It is always a great time to be from the Lone Star State. Perhaps given the state of the Texas boxing scene there has never been a better time than now. In Just days legendary former welterweight champ Donald Curry, a Fort Worth native is about will be inducted into the hall of fame. The state is also home to two world camps, Dallas natives Errol Spence who just moved up the pound for pound list with his one-sided beat down of 4-division world champ Mikey Garcia at AT&T stadium and looks primed to becomes boxings next poster boy and PPV star. As, well as “Mighty Mo” Maurice Hooker, who was part of what many considered to be the “upset of the year” when he schooled “Turbo” Terry Flanagan to capture the WBO 140-pound strap and the defender in what may have been the “fight of the year” for 2018 when he stopped Alex Saucedo in seven rounds. Texas boxing is in great shape past present and future. Yes, the future is brighter than ever. Numerous prospects from the great state are entering contender status and could be world champs by the end of 2020, below are the top six:
1) Brandon Figueroa (Weslaco)- The massively large jr featherweight is the furthest along in his career and has progressed to where he has not only warranted himself a title shot but will be openly ducked. At just 22, The “Heartbreaker” is one of the brightest prospects in the sport regardless of weight class and at 5’9 is very tall for 122-pounds combining his natural height and reach advantage with his all-out aggressive style and freakishly high punch output he’s going to be a real threat for anyone from jr featherweight all the way up to lightweight eventually. The only problem Figueroa is going to have at 122 is getting one of the three current champs (Rey Vargas, Emanuel Navarrete & Daniel Roman) to fight him. All three are with other promoters. Figueroa comes from great fighting lineage his brother Omar Jr captured lightweight gold and is currently an undefeated welterweight prospect.
2) Mario Barrios (San Antonio) Barrios has arrived and confirmed that on national tv in front of millions of viewers when he destroyed Juan Jose Velasco in just two rounds. Velasco had previously pushed Regis Prograis into the 8th round but was no match for the young San Antonian. Having just turned 24 this month expect “El Azteca” to get a title shot before he turns 25. His team is pushing for a fight with Jose Carlos Ramirez. If that cant be made immediately PBC has plenty of interesting names that they could throw at Barrios including Adrien Broner which would be lucrative as well as fairly easy for Barrios.
3) Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez (San Antonio)- Having just turned 19, a few months ago Bam is the youngest fighter on our list, But certainly isn’t the furthest away from a world title! At 9-0 (5) the teenager has already taken apart veterans who have 30 & 40 fights. He is currently trained by Robert Garcia, out in California and has a sort of homecoming in July in nearby Floresville against fellow unbeaten prospect Cesar Garcia Torrijos in a 108-pound scrap. Should Bam win, which he should, he will be in a position to fight for a world title later in 2019. Rodriguez has also expressed the ability to fight anywhere from 105-112 which gives him three times as many opportunities to fight for a world title. Rodriguez could be the first to a world title on this list.
4) Vergil Ortiz (Dallas)- Golden Boy’s next golden boy. Ortiz was our prospect of the year for 2018 and then ran his record to a perfect 13-0(13) by destroying Mauricio Herrera in just three rounds. To put that in perspective Herrera dropped a very controversial decision in which everyone thinks he won, to two division world champ Danny “Swift” Garcia. Herrera is nobodies pushover and Ortiz absolutely annihilated him with ease. Ortiz is the prospect that Golden Boy tries to sell Ryan Garcia as. Ortiz is as good as Golden Boy wishes Garcia was. Ortiz has called out WBO Champ Maurice Hooker several to all Dallas shootout for his strap, and Golden Boy and Match Room both seem ok with this and could likely happen in the next 12 months in Dallas.
5) Joshua Franco (San Antonio)- The Professor captured our fighter of the week award back in April when he set the record straight with fellow prospect Oscar Negrete. France and Negrete fought to a controversial draw back in October of last year but was able to set the record straight and clearly outbox and outwork Negrete in the rematch to earn the 10 round decision. In addition to the Negrete win, The Professor has schooled the likes of Oscar Mojica, Vic Pasillas, and Carlos Maldonado. Three high quality wins for the 23-year old. The only drawback for Franco is that he is a 118 pounder and the bantamweight division is currently the best in the sport and he would likely have to go through either Naoya Inoue, Nordine Oubaali or Zolani Tete. Three primed and elite level world champs.
6) Kendo Castaneda (San Antonio) – Another San Antonio native and perhaps the crown jewel of Roy Jones Jr Promotions the 25-year-old put together a spectacular 2018 scoring major victories over Jesus Gutierrez and fellow unbeaten prospect Gilbert Venegas and followed up a star-making 2018 with the best win of his young career in 2019 a one-sided beat down of Eudy Bernardo back in March. “Tremendo” is a heavy-fisted and freakishly strong jr welterweight, who sports a ferocious body attack and two-fisted power. Having teamed up with a trainer and former world champ Jesse James Leija Castaneda’s footwork and defensive skills have vastly improved in each of his last two outings. As the level of competition has picked up Tremendo has handed in his two best performances. He currently holds the NABA welterweight and will look to go after whoever holds the WBA title at the end of the WBSS.