As we approach the end of 2019, looking back, the sport of boxing had the type of year that fans will definitely remember for years to come. We saw upsets, the ups and downs of the WBSS and young fighters go from contenders to champions.
Next year, we will see a new group of young prospects looking to make the type of splash that sees them potentially becoming a star in their own right for years to come. Here is a look at some fighters that you should absolutely keep an eye on in 2020 as they look to raise their profiles and solidify their position in the sport.
Lorenzo “Truck” Simpson (6-0)
Fresh off his debut in 2018, super middleweight Lorenzo “Truck” Simpson won five straight in 2019 while also making ESPN Sports Center Top 10 plays with his TKO back in May. Training out of the coach Calvin Ford Upton Gym in Baltimore, Simpson was the #1 ranked amateur prior to his debut and has shown he is more than ready for the Pros during his first six fights. The scary thing is that he is only nineteen and has not grown his full “man strength” as of yet so the sky’s the limit. He is a southpaw with really good power and a high ring IQ. Keep tabs on him in 2020 as he has the “it” factor.
“King” Karlos Balderas (9-0)
The twenty-three year old lightweight who was also part of the 2016 Olympic team, fought three times this year and is looking for his fourth win at the end of December on the undercard of Harrison versus Charlo II. Balderas has the composure and skill of a veteran fighter. His patience, punch placement and how he works the body are all things you want to see in a young fighter. Recently, Karlos was added to the Everlast “Be First” campaign and is looking to capitalize off of that momentum. He is an exciting fighter to watch and expect him to get placed higher in the fight cards with more TV exposure in 2020.
Rolando “Rollie” Romero (10-0)
When I first saw Romero fight in 2018, he reminded me of the character “Clubber Lang” from the movie Rocky III. Lightweight “Rollie” Romero is just a raw fighter with some explosive punching power and unfiltered attitude. Due to some injuries and fighters pulling out at the last minute, he has only fought three times in 2019 but all have “KO of the Year” potential. It’s clear his promoter, Floyd Mayweather Jr., thinks highly of him as he has been seen with him at events and arrived at the Shobox card early enough to watch the progression of his young prospect. Look for Romero to be very busy in 2020.
Elvis Rodriguez (5-0-1)
In the Dominican Republic, baseball is king and there aren’t too many fighters that come out of the island that go pro with successful careers. Super lightweight Elvis Rodriguez is going to attempt to see success in boxing while being coached by the legendary Freddie Roach. The Top Rank prospect had a busy year which saw him fight five times and has certainly gotten everyone’s attention. He is a slick southpaw with power and has good footwork that positions himself for his big bombs. After speaking to Freddie about him earlier this year, he is excited about Rodriguez’ potential and feels like he has all the tools to be a future world champion. Get ready because you will see more ESPN Plus activity from this young man next year.
Anthony Garnica (4-0)
Anthony Garnica is a featherweight out of the Bay Area who recently signed to Golden Boy Promotions. Garnica only fought three times this year but has shown that he has really good boxing skills, moves well and has above average power. The thing that has impressed me the most is that he identifies the things he didn’t do well in the previous fights and makes sure not to repeat them. He has the maturity and the skills to really push his profile to the next level. I expect to see Garnica fighting at least four or five times next year and with the help of his manager Roger Ruiz, look to also enhance his profile outside of the ring.
George “El Phantasma” Navarro (7-0-1)
One of the more exciting super flyweights coming out of SoCal is George Navarro. This year, he has fought exclusively on the Tom Loeffler “Hollywood Fight Nights” cards and has fulfilled the fans thirst with his crowd pleasing style. Navarro is a strong and aggressive fighter who is a quiet and composed person outside of the ring but a savage inside of it. He has a big frame for that weight class and will be tough to deal with as he comes up in the ranks. The twenty-one year old will look to maintain that high work rate in 2020 while also looking to officially settle with a promotion company. Look out for “El Phantasma” fights in the future but when you do, don’t blink as you may miss the fight due to a knockout.
Diego Pacheco (7-0)
Diego Pacheco is a guy I like to call “a man child”. He is only eighteen years old and at 6’4, is one of the bigger middleweights out there if not the biggest. He really exploded onto the scene this year under the talent filled Split T management company. Diego is a hard hitting middleweight who cuts off the ring really well and has great punch placement. He has fought six times this year and was part of a few high profile cards which tells me how people feel about him and his development. I really believe that next year, we will see A LOT more of Diego Pacheco and he has the potential to be a really good middleweight fighter. Is he a future champion? Only time will tell but for now, I like what I see and you should pay attention to his fights next year.
Austin “Ammo” Williams (4-0)
The kid they call “Ammo” does not run out of any as his firepower is something to really be excited about. I was at Williams’ debut earlier this year and when he started fighting, you just kind of knew that he had something about him that needed to be paid attention to. I guess I wasn’t the only one as Eddie Hearn quickly placed him on the next fight card which was held at the Madison Square Garden in NYC where he scored a TKO victory. He has the million dollar smile and the punching power to make him a potential middleweight star. Next year, we will see plenty of “Ammo” on DAZN cards and if you want to see a good, young fighter with star potential, then make sure you tune into his next fight.
Following the fighters in their early stages and seeing them become stars is what makes this all worth it. Make sure that you support your local club shows as that is where you will potentially see the next star in the sport. Next year, I will continue to attend club shows in SoCal so that I can make you aware of the young prospects that are looking to make that leap to contender status by the end of the year.