Boxing Current State: Dreams of Spring, In Search of the Next P4P King
By Carlos Rodrigo: In a realm without a king, the kingdom needs a leader and many valiant champions are ready to go to war for the throne. From the old continent, a wave of young hungry warriors is coming knocking down doors, windows and whatever or whomever comes their way. The old American guard is aging; its reflexes and elusiveness are eroding, but like an old fox it still has a few tricks up its sleeve. The boxing nation is divided and with no clear consensus in sight, we all wonder is there anyone worthy of lady glory? Who will claim her hand and take strides to take the throne and be universally proclaimed as the toughest, meanest son of a gun to roam God’s green earth?
Europe has a long proud tradition of highly skillful fighters such as the likes of Lennox Lewis, Joe Calzaghe, Prince Naseem Hamed, Kostya Tszyu, The Klitschkos and the list could go on and on just to name a few. Continuing with the rich legacy of their predecessors we have a new generation whose names strike fear on the opposition and their reputation has grown to levels where they are transitioning from mere mortals to the type of stuff that legends are made of. The talent pool is deep and wide; Nowadays Europe is a dominant force in the amateur ranks and their success is also translating to world championships at the paid ranks. Among the many talented European contenders and champions there are just a handful that to this day have proven to be the best of the very best.
The list must start with arguably one of the most decorated amateur champions of all time. Hailing from Ukraine Vasyl Lomachenko has brought his country not one but two Olympic gold medals alongside multiple amateur World and European championships. His amateur experience is almost 400 fights long with a single defeat which he had the chance to avenge not once but twice. Today he is a two divisions World Champion and with each bout his confidence is growing and every time he steps in that unforgivable squared circle expect nothing less than fireworks and an exquisite display of skills. In his short professional career, Lomachenko has taken apart champion after champion with incredible ease. Lomachenko is the perfect combination of fire and ice, a brutal killer with the skills and gracefulness of an ancient assassin. Does he have a ceiling, only time will tell but we could be witnessing a one in a life time type of talent in front of our eyes.
The list would not be complete if Gennady “GGG” Golovkin and Sergey “The Krusher” Kovalev are not acknowledged. Both have proven to be solid fighters and should be considered among the best in the world in their respective divisions. There are many parallels between both fighters and the one that stand out the most is their concussive power. Golovkin and Kovalev have the highest knockout ratio in their divisions and boxing all together but is not only their power that have gotten them this far but also their underrated defensive skills. From parrying, slipping and countering they can do it all at the highest level but there is a reason why they are a step below Lomachenko. Both fighters have been around the paid ranks for years and have extensive records but to this day you can count with one hand the number of credible fighters they fought. They have proven to be elite but when faced against other elite level fighters they have showed chinks in their armors.
For years Boxing was Americas sweetheart and the love affair produced unbelievable stories where legends became icons inside and outside the ring. Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard/Robinson, Sonny Liston, Tommy Hearns, Pernell Whitaker, Floyd Mayweather and there could be just a separate article naming all the greats the land of the free and home of the brave has produced. The popularity of the sport has dwindled compared to its glory days and that has translated in the level of fighters produced recently. Boxing gold was almost a guarantee at the Olympics and to name the last male athlete to achieve this feat we need to go back to Athens 2004 (Andre Ward). The lack of success at the amateur ranks is also showing at the pros since to this day there isn’t an American name that can be considered to take the lead and have a legitimate claim at being the best.
The American school is a combination of defensive prowess, attacking explosiveness, unmatched fighting IQ and all of that is put together under a personality that not even the brightest lights can’t steal the spotlight from. Talent and sportsmanship have been the signature of the American fighter and to not be able to think of a single name that matches these criteria tells us a lot about the current state of the sport. The safe bet would be to go with Andre Ward, accomplished amateur and professional fighter but he’s claim to the throne will depend if he’s able to win convincingly against Kovalev and establish himself as the best light-heavy weight in the world. It would be premature to nominate him to take the lead yet but there must be someone out there if not proven yet at least with the potential to be the rightful representative of the rich history of American Boxing.
The name is Shakur Stevenson, a 19 years old young man from Newark New Jersey. Like the greats before him, an accomplished amateur with bright future ahead of him. He will have his highly anticipated debut April 22nd and the world will be watching to see him in action. Many might wonder what has this young man done to even consider him as the best thing coming from America if he hasn’t even had his debut. Among current title holders named other than Andre Ward, Terrance Crawford is in the brisk of being the best man south of 160 and in the next few years could easily be considered P4P best fighter in the world. What he has in skills he lacks in charisma just as many of the American fighters around his weight and heavier lack as well. Stevenson has shown to be a well-rounded fighter with flashes of sound defense and an arsenal of different attacking tools. He’s not a Silver medalist for no reason, Stevenson fought hard and gave it his best against a more seasoned fighter in the final. He might have fallen short but he earned the world’s respect. During and after the fight he showed to be mature well beyond his years and he possesses a winning mentality that will bring him gold in the future. Even while crying after his defeat you could see his smile, passion and love for the sport. Shakur Stevenson has the personality, the mental fortitude and the charisma to be a huge transcending star that the sport is in need for.
The throne is wide open will America make a comeback and continue with his dominance or will the throne be taken by force by the strength and skills European fighters are showing in each one of their bouts. Only time will tell, Stevenson has everything to represent America in the years to come and an eventual showdown with Lomachenko is the type of stuff grandparents will tell their grandchildren for generations to come. Rest assured winter is here but the likes of Lomachenko and Stevenson will one day fight for supremacy and the eyes of the world will once again focus in Boxing and we all will reap the rewards.