You Know Their Names. But, Do You Know Their History? Part 2 - Enter The Professional Arena

To recap on part one, I introduced seven of the recent and current World Champions: Andy Ruiz Jr, Deontay Wilder, Terence Crawford, Gervonta Davis, Anthony Joshua, Oleksandr Usyk, and Vasiliy Lomachenko. The blend of fighters brings a mix of speed, power, athleticism, and controversy to their claim for a top position. As an avid boxing fan, I thought I would peel back the layers of hype and promotion to present you with the black and white figures of the amateur origins of each athlete. If you missed the first article, please select the following link:

In part two of our three-part feature, I step it up a level armed with the knowledge of each fighter's amateur backgrounds. Tracking the progression of the seven as they enter the professional ranks. Taking you through their initial steps in their Professional Boxing careers, the first five bouts in my mind are the foundation to their respective professional careers, it’s arguably a big step up from the amateur ranks and if not done right could end a career overnight. Once again I let the numbers do the talking and focus on the black and white details of their respective first five bouts .

Let me be clear, and upfront, I don't claim to be an expert analyst by any means. There is no consistent path in the making of a World Champion Boxer, but that's the beauty of this game. The results speak for themselves, and you may ask yourself, why do particular fighters have a more difficult induction into the professional boxing ranks over others? I love these potentially controversial discussion items, as everyone has an opinion and a perspective. So, jump into the comments section at the end ⬇️ and share your thoughts on who, how, and why some can reach this level of success in some cases much sooner than others.

Note: The proceeding tables and graphs look at the total amount of bouts each of the seven respective boxer's opponents held at the time each fight took place. Furthermore, I have broken this down to present to you the average record of each boxer's career.

Andy Ruiz Jr

Professional Record of 33-1, Current WBA, IBF, WBO, and IBO World Heavyweight Champion

A 19-year-old Ruiz made his professional debut on March 28, 2009, at the Plaza de Toros in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, in a four-round bout against Miguel Ramirez. Ruiz won the fight via a first-round KO. Ruiz fought again after three months at the same venue, this time knocking Ross Brantley down three times in round 1, winning the bout via TKO. Ruiz took an eight-month gap before he returned to the ring in February 2010, winning a four-round unanimous decision against Juan Luis Lopez Alcaraz. A month later, Ruiz made his American debut at the Gaylord Hotel in Texas, knocking out Luke Vaughn in round 1. Ruiz had his next three fights of 2010 also in the US, defeating his fifth opponent Miles Kelly via knockout.

Ruiz has managed to get through the majority of his initial opponents in the early rounds, do you feel this plays a part in increasing the longevity of Ruiz's career?

Deontay Wilder

Professional Record of 41-0-1, Current WBC World heavyweight Champion

Wilder made his debut at the age of 23 on November 15, 2008, at the Vanderbilt University Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville, Tennessee. He knocked out Ethan Cox in the second round. Cox was knocked down three times in the second round before the fight was eventually stopped. Wilder fought seven times in 2009, winning all of his fights in round 1.

There is not a lot to say about Deontay Wilder's early professional Boxing career, finishing four of the five bouts inside of the first round, it seems to be consistent that the current world champions finished majority if not all of their opponents early in the respective bout. Each boxer is proving themselves as they slowly work their way up in the ranks maintaining the glorified 0 losses on their records.

Terence Crawford 

Professional Record of 35-0, held multiple world championships in three weight classes, including the WBO welterweight title since 2018.

Crawford made his professional debut on March 14, 2008, knocking out Brian Cummings in round 1. He compiled a record of 19-0 with 15 wins by way of knockout against largely unheralded opposition.

April 3, 2008, in Glen Burnie, MD, Crawford won by TKO (1st round) against Filiberto Nieto; Nieto did not continue after the 1st round. On July 26, 2008, in York Crawford won a 4 round unanimous decision against Damon Antoine, scoring a 40-36 on all three scorecards. On August 22, 2008, in Iowa City he won a 4 round unanimous decision against Aaron Anderson and finally on November 8, 2008, in York he won by TKO (2nd round, 1:14) against Michael Williams.

In 2011, as Tim Bradley was preparing to defend his 140-pound title against Devon Alexander, McIntyre got a call for sparring. If Bud took the gig, however, he could only fight southpaw, like Alexander. Bradley was undefeated. He had won both the WBO and WBC belts and was sending sparring partners home with frightening regularity. However, Crawford schooled him. "Beat my ass," Bradley says. As it ended, the two men sat on the ring apron: Crawford picking at the tape on his sprained wrist, Bradley exhausted. "Who are you?" asked the champion. Crawford shrugged. "You ain't no sparring partner, dog. You a world champion," Bradley said.

Crawford being ranked number 2 pound for pound boxer across all weights by Crawford is undoubtedly one of the best there currently is, why do you think that is? Does Crawford's active Amateur career play a part, does Crawford's initial steps into the professional ranks play a role? You be the judge.

Gervonta Davis

Professional Record of 21-0, two-time super featherweight world champion, having held the WBA title since 2018, and previously the IBF title in 2017.

Turning professional for Davis was a decision dictated by the calendar. He was too young, just 17, to box in the 2012 Olympics in London, but Davis didn't want to put his pro boxing career on hold for four years waiting for another Olympic Games to roll around in 2016. Early in 2013, Davis made his debut at the age of 18 on February 22, 2013, against Desi Williams, who had a professional record of no wins and 4 losses, all by stoppage. The fight took place at the D.C. Armory in Washington on the undercard of IBF junior-welterweight fight between Lamont Peterson and Kendall Holt. Davis won the bout via 1st round knockout. By August 2014, Davis had recorded 8 wins and no losses, with all wins coming inside the distance.

