Looking back at 2014, looking ahead to 2015
In his welcome to 2015, our own Bill Tibbs shares his favorite moments of 2014 and the fighters who made them while listing his picks for those who will make some noise in the sport of boxing.
Where four art thou?
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Andre Ward, Mikey Garcia and James Kirkland
I had the exact same four names that Steve “K9” Kim mentioned the other day on his “10 Count” show (regarding fighters whom are missing in action) and I couldn’t agree more.
* Rumours of Chavez and Carl Froch being close to signing for a Vegas bout are circulating. That would be a good one.
* I hear Mikey Garcia is ready to get back into the ring. He needs to settle his differences with Top Rank Promotions and get back to fighting. There are some great bouts out there for him but sitting idle is a no-win situation.
* Andre Ward is oh-so-talented but oh-so-absent.
* James Kirkland is always in a good fight but they are too few and far between.
Hot fighters of 2014 to keep an eye on in 2015
Gennady Golovkin, Terence Crawford, Sergey Kovalev and Nicholas Walters
* Despite Miguel Cotto being the consensus champion, to some, Gennady Golovkin is considered the king at 160 pounds. Went 3-0 in 2014 and returns in Feb. 2015 to defend his IBO, WBA “super” and WBC interim middleweight titles against former world title challenger Martin Murray.”GGG” is an active, all-action fighter with an ever-growing fan base. This guy has KO power in both hands so he’s always fun to watch.
* Terence “Bud” Crawford went 3-0 in 2014. Went into Ricky Burns’ backyard in Scotland in March and snagged the WBO lightweight title, then dusted off Yuriorkis Gamboa and Raymundo Beltran in two title defenses. The one-man Omaha franchise is in the Manny Pacquiao sweepstakes if the “Pac-Man” doesn’t get Floyd Mayweather Jr. and moves back to 140 pounds. This guy can box and brawl. Crawford is the whole package.
* Sergey Kovalev went 3-0 in 2014. Looked like much more than just a hard puncher against legend Bernard Hopkins. Will take his WBA, WBO and IBF light heavyweight titles north to Montreal in March to face hometown hero and former world champion Jean Pascal in his backyard. Be ready, Pascal, because this guy brings it.
* WBA world featherweight champion Nicholas Walters looked very good going 2-0 in 2014 while drilling champions Nonito Donaire and Vic Darchinyan. Would love to see him in with Jhonny Gonzalez, Vasyl Lomachenko or Abner Mares. This guy looks very strong at 126.
Here’s hoping: 2015
RING/IBF/WBO/WBA heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko vs. Tyson Fury. I can’t even imagine the pre-fight hype and press conferences.
RING/WBC champ Adonis Stevenson vs. WBO/IBF/WBA champion Sergey Kovalev. It’s bombs-away in this slugfest. I like Kovalev.
* RING/WBA super middleweight champion Andre Ward vs. anybody. Just like to see him back in the ring.
* IBF champion Carl Froch vs. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. This is apparently close to being made and it would be a doozy. It’s would be the U.S. debut in Las Vegas for Froch and once he has that off his bucket list – and if the fight is a good one – look for the rematch in a standing-room-only soccer stadium in England.
* WBO champion Arthur Abraham vs. undefeated rising star Gilberto Ramirez. If Arthur still has the title later in the year, this might be a good title try for Ramirez, who is on the verge of being Mexico’s next biggest star.
* WBC interim/WBA/IBO champion Gennady Golovkin vs. Peter Quillin or WBO champion Andy Lee: Quillin is a talented fighter who deserves a shot. Lee should fight IBF titlist Jermain Taylor (if he’s available) and then take the GGG payday. Golovkin vs. Lee would be short and sweet.
There are some great fights at 147 with a loaded division that could see any fighter in the top ten have a shot at winning on a good night.
Floyd Mayweather Jr., RING/WBC/WBA champion
Manny Pacquiao, WBO champion
Kell Brook, IBF champion
* Brook vs. Amir Khan: Khan looked good recently against Devon Alexander in one of his best performances. This fight would be off the charts in England.
* Pacquiao vs. Khan: Tough night for Pacquiao against a talented boxer like Khan but no walk in the park for Khan against volume-punching, speedster Pacquiao. Good fight.
* Mayweather vs. Keith Thurman: Thurman thinks he’s ready for Mayweather and is calling him out. Big step up for talented and confident Thurman, who lost a little momentum in December distance win against Leonard Bundu. It would be fun to see Floyd against a young, game banger but if Khan doesn’t bring enough of a fan base to the table to watch him challenge “Money,” then Thurman has no shot as he’s even less known. But when he’s on, Thurman looks very good.
* Mayweather vs. Khan: This is the fight Khan is chasing but Floyd says Khan is unknown and doesn’t bring enough to the promotion. Lots of people in boxing think Khan is a rough night for Mayweather and I think Khan brings a huge European audience and gives Floyd fits. But Khan does get hit with counters and Floyd is the counter-king.
