Boxing’s best of 2014: knockout, upset, comeback, undercard, and rising star

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Miguel Cotto's dominant performance over Sergio Martinez was our Comeback of the Year. Photo: Chris Farina, Top Rank
Miguel Cotto's dominant performance over Sergio Martinez was our Comeback of the Year for 2014. Photo: Chris Farina, Top Rank

SAN DIEGO, January 6, 2015 – Ringside Seat produced our list of 2014’s Top Fights and named our 2014 Fighter of the Year, American lightweight champion Terence Crawford.

Before 2014 fades into history, select individual achievements that impressed us in the 12 months just ended deserve our applause. Boxers put it all on the line every single time they step into the ring for our entertainment.

Every writer has differing criteria, and sees the fights, fighters, circumstances and backstory in their own ways. I enjoy reading my colleagues’ lists and their smart reasoning for their choices.

Following are the remaining top performers in boxing in various categories for 2014.

John Jackson hits the canvas courtesy of Andy Lee in round 5 of their undercard bout. Photo: Chris Farina, Top Rank.
John Jackson hits the canvas courtesy of Andy Lee in round 5 of their undercard bout. Photo: Chris Farina, Top Rank.

Knockout of the Year: Andy Lee vs. John Jackson, June 8, 2014

There were several great candidates on the short list for this honor: Carl Froch versus George Groves, Wladimir Klitchsko versus Kubrat Pulev, or Gennady Golovkin against anyone. His left hook stoppage of Marco Antonio Rubio was sheer brilliance.

Above the others, this knockout produced the most sheer drama and it transformed the future of Irish boxer Andy Lee. Fighting on the Cotto/Martinez undercard, the veteran Lee (33-2, 23 KOs) was in trouble against John Jackson of the Virgin Islands (18-2, 15 KOs). Jackson appeared on the brink of forcing the referee to stop the fight as he pounded Lee. Lee threw boxing’s equivalent of a “Hail Mary” pass, rocking Jackson and sending him to the canvas face first. No one was more surprised than Lee. Lee went on to defeat Russian Matt Korobov in December with a similar knockout punch, setting himself up for an exciting 2015.

Vasyl Lomachenko ties the record for fastest path to a boxing title, winning the WBO featherweight title in his third fight Saturday over Gary Russell Jr. Photo: Chris Farina, Top Rank
Vasyl Lomachenko ties the record for fastest path to a boxing title, winning the WBO featherweight title in his third fight Saturday over Gary Russell Jr. Photo: Chris Farina, Top Rank

Emerging Star of the Year: Vasyl Lomachenko

Vasyl Lomachenko of Ukraine has only four professional fights, with a record of 3-1 and one knockout. Never mind that. “Loma” has hundreds of amateur fights behind him and his experience at the amateur level is translating well. He won the WBO featherweight title belt in just his second bout; and in November on the undercard of the Pacquiao vs. Algieri card Lomachenko showed why fans love to watch him fight. He hurt his left hand in the middle of his bout against Chonlatarn Pirpiyapinyo of Thailand (52-2, 33 KOs) but still won every round in defense of his WBO lightweight title fighting with just one hand. Lomachenko is a smart fighter with pinpoint accuracy and the confidence of a champion. If he doesn’t end up on a top 10 pound for pound list in 2015 it won’t be much longer. I’m already drooling over the thought of a Lomachenko vs. Nicholas Walters matchup.

Honorable mention goes to 21 year old flyweight phenomenon Naoue Inouye of Japan, already a title holder with seven knockouts in eight fights and a perfect record. He capped off 2014 with a second round knockout over veteran Omar Narvaez.

John Molina (left) and Lucas Matthysse gave fans in Carson, California everything they had on Saturday.
John Molina (left) and Lucas Matthysse gave fans in Carson, California everything they had on Saturday. Photo: Esther Lin, Showtime.

Undercard Fight of the Year: Lucas Matthysse vs. John Molina, April 26, 2014

Lucas Matthysse (36-3, 34 KOs), who is never in a bad fight win or lose, took on big puncher John Molina (27-5, 22 KOs) on the undercard of the Thurman vs. Diaz fight. The pair brought the fans to their feet at the Stub Hub Center with an action-packed brawl. Both boxers were down on the canvas before Matthysse put an end to things at 22 seconds of the 11th round with the fifth and final knockdown of the bout. Matthyssee and Molina put on a bloody good show, literally. These two have no quit in them, they define athletic courage. It was a career reviving victory for Matthysse; and who wouldn’t mind seeing John Molina again anytime?

