|The KO Digest salutes the fistic year that was|
|Final 10-count for Goossen ... and Ward?|
Back on Earth, in the mortal coil of Al Haymon's mismatched boxing worldview, the possibility of Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao has been dangled in front of fans yet again, and we're still hungry for that Superfight so let's finally get it on in 2015 and stop talking about it. Mayweather got down and dirty with Marcos Maidana twice in 2014 while Pacquiao bested Tim Bradley and Chris Algieri to again renew interest in boxing's version of Groundhog Day. In November, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum called Mayweather "reluctant" to fight Pacquiao. In December, Mayweather called out Pacquiao during an interview with Steve Farhood on SHO where Floyd blamed it all on Arum, accusing the pair of ducking him.
Several of Haymon's signatory fighters now seem to be locked in career stalls. To wit: World Light Heavyweight Champion Adonis Stevenson & World Junior Welterweight Champion Danny Garcia saw undeniable losses of momentum in 2014 under the direction and guidance of Haymon. Peter Quillin gave up his WBO middleweight title and a potential $1.4 million dollar purse rather than fight mandatory challenger Matt Korobov, all in order to follow a path laid out by Haymon. Keith Thurman was actually booed by fans in Vegas after going the distance in December against unknown survival-artist Leonard Bundu. Regardless, an exciting new wave of boxing stars are ready to take over when Manny & Money are gone. They're already more entertaining than Mayweather or Pacquiao.
Though not perfect, the state of our fight game is strong. Its bright future belongs to the likes of Main Events' Sergey "The Krusher" Kovalev, K1's Gennady Golovkin, HBO's Golden Boy Canelo Alvarez, Haymon's "One Time" Thurman, and Top Rank's trio of Terence Crawford, Nicholas "Ax Man" Walters, and Vasyl Lomachenko. Boxing fans, welcome to the 4th Annual KO Digest Boxing Year End Awards. It's fun for us to write and it's fun for you to read. We're glad you're here. Happy New Year from the entire Staff at KO Digest.
We'd like thank you for choosing KO and for another year of your loyal readership. Now let's see who won!
Knockout of the Year: Irish Andy Lee KO5 John Jackson
|Irish Eyes are winning|
As fate would have it, Lee instead found himself in a life or death struggle of his own against Jackson on the Cotto-Martinez undercard live covered by KO Digest. Trailing badly on the scorecards going into the fifth round, Lee had been knocked down in the first and was in a defensive retreat from punches throughout the bout. It looked like Lee was going to lose the fight - and his fighting future.
The fateful fifth looked like more of the same with Lee taking abuse on the ropes and almost going through them because there was nowhere else to go that Jackson couldn't find him. That is when Lee made his brave stand and saved his boxing life. With his back to the ropes in a corner that he'd just stumbled into, Lee stiffened himself and threw a right hand "hookercut" that connected square on the chin of an onrushing Jackson. The devastating effect was immediate and Jackson was literally out cold before he hit the canvas face-first. Lee joyously raised both hands in victory and referee Benji Esteves didn't need to count. They both knew the fight was over and that Lee had just scored the "Knockout of the Year" in a most dramatic way. "If the late great Emanuel Stewart had seen this, his smile would light up this joint," said Larry Merchant to conclude his call of the fight on HBO airwaves. Not to be outdone at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Lee then capped off an amazing year in December when he stopped heavily favored Russian Matt Korobov in six rounds to win the vacant WBO middleweight championship with another dramatic, come-from-behind stoppage victory.
In a very strange way, thank you Al Haymon for melting "Kid Chocolate" into the 2014 KO of the Year.
Best of the Rest: Amir Mansour KO7 Fred Kassi, Carl Froch KO8 George Groves II, & Wladimir Klitschko KO5 Kubrat Pulev
Kassi might still be sleeping thanks to Mansour, Groves was made into a pretzel by Froch, and Pulev fell from a monster left hook.
Kassi might still be sleeping thanks to Mansour, Groves was made into a pretzel by Froch, and Pulev fell from a monster left hook.
