Last year, a number of fighters emerged from relative obscurity to set the world scene alight – and domestically too. There were also several high profile fighters who enjoyed great success throughout the year. I’d like to take a look back at 2013 and the fighters who shot to fame in their own right, also looking ahead to what 2014 presents for them and other fighters too.
Floyd Mayweather Jr – the man is just simply just too good for anyone. We’ve seen what he’s done and achieved in the past and we saw how he handled Mexican, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, last September. He will continue to amaze us all until he retires. He’s the greatest fighter of this generation.
Gennady Golovkin is a perfect example of a fighter who has got people talking all over the world. He’s a star in the making – four fights in 2013 – four wins inside the distance. Golovkin now needs the big fights to be made sooner rather than later, and needs to beat the big names in his division to raise his stock even more.
A potential huge matchup is Golovkin versus Sergio Martinez – the current WBC middleweight title-holder. To my knowledge, there’s nothing stopping them from meeting, unless Martinez is looking elsewhere. We know that Miguel Cotto could fight the Argentinian this year, but that could fall through. Even if Martinez-Cotto is made, a potential Golovkin-Martinez showdown could happen later in 2014. Martin Murray could be a future opponent for ‘GGG’. There’s nothing stopping those two from meeting, either.
Callum Smith has made some real noise in the UK. He’s really burst on to the scene, achieving six first round wins in a row in 2013, looking devastating in the process. When Smith did step up in class (last September against Patrick Mendy), he obliterated his African opponent inside a round. I expect another busy year for Smith. Callum’s brother, Paul Smith Jr, currently holds the British 168.lb title, but he could vacate this year. If he does, I don’t see any reason why Callum can’t challenge for it. A potential huge British showdown with Rocky Fielding could materialize. Both are from Liverpool, unbeaten and promoted by Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Sport. Fielding’s the current commonwealth 168.lb title-holder, so if that fight was to be made, it’s possible the vacant British belt and commonwealth belt would be up for grabs.
Shawn Porter became a world champion at the first time of asking in December, upsetting the odds to dethrone the defending champion, Devon Alexander, to claim the IBF welterweight title. There were many in the boxing world who felt that Porter did not have the tools to beat Alexander, but he proved those people wrong; including this writer. Porter looks set to face his mandatory challenger, Kell Brook, later this year, but he may take a voluntary defence beforehand. Golden Boy Promotions CEO, Richard Schaefer, has stated recently that he’s looking at matching Porter with Keith Thurman next, in what would be a first title defence for Porter. Now wouldn’t that be something!
Darren Barker achieved his lifelong dream and became a world champion, beating the defending champion, Daniel Geale, last August to claim the IBF middleweight title. Despite all of Barker’s injury problems in the past, and being knocked down during the world title fight with Geale, he lifted himself off the canvas to claim a points win. In Barker’s first defence of the IBF strap in December. he was beaten in two rounds by Germany’s Felix Sturm, dislocating his hip during the contest. Barker announced his retirement from boxing some weeks later and I wish him all the best for the future.
Adonis Stevenson looked devastating when claiming the WBC and Ring Magazine light heavyweight belts in June last year. He really announced himself on the world stage, thumping the defending champion, Chad Dawson, in only 76 seconds of the first round. Not only that, Stevenson had jumped up in weight from super middleweight to tackle Dawson. ‘Superman’ continued to soar, claiming three more wins to round 2013 off in style. A potential mouth-watering unification title fight with Russian, Sergey Kovalev, could happen later this year. It’s a fight every fan wants to see, and it could well end with a devastating knockout as both are serious punchers. There’s no reason why this can’t happen, either.
Stevenson has expressed his desire to face Carl Froch and Bernard Hopkins, but I have my doubts whether Stevenson will face either fighter. I do not see Froch moving up to light heavyweight, nor do I see Hopkins jumping at the chance to get in the ring with Stevenson. Jean Pascal recently saw off Lucian Bute in a mega showdown in Canada. It’s possible Stevenson and Pascal will meet later this year, as Pascal claimed the ‘Diamond’ belt to get in line for a world title shot. Both Stevenson and Pascal were born in Haiti and now reside in Canada, so there’s something there to entice the fans.
