January 30, 2015

KO's Ringside Notes & Quotes V — The ESPN Friday Night Fights Edition

Please Stand By
By Jeffrey Freeman, KO Digest

If the first Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) card on NBC March 7 goes anything like their first ever media conference call went in promotion for it on January 28, you might expect some technical difficulties. The call opened to dead air. When they finally got Adrien Broner on the teleconference, the "Cincinnati Doofus" noticed the problem right away, feigning bored snores and groggily commenting, "Oh my God, the first conference call is kinda shaky, this is funny." What's funny is that Broner has been put in the first PBC bout to be aired on NBC's historic return to free Saturday afternoon TV boxing. Broner's opponent, John Molina, was not as amused: "Boxing is not a debate contest, it's a brutal sport."

The brutality of boxing on display in Denver
Mike Alvarado didn't "quit" in the corner against Brandon Rios during their third fight in Colorado on January 24. No, "Mile High" Mike quit on himself well before he turned two fingers into four, long before the reality of fighting without training hit him in the face like a "Bam Bam" Rios uppercut and blinded him to the reality of his painful fall from grace. Ultimately, the Rios-Alvarado trilogy was still very good but it will never be thought of now in the same vein as Gatti-Ward and that's unfortunate considering the heavy price they both paid in vain trying to get there for the entertainment of blood thirsty fight fans. The saddest thing to see in boxing is wasted talent, followed by wasted potential. Alvarado has now wasted both. Shame on Top Rank promoter Bob Arum for not putting a stop to that farce by cancelling the rubber match outright when he knew (or should have known) damn well how unprepared Alvarado truly was. In unflappable, full-on promotional spin mode a week before the scheduled bout, Arum went as far as to say that he had "nothing but admiration" for Alvarado as a person and as an athlete, even characterizing Alvarado's crimes as victimless. No Uncle Bob, there were plenty of victims. Namely, the six thousand paying fans who showed their pain by booing Alvarado in his own backyard when they should have been booing you and demanding a refund, not a rematch.  
Mancini makes his case
Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini talks to KO Digest's Joel Sebastianelli about the real measure of a champion in the upcoming February edition of "KO Digest Interview" available Sunday Feb 1 — "The true championship distance is 15 rounds. I have a problem with guys who only have to go 12 and got into the International Boxing Hall of Fame before guys who went 15. I lost but against Alexis Arguello and Livingstone Bramble, I was winning after 12 rounds. So the bottom line is if it's only 12 rounds, I'm undefeated! What would they say now if I had beat those legends?" 
Will Money diversify against Manny?
Welterweight contender Keith "One Time" Thurman speaks to the boxing media about the politics of pugilism: "Most ducking that occurs in boxing is political. Whether it be on the promoter, manager, trainer, or the fighter's end. Everybody has a reason to go the route they go. Unlike Mayweather, I like diversity. I want to fight the boxers. I want to fight the punchers. I want to fight the world baby. So come one, come all. I've said a lot about the people who've avoided me but at the end of the day, I'm truly not mad at nobody. We're all in it to have the careers that we want to put food on the table for our families." 

KO Digest Ringside Report (Foxwoods, Connecticut, ESPN Friday Night Fights - Mosley Jr. wins, Falowo beats Lamour in a New England thriller, Lacy gets hammered by Barrera, Luis upsets Dargan

JAN 30 In the Main Events main event, lightweights Karl Dargan and Tony Luis fought ten rounds for the WBC Continental Americas title. Dargan,  Philadelphia, was clearly the crowd favorite while the Canadian out of towner seemed to use that as an extra motivation. Luis stayed in the chest of Dargan for most of the  fight, making "Dynamite" look uncomfortable while lingering on the ropes instead of punching off of them. By the sixth round, Dargan appeared to be a mentally beaten fighter and Luis was surging in his confidence and in his attack. Dargan found it hard to avoid the left hand of Luis who stepped to his right and landed it with regularity.  Luis constantly outworked Dargan, it's as simple as that. The winner added a knockdown in the last round to seal the deal. Official scores: 97-92, 99-90, and 97-92. Dargan, 17-1, 9 KO's, lost the fight and his unbeaten record. Luis wins big to improve to 19-2, 7 KO's.  

"The Souljah" beats Lamour on ESPN
In the televised co-main event scheduled for eight rounds for the New England middleweight championship, local favorites Thomas Falowo and defending champion Russell Lamour both got loud introductory ovations from a packed house divided evenly across state lines. Lamour is the top dog in Maine, representing Portland and the "207" with pride. Falowo, 13-3, 8 KO's, fights out of Rhode Island and has made a name for himself as a rapidly improving fighter under Jimmy Burchfield's Classic Entertainment and Sports banner. In the first round, a straight right hand from Falowo buckled the knees of Lamour and these two were off to the races, fiercely trading on the inside whenever Falowo wasn't in hot pursuit of a retreating Lamour. Chants of "Russell, Russell" were quickly silenced in the fourth when Falowo pounded him into his own corner while trainer Bobby Russo looked on with a concerned look on his face. As an entertaining scrap developed, Falowo was the busier fighter and he fought like he wanted it a little more, perpetually pushing the fight forward.

Lamour found the body of Falowo in the sixth and "The Souljah" did well to hide his agony. The seventh and the eighth were like the first six, fun to watch but almost too close too call. Official scores in favor the winner and new New England middleweight champion were 78-74, 77-75, and 77-75. This was a really good fight and the decision was well earned. Lamour takes his first loss and is now 11-1, 5 KO's. We caught up with Falowo after the bout and the winner was very satisfied with his performance, telling KO, "It was fun, a really great feeling to see it all come together. I was trying not to get overanxious in there after I hurt him in the first. I definitely felt it to the body in the sixth but I got my second wind after that. Lamour is tough and he can box but the pressure was too much for him."   

On the undercard: 

Florida's Jeff Lacy was felled by a massive right hand in the first round from Sullivan Barrera in a light heavyweight "crossroads" bout. Somehow, he got up. Lacy, a former super middleweight champion, should not be in the ring, a victim of too many career concussions. Barrera, trained by Abel Sanchez, was bigger, younger, and he wasted no time showing "Left Hook" who the boss was in this one. The ring doctor took a close look at Lacy before the third but he let the mismatch continue. Barrera lost a point for a low blow in the fourth round but that just made him mad and he finished the fight in the corner with a series of unanswered blows. The winner improved his record to 15-0, 10 KO's while Lacy goes to 27-6, 18 KO's. 

