The Five (Well, Six) Golden Boy Promotions Fighters To Watch For In 2021

At the end of the year, everyone loves lists, and especially if your state is currently in shelter-in-place due to the national pandemic.

This year we have taken this to heart and wrote a series based around each of the four major promoters, Top Rank, Golden Boy, Matchroom/DAZN, and a grouping of the remaining promoters so you can look for these fighters moving into next year, if you have missed boxing this year, are just falling in love with the sport, or fell out of love with the sport, and are coming back to see what you missed.

Let me explain the categories, THE PRESENT – fighters who are in their prime and I see as the forefront of the company they represent, THE FUTURE – fighters nearing their prime and generational talents, THE BUZZ – fighters with an immense buzz around them and excitement within fight fans and the industry, THE BREAKOUT – fighters who I expect to have an exceptional 2021, and THE PROSPECT – an up-and-coming fighter with not a ton of fights who should be on your radar.

Today, we focus on Golden Boy Promotions

THE PRESENT – Joseph Diaz Jr – 130 lbs.

With Canelo gone, Joseph Diaz Jr. is the most well-acclaimed fighter on their roster being an Olympian and a world champion. Joseph Diaz Jr has continually impressed me with his improvement and is a formidable fighter for anyone at 130 lbs and could eventually be a lightweight that is in the mix with the likes of Ryan Garcia, Devin Haney, “Tank” Davis, and Teofimo Lopez. 

The sad part is, it feels as though Golden Boy Promotions, has not advertised Diaz Jr. as much I would’ve as he was not included in a press release earlier this when Canelo parted ways with the promotional entity. 

That being said, Diaz Jr. to me is Golden Boy Promotions currently, and if he gets the fights, Diaz Jr. has the trajectory to be a hall-of-fame fighter, with the right fights and right guidance. 

At 31-1, and 15 Knockouts, Diaz has only had one career setback and that was against another generational great in Gary Russell Jr., in a fight that it appeared Diaz learned from.

Diaz had one win this year and it was a career-defining dominant performance, defeating IBF super featherweight world champion Tevin Farmer, and Diaz has a pressure style that is combined with distance gauging that is very difficult to combat. In short, Diaz fights like an old-school 60’s fighter with a modern twist.

To me, Diaz Jr. is at the forefront of Golden Boy Promotions, as the 2012 Olympian is being undervalued as a whole, but the writers, media, and at times it feels his promoter, but to be fair, Golden Boy Promotions didn’t have many dates this year, as well as pandemic and a lawsuit with their biggest star, Canelo Alvarez to deal with.

Heading into 2021 with Golden Boy Promotions not having a generational talent like, “Canelo” Alvarez, I see Joseph Diaz Jr. as the most well-accomplished fighter under their promotion starting the new calendar ear.

THE FUTURE – Ryan Garcia -135 lbs

The world is now condensed into one-minute videos being consumed on your favorite form of social media, and Ryan Garcia’s fights and life, fit perfectly into those confines. The explosive-and-fast one-punch KO artist, known for his brilliantly fast left hook, and ingenious social media adaptation is something to behold.

Garcia, who is scheduled to fight former world title challenger and Olympic Gold Medalist Luke Campbell on January 2nd, on DAZN, will be in the biggest step-up for his career, but it seems Garcia is destined for big things in the sport whether detractors want to believe it or not. As a win over Campbell would put Garcia into the conversation as one of the top-5, if not top-10 in his division, that of which is the lightweight division.

Garcia is growing into his man-strength, has an awkward frame and tremendous speed, that combination is tricky in general, and now add solid power with that and training with an elite boxing coach, Eddy Reynoso, while continuing to work with his father, Henry Garcia. It doesn’t hurt to see Canelo Alvarez in the gym training alongside him, with Luis Nery and Oscar Valdez in the camp as well, the only thing he can do is get better.

Garcia fought once this year and brutally stopped Francisco Fonseca in less than a minute. Say what you want about that, but Tevin Farmer, a former world champion went 12-rounds with Fonseca, and “Tank” Davis stopped Fonseca in eight-rounds. Add to the fact that Garcia stopped tough veteran Romero Duno in one-round in the fight before, and it is clear Garcia has something, even if some fans are not thrilled with his social media presence.

Garcia is one of the building blocks of the new era of the sport of boxing and is already a star. For Golden Boy to remain a major promoter, a majority of their success will come from Ryan Garcia’s development in the sport. Despite some technical limitations, Garcia has the physical gifts and strengths I see to overcome those issues in the short-term and potentially even in the longer term.

