Vasyl Lomachenko – This twice Olympic champion will challenge Orlando Salido for his Featherweight title in March, and if he wins, would break the world record by winning a world title in just his second pro fight. This could also set him up for a mega showdown later in the year with fellow ex-amateur all-time great Guillermo Rigondeaux, and a chance to gatecrash the pound for pound elite quicker than anyone else in boxing history
Naoya Inoue – Inoue has already established himself in the Jr. Flyweight top ten in just 5 fights, and could be set to charge towards a world title in 2014, joining the many Japanese fighters in the lower weights who have taken the fast track to the top, most notably in recent times, the highly talented Kazuto Ioka
Khabib Allakhverdiev – Top Rank’s WBA “regular” bauble-holder at Jr. Welterweight had an inactive year in 2013, fighting only once, a lethargic stoppage of Souleymane M’Baye, and seeing a scheduled fight with Breidis Prescott on HBO fall through due to injury. 2014 promises to be far better for the former world amateur bronze medallist, and he is next slated to appear on Pacquaio’s undercard in April.
With Top Rank lacking opponents for their big names at 140 and 147, he could find himself in a major fight next year, and would have the chance make a Provodnikov-like breakthrough
Terence Crawford – Crawford was the man to take advantage of Allakhverdiev’s injury, stepping in to school Prescott early in 2013. Two further wins on HBO followed, and the new year could provide him with his chance to establish himself as the premiere lightweight on the planet.
That starts with a scheduled mandatory shot at Ricky Burns in March, although I have a niggling feeling that Burns might just pull out of this one ‘injured’ and vacate his title, instead of taking a very likely loss in front of his home fans
Bermane Stiverne – With Vitali Klitschko’s virtual retirement and vacation of his title, comes the opportunity for a number of heavyweight contenders to claim a slice of history. Stiverne gets the first crack at it, and he could hardly have a more favourable opponent: the WBC’s favourite overweight son Chris Arreola, whom he quite easily beat just a matter of months ago.
If, as expected, he can pick up the title, and continue to be showcased on HBO or Showtime, he will transition from relative obscurity to prominence in the boxing landscape next year