The BATB Prospect of the Year for 2011 is the toughest choice to make. The 2010 Prospects of the Year -- Gary Russell, Jr. and Seth Mitchell have elevated themselves to contender status as both are ranked by the major governing bodies.
So who leads our next wave? In 2011, two guys stood out from the rest of the pack and, as in 2010, neither one distinguished himself from the other. The difference from the previous year is that both men did this under the radar, but there could be some big things in store for both of them in 2012.
The BATB Prospects of the Year for 2011 are:
Maurice Byarm (13-0-1, nine KO's), heavyweight, Washington, DC and Venroy July (9-0-2, three KO's), cruiserweight, Suitland, MD
While all the up-and-coming heavyweight press was deservedly going to fellow Beltway Boxer Seth Mitchell, Byarm was quietly going about the country doing his job. The year started off with Byarm stopping Willie Palms in the fifth round in DC on April 23. Byarm then signed with Greg Cohen Promotions of New York. Byarm's first bout under the Cohen banner was a dubious one as he fought to a six-round draw with Homero Fonseca on August 17 in Austin, TX. However, Byarm bounced back with two wins away from home winning a six-round unanimous decision over Rodricka Ray in Tunica, MS on July 30 and a first-round knockout over Clinton Boldridge on October 15 in Grand Island, NB. By the end of 2012, there could be two Beltway heavyweights looking to do great things.
July also had things moving in the right direction in 2011 winning four of his five bouts. July suffered a draw in a six-rounder against Paul Jennette on April 23 in Winston-Salem, NC. In July's four victories, he didn't lose a round. July won three decisions against Joe Broken Rope (January 28), Rayshawn Myers (July 16) and Willie Chisolm (August 19) and ended his year with a first-round knockout of Jason Pauley on November 19. The fact that July lives a dual life as a lawyer and a boxer and still have quality performances is amazing enough. It will also be fun to see his progression.
Todd Wilson (11-0, three KO's), junior welterweight, Fairfax, VA
Wilson only fought twice in 2011, but his victories were notable because they came against true veterans. Wilson won by third-round disqualification over Dean White and then opened many people's eyes with his six-round unanimous decision over former world champion Eric Aiken. Wilson has one of the rising fan bases in the area and if he steps up his competition in 2012, could have a big year.
Alexander Johnson (12-1, five KO's), light heavyweight, Washington, DC
Despite his nationally-televised loss against Luis Garcia, the path Johnson forged to get to that point is what puts him on this list. Johnson won twice in 2011 including his big 10-round majority win over previously undefeated Farah Ennis on April 2 in New Jersey. If the loss to Garcia was a result in part of something wrong with Johnson's stomach, then expect him to bounce back strong in 2012.
Scott Sigmon, (19-3, 10 KO's), super middleweight, Bedford, VA
Sigmon was the busiest fighter in the Beltway region in 2011, fighting seven times in a seven-month period and notching six wins. Sigmon's lone setback was a 10-round majority decision against undefeated Chris Fitzpatrick. Sigmon scored two knockouts over faded contender Tiwon Taylor. With the exception of his win over John Terry, all of Sigmon's wins came against .500 or above veteran competition.
Previous BATB Prospects of the Year:
2006: Tyrell Samuel
2007: Tim Coleman
2008: Bayan Jargal
2009: Mark Tucker
2010: Gary Russell, Jr. and Seth Mitchell
Next: Knockout of the Year