Sugar Shane's baby boy gets the win
Middleweight Shane Mosley Jr came to the ring with boxing royalty in his corner in form of his father Sugar Shane and Floyd Mayweather Sr. Opponent Rafael Machado brought a tough guy attitude and his experiences as a cage fighter. Mosley Jr, Pomona, CA., has his famous father's eyes but he appears to lack the sublime skills that made him so great. A straight right sent Machado's mouthpiece flying in the second and two knockdowns in the third ended matters at 2:40. The first knockdown was scored off a sweet left hook, the second from a right uppercut to the body. Mosley is now 3-1, 3 KO's.

Local light heavyweight southpaw Charles Foster, New Haven, CT., traded power punches and hard counters in close with Larry "The Blessed One" Pryor, Washington, DC, for six full rounds and neither guy ever gave an inch. Clinches were rare but ripping shots to the head and body were not. Foster was the more creative fighter overall and he goes to 7-0, 3 KO's while Pryor makes his way to .500 at 9-9, 5 KO's with a respectable, professional effort. 

Official scores: 60-54, 60-54, and 59-55. KO had it a little closer.

KO Digest at the Fox Theater
Philadelphia cruiserweight Khalib "Bigfoot" Whitmore, 6-1, 5 KO's, was having his way with Carlos Reyes in the fist round before Reyes suddenly lowered the boom with two knockdowns in the second round that had Whitmore out on his feet. The referee stopped the fight at 2:04. Reyes, Kuarny, Arizona, improves to 7-5-1, 5 KO's. This was the opening bout of the card and it was quite an upset. Brother Nazeem Richardson was in the corner of Whitmore and he can't be very happy with what he saw from Bigfoot.     

Heavyweight Keith "Machine Gun" Tapia, 210, trapped hapless Jesse Oltmanns in a corner and wailed away until referee Mike Ortega jumped in to put a stop to the massacre at 2:09 of the first round. Tapia hails from Puerto Rico and improves to 13-0, 8 KO's. Oltmanns, Bartonsville, PA., falls to 10-5, 7 KO's. Tapia has a pep in his step and he might be one to keep an eye on. 

Ringside Report Photos by Jeffrey Freeman

January 24, 2015

The Sweet Side of the Sweet Science — 2014 Year End Review & Awards

Boxing's First Lady Cecilia Braekhus is Fighter of the Year
By Mark A Jones — Much took place in women’s boxing in 2014 making it a banner year in some respects. The professional female boxing scene is dominated by fighters from Mexico and Argentina in the lighter weight classes whereas the world champions in the heavier weight classes are based in Europe. In amateur boxing, American females have fared much better with Marlen Esparza (51 KG) and Claressa Shields (75 KG) achieving #1 rankings internationally. On Memorial Day, women’s boxing in the United States received much needed exposure when Private First Class Alex Love (Army) won a decision over 17-year-old Julie LaDisa (Bronx) on a Golden Boy Promotions pro-am card from Fort Bliss, Texas. The card was televised by FoxSports1.

Love, of Seattle, is a member of the United States Army World Class Athlete Program (WCAP) and competed in the first-ever USA Boxing Olympic Trials for female boxers in 2012. Danyelle Wolfe, San Diego, who is ranked #1 by USA Boxing at welterweight (152 lbs.), appeared in the revealing ESPN the Magazine Body Issue 2014. Women’s boxing must receive more exposure on the grassroots level if the professional ranks are to enjoy the popularity it once achieved a decade ago when Laila Ali, Christ Martin, and Mia St. John were driving the sport.

IWBHF inaugural inductees
At the National Golden Gloves tournament, on July 10, the first-ever International Women’s Boxing Hall of Fame (IWBHF) inductions were held. A fabulous cast of seven inductees were celebrated for their contributions to women’s boxing at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The event was hosted by Bill Calogero and each inductee was introduced by Malissa Smith, the author of “The History of Women’s Boxing.” The IWBHF is the creation of Sue Fox; a former boxer and creator of the website, Women’s Boxing Achieve Network or “WBAN.” Foremost among the inductees is Barbara Buttrick “The Mighty Atom of the Ring” who barnstormed the United States in the 1940s and 50s and is considered the most important pioneer of women’s boxing. Buttrick compiled a reported record of (31-1) during her travels, often fighting in "exhibition" bouts against men. In the 1990s, Buttrick founded the Women’s International Boxing Federation, a major sanctioning body in women’s boxing.

IWBHF 2014 Inductees: 
Barbara Buttrick (boxer)
Bonnie Canino (boxer and coach)
Christy Martin (boxer)
Regina Halmich (boxer)
Dr. Christy Halbert (coach and author)
Lucia Rijker (boxer)
Jo-Ann Hagen (boxer, posthumous)

The IWBHF rolls out their Hall of Fame carpet
On December 1, the International Women’s Boxing Hall of Fame (IWBHF) announced the 2015 induction class. The induction ceremonies will be held on July 11 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and includes Muhammad Ali's daughter. 

IWBHF 2015 Inductees: 
Laila Ali (boxer)
Jeannine Garside (boxer)
Deirdre Gogarty (boxer)
Phyliss Kugler (boxer, posthumous)
Sparkle Lee (referee)
Terri Moss (boxer and coach)
Laura Serrano (boxer)
Ann Wolfe (boxer)

The sporting world mourns the loss of Mwelase
Tragically, on October 10, aspiring South African light-welterweight professional boxer, Phindile Mwelase entered the ring for the fourth time seeking her first victory against six-fight veteran Liz Butler. However, Mwelase was knocked out by her more experienced foe in the sixth round of a scheduled eight. After the bout it was discovered that Mwelase had sustained bleeding on the brain that required emergency surgery. Subsequently, she slipped into a coma from which she never recovered. On October 25 at a hospital in Pretoria, South Africa, she died of the injuries that she sustained in the contest, she was 31. Reuters quoted South African President Jacob Zuma, who stated, “She joined a sport that is predominately male, and was proving that women can also succeed in boxing.” To date, the death of Mwelase is the second ring-death of a female boxer. The first such a event was in April 2005 when American amateur boxer Becky Zerlentes died of injuries sustained in a knockout loss.

