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.
Fight of the Year
1. Timothy Bradley-Ruslan Provodnikov
2. Mike Alvarado-Brandon Rios II
3. Omar Figueroa-Nihito Arakawa
Knockout of the Year
1. Javier Fortuna ko1 Miguel Zamudio
2. Deontay Wilder ko1 Siarhei Liakhovich
3. James Chereji ko2 Belmin Skomorac
Round of the Year
1. Timothy Bradley-Ruslan Provodnikov Round 2
2. Denkaosan Kaovichit-Eiji Tsutsumi Round 10
3. Darren Barker-Daniel Geale Round 6
Prospect of the Year
1. Vasyl Lomachenko
2. Jessie Magdaleno
3. Naoya Inoue
Upset of the Year
1. Simpiwe Vetyeka rtd6 Chris John
2. Fahlan Sakkereerin Jr. ko3 Ryo Miyazaki
3. Jhonny Gonzalez ko1 Abner Mares
Trainer of the Year
Angel Garcia – for his work with Danny Garcia
Vasyl Lomachenko – This twice Olympic champion will challenge Orlando Salido for his Featherweight title in March, and if he wins, would break the world record by winning a world title in just his second pro fight. This could also set him up for a mega showdown later in the year with fellow ex-amateur all-time great Guillermo Rigondeaux, and a chance to gatecrash the pound for pound elite quicker than anyone else in boxing history
Naoya Inoue – Inoue has already established himself in the Jr. Flyweight top ten in just 5 fights, and could be set to charge towards a world title in 2014, joining the many Japanese fighters in the lower weights who have taken the fast track to the top, most notably in recent times, the highly talented Kazuto Ioka
Khabib Allakhverdiev – Top Rank’s WBA “regular” bauble-holder at Jr. Welterweight had an inactive year in 2013, fighting only once, a lethargic stoppage of Souleymane M’Baye, and seeing a scheduled fight with Breidis Prescott on HBO fall through due to injury. 2014 promises to be far better for the former world amateur bronze medallist, and he is next slated to appear on Pacquaio’s undercard in April.
With Top Rank lacking opponents for their big names at 140 and 147, he could find himself in a major fight next year, and would have the chance make a Provodnikov-like breakthrough
Terence Crawford – Crawford was the man to take advantage of Allakhverdiev’s injury, stepping in to school Prescott early in 2013. Two further wins on HBO followed, and the new year could provide him with his chance to establish himself as the premiere lightweight on the planet.
That starts with a scheduled mandatory shot at Ricky Burns in March, although I have a niggling feeling that Burns might just pull out of this one ‘injured’ and vacate his title, instead of taking a very likely loss in front of his home fans
Bermane Stiverne – With Vitali Klitschko’s virtual retirement and vacation of his title, comes the opportunity for a number of heavyweight contenders to claim a slice of history. Stiverne gets the first crack at it, and he could hardly have a more favourable opponent: the WBC’s favourite overweight son Chris Arreola, whom he quite easily beat just a matter of months ago.
If, as expected, he can pick up the title, and continue to be showcased on HBO or Showtime, he will transition from relative obscurity to prominence in the boxing landscape next year