I HAVE a challenge for you. I want you to pick five boxers that you believe will be world champions within one year from now (so by August 28, 2014). Not so fast - there are three additional rules. Each fighter must be in a different division (currently, not when they capture a belt). None can have held a world title previously. And finally, no eligible choice can have a world title shot scheduled at time of writing.
Now, like many trainers, I would not ask you to do anything I would not have a crack at myself. My five champions in waiting are listed below, each with a basic rationale to justify their inclusion. Read, consider and then list your own 'most likelies' at the bottom of the page.
Unlike others on this list, the 6ft Montreal-based Colombian is not in a host of sanctioning body top fives. That said, the fringe belts this light-heavyweight owns do afford him a No. 4 ranking with the WBO and No. 7 with the WBA. After he inevitably pummels Edison Miranda next month, expect the slick, powerful Pan-American Games gold medallist and 2008 Olympian to be moved quickly by influential promoters Group Yvon Michel. Approaching his peak, Alvarez may be wise to avoid a shootout with WBO king Sergey Kovalev in favour of a winnable tie against inactive WBA ruler Beibut Shumenov.
Some may scoff at this selection - those that feel DeGale is more style than substance or that his promoter Mick Hennessy lacks the clout to deliver a world title shot. Well, neither of these supposed drawbacks have curtailed the Olympic champion's rise to WBC No. 4 and WBO No. 3. The latter rating should rise with top contender and DeGale's only pro conqueror George Groves opting to challenge for the IBF strap. DeGale has world-class handspeed, impressive variety and appears equally comfortable in both stances. Since linking with Hennessy and fighting more often, "Chunky" has added the engine and seasoning to reach the top. His rankings suggest a challenge to either Sakio Bika or Robert Stieglitz. In another fight or two, I'd fancy him to defeat either.
I'm not choosing "Hard Hitta" simply because my feature article on him will be in Boxing News next month (although it is and you should definitely read it). This light-welter has been compared to a young Shane Mosley and is a tough customer. He is also the WBO No. 2, with champion Juan Manuel Marquez set to face Tim Bradley at welter and Interim king Mike Alvarado taking on No. 1 Ruslan Provodnikov, both in October. When the dust settles from those two barnburners, Marquez should have abdicated, with the Alvarado-Provodnikov victor upgraded and Mayfield in prime position. The fact he has just been signed by Top Rank - for whom he debuts in September and who handle both Alvarado and Provodnikov - can only help his cause.
This intelligent lightweight really impressed me in March when outscoring dangerous Breidis Prescott at two weeks' notice. Smart and slippery, Crawford next meets Andrey Klimov, the Russian who upset John Molina Jnr. Crawford is already the No. 1 contender for WBO supremo Ricky Burns and third in line for IBF top gun Miguel Vazquez. Another Top Rank fighter, former quality amateur Crawford does not even turn 26 until next month.
Gary Russell Jnr
Okay so I'm not alone in seeing big things in this featherweight's future. An outstanding amateur who has steadily improved as a pro, Russell Jnr now finds himself in the top five of three of the main sanctioning groups in a weight class with no dominant figure. Russell Jnr has faced criticism for facing weak opposition but the speed, skills and elusiveness are all in place. All he needs to do now is wait for promoters Golden Boy to secure his opportunity, something their CEO Richard Schaefer has promised to do this year.