Knockout of the Year: Anne Sophie Mathis NC 5 Christina Hammer

Controversial "knockout" in Germany
On July 26 in Dessau, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, it, what at the time appeared to be the matchup of the year, 23-year-old Christina Hammer (17-0, 8 KOs), entered the ring entered the ring with two middleweight titles to face perhaps the most brutal puncher in the history of women’s boxing in Anne Sophie Mathis (27-3, 23 KOs) for the WBO & WBF light-middleweight titles. Mathis, 37, a notoriously slow starter, allowed Hammer to win three of the first four rounds before becoming settled in the fight. In the fifth stanza, during a failed attempt by Hammer to clinch, Mathis landed a well-placed crushing right cross to the ear resulting in a knockdown. The assigned referee, Manfred Kuechler, failed to count Hammer out who required 25 seconds to erect herself properly from the canvas. Instead, Kuechler ruled the punch that knocked Hammer down an illegal blow to the back of the head and disqualified Mathis.

Video evidence later revealed that the punch was legal and that the referee was out of position to render a proper ruling. On July 28, the WBF declared the bout a “no contest” restoring Mathis as WBF light-middleweight champion. On July 29, Bund Deutscher Berufsboxer, the sanctioning commission, followed suit, changing the result to a “no contest.” A rematch has not been scheduled.

Best of the Rest: Yesica Patricia Marcos KO-1 Estrella Valverde,
Jackie Nava KO-7 Alys Sanchez, and Daniela Romina Bermudez TKO8 Linda Laura Lecca

2013 Winner: Diana Prazak KO8 Frida Wallberg

Upset of the Year: Ana Laura Esteche UD10 Monica Silvina Acosta

Esteche's upset was the biggest in 2014
On January 18 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Ana Laura Esteche, who failed in three attempts at lightweight to secure a world title, entered the ring against WBA light-welterweight champion Monica Silvina Acosta a gigantic underdog. Acosta, during her 5 ½ year reign as the WBC and later the WBA light-welterweight champion was considered talented but protected, held victories over Erin McGowan, Belinda Laracuente, and Alejandra Marina Oliveras. By most, Esteche was considered nothing more than a tune-up for Acosta, who looked forward to defending against the best of the division in 2014. From the outset of the bout, it was evident that the 36-year-old Acosta was not in prime condition. She was unable to move laterally to evade the sharp counters of the 23-year-old Esteche. Acosta delivered the heavier blows, but was outworked by the challenger who countered well and accurately. Before the scores (99-91/98-92/98-92) were announced, the champion placed the WBA belt around the waist of the new champion rendering the ring announcer’s proclamation moot. In September, Acosta (19-2-2, 5 KOs) lost a controversial split-decision to Marisa Gabriela Nunez (7-5-2) for the IBF light-welterweight title. Esteche (11-3-2, 2 KOs) defended her title in June against popular Russian contender Svetlana Kulakova (9-0-1) battling to a split-draw. In a non-title fight against WBO light-welterweight champion Fernanda Soledad Alegre (20-2-1, 10 KOs) in November, Esteche escaped with a split-decision victory.

Best of the Rest: Jazmin Ortega (2-1-1) UD-10 Irma Sanchez (28-6-1), Maribel Ramirez (9-7-2) SD-8 Esmeralda Moreno (29-7-1)

2013 Winner: Riyo Togo TKO1 Mariana Juarez 

The Sweet Side Comeback Fighter of the Year: Jackie Nava

Jackie Nava came back from childbirth
On May 24 in Tijuana, Mexico, 34-year-old Jackie Nava, after a 21-month layoff from the ring due to childbirth, returned in grand fashion winning the interim WBA World female super-bantamweight title (122 lbs.) by knocking out former world champion, Alys Sanchez (13-2-1, 4 KOs) in the seventh round of a scheduled ten. With the win, Nava became a super bantamweight world champion for the fifth time. Nava hit the canvas in the first stanza as a result of catching a clubbing right cross from Sanchez, but dominated the remainder of the contest issuing Sanchez a brutal beating knocking her down four times in route to the knockout win. In September, Nava retained the WBA interim title and lifted the WBC World female super-bantamweight title with a majority decision over Alicia Ashley (22-10-1, 4 KOs). In December, Nava moved her record to (3-0) in 2014 with a ten-round unanimous decision over Sayda Mosquera (7-1-1, 5 KOs). With the win, Nava retained the WBC super-bantamweight title and became the WBA Super Champion.

Best of the Rest: Paola Gabriela Casalinuovo, Martha Salazar, and Hanna Gabriel 

2013 Winner: Susi “Killer Queen” Kentikian

Robbery of the Year: Mariana Juarez UD 10 Melissa McMorrow

Juarez beat McMorrow with some help from the judges
On February 22 in Puebla, Mexico, Melissa McMorrow of San Francisco battered famous Mexican super-flyweight, Mariana Juarez of Mexico City with her ultra-aggressive, two-fisted attack over ten rounds conservatively winning eight of the stanzas. At stake for Juarez was the WBC International female super-flyweight title (first defense) and a rumored lucrative fight with fellow Mexican and WBC super-flyweight world champion, Zulina Munoz (44-1-2, 27 KOs). The three-judge panel, each from Mexico, awarded Mariana Juarez a unanimous decision victory (96-94 x 3) potentially robbing McMorrow of a shot at Munoz. Since, the 34-year-old Juarez stopped Carla Romina Weiss in four rounds moving her record to (40-7-3, 17 KOs). In August, McMorrow, 33, dropped to flyweight and lost another controversial decision in Mexico this time to Jessica Chavez (UD-10). The scoring (97-93, 97-94, and 96-94) favored Chavez, but it was McMorrow who controlled the action inside the ring. McMorrow’s record now is standing at a deceiving (9-5-3, 1 KO).

