Boxing is overflowing with young and exciting talent. Some of those fighters have already won world titles, and others appear to be well on their way, needing only a bit more seasoning before they get their opportunities.
Each time I watch an up-and-coming boxer, I think about which great fighter from the past he reminds me of, whether it’s the fighting style, personality or background. To give more casual fans an idea of who these younger fighters are, I thought I’d compare them to well-known greats.
It isn’t an exact science, and all of these young fighters have a long way to go to achieve what their old-school counterparts accomplished, but if you liked watching the fighters I’m about to name from yesteryear, you should make it a point to watch the young fighters channeling their energy today.
This comparison is a natural for many reasons. They were both U.S. Olympic medalists, both were on the fast track from day one as pros, and each has a 1,000-watt smile. But the comparison is really based on tremendous defensive prowess, though both are good offensive fighters as well.
Stevenson (13-0, 7 KOs), 22, of Newark, New Jersey, won a vacant featherweight world title by near-shutout decision over Joet Gonzalez on Oct. 26. It was such a dominant effort that it prompted CompuBox to compare the stats Mayweather — who was one of the promoters who tried to sign Stevenson after the 2012 Olympics — and Stevenson compiled in their ninth through 13th pro fights (Stevenson’s previous five bouts, including his win over Gonzalez).
Mayweather was slightly more effective on offense, landing 41.2% of his punches compared to 32.6% by Stevenson. But Stevenson’s defense was better, as foes landed 15% of their punches compared to 23% by Mayweather’s opponents. At this stage of their careers, Stevenson has faced the better opposition. His opponents were a combined 117-8-1 (.929), while Mayweather’s were 63-50-8 (.521).
Count Stevenson as a major Mayweather fan.
“Mayweather is one of the best fighters to ever do it. He definitely set the bar high, and I definitely want to be one of the guys who comes behind him and beats his records,” Stevenson said. “I am a big fan of Floyd’s. To be compared to him, I think that all of that is motivation. There are a lot of great fighters, but I think he deserves even more credit than he gets. He made the most money. He fought all the names.
“We have similar styles, even though I am a southpaw and he isn’t, but I’m my own person. I want to make my own way. I’m not the only one who came up looking at Floyd. We all took notes. It’s definitely a compliment.”
If they ever met in a fantasy fight, Stevenson would pick himself to win.
“I think I would beat him,” Stevenson said. “I’m an amazing southpaw fighter. Southpaws gave him some trouble. I think I’m just as smart in the ring. He would have to come forward and hunt me down, but it would be too late by then.”
De La Hoya won 10 world titles in six divisions, was the face of boxing throughout his prime and was the biggest pay-per-view attraction of his time.
He had great speed, skills and killer instinct, and he never ducked a challenge. He also had a devastating left hook that ranks as one of the best of all time. With his boyish good looks, he had a huge following among young fans.
It remains to be seen how far the 21-year-old lightweight Garcia (19-0, 16 KOs) can go, but so far, so good. He was a standout amateur (though not an Olympic gold medalist like De La Hoya), but he has speed and power, the same killer instinct and a desire to fight top opponents. Plus, his left hook is also a thing of beauty.
“I watched all his fights and was a huge fan of Oscar,” Garcia said. “I just always thought there would be a special moment in his fights. There would always be an incredible moment, like when he dropped Fernando Vargas with the left hook and Ike Quartey. There was always a specialness around his fights, and you got excited when he fought. I feel like there’s something when my fights come on. People are also excited. I have those punches that will change a fight.
“My style is a little different than Oscar’s, though. He was more of a combination puncher. I’m more of a sharpshooter. But [the] amazing similarity is the left hook. You can’t look past that. We both are long fighters and tall for our weight classes. The ladies like us. We both became stars very quick in our careers. Sometimes I look at old pictures of Oscar, and he sort of looks like me. They say history repeats itself, so let people compare us. It’s a compliment. Oscar, at the end of the day, fought everybody. He made the most money and had the biggest events, and then Floyd Mayweather took it to another level, but Oscar was the man.”
Duran won world titles in four divisions, was one of boxing’s biggest stars and was a legend in his home country of Panama. He was one of the greatest fighters to ever lace up gloves.
Many view him as the best lightweight ever, and that’s the division in which Lopez (14-0, 11 KOs), 22, of Brooklyn, New York, fights.
Although Lopez’s career is in its infancy, the pure aggression he fights with is reminiscent of Duran’s ruthlessness. Lopez doesn’t wear a scowl like Duran typically did, but he has a similar demeanor, in that he wants to bang it out with his opponent, even though he is a very capable boxer. Duran also fought everybody, and Lopez, well, he wants to fight everybody, too, which is why if he beats lightweight world titleholder Richard Commey in December, he’ll likely meet pound-for-pound No. 1 Vasiliy Lomachenko in a title unification fight in his next bout.
“Duran was bad m—–f—–, and I mean that in a good way,” Lopez said. “They didn’t call him ‘Hands of Stone’ for no reason. He could punch. He was a guy I looked at a lot. He was a well-rounded fighter with all the tools. Being compared to him, I think honestly it’s a huge compliment.