2013 Winner: Deontay Wilder KO1 Sergei Liakhovich2012 Winner: Juan Manuel Marquez KO6 Manny Pacquiao
2011 Winner: Floyd Mayweather KO4 Victor Ortiz
Upset of the Year: Rogelio Medina KO3 J'Leon Love
|Porky upsets the Jackpot in Vegas|
Best of the Rest: Chris Algieri SD12 Ruslan Provodnikov, Tommy Karpency SD10 Chad Dawson, Kell Brook MD12 Shawn Porter
Some thought Provo edged Algieri, KO predicted a Karpency victory, and all 21 RingTV experts picked Porter, including KO.
2013 Winner: Jhonny Gonzalez TKO1 Abner Mares
2012 Winner: Josesito Lopez TKO9 Victor Ortiz
2011 Winner: Orlando Salido TKO8 Juan Manuel Lopez
Robbery Victim of the Year: Mauricio "El Maestro" Herrera
|Garcia robbed Herrera and beat Salka|
Worst of the Rest: Oscar Escandon SD12 Tyson Cave & Diego Chaves D12 Tim Bradley
Atlas cried "robbery" on ESPN for Cave. Bradley pays a price for his "win" over Pacquiao.
Worst of 2013: Ricky Burns D12 Ray Beltran
Worst of 2012: Brandon Rios W12 Richard Abril
Worst of 2011: Paul Williams W12 Erislandy Lara
Round of the Year: Juanma TKO2 Daniel Ponce de Leon II - Round 2
|Juanma sipped from the fountain of youth|
The super featherweight onslaught began and ended in round 2.
The favored Ponce de Leon pounded Lopez with a left hook that knocked Lopez off balance and onto the canvas halfway through the round. Sensing Lopez was vulnerable, de Leon pounced, aiming to finish the fight, but he severely underestimated how hurt Juanma was and how hard he was willing to fight to stay alive. Having lost 3 of his last 6, Lopez had fallen from the top 10 and was on the ropes not only in the fight, but in his career. Refusing to quit, Lopez also refused to lose. After receiving a standing 8-count, Lopez countered Ponce de Leon with a massive right his opponent never saw coming, flattening him to his back just 30 seconds later.
|Farewell to an action hero|
Lopez finished off 2014 with a pair of losses to Francisco Vargas and Jesus Marcelo Andres Cuellar, perhaps ending his career. But for one last special night, we were treated to vintage Juanma Lopez. To a fighter who gives his all and risks his health in the ring, perhaps it’s unfair to ask “what-if.” Instead, we should look at what he actually was; Juan Manuel Lopez was an all-action warrior to the end, and the winner of KO Digest’s 2014 Round of the Year.
Best of the Rest: Tommy Coyle vs Daniel Brizuela Round 11 & Francisco Rodriguez Jr vs Katsunari Takayama Round 12
Coyle had a great 2014 in the United Kingdom. Minimumweights Rodriguez and Takayama gave boxing a maximum effort.
2013 Winner: Mickey Bey vs John Molina Round 10
2012 Winner: Sergio Martinez vs Julio Cesar Chavez Jr Round 12
2011 Winner: James Kirkland vs Alfredo Angulo Round 1
Written By Joel "The Future" Sebastianelli - exclusively for KO Digest
The 2014 Fight of the Year: Terence Crawford TKO9 Yuriorkis Gamboa
|Omaha hosted the 2014 Fight of the Year|
"They gave us this fight in these difficult conditions, but we're warriors, and we accept these conditions. We come here to face it," said the challenger. Fighting for the first time in over a year, and as a lightweight for only the second time, Gamboa knew there would not be a warm welcome for him at the CenturyLink Center. Although both men boasted identical records (23-0, 16 KO's) Gamboa was the underdog for the first time in his career. Surprisingly, Gamboa would sweep the first four rounds on most of the scorecards.