* Mayweather vs. Pacquiao: This would be a great fight that…oh, never mind.
The division also plays host to Tim Bradley, Robert Guerrero, Juan Manuel Marquez, Shawn Porter and Marcos Maidana. So there is no shortage of available, top-tier players.
* RING/WBA/WBC champion Danny Garcia vs. Ruslan Provodnikov: Bomb alert. This would be a war. They both have a skill set when it comes to boxing but the heavy artillery would define this tussle.
* RING/WBO champion Terence Crawford: He says he is moving up to 140 and I like him against Garcia, Provodnikov or IBF champ Lamont Peterson.
* WBO champion Orlando Salido: There is talk of “Siri” in with former champion Roman Martinez or contender Diego Magdaleno. I like either – or any – because Salido couldn’t be in a bad fight if he tried. He is must-see TV.
Jhonny Gonzalez, WBC champion
Nicholas Walters, WBA champion
Vasyl Lomanchenko, WBO champion
Evgeny Gradovich, IBF champion
* Walters against Gonzalez would be a great fight.
* Lomachenko vs. Gradovich is another good fight.
* Abner Mares and former champ Nonito Donaire are looking for title shots. Donaire looked like he’d lost a step against Walters or maybe Walters made him look that way? Mares would love a revenge fight against Gonzalez.
Guillermo Rigondeaux, RING/WBO/WBA champion
Carl Frampton, IBF champion
Leo Santa Cruz, WBC champion
Titles aside, to call yourself “the boss” at 122 pounds, you have to beat former amateur star Rigondeaux. Both Santa Cruz and Frampton have talked about wanting to fight him but neither of their promoters is anxious to make the fight. Why would they? He’s not a real crowd-pleaser and is very hard to beat, not exactly a win-win situation to put your fighter in. But for fans of pure boxers and ring skills, “El Chacal” is the goods. It will take an off night for Rigondeaux to slip up or a special fighter to beat him.
Roman Gonzalez, RING/WBC champion
Juan Francisco Estrada, WBA/WBO champion
Amnat Ruenroeng, IBF champion
There are plenty of champions at flyweight but the fight that would actually carry the most interest is former amateur star Zou Shiming against former world champion Brian Viloria. Shiming showed some dog in his last fight in November in Macau, China but he got lumped up in a fight that should have been easier. He’ll have to go back to his boxing skills to survive against Viloria, an experienced pro who can punch. And despite the “Hawaiian Punch” being 34, he has lots of fight left in him.
Upsets of the year
* In March, Vivian Harris was a huge underdog when he took on Jorge Paez Jr. in Monterrey, Mexico. The bout had even been criticized by ESPN, who called the fight “everything that is wrong with boxing.” Everyone involved knew this fight shouldn’t take place except for Harris, who went out and beat Paez via majority decision.
* In June, relatively unknown junior welterweight Chris Algieri recovered from two first round knockdowns and a badly swollen right eye to snag a 12-round split decision over WBO world champion Ruslan Provodnikov at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The victory earned Algieri a shot at Manny Pacquiao in his very next bout.
Knockouts of the year
* Andy Lee vs. John Jackson: Lee gets hurt by John Jackson (power punching Julian’s son) but returns the favour seconds later stretching Jackson out in the fifth round with a perfect counter shot. The win led to Lee’s WBO title-winning effort in his next bout against Matt Korobov.
* Nicholas Walters vs. Vic Darchinyan: Vic didn’t look real comfortable at 126 pounds and Walters didn’t help matters. After hurting Darchinyan badly in the middle of round five, Walters dropped him hard a minute later and referee Raul Caiz Jr. waved it off without a count. Warrior and former world champion Darchinyan had a lot of miles on him and it showed against a young, hungry, talented Walters. The changing of the guard.
* Walters vs. Nonito Donaire: A strong and powerful Walters had Nonito down a few times before Caiz finally stopped it in the sixth. Donaire showed a ton of heart but Walters was just too strong.
Fights of the year
* Terence Crawford vs. Yuriorkis Gamboa: Omaha’s new franchise made his first title defence against a raucous crowd in his hometown and “Bud” didn’t disappoint. Gamboa was fast and very strong but he couldn’t hold off a motivated champion in his hometown. The energy in the room was electric this night that helped make this a fight to remember. Gamboa dropped several times before being TKO’ed in the ninth round.
* Lucas Matthysse vs. John Molina: Both fighters down a couple of times before Matthysse finally drops and stops Molina in the 11th frame. A war from the get-go.
* Orlando Salido vs. Terdsak Kokietgym: Salido just won’t go away and that’s a good thing! This throwback warrior is as good as it gets when the going gets rough. He should have been gone from the championship level of boxing years ago but the talented and ferocious warrior just keeps winning in fights he isn’t supposed to. This heater saw both fighters dropped a few times but in a true war of attrition, Salido hung tough and KO’ed his Thai challenger in the 11th round of a brutal bomb-fest.