clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2014 in Boxing: A Look Back Part 2

2014 was a mixed bag for boxing. From new contenders emerging, to old favorites finding a second wind in their careers, to many top ranked boxers beating up blatantly overmatched opponents, this past year has been exciting, disappointing, and in some cases, downright strange.

Jonathan Moore/Getty Images

Let's talk about the significant matches in the second half of the year.

July 26th: No Brakes on the Kazakh Pain Train

Gennady Golovkin is perhaps the most feared man in boxing right now. The imposing Kazakh possesses nearly legendary punching power and before his bout with former champion Daniel Geale, Golovkin stopped his last 16 opponents and sported the highest KO ratio in middleweight history. This bout, however, was significant because it was Golovkin's first matchup with a legitimate top-ten opponent. Daniel Geale is a crafty veteran and former champion who, despite being a 14-1 underdog in this match, had the experience and skills to test the heavy-handed Golovkin.

However, like most of Gennady's opponent's, from the opening bell, Geale was immediately overwhelmed by Golovkin's power and constant pressure. Golovkin cut off the ring and walked down Geale with heavy hook combinations to the head and body, eventually dropping the former champion in the second round. Geale proved to be a game opponent, and continuously tried to break through Gennady's tight ring control, but the fight ended in the third round off of an impressive counter right hook thrown by Golovkin after he absorbed a right cross from Geale.

ggg gif

After eating a right from the challenger, Golovkin (white gloves) knocks down Geale with a counter right while he recovers his balance

This bout legitimized the massive hype behind Gennady Golovkin. He easily and impressively put away a man that had been consistently ranked in the top five of the middleweight division and possesses the fan-friendly, power-punching style to become a major boxing draw. Big matchups are expected for Kazakh force of nature's future, and though he is currently slated to fight WBC Silver Middleweight Champion Martin Murray, both fans and Gennady himself are eager to see him tested against the likes of Saul Alvarez, Cesar Chaves Jr, or Miguel Cotto in 2015.

October 18th: The Axeman Cometh

Along with Vasyl Lomachenko and Terence Crawford, another boxer has been making waves in the lighter weight classes. Nicholas "the Axeman" Walters made a name for himself by consistently leaving his opponents staring blankly up at the lights. The undefeated Jamaican featherweight powerhouse knocked out 20 of his 24 opponents before he challenged Nonito Donaire for the WBA Super Featherweight belt. Nicknamed "the Filipino Flash", Donaire is a 5 division world champion and known for both his incredible speed and switch hitting ability, constantly switching between orthodox and southpaw stances to throw from multiple angles. Donaire dominated the lower weight divisions before he moved up and captured the featherweight belt; he was seen as the biggest test of Walter's career to date.

When they clashed, the Axeman went to work behind a long jab and heavy right hands. Walters fought intelligently and used his 5 inch reach advantage to place his power shots with great accuracy through and around Donaire's guard. Nonito did his best work on the inside, even hurting Walters at in the 2nd round with a left hook, but he visibly had difficulties dealing with the larger Jamaican's power. Walters dropped Donaire with a vicious uppercut in the third round and completely took over the fight from there. A series of right hands from Walters as Nonito attempted to close the distance put Donaire face down in the canvas and the stoppage was called in round 6.

walters gif

The Axeman took his place among the featherweight elite and proved that he was a forced to be reckoned with at 126 pounds. His win opens the door for a number of tantalizing bouts with other top featherweights, the likes of Jhonny Gonzalez, Evgeny Gradovich, or even Vasyl Lomachenko.

November 8th: Krusher Shuts Out the Alien

While Bernard Hopkins was receiving all the attention early on in the year, a dark force in the light heavyweight division went to work. Aptly nicknamed "the Krusher", Sergey Kovalev came into 2014 following four impressive stoppage victories in 2013. The imposing Russian wasted no time and gunned for a unification bout with Hopkins, running through two challengers early in 2014. Kovalev signed his contract to fight Hopkins literally the day before his bout with challenger Blake Caparello, whom he stopped with a highlight-reel bodyshot in the 2nd round to secure his bout with the age-defying Alien.

Bernard Hopkins is as wily and experienced as they come; his record and time in this sport speak for themselves, but Kovalev completely dominated the match in a 120-107, 120-107, and 120-106 shutout. From the onset, Kovalev's power forced Hopkins on the defensive. Kovalev was always blessed with incredible knockout potential in both hands, as his impressive stoppage record would go to show; however, the Russian standout fought a smart and technical battle against Hopkins. Kovalev's strong amateur background came through in this match; he kept a tight guard, and used a long, powerful body jab to control Hopkins at range. Hopkins had no answer to Kovalev's constant pressure and busy jab, and the Russian's clubbing right clearly troubled him whenever Bernard attempted to mount an offense.

kovalev gif

Kovalev knocks down Hopkins in round 1

It was not just Kovalev's power that won him the fight, but his complete control over the distance. As you can see in this clip, Kovalev was able to predict that Hopkins would start his offense after he rolled, and thus Sergey stepped back to maintain his comfortable distance and landed a cross counter that floored Bernard. After this point, Hopkins was extremely hesitant to let his hands go and reluctant to commit to exchanges. From start to finish, Kovalev controlled the fight and won every single round convincingly, cementing his place as the top 175 pounder in the world.

