Sherdog.com’s 2014 Year-End Boxing Awards

By Mike Sloan Jan 9, 2015
Sergey Kovalev took the boxing world by storm. | Photo: HBO Boxing



While it may seem laughable to see these words in print, professional boxing is not dead or even on life support. Though the Sweet Science may only have two legitimate mainstream superstars in Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao at the moment, the sport annually produces dozens of superb matchups, spectacular knockouts and, in some cases, unfathomable upsets.

The year that was 2014 was no different. Granted, it might not have been the greatest 12 months boxing has ever witnessed, but one would be hard pressed to find a fan of the sport that could not look back on the last year with fond recollections.

Sherdog.com’s resident boxing experts have voted on the most important year-end awards in the sport. Some may disagree with our panel’s final verdicts, but that is what boxing is all about: violent entertainment surrounded by non-violent debate.

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FIGHTER OF THE YEAR: Sergey Kovalev
Entering 2014, Kovalev was a somewhat unknown figure among casual boxing fans. By the time the bedazzled ball dropped in Times Square to ring in 2015, he was the “Fighter of Year.” “Krusher” had been feasting on decent opposition ever since he turned pro, and last year was expected to be his coming-out party. After torching undefeated contenders Cedric Agnew and Blake Caparello before summer concluded, the time was ripe for him to finally tackle one of the men lurking in the upper echelon of the light heavyweight division. Kovalev locked horns with one of the greatest fighters of the past 50 years in Bernard Hopkins, and though “The Alien” was only a few months shy of turning 50, some insiders predicted the future hall of famer would still be as fresh as ever and able to teach the Russian-American a lesson. Kovalev wound up beating Hopkins worse than anybody ever had previously; he dropped him, rocked him several times and won every single round of their fight. Considering the sheer number of all-time greats Hopkins has faced, and beaten, Kovalev was brilliant in doing what no other mortal has ever done. A March date with Jean Pascal should solidify Kovalev’s position among the world’s top 10 pound-for-pound boxers. HONORABLE MENTIONS: Terence Crawford, Nicholas Walters.

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FIGHT OF THE YEAR: Francisco Rodriguez Jr. vs. Katsunari Takayama
On a sweltering August night in Monterrey, Mexico, the oft-ignored strawweight division electrified the boxing world with the best fight of the year. In a rare 105-pound unification bout, local fighter Rodriguez Jr. made the first defense of his WBO title. Across from him was Japan’s Takayama, who was making the third defense of his IBF belt. What transpired were 12 rounds of absolute savagery inside the ring. The two tiny warriors literally stood toe-to-toe, forehead-to-forehead for virtually every minute of every round. They left everything in the ring that night and delivered what was easily the year’s most riveting battle. Rodriguez scored a knockdown in the third frame with a sizzling left hook to the body. Takayama, who was already cut above his left eye, sprang back to his feet and tore into his Mexican counterpart. They each gave as good as they got, never stopped punching and never quit trying to knock off the other guy’s head. There were no further knockdowns in the epic skirmish, but they rocked each other repeatedly. It was unbelievable to watch them endure endless barrages of punches, only to continue to fire away round after round; and it was amazing to watch them leave it all on the table in the championship frames, a testament to how much grit and determination they had inside. In the end, Rodriguez was awarded the unanimous decision, one he deserved and certainly had earned. Since that mesmerizing night, Rodriguez bolted the strawweight division for the flyweight class; Takayama stopped fellow countryman Go Odaira on New Year’s Eve, when he captured the two titles for which he had fought Rodriguez. Hopefully at some point these two tiny giants can get it on again. HONORABLE MENTIONS: Orlando Salido vs. Terdsak Kokietgym, Lucas Matthysse vs. John Molina

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KNOCKOUT OF THE YEAR: Nicholas Walters vs. Vic Darchinyan
Former world champion Darchinyan has been knocked out before, both times at the hands of Nonito Donaire. “The Raging Bull” had also seen better days entering his WBA featherweight title fight against Walters, a Jamaican with murderous punching power in his hands. Walters had been putting his opposition to sleep almost every time out, and he was making the first defense of the title he captured via fourth-round stoppage against Alberto Garza. Darchinyan was expected to give the young champion problems, but he did no such thing. Darchinyan was knocked down in the second round from a right uppercut and again in the fifth from left hooks to the face and body. Darchinyan probably should have stayed down when he was first felled in the fifth. Allowed to continue, he stumbled around and tried to clear his head while fighting back. Within moments, he was immortalized in the year’s most spectacular knockout: A picture-perfect left hook did the damage, and it would have brought a tear to the eye of the late, great Joe Frazier. Darchinyan looked like he had been shot when he collapsed, his head balancing on the bottom rope as referee Raul Caiz Jr. rushed in to call it off. In a year filled with highlight-reel knockouts, Walters’ crushing KO stood head and shoulders above them all. HONORABLE MENTIONS: Marvin Sonsona vs. Akifume Shimoda, Amir Mansour vs. Fred Kassi

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UPSET OF THE YEAR: Chris Algieri vs. Ruslan Provodnikov
Though most will not admit it, many a boxing insider mocked the matchup pitting powerhouse Provodnikov against the unknown Algieri. The Russian had survived the 2013 “Fight of the Year” with Timothy Bradley and beat up perennial brawler Mike Alvarado in previous outings. He was supposed to walk right through Algieri, who was fresh off of wins against Emmanuel Taylor, Wilfredo Acuna and Mike Arnaoutis. Acuna had lost five straight and Arnaoutis had dropped five of seven. Algieri was expected to be cannon fodder. Early in the bout, it looked as though everybody was going to be correct, as the New Yorker was dropped twice in the opening round. He looked exactly like the chump he was supposed to look like. However, Algieri is as tough as they come and fought his way back into the fight. He not only survived the early onslaught, but he began picking apart the Russian. Towards the end of the battle, it appeared as though the American just might pull off the upset. He continued to box off Provodnikov’s ears and shocked the boxing world by nabbing a split decision in a fight he clearly won. Virtually no one expected him to be competitive, let alone win the fight. In the end, Algieri captured hands down the year’s biggest upset and was awarded quite the gift: a 12-round butt whipping at the hands of Pacquiao later in the year. HONORABLE MENTION: Miguel Cotto vs. Sergio Martinez

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ROBBERY OF THE YEAR: Oscar Escandon vs. Tyson Cave
Boxing unfortunately is a sport littered with corruption and suspicion. Mostly due to the horrendous decisions too many ringside judges have submitted over the years, the Sweet Science is scoffed at by the majority of the mainstream sports media because so many fights are perceived to be fixed. There have been far too many absurd decisions/robberies in boxing over the years, and, sadly, 2014 was not immune to the disease. On a special ESPN Thursday Night Fights telecast, Cave fought his tail off for 12 rounds on national TV. Cave figured he would have his hand raised when the victor was announced, as did virtually everybody who watched the fight. In one of the most unusual and baffling decisions in the history of the sport, his opponent, Escandon, was awarded the split decision. Ringside color commentator Teddy Atlas erupted in a fit of rage over the verdict -- and rightfully so. He scored it in favor of Cave, 118-110, as did Sherdog.com, which compiled a live report of the bout. Demands for widespread changes to the sport rampaged throughout the boxing world, but as we all know, the more things change, the more they stay the same. HONORABLE MENTIONS: Mickey Bey vs. Miguel Vasquez, Danny Garcia vs. Mauricio Herrera

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