So as 2015 draws ever nearer I’m taking a moment to take a look back at how 2014 unfolded for the UK and worldwide boxing scenes. This is very much a rambling of thoughts about the year and memories!
In the United Kingdom, Carl Froch is still the ‘Big Fish’ in the ever deepening pool of British super-middleweights.
Across the Atlantic Marcus Maidana proved the masses right and couldn’t topple the Pound for Pound best Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Floyd looks about ready to take on some bigger challenges and go out with a bang whilst the inactive Carl Froch looks ready to relinquish or retire from his mantle as he chases down a Vegas payday.
We can start with the United Kingdom.
At the beginning of 2014 if I were to pick a handful of fighters to win world titles this year Stuart Hall, Andy Lee and Paul Butler definitely wouldn’t have made the list but perhaps I might have backed the new IBF welterweight champion Kell Brook, Amir Khan if given the chance and the Irish sensation Carl Frampton who managed to beat his former victim in Kiko Martinez once again, but this time with a world title being the prize.
Several British fighters got a chance overseas including Martin Murray in his final eliminator for a shot at Gennady Golovkin’s world title, Brian Rose in his failed attempt to win world title vs Demetrius Andrade, and USA debuts for Luke Campbell and Callum Smith.
On the domestic scene Carl Froch climatically ended his feud at least temporarily by knocking George Groves out in their long awaited rematch.
This has to go down as the event of 2014 for me. I was there close enough to feel the heat of the flames and the atmosphere was the best I’ve experienced anywhere at a boxing show.
There were several memorable domestic fights but the one I want to mention was from the October show at the 02 where Tyler Goodjohn managed to out-point the favourite in Ricky Boylan in a close fought battle where I was permanently perched on the edge of my seat. This was domestic fight of the year for me. If you haven’t seen it yet then make a drink and put it on.
Most improved UK fighter of 2014 for me has to go to Carl Froch’s IBF mandatory in James Degale. He took on two of the best contenders in the division in unbeaten Gonzales and the highly rated Periban and looked destructive doing so. No wonder Carl Froch is looking elsewhere for competition.
Best comeback of the year has to be Amir Khan who had won his previous 2 fights but went unnoticed by the general public until 2014 when he fought Collazo and Alexander. He won both fights in style and now has a good claim to the Mayweather shot if Pacquiao doesn’t get it.
Other mentions go to Billy Joe Saunders for taking a fight with Eubanks Jr over a world title shot giving the fans a fight they have been waiting for. To Bradley Skeete who fell short but tried to take on for amateur world champion Frankie Gavin and also Lee Selby, Anthony Joshua, Luke Campbell, Tyson Fury, Callum Smith and Scott Quigg who have all been in action but remained unbeaten. Bigger fights await them in 2015.
Across the Atlantic Ocean all eyes were on Floyd Mayweather back in May when Marcus Maidana was chosen over Amir Khan as his opponent. It appeared early on that Floyd could be in for a troublesome night as Maidana applied heavy pressure in the opening rounds and landed overhand rights to Mayweather’s chin.
The success was rather short lived though and by the middle rounds Mayweather took control of the fight behind his jab and he engineered a routine points win. Due to the success had by Maidana early on some believed he had the style to trouble Floyd and there was some interest in the September rematch which was largely uneventful and Mayweather without surprise picked up a second points win over the Argentine puncher.
There were calls for Manny Pacquiao to retire when he was floored and beaten badly by his rival Marquez in 2013 but he came back with a win over Brandon Rios. In 2014 Manny looked almost back to his best when he got revenge for his controversial loss to Timothy Bradley with a landslide points victory and then took on the unbeaten light-welterweight champion Chris Algieri and managed to knock him down no less than 6 times on route to an impressive victory. 2014 has finished with the whole world once again asking for ‘Mayweather vs Pacquiao’.
With the retirement on Vitali Klitschko due to political endeavours in his home country of Ukraine we had a battle for the vacant title between Bermaine Stiverne and Chris Arreola. The fight didn’t live up to expectations but Stiverne was victorious and is now the target of the heavyweight divisions hopefuls such as mandatory opponent Deontay Wilder, WBA mandatory Tyson Fury and the Australian banger Lucus Browne.
Vitali’s younger brother Wladamir still holds the IBF, WBO, and WBA titles at the same weight after his recent destruction of Pulev.
I believe in 2015 he will defend his titles to a bigger named heavyweight such as Fury, Briggs, Haye or Wilder but will win comfortably in any of these fights.
At super-bantamweight the four title holders seem to be in political turmoil as they repeatedly say on camera that they are looking to fight one another and yet a unification fight still seems very unlikely between any of them in the near future. A fight between Scott Quigg and Carl Frampton in the UK or Ireland would be huge and boxing fans around the world want to see Rigondeaux tested.
The highly anticipated fight between the punchers Kovolev and Stevenson at light-heavyweight went another year with no signs of being made but Kovolev did take the unification match up with the aging champion Bernard Hopkins. He was unable to stop ‘The Alien’ but looked superior during his points win.
At super-middleweight there was still no sign of Andre Ward but Anthony Dirrell took on and beat Sakio Bika to pick up the WBO title and his older brother looks likely to be fighting James Degale for the IBF if Froch decides to vacate it this month. Liverpool’s Paul Smith Jr lost a close encounter on points when taking on WBC champion Arthur Abraham. They are now awaiting a rematch on…….. George Groves bounced back from his second KO loss in a row to Carl Froch with 2 wins and remains the mandatory challenger to Anthony Dirrell for the WBO title.
At lightweight we have a whole bunch of guys all looking to make the next step in 2015 from the UK. Ricky Burns being most disappointing after losing his title on points to the very talented Terrance Crawford he then went on to lose to Dejan Zlaticanin in his comeback fight. Kevin Mitchell won his eliminator for a world title but failed to make the IBF secondary weight check where you are not allowed to gain more than 10lbs between weighing in and the day of the fight. Due to failing to make the weight he missed out on the title shot. Anthony Crolla won 3 fights in 2014 to set up a world title fight in January but was involved in an incident with a burglar and is now unable to take the contest due to injuries. Luke Campbell and Tommy Coyle both went the year unbeaten facing stiffer competition than they had previously and now look to fighting each other in an outdoor stadium fight in the summer of 2015. Worldwide Terrance Crawford is definitely the man to beat after dethroning Burns he went on to stop Yuriorkis Gamboa and then beat Raymundo Beltran on points to round off the year.