Worst of the Rest: Chavez UD-10 McMorrow, Jennifer Retzke SD-10 Florence Muthoni, Ji Hye Woo MD-10 Jennifer Han 

Worst of 2013: Jennifer Retzke D10 Florence Muthoni

Event of the Year: First Ever WBC Women’s Boxing Convention

The WBC's first female boxing convention
In September, a milestone in women’s boxing was established when the first-ever WBC Female Boxing Convention was held in Playa del Carmen, Quintana, Mexico. The convention was formed with the dual purpose of paying tribute to late WBC President Jose Sulaiman and to establish the worldwide legitimacy of women’s boxing. In attendance was the WBA President (Gilberto Mendoza), the IBF (Daryl Peoples), and the WBC (Mauricio Sulaiman). Elite promoters Oscar De La Hoya and Don King were also in attendance. The event was attended by an impressive list of past and present WBC champions from around the globe including Christy Martin (USA), Klara Svensson (Sweden), Jelena Mrdjenovich (Canada), and Carolina Duer (Argentina).

Best of the Rest: Norway legalizes boxing, Women’s IWBHF initial inductions 2013 Winner: Holly Holm Leaves Boxing for MMA

Fight of the Year: Delfine Persoon UD 10 Erica Anabella Farias

Persoon pounds Farias to win the Fight of the Year
On April 20 in Zwevezele, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium, in the co-main event of a five-bout card, Define Persoon pounded out a ten-round unanimous decision victory (96-93/96-92/96-92) over Argentina’s Erica Anabella Farias lifting the WBC lightweight title from the longtime Argentine champion. Persoon of Roeselare, Belgium, with the win, cemented her placement with the pound-for-pound best of women’s boxing. From the opening bell, the two fighters exchanged heavy blows throughout the distance with both resorting to extracurricular activities to gain a foothold in the slugfest. Farias, in her first fight outside Argentina, received point deductions in the seventh and ninth rounds for dangerous use of the head. Persoon received a point deduction in round nine. The fight was more closely contested than the scorecards would otherwise indicate, but Persoon was duly awarded the victory. Persoon, the KO Digest Fighter of the Year in 2013, was exceptional in 2014 following the Farias victory. She bested speedy African Judy Waguthii (UD-8) and stopped WBC super-featherweight champion, Diana Prazak (TKO-9). Since, Farias (21-1, 10 KOs) elevated in weight and won the WBC light-welterweight title with a split-decision victory over brawler Alejandra Mariana Oliveras.

Persoon, with the above-mentioned achievements, stands at an impressive (31-1, 14 KOs).

Best of the Rest: Zulina Munoz TD-6 Alesia Graf II, Jessica Chavez UD-10 Melissa McMorrow, 
Susi Kentikian UD-10 Naoko Fujioka 2013 Winner: Melissa McMorrow SD10 Nadia Raoui 

The 2014 KO Digest Sweet Side Fighter of the Year: Cecilia Braekhus

Braekhus is in a class all by herself
The “First Lady of Boxing” and the consensus pound-for-pound best in the sport pounded out a stellar 2014, posting a record of (4-0) and with a shutout victory over Ivana Habazin, in September, she secured the IBF female welterweight title, the lone major title that had eluded her. The 33-year-old Braekhus (27-0, 7 KOs) holds the WBA, WBC, WBO, and IBF welterweight titles and in 2014, defeated Myriam Lamare, Jessica Balogun, Jennifer Retzke, and Habazin who combined for a record of 74-8-1. In addition, Braekhus, of Bergen, Norway, was instrumental in the ban on boxing in Norway being repealed on December 18. No timetable has been set on when the first boxing match since 1981 takes place in Norway.

The Best of the Rest: Delfine Persoon, Yazmin Rivas, and Susi Kentikian 2013 FOTY Winner: Delfine Persoon

Prospect of the Year: Light Welterweight Farida El Hadrati

France's Farida El Hadrati
The 33-year-old Farida El Hadrati (6-0, 3 KOs) of Clermont-Ferrand, Puy-de-Dome, France, turned professional at thirty-one after a stellar amateur career that witnessed her win championships on both the domestic and international levels. She turned professional in December 2012 winning three of her first four contests by knockout. In May El Hadrati won the WBF International female light-welterweight title with a dominate ten-round unanimous decision over Kremena Petkova. In December, El Hadrati added to her resume by winning the EBU female light-welterweight title by pounding out and impressive unanimous decision victory over Sabrina Giuliani (12-3); by far the most impressive opponent the French slugger has faced during her brief career. El Hadrati is more slugger than boxer employing an aggressive two-fisted swarming attack. She owns good power in her right hand and has more than enough hand speed to compete with the best at light-welterweight.

Best of the Rest: Nicole Wesner (Germany), Anahi Esther Sanchez (Argentina), Csilla Nemedi (Hungary), Tania Enriquez (Mexico), Ana Cristina Vargas (Mexico), and Karen Elizabeth Carabajal (Argentina)

2013 Winner: Flyweight Joselyn Arroyo Ruiz

The Sweet Side of the Sweet Science State of the Game:

Mighty McMorrow is fun to watch
Best Amateur: Katie Taylor (Ireland)
Best Boxer: Cecilia Braekhus
Best Slugger: Delfine Persoon
Best Defense: Alicia Ashley
Best Counter Puncher: Marcela Eilana Acuna
Give that Girl A Title Shot: Jessica Nery Plata
Best Power Puncher: Anne Sophie Mathis
Best Body Puncher: Yesica Patricia Marcos
Most Aggressive: Alejandra Marina Oliveras
Most Fun to Watch: Melissa McMorrow
Most Improved: Magali Rodriguez
Most Avoided: Jelena Mrdjenovich
Most Protected: Eva Voraberger
On the Rise: Klara Svensson
On the Decline: Janeth Perez
Underrated: Ana Laura Esteche
Overrated: Ji-Hye Woo

Five Female Fights We Want To See For 2015:

Acuna vs Marcos II in 2015?
1. Cecilia Braekhus vs Erica Anabella Farias - Braekhus has conquered the welterweight division; it is time for the best to move up or down. Farias is the WBC junior welterweight champ.

2.  Anne Sophie Mathis vs Hanna Gabriel
- Both girls possess one-punch knockout power.

3. Susi Kentikian vs Arely Mucino II - Mucino showed well in the first matchup nearly five years ago before an unintentional clash of heads caused the bout to be stopped (NC-3).

4. Marcela Eilana Acuna vs Yesica Patricia Marcos II
- The first fight drew more than 40,000 fans. Why not do it again?

5. Marina Juarez vs Zulina Munoz - This super-fight is scheduled for February. 
Can the classic style of Juarez hold off the crude aggression of Munoz?