The Axeman Cometh: Nicholas Walters prepares for his ringwalk prior to his fight at the StubHub Center Saturday. Photo: Chris Farina, Top Rank
The Axeman Cometh: Nicholas Walters prepares for his ringwalk prior to his fight at the StubHub Center Saturday. Photo: Chris Farina, Top Rank

Honorable Mention: Nonito Donaire vs. Nicholas Walters, October 18, 2014

This fight was on the Golovkin vs. Rubio “Mexican Style” undercard. Back we go to the StubHub Center. Jamaican Nicholas “Axe Man” Walters (25-0, 21 KOs) ended the night early with a thundering sixth round knockout of the 2012 Fighter of the Year Donaire (33-3, 21 KOs), landing a perfect right across the top of Donaire’s head that put him face down on the canvas. Walters is ready to be in the main event. He’s an engaging guy who speaks excellent Spanish after living and training in Panama for many years. He couldn’t be more fan friendly. Did we mention that possible date with two time Olympic gold medalist and titleholder Vasyl Lomanchenko?

Sergio Martinez hits the canvas after the second of what would be three knockdowns in round one by Miguel Cotto, who won by TKO in round 10. Photo: Chris Farina, Top Rank
Sergio Martinez hits the canvas after the second of what would be three knockdowns in round one by Miguel Cotto, who won by TKO in round 10. Photo: Chris Farina, Top Rank

Comeback of the Year: Miguel Cotto

After losses to Floyd Mayweather and Austin Trout, Puerto Rican star Miguel Cotto was working his way back up the ladder to the top. Trained to perfection by Freddie Roach, Cotto executed the perfect fight plan against Sergio Martinez. He didn’t just win, he dominated a once powerful champion. It was effectively over after a three-knockdown first round; you don’t see a 10-6 round too often. While some obeservers would give equal credit for the victory to Martinez’s aging knees, Cotto (39-4, 32 KOs) would have prevailed even if Martinez (51-3-2, 28 KOs) was more mobile and steadier on his feet. Watching the fight was witnessing a changing of the guard in an exciting weight division. Instead of considering retirement, Cotto is looking at a big pay per view event against Canelo Alvarez and the potential of a mega fight with middleweight monster Gennady Golovkin.

Chris Algieri (left) recovered from a first round knockdown to win a split decision victory over Ruslan Provodnikov in Brooklyn Saturday.
Chris Algieri (left) recovered from a first round knockdown to win a split decision victory over Ruslan Provodnikov in Brooklyn Saturday.

Upset of the Year: Chris Algieri vs. Ruslan Provodnikov, June 15, 2014

The reason the improble Chris Algieri of New York found himself facing eight division champion Manny Pacquiao in Macau in November was his stunning underdog victory against the tough Ruslan Provodnikov in April.

After a knockdown two minutes into the first round, and a second knockdown before the round was over, few fans expected Algieri to last more than another round or two against “The Siberian Rocky.” Not only did Algieri finish the 12-round fight, he impressed the fans and two of the three judges, winning a split decision no one saw coming over Provodnikov (23-3, 16 KOs) to become the WBO junior welterweight champion and remain undefeated (20-0, 8 KOs).

Algieri said the only punch in the fight that hurt him was the first one. It was a doozy. It darkened his eye immediately. By the 12th and final round he was blind. Algieri said he knew that Provodnikov was targeting his eye and he was able to anticipate many of his punches and evade them. Algieri never gave up on himself, and round by round was throwing and landing more punches than Provodnikov, gaining back the points he was behind after the first 10-7 round. Algieri was smarter, quicker, more nimble and unpredictable, giving Provodnikov a lot to process. He made himself tougher and tougher to find. For a pressure fighter like Provodnikov, it was kryptonite.

