The year in eight fights.
1. The Headliners – Mayweather Vs Maidana
May 3rd (Las Vegas)
It’s not always that the major money fights produce the best drama. We’ve had our very share of big show disappointments in recent years, but this was one that was more than worth the lofty PPV price attached to it. When Marcos Maidana upset Adrien Broner and jumped the queue for a shot at Mayweather, there were few who could have begrudged him the opportunity, but there were even less who gave him a genuine chance of winning. Chino showed here that at his very best, he is capable of competing with the top boxer of his generation, and for the first time in a long time, Floyd was forced to fight outside of his comfort zone. By the end of four rounds, there was the very real feeling that we could be about to witness something massive. It was evident that Mayweather was going to need all of his ring craft and all of his ability if he was keep the most notable win streak in the sport alive. Maidana couldn’t produce the same magic again in September, but on this night, he was able to do something fighters far more talented than he never could.
2. The Event – Froch Vs Groves II
May 31st (London)
In terms of spectacle and big fight feel nothing else this year even came close. Their first fight was an all British world title classic and the controversial ending and growing rivalry only fed into the demand for a rematch. The 80,000 tickets at Wembley Stadium were a near instant sell out and it seemed again that Boxing had the eye of the sporting world. While not as fiery as the first bout in ring, it was tense, cagey and compelling – and it gave us the definitive ending many felt the original was missing. The single punch KO which sealed the deal was as good a finish as you’ll see anywhere in the sport.
3. The Performance – Crawford Vs Gamboa
June 28th (Omaha)
I will be first to admit I was wrong about Terence Crawford. I dismissed the guy early as a potential star attraction. To me, he was a good hand – technically solid and fundamentally sound, but without the spark to be a real difference maker in the sport. Crawford proved he was world title worthy when he bested Ricky Burns in Glasgow in March, but it was his June homecoming against danger-man Yuriorkis Gamboa which really changed my perspective on him. The Nebraska native showed in that one that he could pull in an audience both at the gate and on TV, as well as produce fireworks when he stepped between the ropes. He finished 2014 as the clear number one at lightweight and a dark-horse contender for fighter of the year.
4. The Trade Fight – Salido Vs Kokietgym
September 20th (Tijuana)
Orlando Salido is no stranger to a battle. You don’t collect a dozen loses on your record and still be competing at the highest level without coming through some wars along the way. Over the past five years, the Mexican hardman has become one of the most reliable action fighters around and when matched with Thai slugger Terdsak Kokietgym last September, a battle was what was expected and a battle was what we got. The seven knockdown tear-up that followed though far surpassed even the highest of expectations. Salido has a lot of miles on the clock, but there’s still a handful of big fights left in him and unification bouts with fellow titlists Takashi Uchiyama, Takashi Miura or Rances Barthelemy would be the perfect way for him to round out his career.
5. The Shootout – Coyle Vs Brizuela
February 22nd (Hull)
This was this year’s surprise package and my pick for fight of the year. Tommy Coyle is one of the two rising stars of Hull Boxing (along with Luke Campbell), and when the 25 year old was paired up with unheralded Argentinian Daniel Brizuela, most viewed it as more of a rankings move and showcase opportunity than a legitimate test for the home fighter. Coyle’s Achilles heel however has been a penchant for being drawn into shootouts in bouts he would otherwise control. It’s gradually making him a must see fighter, but it’s also made his climb in the sport a lot more arduous. It was his undoing when he faced Derry Mathews for the commonwealth belt in 2013, and it nearly was again here against Brizuela. Each guy had taken four count before this one was said and done, and Coyle showed he had the mettle to battle back from the brink. It’s what he learns from fights like this which will decide how far he can go.
6. The Brawl – Matthysse Vs Molina
April 26th (Carson)
We had to take at least one from the StubHub. The California venue has been home to one great brawl after another over the last few years and it added a few more in 2014. The pick of the bunch though was Lucas Matthysse’s April clash with John Molina. Both Molina and Matthysse have reputations as being TV dynamite as far as action fights go and there were no fears of this one being dull going in. This was going to be a fight for as long as it lasted and it lasted longer than most would have thought. With Matthysse on the rebound from the Danny Garcia defeat, Molina’s open style figured to play right into his hands, giving him the opportunity to get back on the wagon and look good doing it. Molina hadn’t read the script though, and when he put La Máquina over in round two, you knew another Stubhub classic was on the way.
7. The Heavyweights – Cunningham Vs Mansour
April 4th (Philadelphia)
There’s not been a huge amount to crow about in the heavyweight division over recent times, but I’m starting to feel that momentum is back moving in the right direction again. The big guys have produced a handful of really good fights this year. Wladimir Klitschko is showing no signs of slowing down with the 38 year old turning in arguable the most impressive performance of his entire career back in November against Kubrat Pulev. And while Wlad’s historic championship reign continues, a handful of fresh faces are starting to emerge from Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua to Deontay Wilder and Bryant Jennings or Andy Ruiz, David Price and Joseph Parker. It was however two of the divisions elder statesman that gave us the heavyweight fight of the year. Neither Steve Cunningham nor Amir Mansour are likely to factor in the title picture at this late stage of their respective careers, but they are each still capable of producing some fun filled fights. Their April 4th encounter was the type of knock down, drag out brawl we want to see more of at maximum weight.
8. The Veterans – Sturm Vs Stieglitz
November 8th (Stuttgart)
Felix Sturm and Robert Stieglitz went into their November 8th contest as two star fighters in a major bout – with no belts up for grabs – but still a lot on the line. After each dropped their world titles early in 2014, another loss for either man could have spelled the end. While both may be past prime, they can each still fight. They are both still capable of competing for championships, and they each still have the name value to draw major fan interest in Germany. Neither could afford another lose here and that’s how they fought – nothing was held back over a terrific twelve rounds in Stuttgart. Sturm, who was for so long maligned as a boring fighter in his younger years, has now become a perennial fixture in most year end best fight lists.