Anthony Joshua 

Professional Record of 22-1, Previous WBA, IBF, WBO, and IBO World Heavyweight Champion

Joshua made his professional debut on October 5, 2013, at the O2 Arena in London in the main event of a card featuring Scott Quigg's successful WBA super-bantamweight title defense against Yoandris Salinas, beating Italian Emanuele Leo by a technical knockout (TKO) in the first round.

Joshua's second professional fight was against English heavyweight Paul Butlin at the Motorpoint Arena in Sheffield on October 26, 2013. The bout was stopped in the second round when the referee decided Butlin was taking too much punishment and declared Joshua, the winner by TKO. Joshua's third professional fight was on the Prizefighter Series card against Croatian Hrvoje Kišiček on November 14, 2013. Joshua got a TKO victory in the second round, achieving his third knockout victory in a row.

In February 2014, Joshua scored a 2nd-round TKO victory over Dorian Darch to take his record to 4-0. The following month, on the undercard of Ricky Burns against Terence Crawford, Joshua defeated Hector Alfredo Avila with a first-round knockout, in Glasgow, Scotland. 

Coming fresh out of the 2012 London Olympics Joshua debuted in the UK where he would go on to have his first 22 fights inside of his home country, is it a coincidence that Joshua lost his first fight while abroad?

Oleksandr Usyk 

Professional Record of 16-0, reigned as the undisputed cruiserweight champion from 2018 to March 2019, being the first boxer in history to hold all four major world championships—the WBA, WBC, IBF, and WBO titles—at cruiserweight.

Usyk turned pro in late 2013 at the age of 26; on November 9, 2013, Usyk made his professional debut by defeating Mexican fighter Felipe Romero via a fifth-round knockout. The following month he stopped 38-year-old Epifanio Mendoza in four rounds. In his 3rd professional fight on April 2014, Usyk made his debut in Germany on the undercard of Klitschko-Leapai at the Koenig Pilsener Arena defeating Ben Nsafoah via 3rd-round knockout. A month later, Usyk returned home and knocked out Cesar David Crenz in round 4, having knocked him down in round 3 as well.

Usyk won his first title on October 4, 2014, after beating South African boxer Daniel Bruwer via round 7 technical knockout for the Interim WBO Inter-Continental cruiserweight title.

Vasiliy Lomachenko 

Professional Record of 14-1, currently a unified lightweight world champion, having held the WBA, WBO, and Ring magazine titles since 2018, and previously the WBO featherweight and junior lightweight titles between 2014 and 2018.

After winning his second Olympic gold medal, Lomachenko decided to turn professional. After meeting with several fight promoters, he signed a contract to fight for Top Rank. Lomachenko made his professional debut in the United States on October 12, 2013, as part of the undercard to Timothy Bradley vs. Juan Manuel Márquez, defeating Mexican fighter José Ramirez with a fourth-round knockout.

Lomachenko vs. Salido

Lomachenko attempted to make history by winning a world championship in his second fight and breaking Saensak Muangsurin's record, who won a junior welterweight world title in his third pro fight in 1975. He challenged veteran boxer Orlando Salido for World Boxing Organization's featherweight title. The title became vacant after Salido failed to make weight, weighed in 128¼ pounds, over the 126-pound limit. On fight night, he rehydrated to 147 pounds, which was equivalent to the welterweight limit.

Lomachenko seemed to shy away from engaging Salido throughout most of the fight, something that his opponent exploited. A late surge, which saw him injure Salido in the final round, was unable to change the final result, losing a controversial split decision despite landing 164 punches out of 441 vs. 142 punches out of 645 for Salido.

Lomachenko vs. Russell, Jr.

The WBO title remained vacant due to Salido not making weight. The fight between Lomachenko and Russell Jr took place on June 21 at the StubHub Center in Carson, California. Lomachenko defeated Russell Jr. via a twelve-round majority decision to win the vacant WBO featherweight title. Lomachenko used his power and swift skills to maintain control of the fight until the final bell. Lomachenko began to hurt Russel Jr. more in the later rounds with power shots. Russell Jr. landed only 10% of his punches thrown, with many combinations being missed or blocked. With this victory, Lomachenko joined Saensak Muangsurin as the only other boxer to have won a world title in the quickest amount of time since turning professional, accomplishing the feat in just his third professional bout.

Lomachenko vs. Piriyapinyo

Lomachenko made his first title defense against mandatory challenger Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo (52-1, 33 KOs) of Thailand. This fight took place on the undercard of the Pacquiao vs. Algieri on HBO PPV bout on November 22, 2014, at the Cotai Arena, Venetian Resort in Macao. Although Piritapinyo's record of 52 wins and 1 loss made the fight sound challenging for Lomachenko, the only time he stepped up in his 11-year career was in 2012 against Chris John, which he lost via unanimous decision. Lomachenko handled his opponent efficiently, hurting him a few times and scoring a knockdown at the end of the fourth round. In the seventh round, Lomachenko won a unanimous decision.

Lomachenko vs. Rodriguez

Before the fight, Rodriguez was on a 17-fight winning streak dating back to 2010, where the match resulted in a first-round technical draw. On fight night, Lomachenko retained his WBO title against Rodriguez via a ninth-round KO victory. Lomachenko's speed and precision were too much for Rodriguez, who took a knee twice in the fight, once in the seventh and again in the ninth, which ended the bout.

Having the ambition to obtain a World title so early in his career, is this detrimental to the longevity of Lomachenko's career?

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