KO Digest’s Dynamite Dozen Pound-for-Pound Ratings:

It begins and it ends with Braekhus #1

1- Cecilia Braekhus (27-0, 7 KOs) Norway
2- Delfine Persoon (31-1, 14 KOs) Belguim
3- Marcela Eilana Acuna (42-6-1, 18 KOs) Argentina
4- Ibeth Zamora-Silva (21-5, 8 KOs) Mexico
5- Anne Sophie Mathis (27-3, 23 KOs) France
6- Jackie Nava (31-4-3, 13 KOs) Mexico
7- Susi Kentikian (34-2, 17 KOs) Germany
8- Erica Anabella Farias (21-1, 10 KOs) Argentina
9- Jelena Mrdjenovich (34-9-1, 18 KOs) Canada
10- Christina Hammer (17-0, 8 KOs) Germany
11- Yesica Patricia Marcos (26-0-2, 9 KOs) Argentina
12- Diana Prazak (13-3, 9 KOs) Australia        

"The Sweet Side of the Sweet Science" was written by women's boxing expert Mark A. Jones -- exclusively for KO Digest. You can find more of Mark's female fight coverage on his women's boxing blog:  Boxing Jones   

January 19, 2015

KO's Ringside Boxing Notes & Quotes IV

Sugar Ray teaches Haymon a lesson
By Jeffrey Freeman, KO Digest

In his tenth professional fight way back in 1978, Sugar Ray Leonard knocked out Al Haymon's brother Bobby Haymon with a punch that was said to have landed at or after the bell to end the third round. Brutalized, Bobby never fought again. The AP in Maryland called it a "tainted victory" at the Capital Center. Haymon's people protested up a storm but to no avail. Sugar Ray always got all the breaks and the big paydays. Today, Al is on the verge of taking over boxing and Leonard is acting as a mouthpiece for him on NBC. 

Can you believe that? You sure can. It's true.

Here is what KO believes:

Haymon's fighters sign with him because unlike anyone else in the sport, Haymon can provide them with that sweet Sugar Ray Leonard "star treatment" that they all want but find so elusive today. Big money, big fights, TV appearances, the close decisions, all the breaks. I believe Haymon was affected by what happened to his brother versus Leonard and has been trying to duplicate that benefit for those signed with him ever since.

Who is the real Black Balboa - Pascal or Cunningham?
Haitian Canadian light heavyweight Jean Pascal changes channel to HBO — "I don't have Showtime no more. They show boring fights. Sergey Kovalev is a solid, great champion. He can punch, he has good speed, he is good with his distance, he does everything well, and he has good technique. I love to be the underdog. I loved watching when Balboa fought the crushing Russian in Rocky IV. This is real life and I am going to be the black Rocky Balboa. Titles and money come and go but history doesn't. We want to make history. HBO wants to make the best fight possible, that's why they made this fight."

Mexican American Heavyweight Andy Ruiz Jr headlines the January edition of "KO Digest Interview"“I can be the Mexican Mike Tyson”  

ESPN Friday Night Fights is back at the FOX Theater at Foxwoods Casino in Mashantucket, CT on January 30 with a Kathy Duva Main Event featuring lightweight Karl Dargan against Tony Luis.

More interesting on the local New England level however is an 8-round middleweight undercard fight between Maine's Russell "The Haitian Sensation" Lamour and Rhode Island's Thomas "The Souljah" Falowo. The KO Digest will be ringside to cover the fight live. Lamour (11-0, 5 KO's) has distinguished himself as the best active boxer from a resurgent Maine boxing scene while Falowo (12-3, 8 KO's) has parlayed his CES Twin River success into back to back television appearances on Showtime and now ESPN.

Both fighters have fan-friendly styles and this particular bout has the region buzzing with anticipation—and choosing sides.

Happy Birthday Ali
The Genuine Article — Muhammad Ali was the first boxer I ever fell in love with. It was 1977 and I was just 7 years old when I first discovered boxing—and Ali in particular. He was fighting Earnie Shavers on NBC and I was utterly transfixed. The more I learned, the more I loved about him. I read whatever I could get my hands on that had anything to do with Ali. Boxing magazines, books, and newspapers filled my room. I could not get enough.

What exactly was so attractive to me about Ali as a young fan discovering the sport in its City of Champions, Brockton, Massachusetts? His skill in the ring, the bravery he demonstrated outside of it, his incredible gift of gab, and the remarkable courage of his convictions; all of these were factors for sure.But what I loved the most about Muhammad Ali was how good of a human being I could tell he really was, even at that tender age. There was no phony persona, no made for TV fakery. Ali was the greatest at boxing but he was also the greatest at humanity. Happy 73rd Birthday Champ and may you have many more until you and only you "call the round" then float home like a butterfly. Until that day comes, it remains a pleasure and an absolute honor to share the planet Earth with you.

Dehydration Nation
KO's Monday Rant — Congratulations are in order to new WBC heavyweight champion Deontay "The Bronze Bomber" Wilder. For what it is and what it's worth, it's good to have a de facto North American heavyweight champ in our midst again after many moons without anyone so much as resembling one. Between Wilder's title triumph and the Undisputed World Heavyweight Champion Wladimir Klitschko coming back to town in 2015 in search of worthy challengers, the American heavyweight boxing scene is back on the upswing, a good thing. 

But was it just a coincidence that the first time Wilder stepped up in competition after 32 straight wins by KO, there were no knockdowns and there was no knockout? Wouldn't it be ironic if we came to find out in time that Wilder was really more of a boxer than a power puncher anyway? If the truth was revealed to them, would American boxing fans and media be willing to accept it in any case? They don't seem to know the difference between the reigning World Champion and a new belt holder - or maybe they just don't care anymore. 

Team USA's long drought is technically over but I for one still thirst for more.

January 13, 2015

The 2014 Bantamweights & Below Boxing Year End Review & Awards

A monster year for the "Monster" Inoue
By Derek "DBO" Bonnett — I hate doing this. As a purveyor of world class boxing action from Bantamweight & Below, I know that all weight divisions are created equally. However, it's their individual treatment which varies greatly. If Dr. Seuss's Lorax speaks for the trees, I have assumed the role of speaking for the bantams, the flies, the straws, and everything in between. My dismay comes from the need for the genesis of specific lighter weight year-end awards. The little guys can compete with the middle and big boys of the sport without any help from me. The need for my work is to get them the recognition. In a society where everyone receives a medal for participation, American fans sure are adept at ignoring boxers ranging between 118 and 105 pounds. So, due to the necessity of fairness, I have reviewed the best action of 2014 from Bantamweight & Below and comprised a whole new listing of 2014 Year End Awards to honor the best in the business who are often overlooked due to geography, exposure, and size.

