In what turned out to be a somewhat lackluster year for the sport, there were some bright spots for boxing fans in 2014. The validation of stars like Sergey Kovalev, Terence Crawford and Nicholas Walters. The rejuvenation of Miguel Cotto and Manny Pacquiao. The continued rise of Gennady “GGG” Golovkin. This writer decided to share some of his favorites from the past twelve months below (check out the videos to see more). Let’s take a look at the pugilistic best of the year that was.
Montero’s “Rising Star”: Nicholas Walters
The “Axe Man” is one boxer who truly lives up to this nickname. He kicked off his year by chopping down former titlist Vic Darchinyan in Macau, then chopped down former pound for pound star Nonito Donaire in Los Angeles. The bilingual bomber can also box, as he showed a top-notch jab in his dismantling of Donaire. Fighting in a loaded featherweight division, the Jamaican native built most of his career in Panama and is fluent in Spanish. A consummate professional with a humble attitude and plenty of charisma, the sky is the limit for Nicholas Walters.
Montero’s “Milk Carton Award”: Andre Ward
Once poised to take over as America’s next boxing star, Andre Ward has fallen off the map and thus, off the rankings as well. Just two fights in over three years, not a single ring appearance in over a year – Ward’s nickname should change from “Son of God” to “Have You Seen Me?”. The undefeated lineal champion of the super-middleweight division, who is the last American boxer to strike gold at the Olympics, has spent his prime tied up in litigation with the late Dan Goossen, who’s promotional company still claims rights. Will he finally climb through the ropes in 2015, or remain on the milk carton?
Montero’s Prospect of the Year: Felix Verdejo
What’s not to like about this lightweight, who looks to be the heir apparent to Miguel Cotto as Puerto Rico’s boxing star? Verdejo went 7-0 (6KO) in 2014 and his one punch destruction of Sergio Villanueva in October was a contender for knockout of the year. The Puerto Rican is still young at just 21 years of age and has good size at 135 pounds, standing at 5’9” with a 72” reach. No promoter builds a prospect better than Top Rank, so look for this kid to continue to step up the competition in 2015.
Montero’s Knockout of the Year: Lee KO5 Jackson
Andy Lee was losing badly to John Jackson in New York’s famed Madison Square Garden back on June seventh. The Kronk Gym protégé, who once lived with hall of fame trainer and father figure Emmanuel Steward, had been put down in the opening round and never seemed to get into his groove. Trailing 39-36 on all three scorecards in the fifth round, Lee backed into the ropes, inviting his eager opponent in. Jackson dove forward, beaming with confidence, seemingly in cruise control. When suddenly out of nowhere, that Andy Lee southpaw right hook connected, separating his opponent from his senses. Jackson crumbled face-first into the canvas, where he remained unconscious for several minutes.
Check out the videos to find out who I liked for Fighter, Network, Trainer, Bout and (no judgment) Ring Card Girl of the Year. Wishing all my fellow boxing fans a safe and prosperous new year. 2014 was a great ride; 2015 promises to be even greater. We already have great matches on the schedule to look forward to: Stiverne-Wilder, Alvarado-Rios3, Golovkin-Murray, Klitschko-Jennings and Cotto-Alvarez.
Questions, comments, hate mail? You know what to do.