By James Knox
America has a rich tradition in boxing. The tradition, the notoriety, and the potential monetary gains are at the top of the list why many foreign fighters want to fight in the United States. Madison Square Garden is synonymous with huge heavyweight fight nights. Fights like Rocky Marciano vs. Joe Louis, Muhammed Ali vs. Joe Frazier, Evander Holyfield vs. Lennox Lewis, and most recently the big upset that occurred with Anthony Joshua vs. Andy Ruiz Jr. Not to be outdone, just hearing the words Las Vegas gives you that ineffable feeling when there’s a major fight night. Fights like Mike Tyson vs. Frank Bruno, Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield, Evander Holyfield vs. Lewis II, and most recently Deontay Wilder vs. Tyson Fury II. There were many big and memorable heavyweight fights that took place in these boxing hotspots.
While America has had a rich tradition, the present reveals a stark reality. The pool of American heavyweights has slimmed. Deontay Wilder had long been an uncelebrated and underappreciated American champion. Only within the last couple of years had he begun to reach the audience expected of one of the “baddest men on the planet”. The boxing world is currently not absent of revered heavyweight champions. These talented heavyweights take up residence abroad like WBC champion Tyson Fury and WBA, IBF, WBO, and IBO champion Anthony Joshua both residing in the United Kingdom.
In America, there is still nothing like an American heavyweight champion. The road to capturing the attention of the American audience is shorter in this division. Look no further than “Iron” Mike Tyson. His personality and appealing approach inside the ring caught fire and he’s still burning today! While Tyson will always be valued and Deontay Wilder continues to entertain fans, the question remains who’s up next?
For this “Who’s Up Next”, the focus will be on heavyweights under 30 that are in the Top 25 in America to lay an observing eye on as we go forward. The look covers records, rankings (World and America) according to BoxRec and why you should watch. If a social media presence on Twitter and Instagram were found, that is listed as well.
Jermaine “989 Assassin” Franklin
Record: 20-0 (13 KOs)
World Ranking: 30
America Ranking: 8
Why You Should Watch: Franklin has good speed and solid athleticism. He likes to be at mid-range and shows good movement in the pocket while displaying adequate power. He is not as formidable with his body attack yet; however, there is no reason he can’t improve in that area. Franklin also has a good engine. He has gone ten rounds in his last four fights and in his most recent bout against Pavel Sour, the 10th round was a strong one for him. There is still plenty of art to go on the Franklin canvas making him an interesting watch as he continues to ascend.
Jared “Big Baby” Anderson
Record: 7-0 (7 KOs)
World Ranking: 41
America Ranking: 9
Why You Should Watch: Anderson is an entertaining blue-chip prospect! He looks to have it all. He is a smooth mover inside the ring. Good athlete and displays a varied attack. He has looked far superior in all fights he was expected to. That is a good sign. Anderson does not rush his work. In the Hernandez fight he showed veteran poise when Hernandez tried to pressure him and make him uncomfortable. He adapted quickly and systematically broke him down. More impressive is at 20 years old he has already been exposed to top-level sparring with WBC champ Tyson Fury in preparation for his second fight with Deontay Wilder. That experience will only help him grow. The skills are there, time will tell if the intangibles are too.
Stephan “Big Shot” Shaw
Record: 13-0 (10 KOs)
Why You Should Watch: Shaw is patient boxer and can punch! He is not a mover but uses a reserved style to effectively stalk his opponent. He is an all-around solid fighter that uses his jab and ring intellect to properly gauge distance and set up shots. Shaw has sparred with the likes of Deontay Wilder, Andy Ruiz Jr., and Charles Martin. His positive results are indicative of his hard work and quality sparring. You can see the layers in his skills and there is certainly another level he can reach.
Note: Shaw has improved, as expected, since the fight below in 2016, but you can still get a sense of his attributes.
Record: 17-0 (12 KOs)
World Ranking: 90
America Ranking: 20
Why You Should Watch: Curiosity. Rock’s record looks good on the surface, but how good is he? He definitely is skilled. A glimpse of his talent was shown against an over-matched Ronny Hale where two snappy left hooks dropped Hale with one being a setup for the second. Rock was also a 2014 Youth World champion and Team USA alum. Team USA acknowledges one of his best punches is a, “Powerful left hand”. That comment, his accolades, and the video available suggest there is something there. The best thing for Rock is to continue to be seen so this quiet savage can continue to grow his brand. With more network and streaming players involved in the sport than at any other time, expect to see him continue to get his opportunities. Next, a step-up in competition is likely for Rock.
Note: No full-fight video found
Kingsley “The Black Lion” Ibeh
Record: 5-1 (4 KOs)
World Ranking: 106
America Ranking: 25
Why You Should Watch: Kingsley is Nigerian born and a former Canadian Football League player that gets after it in the ring. He’s aggressive, but his aggressive pressure style doesn’t aid what appears to be a lack of endurance. Although raw, Kingsley brings the fight and if he can improve his endurance it will benefit his style. His switch-hitting fan friendly style can bring eyeballs if nurtured. Ibeh could very well end up being a younger switch-hitting version of Gerald Washington, but Washington made himself out to be a solid pro. If that is his ceiling, he can make a good living in the sport. Expect Ibeh to make it an intriguing run for as long as it lasts.
Roney “Too Much” Hines
Record: 8-0 (5 KOs)
World Ranking: 138
America Ranking: 32
Why You Should Watch: Who doesn’t like a boxer puncher? The 2018 National Golden Gloves champion is just that. Hines is athletic and is one of the better movers out of this group of young prospects. He likes to study fighters in lower weight classes like Vasiliy Lomachenko and it shows. He is good on his feet compared to many heavyweights. Hines is still developing. The Langston fight was an eye opener for him to not underestimate anyone’s power. If Hines is comfortable when drawn into the trenches when he steps up in competition, he will end up being a player. Hines is another journey to follow especially as his level of competition improves.
Disclaimer: I am a contributor for The Pugilist Mag and love the sport of boxing. The point of these "Who's Up Next" is to inform boxing fans on fighters you may or may not have heard of, but could become a household name or quality journeyman down the line. While I'm not a trainer or former boxer, I take my written word seriously. Respect that this piece is my opinion based on what I have seen, heard, and read. Peace and love everyone.