Read part I here. As before, we'll examine each fighter's upside and downside, albeit in shorter form than with the first installment.
Robert Guerrero, welterweight, 29
His rapid rise in weight from feather to welter has earned him some pound-for-pound plaudits, and while he can be a bit of a mauler, he is usually in good scraps, as with his Fight of the Year contender against Andre Berto. He's a bit of an attraction near his native Gilroy, Calif. Now -- thanks to all of the above and the inspirational tale of his wife's illness -- he might be Floyd Mayweather's opponent in May, a massive opportunity with massive exposure, win or lose. He's never faced anyone even a fraction as good as Mayweather, though.
Abner Mares, junior featherweight, 27
No young fighter has beaten the insane level of constistently brutal competition Mares has in recent years, and he's come out even or ahead every time. He's a top 10 P4Per right now, a versatile boxer who just finds ways to win. Unfortunately, it's sometimes illegal, which has caused some blowback from fans who don't admire ball-punching. He's not proven a meaningful gate or TV ratings attraction yet, but were he to get a fight with the likes of Nonito Donaire (despite Golden Boy's $3 million offer, don't get your hopes up) and win, that would surely change.
Mikey Garcia, featherweight, 25
Until this past weekend, Garcia was an unproven but top-notch young talent. After beating Orlando Salido, he's now tested, and he passed the test easily. The knock on him was the way it ended -- a head butt broke his nose, and his corner basically lobbied for the doctor to stop it so the fight would go to the scorecards -- but maybe fans won't blame him for that so much as they'll blame his corner, although his apathy afterward was viewed as damning by some. It remains to be seen whether he can captivate Mexican fans en masse, since he doesn't always deploy his explosive power and all-around skillset with passion, and is kind of robotic in interviews. A fight with Yuriorkis Gamboa would be large, but if he can't get that one, he might have to wait for a well-known junior featherweight like Donaire to move up.
Danny Garcia, junior welterweight, 24
He's the #1 140-pounder and fights out of Philly, a traditionally boxing-mad East Coast town that might be looking for a hero with Bernard Hopkins not fighting much longer. He's a solid all-around fighter who's generally in good-not-great fights action wise and has already scored one big win over Amir Khan, and you could see him beating anyone at 140; the question is whether his promoter, Golden Boy, will let him anywhere near the #2 man, Lucas Matthysse. If they don't, his rep will eventually suffer. Garcia's dad/trainer, Angel, is a plus and a minus in that he generates controversy but in a way (usually, racism) that doesn't always equal fan interest.
Gennady Golovkin, middleweight, 30
No boxer has so aroused the hardcore fan of late quite like Golovkin, a seek-and-destroy power puncher of the highest order. He can box some, too, although his defense isn't tip-top -- something that tends to make him even more exciting. He has his skeptics, because he doesn't have flashy speed or do "wow" things skill-wise, plus he could stand to prove himself more against top competition to win over those skeptics. Right now, he mainly needs exposure; his first fight on HBO last year was the lowest-rated main event of the year, probably because he had name recognition only with the most intense fans. Without the backing of HBO and bigger fan demand, there's little incentive for top middleweights to get into the ring with him, because right now he's all risk, no reward. And he'll need to beat some top names to accelerate a late start in the United States.
Leo Santa Cruz, bantamweight, 24
Santa Cruz has the honor -- one he earned with an especially appealing volume-punching style -- of being the first person to fight on network TV in a live boxing match in about seven years, and he did pretty well in his CBS showcase. He stayed very busy and went from obscure prospect to near the top of his division in 2012. He also strikes me as having the style and personality to catch on with Mexican fans. Golden Boy appears to be steering him toward Mares, but if he doesn't move up to 122 pounds, there's very little for him at 118 to captivate fans he hasn't yet.
Gary Russell, Jr., featherweight, 24
Is there anyone with such a disproportionate ratio of raw talent and ability to quality competition faced? Russell might have the fastest hands in the sport and he scores big knockouts, too, but he might as well not have bothered fighting in 2012, so lackluster was the competition he faced coming off his 2011 Prospect of the Year campaign. That said, if he steps the competition up in 2013, his background as an Olympian and his obvious gifts could combine into propulsive career progress. He's backed by powerful adviser Al Haymon (as are a few others on this list, including Danny Garcia and Santa Cruz) plus Showtime has apparently decided they'll broadcast any old fight of his.
Lucas Matthysse, junior welterweight, 30
The similarities to Golovkin are huge: both are aged 30; both are absolute crushers and action stars; both are beloved by hardcore fans; both have miniscule figures measuring their appeal (Golovkin's TV numbers were bad, Matthysse can't move tickets); both offer every reason for other boxers to avoid them outside of professional pride about taking on difficult challenges. He's already lost two fights since bursting on to U.S. television, even if most think he deserved the decisions against Devon Alexander and Zab Judah, but he's so fun to watch nobody cared and he was right back on TV anyway.