November 23rd & December 13th

Manny Pacquiao vs. Chris Algieri and Amir Khan vs. Devon Alexander get put together because their main significance lie in the talk of who Floyd Mayweather's next opponent will be. Upon hearing the words "Mayweather" and "Pacquiao" in the same sentence, most of us roll our eyes, but talk of a potential matchup that would have been fireworks half a decade ago have crept up over the past two months. After Pacquiao's one-sided domination of the durable, but feather-fisted Chris Algieri, Mayweather called out the 8-division world champion for a bout on May 2nd, and for a single sublime second, the gears finally seemed to start turning. However, this long overdue dream match has once again run into snags over time slots, as the Cinco de Mayo weekend was a potential target for a huge matchup between Saul Alvarez and Miguel Cotto.

While the clock is ticking for Mayweather vs. Pacquiao, Amir Khan has been campaigning hard for a shot at Mayweather's unblemished record. The British Pakistani dynamo made his claim to challenge Mayweather by winning a wide unanimous decision against former Light Welterweight Champion Deon Alexander. In a show of blistering hand speed, Khan completely outclassed Alexander, and many fans believe that he has the speed, youth, and potential to beat the pound for pound best. However, the young challenger seems to be growing restless over the grind of Mayweather-Pacquiao talks, and has shown recent interest in a match against IBF Welterweight Champion Kell Brook, who just took the belt in an upset against Shawn Porter.

A Bit of Wrap Up:

The Changing of the Guard

2014, while lacking in significant matchups, gave us a number of new talents to look forward to. Along with Terence Crawford and Vasyl Lomachenko (mentioned in Part 1), this year we watched the boxers like Keith Thurman, Roman Gonzalez, and Naoya Inoue smash their way into the divisional elite. These fighters are all young, talented, and all but Keith Thurman have seized championship belts in 2014. Thurman, while he only holds an interim belt, has dangerous knockout power, and has already started to call for fights against the top of the welterweight heap. His youth and "One Time" finishing style could breathe new life into the packed division. 2015 looks to be an exciting year for the lighter weight divisions.

The Weird

Among the controversial judging that plagued 2014, like Herrera vs. Garcia, or even Timothy Bradley's bizarre draw with Diego Chaves Jr (Karma), Mickey Rourke's attempt to return to boxing was perhaps the strangest thing to occur in boxing last year. The 62 year old actor fought an unknown Elliot Seymour in Russia and "knocked out" the 1-9 fighter in the second round. It was atrocious and Seymour later came out to say that he was paid to take a dive. It was a moment that was odd, almost comical, and incredibly sad all at the same time.

The Bad

While this past year has been instrumental in building up new champions and contenders, lack of significant bouts and blatant championship mismatches have made us question the relevance of long-established champions. One of the major offenders of this was Danny Garcia.

2014 was a bad year for Garcia. Coming off of a win over the dangerous Lucas Matthysse in 2013, Garcia was gifted a majority decision over Mauricio Herrera. At that point, Herrera had lost 2 of his last 4 bouts, going winless in 2012, but Garcia could not find his rhythm against the crafty underdog, who neutralized his famous left hook early on and threw from unorthodox angles. Although Garica walked away with the decision, many thought Herrera was robbed. Garcia would bounce back to face the completely unheralded Rod Salka, a 19-3 fighter who was not even close to the division's top 30, to this result.

garcia gif

Garcia completely annihilated Salka, who had absolutely no business being in the ring a guy like Danny Garcia. There are tune up fights, and there are beat downs, and this match was clearly the latter. Salka was inexperienced, way out of his depth, and watching this match made me feel as if I witnessed a mugging.

Similarly, another Al-Haymon represented fighter, Light Heavyweight Champion Adonis Stevenson, dodged championship bouts against both Sergey Kovalev and Bernard Hopkins in favor of a safe match against the unknown Dmitry Sukhotsky. Stevenson, like Garcia, quickly put away the challenger, who had only fought outside of Russia once before.

A champion is defined as "a person who has defeated or surpassed all rivals in a competition," and yet, in when the opportunities present themselves, many "champions" took easy squash matches to pad their records in 2014. It is slightly understandable that a prospect will receive some favorable matches to gain leverage to challenge for a title, but the idea of becoming a champion means that you've beaten the best and are willing to continue competing against top contenders to prove that you are truly at the pinnacle of the sport. At the championship level, there is no need to "pad" a record further on lesser competition to prove legitimacy.

Look at Vasyl Lomachenko or Naoya Inoue. With only 12 combined professional fights between them, they claimed world titles and both are only willing to go after the best of their divisions. It is fighters like these, real champions that defend their belts for the sole purpose of being able to compete with the best of the best, that give me hope for 2015.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Bad Left Hook Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your global boxing news from Bad Left Hook