The Eight Fighters To Watch For From Top Rank Inc 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.
This list is based around the stable of fighters signed to Top Rank Inc
The present – Teofimo Lopez, Tyson Fury
When you look at the Top Rank Inc, and if you were to forecast their 2021, God willing people are healthy and safe, it would be hard to not have their biggest PPV draw, Tyson Fury, and most engaging star of this half-decade, Teofimo Lopez at the top of the list.
Why the tie. They both had great wins, that put their company and career at the forefront of the industry.
The 30 win professional, Tyson Fury, who has no defeats and only one draw, with 21 wins by way of knockouts, is also a six-foot-nine-inch behemoth in the ring.
Fury stopped Deontay Wilder after telling people for months he would stop Wilder, and tons of media not believing it. Fury got rid of his coach Ben Davidson and opted for “Sugar” Hill and the Kronk-style of boxing, as he dogged Wilder from start to finish.
Fury’s KO of Wilder solidified him to me as the greatest heavyweight of his era, defeating both Wladimir Klitschko and Deontay Wilder, to fighters whom he was the underdog to both.
Fury is a promotional goldmine with amazing fight antics, insight, as well as skills to boot. To put it frankly, Fury is a top-10 all-time heavyweight, and quite possibly a top-5, one, and I would even be mad if you said he was the best heavyweight ever, since his skillset and frame are nightmare for anyone.
Fury is nearly a seven-foot tall man, who moves like a much smaller guy in terms of speed, has the ability to control distance and bang on the inside. The sheer unfairness of such a well-rounded fighter, is maddening.
Teofimo Lopez, a tour-de-force of the lightweight division, who called his shot, and defeated Vasyl Lomachenko after saying for years he would. The 16 win fighter with 12 wins coming by way of knockout, is the star boxing had been looking for from this emerging youth movement and set the tone that young fighters need to take risks early in their career to prove their greatness.
Lopez has upped the bar for all young-and-emerging fighters, as in the same amount of professional fights as Lomachenko, sixteen, defeated Lomachenko, but not just that, made it so Lomachenko will never be a full-on star of the sport, as Lopez forever made his name off the back of Lomachenko, who many wanted to be the iconic next guy after Mayweather and Pacquiao, but never fully got there, as Loma never once had a PPV headlining fight. Lopez’s win might be the most defining moment of the professional career of the two-time gold medalist, and that says a lot.
Lopez is the boogeyman, a fearsome power-puncher who caught on in the boxing world based on his own performances in the ring, as well as his close relationship with father, Junior Lopez, as the two share a close father-son relationship, and consistently are underrated in terms of technical achievements.
Lopez will more than likely face George Kambosos Jr., next, and with his sights on fighting at 140 lbs in the near future as well.
Lopez is the guy currently, whom when he fights, we tune in.
The Future – Shakur Stevenson, Mikaela Mayer – TIE
Shakur Stevenson is a special fighter, the 2016 Olympic silver medalist, who is now a pound-for-pound fighter, I rate higher than Juan Francisco Estrada and Gennady Golovkin, currently, but doesn’t have a similar resume as the two yet don’t get twisted, but at the present moment is a tick-above theme currently in my estimations.
Stevenson already held the featherweight world title, and by the end of next year will be a super featherweight world champion, more than likely and quite possibly on the verge of the lightweight world championship as well.
Stevenson has a great step-back and gauges distance as good as anyone. It is crime to keep this short, but the fact is, if you don’t understand why Shakur is talented, you’re probably watching fights strictly for entertainment, and not the skill component. Stevenson isn’t always an entertainer, he is a winner – his fellow boxers understand that, but those watching don’t always.
Stevenson is getting better and better, and looking to be one of the dominant fighters of this generation.
At 15-0, and with 8 of his wins coming by way of knockout, and already becoming a WBO featherweight world champion, defeating a very good prospect in Joet Gonzalez, the ceiling is very high for Shakur Stevenson, as his only limitations, seemingly are the ones he’d put on himself if any.
Mikaela Mayer is a once-in-a-great fighter, with probably the closest direct comparison being MMA fighter Miesha Tate, a very attractive, but highly talented women’s combat sports veteran, who helped bridge the gap from the early days of women’s MMA to its modern main event status, partaking in some of the UFC biggest fights for female fighters.
At 14 wins, 5 of which coming by way of knockout, Mayer, a 2016 Olympian, is the complete package and living up to the billing of being the first women to ever sign with boxing promotional juggernaut, Top Rank Inc.
Mayer has been dominant as a professional, and beyond that, she fought two high-level fighters this year – a big puncher and pressure fighter in Helen Joseph and Ewa Brodnicka, who held WBO super featherweight women’s world title.
Mayer is vocal, wants all the smoke with the champions, and is looking for that action. Mayer is special and is treading new ground for young female fighters to look up to as she has consistently fought on ESPN for her whole career. Paving a way to show it is possible for young men who want to enter a male-dominated sport.
It is important to also note her manager, George Ruiz has done an outstanding job with her career, and veteran coach Al Mitchell has Mayer primed along with Kay Koroma proving a well-rounded team.
Mayer along with Claressa Shields are changing the boxing sphere for women in the United States.
The Buzz – Edgar Berlanga
At 6’1”, the New York native, who had been walked to the ring by Fat Joe, prior to the pandemic, and punches like a superhero, and not your average boxer, seems fitting of the nickname, “The Chosen One”.
Berlanga’s record seems unbelievable if you heard it – 16 wins, all knockouts, and all in the first round. Then add to the fact that he has stopped world level fighters who are consistently sparring the elite of the division, like Ulises Sierra. It is safe to say – you can easily get excited about what is in store for Berlanga.
Berlanga is a main-event fighter, who has yet to main-event, though I am sure that will change shortly. Everyone loves a knockout, and with celebrities backing him, a Puerto Rican heritage, and a great coach in Andre Rozier, Berlanga has all the making of being an iconic boxer in the sport of boxing.
Berlanga is starting to remind me of the pro-wrestler from the 90’s Bill Goldberg, as when Berlanga enters the ring, people are just as fascinated to see if his opponent can make it out the first round as well as the bout itself. Berlanga is entertainment, point-blank-period.
The Breakout – Gabe Flores Jr, Arnold Barboza Jr
Gabriel Flores Jr. is no longer a child fighting in a man’s world, Flores is a seasoned veteran with 19-0, with 6 wins coming by way of knockout, and in May will be approaching his 21st birthday, Flores is no longer the high-school-aged boxer signed to Top Rank. Instead, Flores is the youngest veteran in some time amassing 102 rounds of experience in 3-and-a-half-years of being a professional boxer, while taking very little damage.
Adding boxing royalty James Prince to the team as well as Antonio Leonard, only adds value to an already valuable asset in the Top Rank stable, and Andre Ward being in his last camp to offer advice alongside his father, Gabe Flores Sr., a proven world-level boxing coach only makes the team even more formidable.
For fighters like Flores Jr., who ruled the amateurs in the #1 position year-after-year, it will click in the ring, suddenly, and for the lay fight-fan, it’ll appear out of nowhere, and I expect that to happen next year, as Flores never leaves the gym.
I expect Flores Jr. to emerge next year with marquee wins and end the year in title contention, or even with a world title. Yes, I think that highly of him.
Arnold Barboza Jr. performs time-after-time again in the ring, he has respect in the L.A. gyms tenfold, yet still, we just put out generic stories about one of the best 140 lbs fighters.
Currently, Barboza has beaten the guys like Mike Alvarado, a former sparring partner, who actually got him signed to Top Rank, as well as Alex Saucedo, and now is sitting front-and-center with Jose “Chon” Zepeda, as the heir apparent to the 140 lbs division, when Josh Taylor and Jose Ramirez move up.
Barboza Jr. is a good puncher, with a great ability to box, and switch stances, I just wish he got more respect put on his name, but I believe along with Flores Jr., 2021 will be the year both make a mark on the sport.
Barboza is self-driven, motivated and talented, coming up on the old wave of Top Rank Bash Boxing cards, fighting hard opponents often. Don’t sleep on Barboza.
The Prospect – Jared Anderson
Are you a fan of Teofimo Lopez, but like heavyweight boxing? Jared “The Real Big Baby” Anderson feels like the heavyweight version of Teofimo Lopez, as he has the flash, coming out in his last bout dressed like Chucky from the “Child’s Play” movie, as well as recording highlight reel knockouts in each of his fights.
Now add to the fact that Anderson was one of the main sparring partners for Tyson Fury heading into his fight rematch for Deontay Wilder, and you can see star potential written all over the Toledo, Ohio heavyweight.
Anderson is currently 7-0 with 7 KOS and has already been scheduled for an eight-round bout, albeit it obviously didn’t go the full duration.
Next year look for Anderson to face former Olympian Guido Vianello, who is also signed to Top Rank as the first stern test of his career potentially.
Anderson seems like a solid investment in the future of boxing, and especially the heavyweight division.
Anderson should catch fire like Teofimo Lopez and Edgar Berlanga next year, if he stays active, which I don’t see why he wouldn’t.