Sergey Kovalev goes by the alias, ‘Krusher’. When you see him fight, you know why. The Russian is a monstrous puncher; just ask Nathan Cleverly. Kovalev crushed the Welshman in four rounds last August, picking up the WBO light heavyweight belt with the win. Kovalev went on to defend his belt in November against Ukrainian, Ismayl Sillah. I wish any opponent all the best if they step in the ring to face Kovalev – seriously! Again, I see no reason why Kovalev-Stevenson can’t happen later this year. It’s a matchup that excites the fans.
Keith Thurman has impressed practically every fight fan so far. He has shown he has the tools to become a real force in the sport. Thurman’s not yet faced the bigger names in the welterweight division, and the cold war may surely get in the way of that, but there’s nothing getting in the way of him facing current WBA World welterweight champ, Marcos Rene Maidana, this year. Thurman currently holds the interim version of the WBA World belt, so as of now that fight makes sense to make. Of course, if Maidana rematches Adrien Broner and loses, then Broner-Thurman becomes a massive fight which fight fans would love to see it.
Ruslan Provodnikov has won the hearts of many fans since his fight with Timothy Bradley last March. Provodnikov, known as the ‘Siberian Rocky’, is a beast and he gave Bradley all he could handle when they fought for the WBO welterweight title, losing narrowly on points. Since then, Provodnikov claimed his first world title, beating Mike Alvarado for the WBO light welterweight belt last October. Provodnikov is relentless and he looks like he really enjoys inflicting pain upon his opponents. A real humdinger of a fight would be Provodnikov versus Brandon Rios. Now that would be an epic war to say the least! Rios has stated recently that he’s moving back down to 140.lbs, and with Provodnikov not tied with either TOP Rank or Golden Boy Promotions, there’s a real possibility that fight could happen. A rematch with Bradley is also possible for Provodnikov. I also would love to see Provodnikov face Danny Garcia. That would really be a great fight.
Danny Garcia used to be considered not all that good by a majority of fight fans, and also considered underrated too, but not any more. Garcia has beaten the likes of Kendall Holt, Erik Morales, Amir Khan and Zab Judah, but victory over puncher, Lucas Martin Matthysse, in September was arguably his career-best win. Garcia was the underdog going in to the fight, but proved his doubters wrong and demonstrated his solid boxing ability throughout the fight.
What’s in store for Garcia this year? Well, at 140.lbs there’s Ruslan Provodnikov, and as already mentioned – Lamont Peterson. I don’t see Garcia giving up his WBC and WBA Super World 140.lb belts that easily, so these fights could take place. There was talk of Garcia moving up in weight from 140.lbs to 147.lbs. If that happens, I think a great first fight at the weight would be against Paulie Malignaggi. I think it would be a great fight stylistically and one the fans would most definitely tune in to see.
Garcia-Maidana, Garcia-Broner, Garcia-Thurman? You never know, these fights could be made. Of course, there’s a potential showdown with Floyd Mayweather Jr, but I don’t see that happening.
George Groves won over those who doubted him prior to his challenge for the IBF and WBA World super middleweight belts against Carl Froch in November. Groves put down Froch HARD during the first round of the bout and continued to bombard him with solid right hands throughout, but he was controversially stopped during the ninth round. Groves badly wants a rematch with Froch and no-one can blame him. but Froch wants none of it. Promoter, Eddie Hearn, believes the rematch can happen this year, but fans aren’t so sure. Groves is currently a free agent and could well leave Matchroom Sport and sign with a top American promoter. A possible fight with current super middleweight title-holder, Robert Stieglitz, could be made this year. It’s certainly a fight that Groves can win.
Guillermo Rigondeaux was sublime as an amateur boxer and he continues to show his class in the pro ranks. 2013 was a standout year for the Cuban. Victory over Nonito Donaire – who was the WBO super bantamweight title-holder going in to the fight – was the standout performance and victory of 2013 in my opinion. Rigondeaux went on to outclass Joseph Akbeko in December to round off the year in style, keeping hold of the WBO and WBA Super World super bantamweight titles. I don’t know what’s next for the Cuban, though, as he’s in a league of his own. Also, he’s not a big draw, which is crazy to say, but he doesn’t draw in the crowds and he doesn’t speak a word of English. Perhaps what Rigondeaux needs to do is travel outside of America. He could travel to Northern Ireland and face Carl Frampton, or even to England to face Scott Quigg. It would only benefit Rigondeaux surely, but it remains to be seen if all parties can come to an agreement for those fights to happen.