|Crawford found an opening to make Gamboa pay|
In the eighth, Gamboa displayed plenty of heart and tried to regain control. With less than a minute remaining in the round, Crawford switched back to the orthodox stance and dug a left hook deep into the challenger's body. A right-cross, left-hook combination dropped Gamboa to a knee near the ropes. Incredibly, he made it out of the round. But then in what could have been a candidate for "Round of the Year," Crawford came out looking for the knockout in the ninth and deciding round. Alternating from southpaw to orthodox, a left hook stunned Gamboa early in the round, and the champion forced him to the ropes. But there would be no quit in the brave challenger, and he fired punches in return. After Crawford landed a flush right uppercut, he stepped in for the finish. Gamboa kept firing, and a hard right caught the champion by surprise. Suddenly "Bud" was on rubbery legs. "Oh, Crawford is hurt!" shouted the HBO team. Exhausted, Gambo tried to press the action, but he walked into a hard right hand, followed by a pair of left hooks that dropped him on his side for the third time in the fight. Determined to go out on his shield, Gamboa rose yet again, and fired the right hand with abandon. Finally, with just seconds remaining in the round, a huge right uppercut dropped the challenger in dramatic fashion. Referee Gino Rodriguez had seen enough, and called it with just seven ticks remaining on the clock. "That was a GREAT fight, a great fight!" said Max Kellerman. In the post-fight interview, the winner and STILL champion explained his decision to fight as a southpaw. "I felt like I could make an adjustment with my jab, because he is always dropping his left hand. I thought I could get him with my jab in the southpaw stance," said Crawford. Gamboa then described the KO Digest "Fight of the Year" perfectly:
"We were just two warriors in the ring trying to get the victory, and he won," said the vanquished Ciclon.
|Welcome to Crawfordville|
Best of the Rest: Lucas Matthysse KO11 John Molina, USS Steve Cunningham UD10 Amir "Hardcore" Mansour, Orlando Salido KO11 Terdsak Kokietgym, Robert Guerrero UD12 Yoshihiro Kamegai, and Juanma Lopez TKO2 Daniel Ponce de Leon II
The Machine was hurt by Molina in a junior welterweight slugfest but eventually overcame him with better design and harder punches, American heavyweights Cunningham and Mansour waged a classic firefight on US soil, Siri and Gym traded multiple knockdowns in Mexico, The Ghost wasn't very friendly and neither was Kamegi in their slobberknocker, and Juanma Lopez surprised most everyone by somehow finding the fountain of youth in Puerto Rico against Ponce de Leon on Showtime
2013 Winner: Tim Bradley W12 Ruslan Provodnikov
2012 Winner: Juan Manuel Marquez KO6 Manny Pacquiao IV
2011 Winner: Victor Ortiz W12 Andre Berto
Written By David McLeod - exclusively for KO Digest
The 2014 KO Digest Fighter of the Year: Terence "Bud" Crawford
|Crawford & Company have good reason to celebrate|
Crawford's June homecoming at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha was nothing short of sensational, a Fight of the Year instant classic, a 9th round technical knockout victory over Cuban star Yuriorkis Gamboa to successfully defend the lightweight title on HBO. As remarkable as the fight grew, it was amplified by the enormous energy present in the form of local fans there to see Crawford energize their city and their state with a championship performance for the ages, finishing the Cyclone de Guantanamo off with some razmataz in the ninth round.
Incredibly, this was only the second world title fight ever held in Omaha and the last was in 1972 when the late great Smokin' Joe Frazier beat local contender Ron Stander to defend the heavyweight championship. Crawford put the finishing touches on his Fighter of the Year campaign in November, again at the CenturyLink Center, with an impressive shutout victory over the usually competitive Ray Beltran. The fight was for the WBO title as well the vacant "Ring Magazine Belt" and the win earned Crawford (25-0, 17 KO's) universal recognition as World Lightweight Champion though his days at 135 lbs appear to be numbered in favor of the more lucrative junior welterweight division. Considering that Crawford has literally nothing left to prove against anybody at lightweight, and achieved that lofty status as the champion within a year's time, he's free to go pursue the American Dream just five pounds north at 140 lbs.
"I can tell it's big," said Crawford of his 2014 impact. "Big not just for me but for the city of Omaha. It's not just the boxing community; it's all the people in Omaha. I can also tell I give people hope that they can be what they want to be, if you believe and work hard at it."