2014 Breakout Fighter of the Year: Kosei Tanaka

Breakout Year for Tanaka in 2014
Just as the names Roman Gonzalez and Naoya Inoue became hot topics for boxing fans usually paying little mind to action at Bantamweight & Below, so too will the name Kosei Tanaka in 2015. The keener eyes took note of Tanaka's debut in late 2013 or his stellar progress through 2014. If you caught his all-out war with Ryuji Hara in October, you witnessed not only a strong candidate for Fight of the Year, but the emergence of one of boxing's future stars on the world scene. Hara, 18-0 and top-five rated going into the bout, brought his A-game and, in fact, he fought at a level higher than he had previously displayed. With just three bouts under his belt, Tanaka, 19, took the fight to Hara and beat him to the punch at every turn. When Hara countered, powerfully at times, the former youth amateur boxing standout stood his ground and absorbed the blows without showing any signs of being hurt. With the growing trend of fast-tracked champions such as Inoue, Guillermo Rigondeaux, and Vasyl Lomachenko, Tanaka, 4-0 (2), has already positioned himself for a world title bout in early 2015.

Even at this stage, Tanaka's chances are huge against any 105-pounder in the world.

Runner Up: Ryo Matsumoto
Honorable Mention: Takuma Inoue

The 2014 Comeback of the Year: Ryoichi Taguchi 

Comeback for Taguchi

Following a ten round decision loss to Naoya Inoue in 2013, Ryoichi Taguchi followed up with a strong 2014. In his first bout of the year, Taguchi, 28, won a close unanimous decision over former world champion Florante Condes in an eight round bout. On the last day of the year, the Japanese fighter raised his record to 21-2-1 (8) and captured the WBA light flyweight title with a comprehensive unanimous decision over Peru's Alberto Rossel. Taguchi dropped Rossel in rounds eight and nine en route to taking home scores of 117-109, 116-111, and 116-110. After being unable to capitalize on a big opportunity in 2013, Taguchi punched his comeback card by scoring his two biggest career wins in 2014.

Runner Up: Moruti Mthalane
Honorable Mention: Denver Cuello

Bantamweight & Below Upset of the Year:
Juan Carlos Payano Tech. Dec. 6 Anselmo Moreno

In spite of his 2012 defeat to Abner Mares, Anselmo Moreno was still considered by many to be the top bantamweight in the world in 2014. Many were wondering just who Juan Carlos Payano was going into his September challenge of Moreno. Now, at the start of a new year, people are still wondering who Payano is and how he managed to defeat Moreno, who was once touted as a comparison to Pernell Whitaker for his defensive boxing. Coming into the bout, Payano was 15-0 (8) with only badly faded veterans on his record. However, Payano was catching Moreno at a period of time when he had been relatively inactive.

After a second round clash of heads, Payano emerged with a bad gash over his right eye.

Payano's persistence payed off
The challenger continued his aggressive attack in spite of several warnings for rough tactics. Time ran out on Moreno and the injury sustained by the challenger was deemed too severe to continue after round six. The early score tallies favored the work of the challenger 59-55, 58-55, and 58-56. Coming out of relative obscurity, the Dominican Republic native upset one of boxing's most highly regarded little men in one of the biggest surprises of 2014.

Runner Up: Rey Loreto KO 3 Nkosinathi Joyi
Honorable Mention: Faris Nenggo TKO 4 Merlito Sabillo

Bantamweight & Below Knockout of the Year: Rey Loreto KO 3 Nkosinathi Joyi 

The B&B KO of the Year
Sometimes a single fighter or bout has all the criteria down. For Rey Loreto, a journeyman turned contender, 2014 saw him breaking out into new territory, scoring upsets, but his most salient work was produced by crowd-pleasing, fight-ending power. 2014 packed in myriad highlight reel knockouts in twelve months time, but Loreto's third round destruction of former world champion Nkosinathi Joyi was paramount. In the midst of a heated exchange initiated by Joyi, Loreto ducked a sweeping right hook and countered with a perfectly timed left hook to the chin of the former champ. No count was necessary as the South African light flyweight lay flat on his back, arms and legs sprawled. The closest Joyi got to getting back up was merely raising his head a couple of inches off the canvas. Loreto, 18-13 (10) has twice rebounded from four-fight losing streaks in his career and now eyes a rematch with Joyi. A 2015 victory could surely land this Cinderella Man a world title fight.

Runner Up: Pedro Guevara KO 7 Akira Yaegashi
Honorable Mention: Donnie Nietes KO 9 Moises Fuentes 

Kogawa didn't get the W in Thailand
2014 Robbery (Bad Decision) of the Year: Yodmongkol Saengthep MD12 Takuya Kogawa

While I often point fans toward Bantamweight & Below to find the best boxing action on the planet, the lightest five divisions cannot provide a safe haven from poor officiating. In March, Japan's Takuya Kogawa traveled to Thailand in an attempt to lift the interim WBA title from Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep. The speedier Kogawa appeared to outwork the slow-footed interim titlist early on. Again, it was the case of one fighter, the champion, landing harder shots and the challenger throwing and landing in flashier volume. Saengthep stepped up the pace late in the contest to save his belt, but the Japanese boxer raised his volume each time, throwing well over one hundred punches in the final frame. In the end, Saengthep retained the title by scores of 116-113, 115-114, and 114-114. However, close margins like that at home support that the Thai fighter was a bit lucky to keep his number one status. Numerous viewers from ringside reported scoring the bout for Kogawa.

Runner Up: Kohei Kono D12 Norberto Jimenez
Honorable Mention: Knockout CP Freshmart UD12 Carlos Buitrago

Fight of the Year: Francisco Rodriguez Jr. W12 Katsunari Takayama

Rodriguez batters Takayama in the B&B Fight of the Year
This all-action IBF/WBO minimumweight unification bout held its own against any fight of 2014, but was a clear choice when competing with the fight results of only the lightest five divisions. Rodriguez Jr., who fought as high as super fly, carried his strength down to 105 and captured the WBO earlier in the year. He landed the harder, more telling, blows throughout the contest, but was met with high volume combinations by the division's Energizer Bunny in Takayama.

