Fortunes rise and fall quickly in prizefighting. A two-fight swing can mark the difference between main event status and getting buried far down on the card.
These are three fighters who should find themselves headlining in 2017:
Oscar Valdez, Featherweight The working assumption for the past few years has been that Canelo Alvarez is this generation’s greatest Mexican star. Don’t be surprised if Valdez begins to challenge him for that distinction. The two-time Olympian has made a seemless transition to the professional game, showcasing the same sort of smart, aggressive counter-punching that made Juan Manuel Marquez into a legend. So far he is 21-0 with 19 KOs. In April, he battered former IBF champion Evgency Gradovich. In July he knocked out previously undefeated Matias Ruenda for the vacant WBO belt at 126 pounds.
Demetrius Andrade, Super Welterweight The slick and lanky southpaw has found himself lost in the shuffle in the ultra-competitive 154-pound division. But he did manage to grab a chunk of headlines on June 11, when he hammered contender Willie Nelson, stopping him in Round 12. Andrade held the WBO belt in 2013 and 2014, before promotional disputes led to an extended layoff. Canelo Alvarez has that same belt right now. I would love to see Andrade get a crack at Canelo, but I suspect he will have to go up to full middleweight before he gets the sort of break he really deserves. At 6’1″ and with a 73″ reach, he has the frame to move up.
Artur Beterbiev, Light Heavyweight Lie Andrade and Valdez, Beterbiev has an Olympic pedigree, having represented Russia in 2008 and 2012. At a professional, so far he has been every bit as much the wrecking ball as Sergey Kovalev. Beterbiev is 10-0 with 10 KOs and has knocked out a pair of former champions in Tavoris Cloud and Gabriel Campillo. He has a stay-busy fight this weekend but should headline at least one major fight in 2017, against either Kovalev, Andre Ward or WBC champion Adonis Stevenson.