Fighter of the Year
1. Naoya Inoue
2. Terence Crawford
3. Amnat Ruenroeng
In a disappointing year for many of boxing’s glamour divisions, it was the lower weights that provided much of the drama, and that is reflected in my picks for 2014 Fighter of the Year.
Amnat Ruenroeng entered 2014 as an unknown entity with 11 low key wins to his name after turning pro at the ripe old age of 33, particularly old for a flyweight.
Following, 3 consecutive (arguably, upset) wins over solid contender Rocky Fuentes, prospect McWilliams Arroyo, and, most notably, lauded two-weight titlist Kazuto Ioka, he finds himself at the forefront of probably boxing’s deepest weight division.
This 35 year old is making up for lost time.
Going into 2014, Terence Crawford was given prime TV time by HBO, but was criticized by some for a lack of excitement.
He went to Scotland to beat Ricky Burns, and then, armed with a title, returned home to Omaha, where he engaged in a fight of the year contender war with unbeaten Yuriorkis Gamboa, eventually cracking the Cuban’s chin.
Newly established as a regional draw in his hometown, he finished the year with a schooling of Raymundo Beltran for the vacant lineal championship.
He is now moving up to 140lbs. and looks set to figure in the Pacquiao sweepstakes.
All that amounts to a breakthrough year if ever there was one.
In defeating longtime titlist Omar Narvaez, Naoya Inoue became the first man to ever win world title belts in two divisions within 8 professional fights.
But he didn’t just defeat Narvaez, he absolutely demolished him in 2 rounds (keep in mind that it wasn’t long ago that a prime Nonito Donaire couldn’t put a dent in Narvaez despite a huge size advantage at 118lbs.), in the culmination of a brilliant year.
As one of my top prospects of 2013, he began the year 5-0 and set to fight the #1 108lb. fighter Adrian Hernandez. He stormed through him in 6 rounds, defended the belt once, then made the leap up two weights to claim a little bit of history against Narvaez, another divisional #1.
Inoue may have been ignored by most major outlets in the USA when it came time to recognize the year’s outstanding fighters, but the hardcore fans know that there is boxing outside of US TV, and that 2014 was very much the year of Inoue.
For those who’ve yet to see him in action, here is his win over Narvaez: https://pound4poundireland.wordpress.com/2014/12/30/full-fight-video-omar-narvaez-vs-naoya-inoue/
Final comment — 2 more Japanese prospects to keep an eye out for in 2015, both of them just 19: Takuma Inoue, brother of Naoya, and already looking classy at flyweight through 4 fights; and, Kosei Tanaka, firmly established in the 105lb. top ten after just 4 fights.