Rodriguez was particularly successful with the left hook, dropping Takayama with one to the chest in round three. Several of the later rounds could be counted among the best of the year as the two refused to give an inch to the other. Unanimous decision scores (119-108, 116-111, and 115-112) favored Rodriguez, too widely in the eyes of many, but the right fighter won.

Runner Up: Kosei Tanaka TKO 10 Ryuji Hara
Honorable Mention: Paul Butler SD12 Stuart Hall 

The Bantamweight & Below 2014 Fighter of the Year: Naoya Inoue

Inoue is KO's little Fighter of the Year
For boxers at Bantamweight & Below, topping Naoya Inoue's performance in 2014 was a difficult task. However, a couple of fighters really gave it the old college try. Over the last twelve months, Inoue captured the WBC 108-pound title, defended it once, and then moved up two divisions to capture the WBO super flyweight title.

In the process, Inoue, 21, made history by becoming the quickest fighter to become a two-division world champion in just eight professional bouts. Dethroning respected champions Adrian Hernandez and Omar Andres Narvaez, a combined 72-3-3 at fight time, in order to do so really seals the deal for Inoue. Inoue's resume credentials for Fighter of the Year in general match up well with Terence Crawford and Sergey Kovalev, the two most commonly chosen recipients in the year 2014.

Runner Up: Roman Gonzalez
Honorable Mention: Amnat Ruenroeng

Written by Derek Bonnett - exclusively for KO Digest 
Find more of Derek's writings at SecondsOut.com  

January 7, 2015

The Fourth Annual KO Digest Year End Boxing Awards & 2014 Year-in-Review

The KO Digest salutes the fistic year that was
By Jeffrey Freeman — Boxing in 2014 was many things but fortunately it wasn't a year that saw the continued plaque of performance enhancing drugs in the sport. There were simply no big busts or positive tests to alarm us to fraud but boy did we ever see some awful mismatches and scoring robberies in the last 12 months. Looking back on the past year, there were no easy choices in the awards categories either. Quality nominees were sprinkled throughout the year including Japanese shooting star Naoya Inoue. The 21-year-old "Monster" knocked out long reigning super flyweight champion Omar Narvaez on December 30th in Japan, and in doing so made an 11th hour case for "Fighter of the Year" honors in just his 8th pro fight. (§) In June, the World Middleweight Championship changed hands at Madison Square Garden when Miguel Cotto blitzed defending champion Sergio Martinez to earn "Comeback of the Year" honors. And all the way back in April, Lucas Matthysse and John Molina gave fans an 11 round war to remember. Was it good enough to be "Fight of the Year" in 2014? Let's find out.

Final 10-count for Goossen ... and Ward?
For those lost to the passage of time, we fondly remember "Hurricane" Rubin Carter, promoter Dan Goossen, trainer Mickey Duff, announcer Ed Derian, Marvelous photographer Angie Carlino, Philly fighter Matthew Saad Muhammad, and Ernie Terrell, who bless his heart lived just long enough to see himself become eligible for the IBHOF. Goossen's "Son of God" Andre Ward remains in boxing purgatory, inactive in 2014 due to a contract dispute with Goossen Promotions that shows no sign of being resolved. Indeed it's fortunate we said so few goodbyes last year but our losses were nonetheless grievous.   

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
One punch saved Andy Lee's boxing career. One punch was the difference between the expectations of Lee's late trainer Emanuel Stewart going unmet or finally becoming fulfilled. The Luck of the Irish Eyes must have been smiling on Lee and Stewart in 2014 but there was nothing lucky about the right hand shot from Lee (34-2, 24 KO's) that knocked out the son of feared power-puncher Julian "The Hawk" Jackson at Madison Square Garden in June. The year almost started off as a disaster for Lee. Scheduled last April to face no less of a power-puncher than WBA middleweight champion Gennady "GGG" Golovkin, Lee was granted a reprieve of sorts when Golovkin's father passed away from a heart attack in February, causing Lee's second middleweight title shot to fall apart before it could take place. There's no doubt "Triple G" would've been just as metaphorically fatal for the world championship prospects of Lee had they met in the ring - a place where Golovkin makes trophies of men. Would it have been fun to watch while it lasted? Hell yes. Would Lee have stood a chance in hell of winning? No and he probably would have gotten scalped. 

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.

2013 Winner: Deontay Wilder KO1 Sergei Liakhovich
2012 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
When an opponent like "Porky" Medina (33-6, 27 KO's) scores an upset knockout in the main event on Showtime in Las Vegas over an "undefeated" Mayweather Promotions fighter and leaves the highly touted prospect twitching on the canvas, it's fair to say the Mexican out of towner beat more than just J'Leon Love (18-1, 10 KO's) but "the house" as well; a stacked deck dealt against him and totally in favor of a TMT win from the promotion to the judges to the referee to the expectations of the Money Team themselves. It's rather like disarming the one-armed bandit and then hitting the casino slot machine jackpot with a maximum bet in the game. Love was given every opportunity to win in style on cable TV but when you get knocked down and can't get back up in 10 seconds, boxing is a dark theater of the unexpected where "luck" won't help. This is what happened at the casino last August when "Porky" showed J'Leon the love to win the "KO Digest Upset of the Year" with "Money" seated at ringside.

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
This year, we're doing things a little different in the category of bad judges and bad decisions. Under more normal circumstances, a single fight would be "awarded" the distinktion of annual recognition. There were some doozies in 2014 to choose from but no one fighter was victimized any worse or in a more costly way than Mauricio Herrera. The 34-year-old junior welterweight contender should now be the undisputed world champion of his weight class with a quality title defense already under his title belt. Instead, he is on the outside looking in, a silent piece of collateral damage in the Cold War promotional politricks that persist in place of open hostilities. KO Digest looked closely at both controversial decisions in question, the first against Golden Boy's Danny "Swift" Garcia and most recently, Top Rank's star prospect Jessie Benavidez. What we found were two robberies of the most flagrant kind, truly a shame upon the sport of boxing.   

