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Who is boxing’s next superstar?

canelo4566By Niall Kaye: It is hard to envisage boxing without the presence of Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. Similarly, many feared for the state of the sport following Muhammad Ali’s eventual retirement in 1981, but the sport survived, with the introduction of Sugar Ray Leonard and Mike Tyson going some way to quenching the indomitable void left by Ali.

Boxing, like any sport, is cyclical with new talents constantly emerging, whose paths eventually converge like Mayweather and Pacquiao’s belatedly have. These two maestro’s void will be difficult to fill for the rising stars of today, but the most likely candidates under 30 years old to do so are listed below:

KEITH THURMAN JR– An obvious choice. His style, although yet imperfect, has gained acclaim from many analysts who regard him as the natural successor to Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao. His fan friendly style and loquacious interview antics has earned him support as well as admiration for his tremendous skills. However, following a clinical but ultimately unspectacular display against the tough Leonard Bundu, critics have begun to circulate with question marks over his punch resistance. His next fight however, went some way to silencing the naysayers with a dominant win over the highly rated Robert Guerrero.

ERROLL SPENCE JR– The dark horse of the welterweight division; he is without the same notoriety as other picks, but a fighter whose skills and physical prowess continue to earn him widespread praise. Without a doubt, Spence is among the most exciting talents in recent years: his flawless TKO victory over Samuel Vargas on April 11th amongst his most impressive performances. He seems to have good punching power, speed, and strength and is a tall welterweight, which will allow him to move through the weights if he decides to. At 25, his frame will continue to grow as will his name, and, with the correct marketing, he will be able to fulfill his boundless potential and unify divisions.

ANTHONY JOSHUA– The heavyweight division and boxing as a whole yearns for another ferocious puncher akin to Tyson and Foreman. Have we found him? The Olympic gold medalist is widely tipped to be Wladimir Klitschko’s successor, and he has exhibited the kind of humility and general affability necessary to attract fans like his compatriots have done so in the past.

If someone were to erect a model of the ideal heavyweight, Joshua would be it. In a move of great wisdom, he opted to sign under Eddie Hearn’s promotional hegemony and his career thus far has been seamless; so can he mount a legitimate challenge to Klitschko and Deontay Wilder?

TERENCE CRAWFORD– With each display of boxing poise he puts in against reputable fighters, his stock grows and superstardom beckons for the Omaha native. It is virtually impossible to handle Yuriorkis Gamboa’s hypnotic speed and power but Crawford, as is characteristic of him, stayed calm under Gamboa’s mounting pressure and pulled off a spectacular comeback to stop the Cuban. His ventures at light-welterweight will determine if he is the real deal, but he has proved he has the ability and ring IQ that is required to become one of boxing’s elite.

CANELO ALVAREZ– A loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr is no disgrace (forgive the horrible cliché.) However, the way in which Canelo was neutralized against Mayweather prompted peoples’ opinions of him to drop slightly. Despite this, he is able to attract huge attendance figures in arenas and his marketability is seemingly unlimited. He prides himself on fighting the very best- a theme which seems unfashionable in boxing today. This did, however, almost cost him dearly in his most recent outing against Erislandy Lara.

Lara, like many other Cuban boxers, is a masterful technician and is extremely difficult to beat, let alone look good against. Doubtless, Canelo lost the first half of their fight but the way in which he adapted is a testament to his ability and resilience. With the correct career moves (I.e. staying away from You-Know-Who), Canelo has a bright future ahead of him and it is scarcely conceivable that he is still only 24.

These fighters, amongst numerous other esteemed prospects will eagerly await the retirement of the current crop of superstars to usher in an intriguing new era for boxing. But there is still the small matter of May 2nd to come.

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