Senior Boxing Journalist @JamesDielhenn
Daniel Dubois and Filip Hrgovic lead an emerging generation of heavyweights… but where are the Americans?
A look at the brightest heavyweight starlets below the age of 30, writes James Dielhenn
Last Updated: 02/09/20 10:34am
Daniel Dubois and Filip Hrgovic are the leading lights of an undefeated crop of heavyweight twentysomethings who are snapping at the heels of Anthony Joshua, Tyson Fury and co. It is an emerging era that has a lack of American contenders.
Aged just 22, Britain's Dubois racked up his 15th victory without a defeat last weekend by dispatching Ricardo Snijders in two rounds. It was yet another explosive display of raw power that sent his opponent crashing down four times.
'Dynamite' is next expected to face Joe Joyce, the Olympic silver medallist who is 11-0 as a pro and 12 years older than Dubois. That fight would have already happened if not for the coronavirus pandemic but has been rescheduled for October.
Joyce is an opponent that catapults Dubois onto a new level and into the mix with the current generation of top talent. It is remarkably quick progress for someone so young - remember he has already come through a genuine test against Nathan Gorman which was far from a guaranteed win.
Dubois is currently ranked No 2 by the WBO, behind only Oleksandr Usyk, and Anthony Joshua holds the WBO belt.
"When you have a talent like Daniel, the individual route to a world title becomes less important," his promoter Frank Warren told Sky Sports.
"Before long, he'll be at the top of all the sanctioning bodies' rankings and everyone will be running scared from him. If it's AJ's WBO title, so be it."
The Croatian made his name by cutting Dave Haye in sparring, forcing the cancellation of a fight with Tyson Fury. He won bronze at the 2016 Olympics and has built a reputation as a puncher in the pro game with 10 unbeaten fights.
"As far as pedigree goes, he's got an A+," his co-promoter Nisse Sauerland told Sky Sports. "As far as ambitions go, it's backed up by that pedigree.
"He believes he can beat Joshua - and so do we. But it's just a question of getting those fights, and we will. We just have to be patient and plan our route effectively.
"He needs to get into a position where no one can get away from fighting him.
"Filip will just come at you. Sometimes with heavyweights, maybe they don't have that malice, that naturally aggressive nature, which he does."
He is ranked No 6 with the IBF, No 8 with the WBC and No 15 with the WBO.
Hrgovic needed three rounds of his most recent fight to take out Eric Molina, an identical result to the one Joshua posted against the same opponent. He fights Ondrej Pala, a former foe of Derek Chisora and David Price, in Denmark on September 26.
The Congo-born Scotland-based contender needed five rounds to blast aside the veteran Kevin 'Kingpin' Johnson, who went the distance with Dubois.
Bakole also stopped Mariusz Wach who went the distance with Dillian Whyte.
"We've seen him in camp with Anthony Joshua over the last few years and I really believe he can compete at the higher level," promoter Eddie Hearn said.
The one flaw on Bakole's record was a surprise stoppage loss to Michael Hunter in 2018, but he has rebounded with four consecutive wins inside the distance.
A fight against Sergey Kuzmin fell through last month - victory would have given Bakole a breakthrough into the WBA's top 15.
The forgotten man in the heavyweight landscape may be France's Yoka, who beat Hrgovic and Joyce at the 2016 Olympics to claim super-heavyweight gold four years after Joshua.
But a lost year owing to a suspension imposed by the French Anti-Doping Agency for missing three drug tests, then the difficulties of 2020, means Yoka finds himself with a lot of catching up to do.
Time remains on his side. Yoka is undefeated in seven - his pro debut was, highly unusually, a win over an opponent with a 12-0 record and Yoka has since inflicted a punishing defeat on Britain's Dave Allen.
He has penned a co-promotional deal with Top Rank who will pit him against fellow Frenchman Johann Duhaupas, who has shared a ring with Deontay Wilder and Alexander Povetkin, in Paris on September 25.
An emphatic victory would be the first step to getting Yoka into the world title picture - currently, the IBF are the only governing body who rank him in their top 15.
Too easily forgotten is that Tyson Fury's younger cousin is still just 25 years old despite a gruelling, rollercoaster career already.
He has lost three fights - to Joseph Parker, Kubrat Pulev and Alexander Povetkin, each time via decision. Consider the big fights that those experienced heavyweights have gone on to earn, then reconsider if Hughie Fury was too quickly written off.
"I took all of his best shots last time, Povetkin, they didn't bother me at all," Fury told Sky Sports about the man who knocked out Dillian Whyte.
"That's why now, I'm more stronger, more wiser and they are the fights that I want. Trust me, now Povetkin won't last."
Fury challenged for the vacant WBO belt when he lost to Parker and isn't currently ranked in the top 15 by any governing body.
Cuba historically produce quality boxers so there is pressure on the shoulders of Sanchez to follow in some illustrious footsteps. He beat the legendary Erislandy Savon to win the national amateur title.
He is giving himself the best possible chance to succeed by linking up with trainer Eddy Reynoso in California, and training alongside Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez.
In three years 'The Cuban Flash' has built a 15-0 record, most recently outpointing Joey Dawejko in March.
"Frank would consider a fight against one of the UK's big names immediately," his manager Mike Borao told Sky Sports last year, adding that he has an "incredible amateur pedigree, combination of speed, power, and an unmatched desire to win."
Sanchez is No 10 with the WBO and his promoter Leon Margules told Sky Sports: "He wants big fights and he feels like he's ready to fight big fights.
"He's calling out all the champions."
The Swedish southpaw is separated from this pack because he has already fought one of the big names - last year Wallin emerged with great credit by pushing Tyson Fury 12 rounds. That is Wallin's only defeat and, by badly cutting Fury, he almost pulled off a huge shock.
It remains to be seen whether New York-based Wallin can use that experience to boost his future challenges. He has fought, and won, just once since.
"Otto has proved his world class abilities in his last fight versus Fury, and in the near future can be ready for Joshua and Dillian Whyte," his promoter Dmitriy Salita told Sky Sports.
Currently a No 15 ranking with the IBF is his best position with any of the governing bodies so a career-best win will be required to stake his claim for a major opponent. Only then will we discover what he gained from 12 gruelling rounds against Fury.
He is unbeaten in 18 with 12 stoppages but an entire career so far spent in Australia means 'The Tower of Terror' is not in the eyeline of the division's top stars.
But that could change - he was linked with Joseph Parker and told Sky Sports that he is ready for a big-name opponent like New Zealand's former world champion.
"That would obviously do massive things for me. It would open up doors on the world scene, over in the UK and America.
"Being a southpaw as well, I think it's a huge advantage, and I'm obviously backing my power as well to stop everyone."
After being the only boxer representing Nigeria at the 2016 Olympics, Ajagba's pro career has been based in the US where he has won his first 13 fights and built a reputation as a puncher. Seven of his fights have ended in the opening round.
"He has immense physical tools and a great work ethic," said new promoter Bob Arum. "I have the utmost confidence that we're looking at a future heavyweight champion."
Ajagba is in the top 15 of the WBA and WBO's rankings - his trickiest test to date came against the then-unbeaten prospect Ali Eren Demirezen. Ajagba won on points, the only time he hasn't knocked his opponent out.
'Monster Mel' from Canada has knocked out all 12 of his opponents so far - and only one has reached the third round.
"People are there to see violence," he told Sky Sports. "They want to see somebody get hurt - I'm there to do that, and provide that entertainment.
"There are two ways to box - you can box to win a decision or hit them until they are unconscious. My mind-set is to hit them so they aren't able to hurt me."
Where are the American prospects?
Michigan's Jermaine Franklin has built a 20-0 record - his past four fights have gone to a decision and he narrowly avoided disaster against the unfancied Jerry Forrest last year, winning a split decision.
Franklin told Sky Sports about all the heavyweight belts currently residing in Britain: "We've got to get them back. Between America and Britain, there's always been something about boxing, we always go back and forth.
"[The US has] got me to save them. People are starting to wake up and see me.
"The world will see me next. I'm right here."
Ohio's Jared Anderson is only 20 and has knocked out all five of his opponents so far in a pro career that began less than a year ago. He was given plaudits as a sparring partner for Fury to mimic Deontay Wilder.
"If you can hit me, then you've got some speed and technique," Anderson told Sky Sports. "He knew that if he could hit me, he could definitely hit Wilder."