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
When Juan Manuel Lopez first entered the super bantamweight & featherweight rankings, he was almost immediately heralded as one of the sport’s most exciting fighters and top prospects. Lopez stayed undefeated until 2011, and as his career began to fall short of expectations, talk surrounding “Juanma” often centered on what-ifs. What if Lopez and Yuriorkis Gamboa had fought when they were still undefeated? What if the referee had let Juanma continue against Orlando Salido? The list of what-ifs go on, but in his second fight against Daniel Ponce de Leon, fight fans saw a glimpse of what made Lopez a rising star in the first place, and perhaps what could have been. The pair first met in 2008 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City and it took Lopez just 2:25 to dispose of de Leon and win the WBO super bantamweight title which Juanma defended 5 times. Last March, the duo met again on Lopez’s home turf in Puerto Rico.

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
Still slightly off balance on his feet, Ponce de Leon was quickly down on his knees again after the ensuing Lopez combination. Ponce de Leon arose one more time, but the fight was waved off with under 20 seconds to go—with Lopez wailing on his staggered opponent against the ropes.

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
Perhaps Roy Jones Jr. anticipated there would be fireworks when he offered his services for this year's winner of the KO Digest "Fight of the Year" award. The future Hall of Famer, also a top commentator for HBO, spotted the match-up between WBO lightweight champion Terrence Crawford and Yuriorkis Gamboa on the June fight schedule when he visited the network headquarters. "Boy, I really hope I get to see this!" he said. And why not? In less than fifteen months, Crawford had gone from a virtual unknown to possibly the best lightweight on the planet. In his last fight, the switch-hitting Crawford traveled all the way to Glasgow, Scotland to win the WBO lightweight title against Ricky Burns by unanimous decision. To take on the undefeated Gamboa as his first title defense, in Omaha, Nebraska of all places, spoke volumes about the champion's confidence. There had not been a significant fight there in decades. "I don't predict a knockout, but I do predict a win. Every time I step foot into the ring, and I've prepared myself to the best of my abilities, I don't feel nobody can beat me," said the champion. And that included Gamboa, a former Olympic Gold medalist who appeared destined for greatness early in his professional career. But thanks to his impressive amateur background and easy victory over the tough Orlando Salido, the bar was set ridiculously high. The Cuban defector didn't help his cause with rumors of performance enhancing drugs, promotional problems, and inactivity. In fact, the one-time, red-hot prospect managed to lose both his featherweight and junior lightweight titles on the scales. Still, it was hard to ignore the obvious talent of Gamboa. Now residing in Miami, the former champion hooked up with rapper turned promoter 50 Cent in an effort to turn things around. But the clock was ticking, and Gamboa knew it.

"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
Showing no signs of ring-rust, Gamboa's edge in hand speed and crisp combinations kept him one step ahead of the champion. In the third, Crawford would turn southpaw for the first time in the fight, but with limited success. Roy Jones felt the switch was ill-advised. "He must see something, I hope it's not just out of him being stubborn," said the Pensacola native. That "something" turned out to be the low left guard of Gamboa, and Crawford made him pay for it in the fifth round with a counter right hook to score the first knockdown of the fight. There was a roar from the partisan crowd as a Crawford left cross almost scored another knockdown. Gamboa hung on for dear life until the round came to an end. With one punch, Crawford changed the complexion of the fight, and he would continue to find success for the next few rounds.

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
Even though it was relatively early in the year, the moment the fight came to its conclusive end, you knew you witnessed a very strong candidate for "Fight of the Year" honors. How good was the fight? It was barely a minute old, and Jim Lampley already cracked that the city of "Crawfordville"  Nebraska had a nice ring to it. Sure, it would be another six months before the winner of the 2014 awards would be official, but this perfect balance of technical skill and fanatical drama was going to be very hard to match. Don't be surprised if we make another visit to Nebraska in 2015. Omaha may not be known as fight town (yet) but close to 11,000 fans came out to cheer for their hometown hero. The fact that Crawford also won the KO Digest "Fighter of the Year" award and the "Fight of the Year" in Omaha could be a strong bargaining chip for the champ.

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 WinnerJuan 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
When 2014 began, Omaha, Nebraska's "Bud" Crawford was an up-and-coming prospect on the verge of becoming a true contender in the wide open lightweight division. By the end of the year, Crawford's hometown feats of fist are almost beyond imaginable. Successfully promoted by Top Rank, Crawford traveled to Scotland in March to dethrone Ricky Burns of his WBO lightweight crown, no easy task, though truth be told, Crawford made it look easy with a smooth style of boxing that includes switch-hitting opponents until they can't help but lose. 

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
When we look back over the course of last year many young fighters propelled themselves further along in their careers. Felix Verdejo, Jesse Hart, and Errol Spence all continued their educations with victories over increasingly durable opponents. Anthony Joshua pummeled another handful of journeymen as his stock grew while Callum Smith fought his way towards a shot at a world title in 2015. However, no fighter catapulted himself from prospect to contender quite like Brooklyn born Sadam Ali. His victory over hard-hitting Argentine Carlos Abregu was unexpected and extremely impressive. He shook up the world. Well, not quite. He did look good, though. "I was a big underdog," Ali told KO Digest. "I knew I had to take that step up because everybody was waiting." People were like 'Yeah, he's good but how good is he?' Having said that, I don't think they were expecting me to take that kind of step up against a dangerous guy like Abregu. I know a few guys turned that fight down because of the knockout power he has. I knew if I took that fight and won that fight, I would get the respect I deserved. I fought smart. I stayed smart. When it was time to turn it up, I did."

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, trained by Andre Rozier since the age of eleven, appeared to be fading ever so slightly in the eighth round. In the corner, heading in to the ninth stanza, Rozier revitalized his charge with some verbal inspiration. "He caught me with a good punch that I didn't see, so it had me more focused on defense," recanted Ali. "Andre felt like I was giving up or slowing down a little too much but that wasn't really the case. I was just getting back to boxing and making him miss." Ali then walked Abregu onto a beautiful lead right-hand that was ultimately the beginning of the end. A flurry of unanswered punches followed from Ali which prompted referee Harvey Dock to intervene. "It came natural, I was just out boxing him and moving. I saw the opening and it landed perfectly. He went down again and I just got out of the way and took my time."

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
10 More Categories, 10 More KO Awards:

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.