Andre Berto

The search intensifies
for boxing's next 'star'
By Rizwaan Zahid
While Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao continue to work on a deal for a November 13th fight, the fact remains that most expect both to retire within the next couple of years. Although Floyd fights much younger than his years, "Pretty Boy," or “Money” as he prefers to be called, will be 34 in February. Pacquiao, on the other hand is the Philippines' most beloved politician and already has indicated that he won’t fight much longer.
The question now becomes who are boxing’s next big stars? Now, this does not refer to great fighters, but stars specifically. While this may sound confusing, there are only a few great fighters, but there are even fewer stars in boxing. The previous batch of Roy Jones, Mike Tyson and Oscar De La Hoya who dominated the '90s and early 2000s have faded and retired (or in Jones’ case, should have retired long ago.) Now, you don’t need to be a singer like Jones and De La Hoya, or make an applauded effort like Mike Tyson did in "The Hangover" to become a star. So what are the qualifications for stardom? Obviously being a great fighter, being exciting, having youth, and being able to fill the seats as a household name. Here are a few candidates that may be able to rise to stardom:

Andre Ward
The undefeated Oakland native was not known to even the most hardcore boxing fans until his one-sided victory over Mikkel Kessler. While in my eyes Kessler has slipped a bit and is an old 31 because of chronic back issues, the victory was impressive, nevertheless. Ward is a fighter who, at 26, has many years ahead of him. He also has a combination of speed and power, which makes him a crowd pleaser, and he's still undefeated. His popularity is mainly around the California area; however that may expand, especially if he’s able to win the Super Six tournament.

Lucian Bute
Like Ward, Bute is a popular fighter in his adopted hometown of Montreal. It is said that after the NHL’s Montreal Canadians, Bute’s fights are the biggest sporting event in the city. That says something about Bute’s popularity since -- take my word for it as a Canadian -- the city of Montreal is pretty fanatical about Les Canadiens. Bute is 30, but seems to be a young 30. He, too, is undefeated and his popularity is spreading toward the United States as HBO’s new headliner. While it depends on who he’ll fight in the coming years, the Romanian native has the personality, the look, and adulation of fans that can propel him into stardom.

Andre Berto
Berto already has been accepted by most boxing fans simply because of his personality and his good character. The Florida native postponed his fight with Shane Mosley after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, and went there to selflessly volunteer time and labor to his native nation. Berto is young at 26 and has the skills needed to entertain fans. Most fans mention Berto’s uppercut on Miguel Rodriguez when thinking of the best uppercuts in recent years. The issue with Berto is that he’s in one of the sports most demanding weight divisions, the welterweights. He’s been showcased many times by HBO, so they clearly want to make him a star. The issue is whether he can continue his undefeated streak in the talent-stacked 147-pound weight class.

Robert Guerrero
Guerrero. like Berto. has earned points and popularity for his character. It’s quite ironic how the two young fighters have gained popularity without stepping into the ring. Guerrero, already a three-time world champion, took time off and vacated his belt during his wife’s battle with leukemia. In the ring, Guerrero is far from nice and has a good combination of speed and skill. A San Jose-area native, Guerrero is only 27 and has also been showcased on HBO for a couple of years now. While controversial figures like Tyson attract crowds, "good guys" like Oscar can spin the turnstiles. Guerrero has one defeat in his career, and had another loss reversed when Orlando Salido tested positive for a steroid. But if the wins keep coming, and he stays active in the ring, "The Ghost" can become a household name.

Juan Manuel Lopez
Juanma exploded onto the scene with his one-round destruction of highly regarded Daniel Ponce De Leon. Before that fight, few knew who Lopez was, but within three minutes, fans realized they'd seen the birth of a potential star. Lopez followed that up with two first-round knockouts. Besides the stumbles he had against Rogers Mtagwa, Lopez has been on a tear, methodically breaking down fighters. He's only 27 and brings thunderous power -- more pound-for-pound than all of the aforementioned fighters. Lopez also brings a high punch output from a southpaw stance that immediately causes problems for most fighters. At 5-foot-7, he's unusually tall for a featherweight. All of that has added up to titles in both the 122 and 126 pound divisions.
Like Oscar was able to move up in weight easily because of his height and reach, Lopez may be able to do the same. Like Oscar, he has immense potential to gain popularity and become a star.

The loaded 140s
The 140-pound division is packed with up-and-comers -- Timothy Bradley, Amir Khan, Devon Alexander, Marcos Maidana and Victor Ortiz top the list -- and seems most likely to produce one of the next big stars. For that to happen, though, these fighters need to fight each other and earn a name for themselves.

Rarely does a fighter remain a star for many years and usually this popularity is achieved at a young age. Stardom, though, is not only about performance in the ring. Marketing and the backing of a popular network -- HBO or Showtime -- are as important as a fighter’s performance in the ring. Networks showcase fighters who are entertaining, exciting and bring a certain pizzazz into the ring. The summit of boxing's mountain will soon be vacant. Who has what it takes to ascend?


More columns
by Rizwaan Zahid:

Allan Green was not Super Six material

The mess at junior welterweight

Khan & Ortiz figure to beat savvy vets

Haye and Adamek: A report card after 3 fights

Joan Guzman: Best welterweight in the lightweight division

Devon Alexander/Female Boxing

Impressive U.S. debut for Campillo

Williams ready to punish at 147

Happy birthday, Champ!

Stars to Shine in 2010

The Grinches steal Christmas

Malignaggi-Diaz showed why instant replay is needed

Williams, Martinez show why they're avoided

Lucian Bute impresses America, and the world

James Kirkland: So promising, yet so wasteful

Suspension for foul language? That's bull$#:+!!!

Pacquiao-Cotto: Who wins?

Super Six Will Still Have Controversies

Haye, Angulo proved little






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Rizwaan Zahid

Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, Rizwaan Zahid is in his senior year at Carleton University in Ottawa, pursuing his Mass Communications degree, with the future aspirations of becoming a professional sports journalist.
Although relatively young, Rizwaan has shown his passion of writing the beautiful sport of boxing and has worked with Bragging Rights Corner, Boxing Banter, Diamond Boxing,
Fightfan.com, East Side Boxing as well as The Fight Network for over three years. With Fightfan.com, Rizwaan has been awarded the feature article of the month numerous times.
Over these past few years, Rizwaan has interviewed and conducted conferences with fighters and trainers such as Jeff Mayweather, Jermaine Taylor, Kelly Pavlik, Oscar De La Hoya, Roy Jones Jr., Jackie Kallen, Wayne McCullough, Manny Pacquaio, Wladimir Klitsckho and Emmanuel Steward.

Although boxing has been his main focus over the years, Rizwaan still has a strong passion for many other sports and has covered various sports in The Charlatan, Carleton University's newspaper.
Rizwaan has also worked with PHASE 1 Basketball, a camp based out of Toronto which is a showcase for the best basketball Canada has to offer on various levels, as well as the Out of Left Field blog which attracts numerous readers daily.

Rizwaan Zahid hopes to continue his efforts in journalism in the world of sports.
Contact Rizwaan