Best of the Rest: Sergey Kovalev, Nicholas Walters, Manny Pacquiao, Naoya Inoue, Mauricio Herrera & Vasyl Lomachenko
Krusher Kovalev knocked down and beat up the 49-year old "Alien" Hopkins by ridiculously wide scores, Walters "beat the shit" out of Nonito Donaire and might have finished him, Manny is still ready (and waiting) for Money May, Inoue knocked out Omar Narvaez with a body punch, Herrera beat Danny Garcia and Jessie Benavidez but got robbed by the judges in both fights, and Lomachenko is the absolutely sublime WBO featherweight champion with just 4 fights on his professional record and the boxing world at his feet.
2013 Winner: Adonis "Superman" Stevenson
2012 Winners: Juan Manuel Marquez & Nonito Donaire (co-fighters of the year)
2011 Winner: Andre Ward
The 2014 KO Digest Prospect of the Year: Sadam "World Kid" Ali
|Ali went from prospect to contender in 2014|
Ali, 21-0, 13 KO's, fought a near perfect fight against the seasoned and heavily favored Abregu. The Argentine banger was entering the ring (despite an eighteen month layoff) with the memories of two impressive victories over Antonin Decarie and Thomas Dulorme fresh in his mind. His only loss came at the hands of Timothy Bradley and his professional experiences far outweighed those of Ali. However, Ali was a 2008 Olympian and was comforted by his adventures prior to the pay-checks of prizefighting.
"I've fought the world. I've fought the best. I've fought all types of styles and going in with that experience really helped me."
|Credentialed Coverage by KO|
Ali has taken his time throughout his career, inside of the ring and out. He is an intelligent and technically gifted boxer-puncher with enough power to offer a threat to the welterweight elite. His next fight will likely take place on HBO and Ali, The KO Digest 2014 Prospect of the Year, appears ready for all comers. "If it makes sense, I am ready to fight whoever. I'm not in any rush, I'm not into calling any names out but I'm not gonna duck anybody either. I'm the type of fighter to let them call me out. If they are gonna talk, and they want me, they can get what they want."
2013 Winner: Vasyl Lomachenko
2012 Winner: Keith Thurman
2011 Winner: Gary Russell Jr
Written By Terry Strawson - exclusively for KO Digest
|Cotto got the girl, the belt, and the best trainer in boxing|
Trainer of the Year: Freddie Roach, reinvented Cotto, refurbished Pacquiao
Quote: "Al Haymon is a brilliant, intelligent, great young man." - Don King
Event: CEO Richard Schaefer resigns from Golden Boy Promotions in a tiff
Breakout Fighter of the Year: Nicholas Walters, Jamaica, WBA 126 lb champ
New England KO of Year: Jimmy Smith KO3 Moises Rivera, 11/15 Portland
Breakout Performance of the Year: Kell Brook MD12 Shawn Porter, IBF 147
Cable Network: HBO because it sure as hell wasn't Showtime or ESPN
Dive of the Year: Deontay Wilder KO1 Malik Scott, what a friendly farce!
Distinguished World Champion: Flyweight Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez
Media Good Guy Award: Edwin "Ace" Ayala, my friend, a published author
Top 12 KO Digest Boxing Media Highlights of 2014:
"The Duplicitous Real Deal"
|KO Digest's © Photo of the Year - GGG at MSG in NYC|
1. Ringside Report - Cotto vs Martinez at MSG
2. April KO interview with Wladimir Klitschko
3. Broke news of Holyfield's retirement in Maine
4. Credentialed for Kovalev vs Hopkins in AC NJ
5. Published in Portland, ME EXPO show program
6. 25-13 on Lem's RingTV Expert Prediction panel
7. Media Q&A's with Iron Mike Tyson & Tim Bradley
8. Covered the "KO of the Year" - Lee KO5 Jackson
9. Media score for Floyd vs Maidana I on Boxrec page
10. Retweeted by the World Heavyweight Champion
11. Published on Michael Woods' "The Sweet Science"
12. KO's David McLeod 5th row MSG pressrow GGG-Geale
This fourth annual 2014 KO Digest Boxing Year End Review and Awards article was produced, and edited by KO Digest Editor in Chief Jeffrey Freeman with invaluable contributions from Terry Strawson, David McLeod, Derek "DBO" Bonnett, and Joel "The Future" Sebastianelli.