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In the second installment of our new feature “Rising Stars in Boxing”, fight writers Matt Andrzejewski and Kid Hersh zoom in on two hot up-and-comers with vastly different backgrounds – a 28-year-old Eastern European transplant with a wealth of international amateur experience and a 21-year-old Texan who jumped into the pro ranks six months after his 18th birthday. Andrzejewski gets us started with look at rising welterweight contender Egidijus Kavaliauskas.

Rising Stars in Boxing – EGIDIJUS KAVALIAUSKAS

Known as the “Mean Machine”, welterweight Egidijus Kavaliauskas is quickly gaining the attention of the boxing public as a can’t-miss prospect. Signed by Top Rank, big things are expected from the big punching Lithuanian.

Kavaliauskas was born in Kaunas, Lithuania and represented Lithuania in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. However, the Olympics did not go so well for Kavaliauskas as he would lose in the first round in each of those tournaments. Following the 2012 Olympics and after more than 300 amateur fights, Kavaliauskas would move to the United States to turn pro and work with trainer Robert Garcia.

Thus far as a pro, Kavaliauskas has compiled a record of 13-0 with 11 of those wins coming by knockout. His most impressive performance to date came against veteran Jake Giuriceo last November on the undercard of Timothy Bradley-Brandon Rios. Giuriceo was known as a durable fighter who notably went the eight round distance just seven months earlier against Viktor Postol. Kavaliauskas hurt Giuriceo with a left jab seconds into the fight and then scored a one punch stoppage moments later with a right hand to the side of Giuriceo’s head.

The biggest strength for Kavaliauskas is his power. He has one punch power in both hands. With his extensive amateur background, Kavaliauskas is also very well schooled and fundamentally sound. He works behind a stiff powerful jab to set up his power punches and has shown a good ability to cut off the ring especially in more recent fights. The precision of Kavaliauskas’ power shots is impressive as well as he finds a way to land clean and maximize punch efficiency.

There is one glaring weakness for Kavaliauskas. That is, he often holds his left near his hip and is open to counter right hands. He has been clipped a few times in fights with the right and needs to tighten up this aspect of his game. Also, as with many power punchers he tends to stand in the pocket too long after throwing combinations and is often open to being countered.

Kavaliauskas is an exciting prospect to keep an eye on. The power is real and with some technical improvements he has a chance to become something special. – MATT ANDRZEJEWSKI

Rising Stars in Boxing – MARIO BARRIOS

Want to see a good fight?  Mario Barrios, the young prospect from San Antonio, will be taking on a tough test in Devis Boschiero (39-4-1, 21 KOs) this coming weekend on ESPN.  Barrios (15-0, 8 KOs) only recently turned a tender twenty-one years old but he has been very busy since turning professional.  He likes fighting – that’s a great start for a prospect on this fight writers list.  Add to that the fact that he is a six foot tall super featherweight that has power in both hands as well as straight punching and excellent balance and we have ourselves a winner.

Every once in a while a fighter comes around that catches the eye as one of those guys that just enjoys a fight.  I mean a real back-and-forth slugfest where it would even appear that said fighter takes pleasure in getting hit, or it at least pisses him off enough to the point where he is going to answer you back in kind and likely with a little extra.  Barrios, from what I have seen so far, could fit into that mold.  After witnessing his fighting style you tend to gather that he will likely fare better in the pro ranks than the amateurs, hence why he turned in the headgear at only eighteen years old.  And please don’t read me wrong here; I believe Barrios will fare better in the professional ranks not just because he is fun to watch but also because he will be successful.  His 1-2’s come straight down the pipe and his hooks crack home off a solid foundation.  His footwork is excellent and well balanced.

Taking a look back at Barrio’s fights and highlight reels one can see the schooling as well as a fighter’s instinct.  Barrios can box beautifully or get into a war – much like Oscar Valdez – although I would add the caveat that Valdez is more along the lines of a boxer-puncher while Barrios is nearer the puncher-boxer end of the spectrum (knockout percentages be damned!).  Against Enrique Tinoco he survived an early onslaught to completely take over the fight after beating his man back and then outboxing him.  Against Manuel Vides he showed beautifully fast and powerful aggression in mercilessly beating any fight left out of Vides before knocking him out cold.  Yeh, I like this guy.

This coming Saturday tune in to see a great fight.  Not that Barrios needs a dance partner to create excitement but the pressure fighting a swarmer in Boschiero is sure to bring the best out in Barrios as he continues his climb to the top. – KID HERSH

PIC: Mario Barrios (courtesy of Premier Boxing Champions)

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