THE BUZZ – Vergil Ortiz – 147 lbs

If Ryan Garcia is Drake, the hit-maker getting all the views, Vergil Ortiz would be Pusha T, the critically acclaimed die-hard fan-favorite rising from the underground to the populous, they’re two of the best, but draw in different markets and demographics currently, with Ortiz appealing to the age old traditional fight fan.

Vergil Ortiz is passing the eye-test thoroughly, and one of the best 140 lbs fighters of this era, Jose Ramirez giving him a glowing endorsement, is high praise, let alone his dominant performances in the ring. Ortiz, who is trained by his father, Vergil Ortiz Sr., with assistance from Robert Garcia, at the Robert Garcia Boxing Academy.

While Ryan Garcia might be getting the views and the attention, Ortiz has the attention of the hardcore, and the industry, as he hits like an ox and can take a punch as well. A formidable combination.

Add to the fact, Ortiz is 16-0, with 16 straight knockouts, and it is hard to not believe something special is brewing here.

Ortiz had one victory this year, defeating veteran tough guy, Samuel Vargas, who is in many regards the Canadian Gabriel Rosado, who he stopped impressively.

I didn’t see it at first, but that Texas-style that Vergil Ortiz and Errol Spence Jr have is unique and for an outsider it took time for me to see how it works and how effective it is (along with being from a region in which we try to be too sweet in the ring as well probably didn’t help), that being said – Vergil Ortiz is REALLY GOOD, and I look foolish for doubting him.

If you’re not following him, you should start in 2021. One thing his father said to me once will always standout, that Ortiz wants to be one of those great fighters, not just a good one – and he is well on his way to doing that.

THE BREAKOUT – Luis Feliciano – 140 lbs , Blair Cobbs – 147 lbs – TIE

Luis Feliciano sadly didn’t get a fight this year, but Feliciano, a proud college graduate, is a fighter I have always believed in, in the 140 lbs division and expect him to have a strong 2021, if Golden Boy can keep him active.

Feliciano is a smart and disciplined fighter, who stands out, because he thinks with opponents as well as has good power to keep people honest, it is just a shame we didn’t see him compete in 2020.

Personally I would like to see Feliciano in tough next year against Pablo Cesar Cano, who recently defeated Jorge Linares – in a bout that would allow Feliciano to show the world if he is ready to go to the next level.

Luis Feliciano is currently 14-0, with 8 wins coming by way of knockout.

I included Blair Cobbs as well as the welterweight is deserving of praise and also, was active this unlike Feliciano making this award a tie. Cobbs has an exciting style in which he hops in-and-out of his opponent range, and seemingly always goes for stoppages as well as has a dynamic personality. Cobbs, who comes out to pro-wrestling theme songs for his walkout music, at times comes off like a pro wrestler with a larger than life persona.

Cobbs fought only once in 2020 having a tough split decision win over Samuel Kotey Neequaye, which halted previous momentum over good opponents such as Robert Redmond Jr. and Ferdinand Kerobyan, the later being one that put him on a big-stage.

The Prince Ranch Boxing fighter, managed by Greg Hannley, has now left Bones Adams’ gym and is no longer training with Brandon Woods, and is now training in Hollywood at the Wild Card Boxing Club.

Cobbs is an entertaining personality, in a division full of great fighters, in the next year, Cobbs should be in a meaningful fight, especially at the age of 30-years-old.

Cobbs has 14 wins and with no defeats and a draw, and 9 of his wins coming by way of knockout.

THE PROSPECT – Evan Sanchez 

Parlier, Ca’s Evan Sanchez is a heavy-handed southpaw fighting at the welterweight who is 8-0 with 6 wins by way of knockout. Sanchez is still early in his career, and learning, so it is unfair to compare him to the elite of the division, but at 22-years-old, being from Central California, a boxing hotbed, and being managed by Joel De La Hoya.

Sanchez was discovered by his manager, when De La Hoya went to scout his sparring partner, but Sanchez was so impressive, he left a lasting impression upon De La Hoya.

Sanchez has had three fights with Golden Boy Promotions, knocking his opponents down in each bout, and finished two of the three opponents. With ties to the Robert Garcia Boxing Academy, a supportive father in Omar Sanchez, and not a ton of young fighters who have been picked up by Golden Boy Promotions recently, Sanchez stands out to me as the fighter to watch as a prospect, who has the things people like in a fighter – pedigree, power and a solid team around him.

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Lukie Ketelle

Lukie Ketelle