BOXING superstars can be molded over years and years or spring up overnight – and in 2022 we saw a fine mix.
With amateur boxing in growing confusion and facing the ax from the Olympicswe are on a miserable course to lose a crucial part of the sport.
Recent Games have provided us with iconic names and glistening golds like James DeGale, Anthony JoshuaLuke Campbell, Nicola Adams, Galal Yafai and Lauren Price.
And if that route into the pro ranks is robbed by fighters and fans alike by bungling bureaucrats, then we all lose out.
Thankfully these starlets have emerged just before the dismal turn of events and could bring some joy to our screens in 2023.
SunSport runs down FIVE stars to look our for in the new year…
Jesse Bam Rodriguez
The 22-year-old Mexican-American southpaw grabbed the super-flyweight world title in February – as a late stand-in challenger – and defended twice by September in stylish throw-back fashion.
At just 5ft 4in the pocket rocket has power, as well as skill and guts, with 11 of his 17 wins inside the distance.
Hardcore boxing fans are already purring about this new ace but casuals should take a look at the lower waits to catch a glimpse of this young talent.
In April, aged just 17, this Kent ace won gold at the European Youth champions with FOUR first-round finishes.
The brother of light-heavyweight Frank Warren prospect Karol Itaumathe wonderkid laid waste to his super-heavy division to take top spot on the podium.
The Olympics feel a lifetime away and there will be huge intrigue to see what the punching prodigy does when he turns 18 and free to turn professional.
On the circuit there are already shocking stories of young novice Itauma traveling the country and bashing up some of our most highly regarded professional cruisers and heavies in sparring – sometimes even being told never to return for fear of unraveling their confidence.
This 20-year-old super-light ace has everyone in British boxing excited for plenty of reasons.
The Shane McGuigan-trained starlet has raced through his first few fights, celebrated them with some sensational gymnastics and promised plenty more.
Sky Sports are so excited by the Slough ace that they built their November 27 Sunday afternoon show around the rising ace.
Doors at the iconic Ally Pally opened at midday and finished by 7pm in a brilliant bid to get a whole new generation of young fight fans excited by the sport and Azim.
And if he can follow in the footsteps of his Idol Amir Khan then he can change the face of the sport again – like his Bolton hero did – over the next decade.
Aged 27 it might appear silly to call his amateur standout a prospect but his home nation of Cuba does not allow their boxers to turn professional.
But rumors are growing that the 2020 Olympic lightweight gold winner has defected and fled his home, with a view to turning over.
The light and super-light divisions – with brilliant young talents like Ryan Garcia, Devin Haney, Teofimo Lopez and Gervonta Davis – are some of the most exciting.
But, without the star names fighting each other, it is also one of the most frustrating.
But if Cruz can parachute in – with no time to waste – he could really mix things up.
When the Brummie ace only landed a silver at the 2020 Olympics he upset a few sad saps for not celebrating what he felt was a failure.
But that mindset should be celebrated among our elite athletes.
The light-heavy ace has not changed his approach in the pros either, causing a stir when he made his debut in July with a ruthless and flashy performance.
And he shot from the lip when he boxed on the Oleksandr Usyk vs Anthony Joshua undercard and had a dig at the talent at the pre-fight press conference and joked about being scheduled to fight so early they would still be building the ring.
Watch out for everything this 25-year-old lad does – and says – in and outside of the ring.