COMMENTARY | In boxing, achieving true stardom often has just as much to do with outside-the-ring controversy as it does with in-ring proficiency. However, there are fans that couldn't care less about tabloid boxing gossip and just want to follow honest, earnest fighters guaranteed to execute at the highest levels of the sport.
Here is an updated list of ten fighters casual fans should know, but probably don't:
Lucas Matthysse (33-2, 31 KOs)
The heavy-handed battler from Argentina was originally brought to America as a durable B-side, but proved himself capable of competing at the highest levels of the jam-packed junior welterweight division. Controversial decision losses to Zab Judah and Devon Alexander did little to hurt Matthysse's standing and he now stands on the precipice of the big world title shot he always deserved. This Saturday, May 18, he will face another tough underrated talent, Lamont Peterson, for the right to move ahead to a world title challenge.
Gennady Golovkin (26-0, 23 KOs)
The affable, gentlemanly boxer from Kazakhstan is a complete killer in the ring and has developed a loyal cult following because of his offensive prowess. Golovkin holds the fairly worthless WBA middleweight title, but has yet to truly face a world class challenge. This June, though, all of that changes when he meets former world title challenger Matthew Macklin in his biggest challenge to date.
Mikey Garcia (31-0, 26 KOs)
Trainer Robert Garcia's little brother is a stone cold featherweight assassin in the ring, a calm and collected hunter with precision punching and nearly perfect technique. Wins over WBO featherweight champ Orlando Salido and former titlist Jonathan Victor Barros put Garcia in the "for real" category. A win over Juan Manuel Lopez this June could make the 25-year-old champ a star.
Kubrat Pulev (17-0, 9 KOs)
It's hard for a Bulgarian heavyweight to get any recognition among American fans, but followers of the heavyweight division would do well in keeping an eye on "The Cobra." The reigning European heavyweight champ and current no. 1 contender for Wladimir Klitschko's IBF title, holds solid wins over several top journeymen and looks to have the size and all-around ability to be a true force in the division.
Leo Santa Cruz (24-0-1, 14 KOs)
Few fighters are as fun to watch as the 24-year-old former IBF bantamweight titlist. Showing a near-perfect mix of toughness and Mexican boxing technique, Santa Cruz is a punching machine in the ring, battering opponents to both the head and the body with precision shots. A recent move up to junior featherweight should bring some more interesting and entertaining battles for the young fighter.
Roman Gonzalez (34-0, 28 KOs)
"El Chocolatito" is Nicaragua's fighting pride and one of boxing's pound-for-pound best offensive fighters. A two-division world champ at just 25, Gonzalez already has a stunning 10-0 record in world title bouts.
Denis Lebedev (25-1, 19 KOs)
Russia's cruiserweight powerhouse seemed on his way to divisional dominance when his career was sidelined by a very controversial split decision loss to Marco Huck and further stalled by WBA champ, Guillermo Jones' total unwillingness to step into the ring with him. Since then, the vacated WBA belt was placed in his possession and, this Friday, he is set to face former champ Jones to affirm his status as "real" champ.
Miguel Vazquez (33-3, 13 KOs)
"Titere" Vazquez came to prominence with the dubious distinction of being the rarest of all breeds-- a slick, Mexican boxing stylist. Since winning the vacant IBF lightweight title in 2010, the native of Guadalajara has made five defenses of his belt, most recently embarrassing undefeated Mercito Gesta in a completely one-sided romp.
Yoan Pablo Hernandez (27-1, 13 KOs)
Cuban-born German resident, Hernandez, is the reigning IBF cruiserweight champ and has earned the distinction of top cruiser in the world with victories over Troy Ross, Steve Herelius and two wins over former champ Steve Cunningham.
Juan Francisco Estrada (24-2, 18 KOs)
If Estrada had not scored the major upset in Macau, China over Brian Viloria in April, this spot would've likely gone to the rugged, talented Viloria. Instead, the 23-year-old native of Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico earned his fair share of attention after a tough and well-fought split decision win. Now, the newly-crowned WBO and WBA flyweight champ moves on to another big challenge against the talented and undefeated Milan Melindo in July.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and as Editor-in-Chief of The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. For breaking news, additional analysis, and assorted crazy commentary, follow him on Facebook, @TheBoxingTribune or on Twitter, @BoxingBTBC.
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- Lucas Matthysse
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