.
Somewhere in the middle, the wildly popular 20-year old makes his way to runner up status on the Boxingscene.com pages.
A year after the whispers begun of a red-headed, freckle-faced Mexican one day serving as a future pound-for-pound king, Alvarez enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2010, going 5-0 and garnering more publicity and attention with each passing bout.
Providing the greatest push for his career was a pair of high-profile chief support bouts on Golden Boy-promoted pay-per-view events.
An appearance on the May 1 card headlined by Floyd Mayweather’s 12-round dominance of Shane Mosley saw Alvarez survive a few rocky moments early on to come back and stop Jose Miguel Cotto in the ninth round of their welterweight bout.
Four months later, Alvarez became the talk of the town with an emphatic sixth round knockout of former welterweight king Carlos Baldomir. More so than the highlight-reel show-stealing moment itself was the reception he received from the boisterous crowd at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, providing the revelation to Golden Boy Promotions that on its hands was a superstar in the waiting.
His celebrity status in Mexico prompted his handlers to push for HBO Latino to get in on the act, agreeing to air his December bout with Lovemore N’Dou, which also aired live on Mexican television network giant Televisa. The fight was HBO Latino’s first regularly scheduled bout (excluding pay-per-view replays) since the end of Golden Boy’s Boxeo de Oro series five years ago.
The win over N’Dou wasn’t exactly Alvarez’ brightest moment, but the foundation has already been laid. Next up is a headlining slot in a March telecast of HBO’s Boxing After Dark, which may see the Mexican in his first alphabet title shot. If not on that night, then most certainly by his next fight.
Either way, it will officially serve as the end of his days as a prospect, thus ending the debate of where he rates on these pages. However, it doesn’t remove the shine from his rising star status.
Honorable Mention: Hard hitting super middleweight Edwin Rodriguez scored four knockouts in 2010, three of them televised including a one-sided beatdown of James McGirt Jr on Shobox… Mercito Gesta added power to his game in 2010, scoring knockouts in three of his four bouts in the past year, as he continues to serve as a favorite on the Spanish televised boxing circuit… Christopher Martin announced his presence this past summer with a big win over fellow unbeaten prospect Chris Avalos, one of five victories he posted in 2010. The bout aired on Showtime, though the San Diego native has become a fixture on Telefutura Solo Boxeo… 2008 Olympic Gold medalist James “Chunky” DeGale continues to dominate headlines in the United Kingdom, racking up four knockouts in as many fights in 2010. Chief among them was an eye-catching ninth-round stoppage of super middleweight contender Paul Smith in just DeGale’s ninth pro contest… Others receiving votes among the Boxingscene.com staff include a pair of 2008 U.S. Olympic boxers in Sadam Ali and Demetrius Andrade; a pair of18-year old junior welterweight newcomers in Jose Benavidez and Frankie Gomez; and undefeated British super middleweight prospect George Groves.
For more BoxingScene.com Year End Awards 2010:
Round, Robbery, & Event
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]