Two of boxing’s most promising young contenders were in action last weekend, though they met with radically different results. On the undercard for James DeGale’s clash with Lucian Bute in Quebec City, light welterweight Amir Iman sustained a crushing setback, taking the first loss of his career, via Round 8 TKO, courtesy of rough-and-ready Adrian Granados. The unexpected defeat will cost Iman the title shot he was already set to receive against WBC 140-pound champion Viktor Postol.
Meanwhile, in Dallas, 2012 Olympian Errol Spence Jr. ran his perfect record to 19-0 with 16 KOs, when the welterweight stopped Alejandro Barrera in Round 5. It was the sixth straight knockout for Spence, a string he has put together while facing the best talent of his career. He will almost certainly fight for a world title during 2016.
Prior to Iman’s loss to Granado, Showtime’s Steve Farhood hailed him as one of the two best young American fighters, with Spence as the other one. Farhood is a very well informed commentator, and as host of Showtime’s Shobox series, he has a particularly deep knowledge of the sport’s rising stars. It just goes to demonstrate that jumping on board with a young contender can be a dicey bet, even for a smart-money guy like Farhood.
And it’s easy to be seduced by a fighter with Iman’s technical polish and physical gifts. A decorated amateur with a 74” reach, Iman has shown one-punch power against some decent quality opposition. In Round 1 of his fight with Granado, he made Farhod look like a prophet, dropping the Cicero, Illinois native.
But Granado got up and brawled his way back into the fight. Against a better boxer, with a bigger punch, Granado relied on hustle and grit, continually bullying his way inside on Iman and beating the blue chipper up against the ropes. Iman was unable to adjust. He probably didn’t even come into the fight expecting to need to adjust. So instead, he took a pounding and had to be saved by the refs.
I’m certainly not ready to dismiss Iman as a future star. He’s just 25 and Granado is no slouch, even if he lacked Iman’s stellar reputation. He came in with a record of just 16-4-2, but that was a very hard-earned 16-4-2. Granado lost the second fight of his career, but the other three losses were by majority and split decision, against undefeated fighters. His two draws were with crafty journeyman Lanardo Tyner and former world champion Kermit Cintron. Granado was the far more experienced fighter in his bout with Iman, and it showed.
It’s a credit to the kind of heart Iman has that he was even facing a tough nugget like Granado, when he already had a title shot assured to him for a later day. Guys with that kind of fighting spirit tend to hang around.
As far as Errol Spence Jr. goes, count me as one of the kool aid drinkers. I’m ready to buy all day when it comes to projecting him as a future world champion, maybe even as a pound-for-pound star. He’s got rare athletic gifts, tremendous skill and veteran composure. He’s got the kind of promise that keeps the sport alive.
But it is worth remembering that in the sweet science, all the promise in the world can turn bitter in the blink of an eye.