COMMENTARY | Don't believe the hype -- boxing in America is far from dead. However, with Floyd Mayweather quickly approaching his 37th birthday and main-stage stars like Andre Ward and Timothy Bradley stuck in a rut, this would be the perfect time for some 20-something talents to start their march forward.
Here are five American fighters in their 20s who can possibly step up to reaffirm U.S. boxing dominance in the upcoming years:
Adrien Broner (27-0, 22 KOs)
The 24-year-old three-division champ has already mastered the art of capturing headlines. While his money-flushing, opponent-taunting act may be in bad taste, there's no denying that it has helped him attain a level of notoriety well beyond his actual level of accomplishment in the ring.
But now that the boisterous leader of the "Band Camp" has gotten everyone's attention, his in-ring work has to become increasingly bigger and better. Broner followed a genius-level demolition of lightweight champ Antonio DeMarco with a so-so performance against former titlist Gavin Rees, and then a tepid decision victory over WBA welterweight champ Paulie Malignaggi. He will have to look brilliant against probable upcoming opponent Marcos Maidana, or face talk from fans and media that he may not be as good as originally thought.
Deontay Wilder (29-0, 29 KOs)
It's no secret that American fight fans are desperate for that "Next Big Thing" in the heavyweight division. The 6-foot-7-inch "Bronze Bomber" has now, apparently, taken that role from a once-beaten, but deeply tarnished Seth Mitchell and looks, at least for the moment, like a much better person for the gig than the former NCAA football star. The heavy-handed Wilder, a 2008 Olympic bronze medalist, has been matched carefully but has proven himself "next step worthy" with recent first-round blowouts of Siarhei Liakhovich and Audley Harrison. The 27-year-old native of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, used to sport a style similar to 260 pounds of wet rope, but he has definitely shown signs of improvement in recent outings. Still, neither Klitschko brother has much to worry about at the moment.
Mikey Garcia (32-0, 27 KOs)
If Garcia is promoted the right away and given access to the bouts he needs to have, the sky's the limit for the 25-year-old former featherweight champ from Oxnard, California. The lanky boxer-puncher is about as close to technically perfect in the ring as possible and has ability to create plenty of highlight-reel knockouts as his career progresses. A move up to super featherweight may bring him a shot at WBO titlist Roman "Rocky" Martinez, but the star-making bouts will be when he can finally get guys like Nonito Donaire, Abner Mares, and Yuriorkis Gamboa in the ring.
Brandon Rios (31-1-1, 23 KOs)
"Bam Bam" will be getting his shot at next level stardom this November with his welterweight clash against Manny Pacquiao in Macau, China. Realistically, though, the 27-year-old Rios belongs at junior welterweight where he can wade into the deep water of, arguably, boxing's best division. Crazy, loud, and abrasive, Rios can be his own worst enemy outside the ring and, inside the ring, it has been proven that he can be out-boxed. However, few fighters can even dream of going toe-to-toe with this tenacious and fiercely proud battler from the Robert Garcia gym in California. Provided with the right type of matchmaking, Rios can become a true hardcore boxing hero.
Omar Figueroa (22-0-1, 17 KOs)
It may be a little early to include Figueroa on a list like this, but the 23-year-old Weslaco, Texas, native definitely showed a flair for some Arturo Gatti theatrics in his recent victory over Japan's Nihito Arakwa. The baby-faced battler is currently on the fast track to a world title at lightweight and has the potential to grow up to welterweight by the time his career is done. This means that Figueroa will have plenty of 30-something veterans to bump off at 135-147 pounds as he reaches his prime. The defensive liabilities in his game are real, but his heavy hands and gift for offense will buy him plenty of time to iron out any technical or tactical flaws he may have.
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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.Source: Boxrec, Boxing Records and Stats
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