WBN’s Matt Horan outlines his top ten contenders to watch in 2016 as we begin a brand new year.
Andrew Selby (3-0, 2KO) Flyweight:
After a dazzling amateur career, the 27-year old has been quick to adapt to the pro game since making his debut two months ago. Selby has already faced three opponents – including a two-time world title challenger -and has looked supremely skilful in defeating them. The Barry fighter has spoke of his readiness to be fast-tracked into the elite level and his team have earmarked 2016 for a potential world title shot. His next fight will be a scheduled 8 rounder on February 6.
Artur Beterbiev (9-0, 9KO) Light heavyweight:
The Montreal-based Russian is starting to become one of the most feared entities in boxing, having already stopped all nine of his opponents. Injury prevented the 30-year old from progressing even further in 2016, when set to fight in a world title eliminator to face unified champ Sergey Kovalev. Many would love and expect to see a fight with his fellow countryman or one against WBC titlist Adonis Stevenson to happen in 2016.
Hughie Fury (18-0, 10KO) Heavyweight:
The media spotlight is very much focussed on the rise of Olympic champion Anthony Joshua in the UK at the minute, but at just 21-years of age Fury is making his own exciting progression. With every bout, he is looking more assured as he continues to develop his skill and power – his greatest victory to date coming as he outclassed Ukraine’s Andriy Rudenko. It’s been difficult to find opponents willing to take on Fury, but his father and trainer Peter is ready to unleash his son in 2016 – noting the possibility of a major bout in February.
Takuma Inoue (6-0, 1KO) Super flyweight:
It would be difficult to believe that the younger brother of Japanese superstar Naoya Inoue – nicknamed ‘Monster’ – could possibly match or even better the credentials of his older sibling. However, 20-year old Takuma could do just that and in just two years of being a professional, he has already got himself on the brink of a world title fight. He has already fought two world-title challengers and is ranked highly with all the governing bodies. He may not have the power of his older brother, but his technical ability will be celebrated by any boxing purist.
Oscar Valdez (18-0, 16KO) Featherweight:
Touted as Mexico’s next superstar, the 25-year old is ready to finally complete his expectant transition from prospect to contender. The two-time Olympian continues to look supremely talented inside the square ring and it is now just a matter of time before he gets his world title shot. Valdez currently sits as the number one challenger to WBO champion and fellow Top Rank fighter Vasyl Lomachenko.
Olexsandr Usyk (9-0, 9KO) Cruiserweight:
It is almost inevitable that the 2012 Olympic gold medallist will become a world champion in 2016. After winning the WBO inter-continental strap in just his fifth fight, the 28-year old has now successfully defended it on four occasions – stopping each opponent inside the distance. The big southpaw seems to tick all the boxes, both technically and with power and is now number one ranked with the WBO.
Errol Spence Jr (19-0, 16KO) Welterweight:
The 25-year old has long been earmarked as the potential successor to Floyd Mayweather Jr and 2016 may finally be the year that he moves to fill that void. Once again, he appears to be the full package with speed, power, footwork and technique and the Texan has been too good for all on comers. Many believe and most expect Spence to become a world champion and everything seems set for him to move into some major fights in the 147lb division.
Callum Smith (18-0, 13KO) Super middleweight:
Liverpool’s 25-year old has made massive strides towards the top tier of the 168lb division in the past few years and none of the current super middleweight champions will fancy taking on the unbeaten Brit. His power – most evident in his sinister body punching – has seen him take out several opponents, including local rival Rocky Fielding. He now sits as mandatory challenger to face WBC titlist Badou Jack and that fight could be set for next summer.
Dmitry Bivol (5-0, 5KO) Light heavyweight:
Bivol, at 25-years of age, looks like the latest prospect to prolong the Eastern European dominance of the higher weight classes. Like many others from the region, his power and punch selection seem to be his greatest traits, but he also has striking speed. His opponents so far have all been experienced and all carried more wins than losses on their record and Bivol has stopped them all. His team aren’t shy of fast-tracking him, so it will be interesting to see what 2016 has in store.
Diego De La Hoya (13-0, 7KO) Super bantamweight:
The cousin of six-division world champion Oscar De La Hoya, the 21-year old prospect is making steady progress towards the sport’s elite level. He has comfortably defeated all those put in front of him to date with his aggressive, go-to-war style. Still only young, it will be interesting to see how quickly his team will look to progress him.
Honourable mentions to Anthony Joshua, Felix Verdejo, Kal Yafai, Erickson Lubin and Ievgen Khytrov
Matt Horan is a lead writer for WBN. Follow on Twitter @mhoran123