“Duran was world champion, and they built a statue for him in his country. I want to be the first Honduran world champion and be to Honduras what Duran is to Panama. He’s a helluva champion, a Hall of Famer. To the casual fans, look him up, and you will see why people compare me to him. I’m, like, the new version. These great champions give you the blueprint of what to do and what not to do. To be compared to him, it lets people know I’m a hard hitter and I love to fight. We have a similar style, but I still have a lot to learn.”
Lopez said he met Duran at a boxing event in Las Vegas about a year ago, and “he gave me the best advice anyone could give me. He told me nobody [in boxing] cares about you, so watch yourself, take care of yourself, take care of your family because this is not forever. He said [it] in the most humble way. And told me to kick ass.”
If you ever watched Iron Mike steam out of his corner toward an opponent and destroy him with an all-out attack, that’s “Tank” Davis (22-0, 21 KOs), only about 90 pounds lighter than Tyson.
Davis, 25, might not be a heavyweight in stature — he’s a two-time junior lightweight titlist — but his seek-and-destroy style is very Tyson-esque.
They have more than that in common. Both came from difficult backgrounds, Tyson from one of Brooklyn’s harshest neighborhoods and Davis from a similar one in Baltimore. Both were good amateurs, though not at an Olympic level.
As pros, both racked up a ton of early knockouts and won titles at early ages. Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion ever at age 20. Davis was 22 when he won his first title in January 2017.
I was ringside that night and wrote that Davis, “with the intensity and fury of a young Mike Tyson, bludgeoned Jose Pedraza in a seventh-round knockout to win a junior lightweight world title.”
Two years later, the comparison still applies.
Bowe was a big man — 6-foot-5 and around 240 pounds when he was heavyweight champion — but he was light on his feet, with quick hands and good power.
England’s Dubois (13-0, 12 KOs), 22, is also 6-foot-5, 240 pounds. He is one of the best heavyweight prospects around and projects to fight for a world title in a year or two. Bowe was 24 when he beat Evander Holyfield to win the undisputed title in their first fight. From the first time I saw Dubois fight, he reminded me of Bowe.
Besides the fluidity for a big man, like Bowe had, Dubois gets hit a bit and has been entertaining like Bowe. We’ll see if he has the kind of chin Bowe had when he steps up to fight top opposition.
“He was obviously a great fighter who achieved a lot in the sport,” Dubois said of Bowe. “His series with Evander Holyfield was heavyweight boxing at its best. Mike Tyson was a hero of mine growing up, but you also have to consider Riddick one of the best to do it. He won world titles, defended world titles and could finish fights. That should be the model for any heavyweight boxer, no matter what era it is.
“Any time you’re compared to a former world champion, it’s flattering, but you can’t allow yourself to worry about being the second coming of anyone else. I’m the first Daniel Dubois. That’s what’s important. I’m looking to win titles and break records in my own right, so in the future, I guess young fighters can be compared to me.”
Chavez won world titles in three divisions (junior lightweight, lightweight and junior welterweight), fought everybody and is widely regarded as the best fighter in Mexican history. He was also one of the most crowd-pleasing fighters of all time, stalking opponents with his left hook, battering the body and scoring 85 knockouts in 107 victories.
Mexico’s Munguia (34-0, 27 KOs), 23, is larger as a reigning junior middleweight titlist (and will soon be on his way to middleweight) and remains raw, but watching him attack his opponent and thump away is reminiscent of Chavez. Like Chavez, Munguia’s best defense is a nonstop offense. And like Chavez, Munguia gets hit but is willing to take two or three punches to land one of his own.
“He had a lot of charisma. He would stand there, and he would throw punches and had a style the people liked,” Munguia said of Chavez. “I never got to see him fight during his time, but I watched videos. I like the way he fights. I like his style. He’s a great fighter and a great champion. Our styles are similar because we both go forward and go for the knockout. It’s a great honor to be compared to the great champion.”
Top Rank’s Bob Arum promoted Mexican great Morales for most of his career and also promotes Valdez. A couple of years ago, Arum told me that Valdez reminded him a bit of Morales, and he was absolutely right.
That’s great company for Valdez, as Morales won titles in four divisions, made millions and was one of the most exciting fighters of his era. A two-time Olympian, Valdez gave up his featherweight belt to go up to junior lightweight. Those are two of the divisions Morales won titles in with a never-surrender style that Valdez has personified in some of his epic fights with Scott Quigg and Genesis Servania.
Valdez (26-0, 20 KOs), 28, considers Morales his boxing idol. The first title fight Valdez ever attended was when Morales defeated Jesus Chavez to win a junior lightweight belt in 2004 in Las Vegas.
“Ever since I was a kid, I looked up to this guy and said one day I’ll be like him,” Valdez said. “To be compared to him is a dream come true. I always wanted to be compared to him, but it’s still a long road because Erik Morales is a four-division champion, and he had great wars, great trilogies with Marco Antonio Barrera and Manny Pacquiao.
“I became a hard-core Morales fan watching the first fight with Barrera. I got a chance to meet Morales in 2008 when I was on the Mexican Olympic team at tournament in San Diego. I got a picture with him. Then I got to talk to him one-on-one in 2011 at the Pan American Games [in Guadalajara, Mexico], and he gave me great advice about using my jab and distance.”
Nick Parkinson contributed to this report.