Peter Quillin, middleweight, 29
There's no doubting his speed and power, but his mindset is a bit of a mystery; he's struggled at times against clearly inferior opponents. He's a fave of Showtime, like a lot of Haymon fighters, to the point that they nearly approved a horrid bout with badly faded Jermain Taylor. He's got a big personality, some of it likable and some of it not, but the main thing is that if he got some more seasoning and some consistency, he could be a very good fighter and already is a top middleweight.
Juan Manuel Lopez, featherweight, 29
Yes, he's coming off two losses in close proximity, his skills looked to have eroded from a P4P level fighter and he's coming out of a long suspension for some ill-advised post-knockout remarks about a referee, which he later apologized for. But he's guaranteed action and he's wildly popular with the important Puerto Rican fan base. If he can rebound from his troubles, he will be right back there as one of the sport's biggest young fighters.
Timothy Bradley, welterweight: What's an undeserved win over Manny Pacquiao, P4P status and the backing of Top Rank worth for the once-obscure Bradley? More money, in the short term, but no one is interested in fighting him because he often fights in a ragged style that makes him hard for fans to embrace and that ends up meaning small pay-per-view buys, gates and TV ratings.
Austin Trout, junior middleweight: Likable guy, especially for boxing reporters who interview him, and he's coming off a huge win over Miguel Cotto. The skills are there, and the Cotto win was less boring than some of his outings, but he still hasn't done anything to really capture the imagination of a big constituency of fans.
Devon Alexander, welterweight: Still popular in St. Louis, proving himself a legit welterweight contender, but he either squeaks out wins (Matthysse) or wins wide decisions in numbingly boring fashion (Randall Bailey). Haymon's in his corner, but outside of Haymon and St. Louis, he isn't creating a clamor.
Erislandy Lara, junior middleweight: At times, he is sensational, be it with knockouts or skillful displays. Other times, you wonder what's missing -- why didn't he beat Vanes Martirosyan comprehensively? Also, U.S. promoters struggle to promote Cubans.
David Price, heavyweight: He isn't fighting in the U.S. yet, but the U.K. heavyweight was the 2012 Prospect of the Year (on this site, and elsewhere). He'll generate buzz overseas this year as the heavyweight heir apparent, and if he proves worthy of it, we could see him in the States sooner rather than later.
Jean Pascal, light heavyweight: He's automatic fun and was one part of some highly-rated shows against Hopkins on U.S. TV, although he definitely is more of a Canadian attraction with potential to grow in the U.S. if he gets a win over Chad Dawson in a rematch. Injuries have shelved him here and there, unfortunately.
Roman Gonzalez, junior flyweight: Only his tininess holds him back in the U.S. market. Otherwise, he's got the excellence/excitement checkmarks. The right match-ups of little men can occasionally break through to the bigger networks, but right now he's confined to WealthTV and the like.
Keith Thurman, welterweight: Haymon advises him, HBO loved him prematurely but he has gotten some buzz out of his appearances on the network. He can punch like a mofo, but the jury is out on whether he's any good, and will be until he faces better competition than he has.
Amir Khan, junior welterweight: He's vulnerable as all get-out, and a lot of fans find him whiny and annoying, but if anyone has the natural born ability to put it together still, it's Khan. He has rebounded once from a disastrous loss, and maybe he can get back toward the elte again.
Victor Ortiz, welterweight: He's goofy as hell and who knows what he's going to do in the ring, but it's never, ever boring -- action fight, weird disqualifications, quitting with an injury... what will he do next? He was a ratings rabbit's foot for a while, and I'm guessing most people will tune in to the speedy, powerful, erratic welter's next fight, whenever that is.
Seth Mitchell, heavyweight: He was sitting in the "best U.S. heavyweight" seat for a while. Then he lost to Johnathon Banks and got knocked out of it. If he wins the high-stakes rematch, he will be back in an enviable position; if he doesn't, his team will get blamed for rushing him into a dangerous rematch when they should've dialed back the competition and rebuilt.
Also considered: Demetrius Andrade, Andre Berto, Chad Dawson, Javier Fortuna, Danny Jacobs, Bryant Jennings, James Kirkland, Josesito Lopez, Edwin Rodriguez, Adonis Stevenson
Deontay probably warranted an honorable mention. I tended to limit it to guys who were at, or who had been, at the "contender" level.
I echo Andrew's comments. Had no idea Golovkin was that old. Seems like the Maravilla of Kazahkstan.
He had a couple shaky performances and they dialed back the competition and I don't suppose he's done anything to warrant jacking it back up.