An elated Kell Brook reacts to the news that he is the new IBF welterweight champion on Saturday after defeating Shawn Porter. Photo: Esther Lin, Showtime
An elated Kell Brook reacts to the news that he is the new IBF welterweight champion on Saturday after defeating Shawn Porter. Photo: Esther Lin, Showtime

Honorable Mention: Kell Brook vs. Shawn Porter, August 18, 2014

Boisterous British fans celebrated a unanimous decision victory by Kell “Special K” Brook of England (33-0-0, 22 KOs) over American Shawn “Showtime” Porter (24-1-1, 15 KOs), handing Porter his first defeat and taking his IBF super welterweight title belt. Brook and his corner reacted with elation and emotion at the words, “The winner… and the new…” The elated, emotional Brooks said, “You can tell how much it means to me by my reaction. I’ve been dreaming about this moment since I was nine-years old. It’s unbelievable.” Who couldn’t feel good for Brook and help him celebrate his big moment? It is no small accomplishment to come into another fighter’s home country and win a decision the way Brook did. Observers ringside agreed that Brook landed by far the harder, more accurate punches against Porter, and did more damage. But Porter was aggressive, game, and active in the ring throughout the fight, even if he was dazed a few times. Thankfully the judges agreed, giving Brook the decision he deserved over the favorite and the reigning champion.

For his work with Miguel Cotto (right) and Manny Pacquiao,, Freddie Roach is our 2014 Trainer of the Year. Photo: Chris Farina, Top Rank
For his work with Miguel Cotto (right) and Manny Pacquiao, Freddie Roach is our 2014 Trainer of the Year. Photo: Chris Farina, Top Rank

Trainer of the Year: Freddie Roach

Abel Sanchez deserves consideration for turning Gennady Golovkin into a fighter so feared few will dare test themselves against him; and John David Jackson for making Sergey Kovalev an euqally dangerous threat in the light heavyweight division. But this one goes to Freddie Roach for revitalizing the careers of two big names in the sport, Miguel Cotto and Manny Pacquiao. It’s impressive to polish the skills of a boxer on his way up. It’s even more impressive to figure out how to rejuvenate a once great boxer’s career after hard times. Roach has done a brilliant job to date with Cotto, putting into position for a big pay per view fight in May. With Pacquiao, he’s figured out how to get the veteran with a lot on his plate to focus again and somehow gave him new purpose. If there’s going to be a Mayweather vs. Pacquiao fight, Roach will deserve a lot of the credit for putting Pacquiao back in position to make it worthwhile.

Jose Benavidez (left) walked away with a decision victory, the judges robbing Mauricio Herrera for the second time of a victory he earned. Photo: Chris Farina, Top Rank
Jose Benavidez (left) walked away with a decision victory, the judges robbing Mauricio Herrera for the second time of a victory he earned. Photo: Chris Farina, Top Rank

C.J. Ross Award: Mauricio Herrera

If the name of our final award doesn’t ring a bell, Ross is the Nevada boxing judge who generated outrage over her rotten decisions in high profile fights including a draw between Floyd Mayweather and Canelo Alvarez, and then ruling Timothy Bradley Jr. the winner over Manny Pacquiao, giving Bradley the split decision victory. Following the uproar over her scoring, Ross decided to retire. At least her final call was a good one.

The Ross Award goes to the boxer who most got worked by unfair decisions, and there is no one who got worked worse by the judges than American super lightweight Mauricio Herrera. First, he solidly defeated title holder Danny Garcia in what he intended to be a homecoming in Puerto Rico but didn’t get the decision. Then he battled a tough Jose Benavidez Jr. on the undercard of Bradley vs. Chaves in December. Herrera did more than enough to retain his interim WBA title according everyone watching excepting the judges, who gave a unanimous decision to Benavidez. Once again Herrera got robbed, and after the fight he said it was nothing new, it happens all the time.

So instead of holding two titles and putting himself in position for a big money fight, Herrera and his promoter are left wondering what the hell happened. Herrera deserves better and so does boxing.

Do you have your own category? Tell us in the Comments section.

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.

Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities Digital News when quoting from or linking to this story.  

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  • Michael Montero

    Great work as usual Gayle! Love the “CJ Ross Award” haha. It’s hard not to feel bad for Herrera, he got jobbed twice in the same year! And how cool is it that we got to be ringside for several of these great bouts you mentioned?

    • Michael, it’s amazing how much of the best boxing action takes place outside the confines of Las Vegas in Southern California. I’m all about it, and I’m very glad to see an enthusiastic fan base here. I’m equally glad to see it in New York, San Antonio, and Omaha! It’s always best being ringside and I encourage fans to get out and see a card in person this year, whether local talent or the big names. There’s nothing like it!

      Herrera got the short end not once but twice. I hope his promoter will find a way for him to rebound. He didn’t deserve it. Once again, Mike Tyson is proven right: Never let your fate go to the judges if you can help it.