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6 Boxers Who Can Fill Floyd Mayweather's Shoes In The Best Way Possible

6 Boxers Who Can Fill Floyd Mayweather's Shoes In The Best Way Possible
By Gavan Casey

Floyd Mayweather has retired again, this time 'for good.' Which basically means we're only a particularly devastating victory for either Canelo Alvarez or Miguel Cotto away from a Floyd return, either next May or this time next year.

For all accusations of illiteracy, Mayweather is a man who finds no difficulty in worshipping numbers - or one in particular.

Zero.

50-0 will ultimately prove too alluring to sniff at, as will the nine-figure fee he will inevitably receive to teach Canelo, Cotto - or anybody else not named Gennady Golovkin - another lesson, before slithering back to the hell from whence he first surfaced back in the Autumn of 1996.

Saturday's unanimous decision victory over a man who puts the 'B' in 'B-level,' Andre Berto, was the first Mayweather fight I've missed since he went 'full Mayweather' versus the 43-9-6 Carlos Baldomir in 2006. And no, I wasn't trying to make a point - I just don't particularly enjoy watching very, very bad things on my tv.

In essence, it was a crystalising moment of inertness. After years spent trying to convince myself of the very notion, I realised that I actually don't care about Floyd Mayweather anymore.

The UFC-led adage that 'boxing is dead' is a mundanely routine nonsense, of course; television figures or, perhaps more pertinently, television deals, don't lie. But Mayweather - despite his possessing once-in-a-generation talent - did become a persistent tumour on the sport; a source of anti-climactic ridicule and bad headlines, which ultimately needed removal.

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The beauty of his eventual absence is that it will directly cultivate a new generation of pugilistic megastars. The beneficiaries may not retire undefeated, top Forbes lists or, you know, use their combative skills to beat the shit out of women, but they might just accept era-defining challenges and bring the subsequent excitement to become bona fide sporting gods in their own right.

In order of likelihood, here are six fighters who could become the new 'face of boxing' atop its mythical pound-for-pound rankings:

6) Vasyl 'Hi-Tech' Lomachenko

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9ah4XxzzNU

Age: 27

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Division: Featherweight

Record: 4-1 (2 KOs)

If you're not a staunch fan of the sweet science, you might look at Loma's record and think, "What in the shit is this man talking about?" Fans, of course, will quickly point out that Lomachenko is one of the greatest amateur champions of all time; a two-time World Championships gold medallist, and a two-time Olympic gold medallist.

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'Hi-Tech' is, as his moniker suggests, one of the most astute technicians on the planet - rebounding from his bullying at the hands of Orlando Salido (in his disgracefully refereed second pro bout) by becoming the WBO world champion in his third. His schooling of a fellow Olympian in Gary Russell Jr (then 24-0) last June showcased the Ukrainian's freakish, rapid adaptability to the pinnacle of the professional sport, but most importantly for a boxing technician, was massively entertaining.

Lomachenko defends his world belt in his sixth fight this November.

5) Felix Verdejo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmkibkFcbe8

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Age: 22

Division: Lightweight

Record: 18-0 (13 KOs)

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Fans of his native Puerto Rico have been waiting for years to anoint Verdejo as the successor to the lineage of legends like Wilfred Benitez, Felix "Tito" Trinidad and Miguel Cotto, which is a solid indication that the lightweight badass is the real deal.

At just 22, Verdejo has years to establish himself as boxing's top dog, but his rip-roaring ring approach and freakish punching angles make him one of the most visually mesmerising starlets in the sport. Add to that the legions of partisan Puerto Rican fans who will pack out arenas to watch him fight, and you can't help but feel Verdejo will become one of the most marketable world-level talents in boxing.

4) Terence 'Bud' Crawford

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lzd-jCy2VNI

Age: 27

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Division: Light-welterweight

Record: 26-0 (18 KOs)

Already a two-time world champion, Omaha's Terence Crawford is, simply put, a freak. The rangy boxer-puncher dethroned Glasgow's Ricky Burns in front of a raucous Glaswegian audience to win the WBO lightweight title in 2014, before destroying Yuriorkis Gamboa - who might have topped this list were it compiled the last time Mayweather retired, in 2007 - in just four rounds in front of what can only be described as a batshit mental home crowd in Omaha.

Crawford puts bums in seats and is already en route to becoming a bona fide US star. Potential box office showdowns with ferocious brawlers Lucas Matthysse and Ruslan Provodnikov would provide the perfect amalgamation of fight styles, and a chance for Crawford to prove himself, in pound-for-pound terms, a cut above the rest.

3) Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LehQX1bbGQk

Age: 25

Division: Light-middleweight

Record: 45-1-1 (32 KOs)

How is this man just 25-years-old? Yes, he was taken to Boxing University in his megabout with Mayweather in 2013. But Canelo has improved tenfold in the intervening two years. That's not to say that, should he defeat future Hall of Famer Miguel Cotto this November and rematch Floyd, the result won't be the same. But the bottom line with Alvarez is that there's every chance he's better than everybody else from 147 to 160lbs.

He's been beating men up since he turned professional (illegally) aged 15. Each time he steps in the ring, he's doubted. Each time, since Mayweather at least, he has delivered in spades. The charismatic Mexican firecracker destroyed two of his division's biggest punchers in Alfredo Angulo and James Kirkland without taking a dent, while also curbing talented Cuban Erislandy Lara's ascent to elite status with a controversial but deserved points victory last July.

In terms of becoming the new face of the sport, Canelo is already three quarters of the way there thanks to millions of Mexican fans and a massive American following. In terms of being the best, his impending classic with Cotto will be viewed as a measuring stick for what is already blossoming into a remarkable career. The scariest thought is he potentially has another 10 years and 20-25 fights left in the tank.

2) Gennady 'GGG' Golovkin

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TnfUExzL79g

Age: 33

Division: Middleweight

Record: 33-0 (30 KOs)

Not much remains to be said about Kazakhstan's 'Triple G.' He is, without question, the new Baddest Man On The Planet. He is, without question, the only dominant middleweight champion from the past two decades whose name can plausibly be uttered in the same breath as Hagler, Hearns, Leonard and Duran, if only just.

Golovkin is a goddamn freak of nature. He's nuclear. He's exciting. He doesn't really give a shit about being punched in the face. The only factor holding him back in 'stardom' terms is the same reason Anthony Joshua doesn't make this list; a lack of competitive opponents, or, if you will, 'Klitschko Syndrome.' There's every chance GGG takes out the winner of Canelo vs Cotto next spring and lands atop everybody's pound-for-pound lists, but then what?

A climb to super-middleweight for another superfight with current elite Andre Ward is a possibility, but by no means an inevitability. GGG is the most avoided fighter in the world. In terms of immediacy, Golovkin may be the heir to Mayweather's throne - his upcoming scrap with fellow banger David Lemieux should see to that. But the Beast from the East will need a string of competitive opposition to keep him there. Instead, he'll likely leave a wake of twitching opponents in the canvas and we'll be left to face the same old question; could he really have hung with Leonard or Hagler?

1) Errol 'The Truth' Spence Jr

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=su4_59G9vRo

Age: 25

Division: Welterweight

Record: 18-0 (15 KOs)

As his nickname suggests, Spence is legit. Having reached only the quarter-finals at London 2012 in what was a paltry Olympics by US boxing terms, 'The Truth' slipped radars outside of the States when he turned professional that same year. That was, until, rumours surfaced that in a sparring session with Floyd Mayweather's 'little bro' Adrien Broner - then tipped as Mayweather's successor - Spence bashed Broner around the ring before dumbfounded trainers intervened.

Incidentally, Broner has lost two fights since that purported sparring session.

In three years as a pro, Errol Spence has gone quietly about his business, accruing an increasingly impressive resumé fight by fight. He currently stands on the fringes of world level, becoming the first man to fell South Africa's Chris van Heerden last weekend with an 8th round TKO.

Since EJ's reported behind-the-scenes destruction of Broner, Mayweather himself has widely heralded Spence as his successor, which might understandably set off alarm bells in a boxing world crying out for a fresh start. In truth, however, Spence's similarities with Floyd end at other-worldly work ethic and talent; the 25-year old wakes up each morning to a 'wall of inspiration,' a photographic collage of former training partners and ring legends.

This kid isn't 'about billions' or 'Team Money Team' quite yet, and his power at 147lbs promises more action than Mayweather has ever brought to the table since rising from 130lbs circa 2001 - particularly if he trades blows with fellow welter bangers Shawn Porter and Keith Thurman in 2016.

Spence has all the physical and stylistic ingredients to become boxing's stand-alone kingpin. It's impossible to see the public not latching on as his march continues, particularly in such a traditionally exciting division. It's also worth noting that Spence hails from Dallas, home to the Cowboys' state-of-the-art AT&T Stadium (which has hosted Manny Pacquiao in the past). Give it a couple of years, and a Spence - Canelo megafight could potentially put a capacity 85,000 bums on seats.

By 2020, boxing could belong to Errol Spence Jr.

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