Erislandy Lara is a slick Cuban southpaw, but he struggled with Mexican brawler, Alfredo Angulo, last June. However, Lara inflicted enough damage to stop Angulo in 10 rounds, claiming the interim World light middleweight title with the win.
Lara completely schooled Austin Trout – a very capable southpaw – over 12 rounds in December. The cuban was at his absolute best in what was surely Lara’s career-best win. After that performance, many in the boxing world came out and said that they believe Lara would be Floyd Mayweather Jr’s toughest test right now. It’s an interesting matchup for sure and I’d be happy to see it if it’s made. Another potential fight for Lara is against Mexican, Saul ‘Canelo Alvarez. That can certainly be made and it’s a fight I favour Lara to win in style.
Miguel ‘Mikey’ Garcia had a stellar 2013, announcing himself on the world stage to become a world champion in two weight-classes – featherweight and super featherweight. Garcia has shown what he’s truly capable of with victories over Orlando Salido, Juan Manuel Lopez and Roman Martinez. There are many who feel that Garcia is vulnerable, though, but they can’t deny that he is a real talent! Garcia is set to defend his WBO super featherweight title against Mexican, Juan Carlos Burgos, on January 25, but it’s likely that he will move up in weight to lightweight in the near future. First things first of course, Garcia must get past Burgos, but a potential huge fight between Garcia and Yuriorkis Gamboa at 135.lbs would delight fans if it was to be made.
2014 presents a huge opportunity for many fighters, both internationally and domestically.
Terence Crawford could make that step from challenger to world champion, if he beats WBO lightweight title-holder, Ricky Burns, on March 1. This will be Crawford’s breaking out party in my opinion. It’s a step up in class for Crawford for sure, but it’s no easy test for Burns, either. I think Crawford will present more problems than Raymundo Beltran did for the Scot.
Kell Brook looks set to face Shawn Porter for the IBF 147.lb strap as I’ve already mentioned. Fingers crossed that fight happens. It would be a golden opportunity for Brook. He’s had a nightmare with world title challenges being cancelled in the past, but this could be his time.
Vasyl Lomachenko is due to fight for a world title in only his second pro fight – which if he was to win – would be an incredible achievement. He challenges tough Mexican, Orlando Salido, for the WBO featherweight title on March 1. Lomachenko is a gifted southpaw who demonstrated his ability in overwhelming Mexican, Jose Ramirez, in October and I firmly believe that Lomachenko will beat Salido.
Special mentions to Kal Yafai, Mitchell Smith and Chris Jenkins.
I think Yafai is a real talent and one to watch. He’s had some bad luck with injuries in the past, but I pray that’s all behind him. I think Yafai picks up his first domestic title early this year (with the English belt), and could possibly go on to fight Paul Butler (holder of the British and commonwealth super flyweight belts), later in the year. That fight would certainly produce fireworks!
Smith claimed his first domestic title in September, picking up the Southern Area super featherweight title with victory over Norfolk’s Scott Moises.
Smith is vastly improving and has all the tools to go far in the sport. He’s due to fight Welshman, Mark Evans, on February 22, which is a good step up in class for both. Evans is talented and unbeaten in ten and he’ll come to London intent on beating Smith, so I expect Smith to be at his best and to shine in that contest.
Jenkins burst on to the domestic scene last July, claiming the light welterweight Prizefighter trophy. He showed his class throughout that competition and is no longer Wales’ best kept secret. I’m certain he will challenge for major titles in the near future. Jenkins is next due to fight on February 1 in Wales, but an opponent has not yet been announced.
Anthony Joshua and Luke Campbell have impressed many already in a short space of time, but it’s very early days for both. There are many tough challenges ahead for them both. They’ve shined already in the pro ranks, but it won’t get any easier.
So this was a look back at 2013 and what could be in store for us this year.
I’m confident 2014 will be bigger and better than 2013.