Editor's note: Yahoo Sports expert Kevin Iole resumes his year-end honors Monday with the Boxing Prospect of the Year. The schedule for the rest of the awards:
Dec. 9: Boxing Person of the Year
Dec. 16: 25 Most Influential People in Boxing
Prospect of the Year
Dec. 24: Trainer of the Year
Dec. 25: Fighter of the Year
Dec. 26: Fight of the Year
Dec. 30: Up-and-Coming Fighters to Watch
Boxing has finished arguably its finest year of the century, a year filled with compelling fights, dramatic finishes and magnificent performances by its biggest stars.
The greatest news, perhaps, is the emergence of a slew of young, talented boxers, in a myriad of weight classes, who appear poised to keep the momentum of 2013 going.
In many years, Felix Verdejo would be a slam-dunk choice as Prospect of the Year. So, too, would fighters such as Oscar Valdez, Errol Spence, Jessie Hart, Marcus Browne, Jose Ramirez, Oscar Molina, Erickson Lubin, Junior Younan, Anthony Joshua, Callum Smith and others.
But none of them comes close this year to being chosen as Yahoo Sports Boxing Prospect of the Year.
First, let's establish what it takes to qualify. In order to be considered the Yahoo Sports Boxing Prospect of the Year, a boxer's first pro fight must have been Jan. 1, 2012, or later; he must not have held or fought in a world title bout; he must have 15 or fewer bouts; and he must have been born in 1988 or later.
Furthermore, the fighter chosen will be the one who has the potential to achieve the greatest success as a professional. It's assumed the Prospect of the Year will win a world title, but he should also one day peak high in the pound-for-pound rankings.
And with that as the criteria, there is no question the man who fills all the check boxes is Vasyl Lomachenko, the two-time Olympic gold medalist who in October won his first professional bout.
Lomachenko compiled one of the most amazing amateur records ever, going 396-1. He won the featherweight gold medal at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and then took the lightweight gold medal in London in 2012.
Top Rank advertised his Oct. 12, 2013, bout with Jose Ramirez as Lomachenko's professional debut. Fight Fax, boxing's official record keeper, says he fought six fights prior to the bout with Ramirez because he competed in the World Series of Boxing.
Regardless, Lomachenko, 25, showed in that bout against Ramirez why so many believe he'll win a world championship in his next bout. He put his punches together beautifully, he was hitting exceptionally hard, he was calm in the ring, showed good defensive skills and he didn't forget to go to the body.
He's going to fight hard-nosed veteran Orlando Salido for the WBO featherweight title in his next bout on March 1. Salido is 40-12-2 with 28 knockouts and is a tough test for any featherweight, let alone one with just one (or seven) pro bouts.
After watching him clinically take out Ramirez and stop him in the fourth round, it's no stretch to believe that Lomachenko will be able to outbox Salido and win the world title.
Top Rank chairman Bob Arum has already spoken of pitting Lomachenko against Guillermo Rigondeaux, another two-time gold medalist and a super bantamweight champion, sometime late in 2014.
Rigondeaux is probably too advanced at this stage for Lomachenko, but the fact that Top Rank's matchmakers are even thinking of the match is a testament to how good Lomachenko is.
As good as he is now, though, he figures to improve as he adapts to the professional game. It's not hard to envision him as one of the world's 10 best fighters by the middle of 2015.
By any standard, though, Lomachenko figures to become the biggest star out of a deep list of elite prospects.
For that, Vasyl Lomachenko is the 2013 Yahoo Sports Prospect of the Year.