How can you tell how good a boxer is going to be, early in his pro career? We're going to try to figure that out with a new grading system. Each time a boxer makes his debut in our Heavyweight Top 100, we will assign a letter grade reflecting how much potential he has in his career going forward.
Our system is designed to be pretty basic so it can be figured out quickly (why do unnecessary work?) and can be applied to already-established boxers for a consistency check. In other words, we don't want to have to review a boxer's fights on YouTube and scout him for strengths and weaknesses. We'll look at three things, mainly:
- Age. Obviously a boxer who is 20 has more future potential than one who is 40 and nearing retirement.
- Amateur career: This doesn't tell us everything, but an Olympic gold medalist should have much more potential than someone who had no amateur bouts.
- Record at time of entry: A fighter who already has 5 losses before he gets his first significant win is probably going to see more losses, and soon. In fact, most fighters debut on the top 100 with no overall losses and no draws, so anything else is a drawback.
Of course an expert who has actually seen the boxer's work extensively would have a better take on his potential, but we think these three things can go a long way. We determine a letter grade in which A-level fighters are likely to one day fight for the title, B-level fighters are solid prospects, C-level fighters have more of a ceiling, and D-level fighters probably don't advance much from where they debut. This roughly projects the following:
- A+ We expect this boxer to one day be heavyweight champion of the world
- A Solid championship contender
- A- Top five prospect, world title a possibility
- B+ Expected to reach top ten
- B Should be rated contender by several organizations
- B- Should reach our top 25, probably top 20, but top ten less likely
- C+ Might reach top 25, but not contender-class
- C Average prospect, top 30 probably ceiling
- C- Below average prospect, top 40 probably ceiling
- D+ Top 50 ceiling likely
- D Limited potential; not likely to reach top 50
- D- Poor potential
- F Likely has already peaked upon debut
Let's jump right in and review the four boxers who debuted in November and grade their future potential in the heavyweight division:
- #45 Marcin Brzeski: Polish fighter Brzeski is 7-0-0 after his win over #105 Wladimir Letr in October put him on our radar. Brzeski, 26, has a solid amateur pedigree but did not represent Poland in the Olympics or World Championships. Brzeski grades a solid B and therefore is expected to eventually be a ranked contender, but probably doesn't crack the top 10.
- #49 Justin Ledet: Justin Wayne Ledet, 27, is 5-0-0 after topping #130 Roy McCrary. Ledet has worked with Angelo Dundee and was a college basketball player and MMA fighter with a 5-0 record. In other words, he looks a lot like one of those 'athletic' types with no amateur experience who takes up boxing. His B- grade seems to be typical of the type: Lots of early success, enough to crack the top 25, but lack of experience catches up a la Seth Mitchell.
- #56 Manuel Pucheta: Argentinian fighter Manuel Alberto Pucheta, 44, examplifies the older pugilist who finally cracks our top 100 with a win over another questionable boxer. In this case, Pucheta beat former #150 Nelson Dario Dominguez, who also hails from Argentina. Pucheta has a lifetime 38-10-0 record and at his age has likely peaked; our system gives him an F.
- #65 David Allen: UK fighter Allen is only 23 years old, his biggest selling point in our grading system. He's undefeated with 8 wins, but does have a draw on his record via Plamen Nikolov (1-1-2), which is a red flag. Also a red flag is Allen's fluctuating weight (232 to 264 within a year) though we don't factor that in. He weighed 234 in his last bout, a win over #199 Fabrice Aurieng. Allen had only 10 amateur bouts but overall scores a B, projecting solid potential given his young age.
So there we have it: Brzeski is probably the top prospect of the bunch, grading out at a B along with Allen who may need a bit more time to develop. Ledet is just a step behind and Pucheta, naturally, is ranked lowest by the system. In other words, three fighters with clear top 25 potential to keep an eye on and one you can probably afford to ignore.
Just to check the grading system, here is a listing of our current top ten, and how they would have been graded when they made their SportsRatings Heavyweight top 100 debut:
- Wlad Klitschko (A+): Wlad was very young when he debuted and as the 1996 Olympic Gold medalist, would have had our highest ranking. In other words, this system predicted his rise to the very top.
- Alex Povetkin (A): Povetkin was also a gold medalist, but was a bit older (26) when he debuted.
- Vitali Klitschko (A): Vitali was never a world champ as an amateur (had he competed in '96, that might have changed).
- Tyson Fury (B+): Fury was very young at his top 100 debut but his limited amateur competition kept him at a B+, which still predicts top 10 success.
- Vyacheslav Glaskov (A-): Glaskov placed 2nd in the World Championships in 2007, and debuted in our top 100 just after turning 25, which dinged him to an A- (predicts top 5 success).
- Deontay Wilder (A): Wilder won the Bronze in the Olympics, projecting great success when he debuted at age 24.
- Ruslan Chagaev (A-): Chagaev's amateur career was stellar and included two World Championships (one later stripped); he gets dinged for an early draw with Rob Calloway, and debuting at 25+.
- Robert Helenius (B): Helenius never qualified for the Olympics as an amateur which is the main reason for his "low" grade.
- Andy Ruiz, Jr (B+): Ruiz had a lot of amateur fights but not at the international elite level.
- Erkan Teper (B): Teper was almost 30 when he debuted on our top 100, and his amateur career did not include the Olympics or World Championships.
As you can see, the top 10 is full of A level fighters, and a few B level in the lower reaches, which is pretty much as expected. For a quick-and-dirty system it seems to check out, at least for modern-era fighters who are more likely to have a trackable amateur career that includes international competition. In other words, the system seems generally reliable for fighters going forward, but go too far back to a more American-centric age where more fighters came "from the streets" and it falls apart. Still, fighters from Muhammad Ali to Lennox Lewis grade out at an A+.
What titleholders are on the horizon? Only one current top 100 fighter gets an A+ on his debut: 2012 Olympic gold medalist Anthony Joshua.