Boxing takes a lot of knocks in the media, and though many of them are deserved, a lot of them come from those who haven’t actually been to or watched a fight in years.
And while boxing has its share of problems, the future looks promising given the inordinately high number of superbly talented fighters who are 25 years old or younger.
Shakur Stevenson is only 23, but already won a featherweight title and is No. 9 in the Yahoo Sports Pound-for-Pound rankings.
There’s 21-year-old Devin Haney, who holds a WBC version of the lightweight title.
There’s 23-year-old Teofimo Lopez, a two-time Yahoo Sports Prospect of the Year who holds the IBF lightweight belt and who, in October, will challenge the legendary Vasiliy Lomachenko.
There’s also 25-year-old Gervonta Davis, who has the WBA lightweight belt, and 22-year-old Ryan Garcia, who may soon win a lightweight belt.
Mourodjon Akhmadaliev is 25 and is a unified champion, holding the IBF-WBA super bantamweight titles.
And Daniel “Triple D” Dubois is only 22 and one of the best heavyweight prospects to come along in years.
Gabe Flores Jr., a 20-year-old lightweight, is 18-0 already.
Marc Castro is only 20 and was set to make his pro debut on Saturday, but he was in heavy demand among boxing managers looking to sign him and receives plenty of praise for his skillset from those who watched him in the amateurs.
But perhaps the best of all them is a personable guy with just five pro fights who loves to dance to hip hop and is as happy to play a joke on a friend as he is to score a knockout.
Israil Madrimov is 25 and on Saturday (8 p.m. ET, DAZN), he’ll face Eric Walker in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in a bout on the Cecilia Braekhus-Jessica McCaskill undercard. Should Madrimov wins, it’s likely that he’ll fight for the title in his next bout, though his team isn’t ready to commit to that yet.
One boxing insider not connected with Madrimov raved about him, saying, “This guy has everything. He’s got the power. He’s got defense. He has the footwork. Whatever you look to see in a fighter, you see it in him.”
Eddie Hearn of Matchroom is Madrimov’s co-promoter and he’s similarly effusive. Andrey Ryabinsky of World of Boxing is Madrimov’s main promoter and approached Hearn about working together with the goal of moving him as quickly as possible.
Madrimov is 5-0 with five knockouts and he’s never fought anyone with fewer than 10 pro wins. His first five opponents had records of 10-2, 24-2, 24-12, 27-5 and 29-9 when he faced them. Walker is 20-2.
“Madrimov is a machine; he is the complete athlete,” Hearn said. “As an amateur, he was a standout and our partners at WOB had a plan to move him as fast as possible. Still we can’t move him as quickly as we would like to. He looks like a double of [Gennadiy Golovkin] and carries the same freakish power but has incredible movement and the ability to switch hit at any moment.
“Walker is his toughest test yet so I’m looking forward to see if he is ready for the level, but the kid is box office. He could be a real star.”
He’s got the power and the killer instinct that made Golovkin one of the sport’s biggest names, but he also has the footwork that made fighters like Lomachenko and Floyd Mayweather Jr. legends.
But Hearn’s assertion that he could be a star isn’t simply because of his ability. He’s got a personality as big as his talent and knows people watch sports to have a good time.
“I’m an entertainer and I like to please the crowd,” he said.
Though he’s not considering a career in MMA, he trains in judo and freestyle wrestling to help with his footwork and his movement, and he dances a lot, much like Lomachenko.
He’s serious when he’s at work, but just one look at his social media would tell you that he also loves what he does.
“To me the most important thing is to be entertaining in the ring,” he said. “When someone smiles, it makes me feel much better. It’s a great feeling. I like to smile and be kind. I’m a religious person and our religion tells us to be happy and to make people around us happier.
“It’s very important to me to have fun. I am a very happy person and I love what I do. I dance all the time. You may think all I do is dance because I have fun in my camp, but if you ask my coaches [Joel and Antonio Diaz], they’ll tell you, I’m a calm person and I know I have to do the work to be the best.”
The next time someone tells you how bad everything is about boxing, suggest they take a look at Israil Madrimov.
That’s likely to change their minds pretty quickly. If it doesn’t, it just proves they don’t have a pulse.
This guy is fun. And he has a unique opportunity to be special.
More from Yahoo Sports: