Terence Crawford, a lot there to like, for sure.
Gennady Golovkin, breakout year for the good boy with the worst of fistic intentions when he gloves up.
But for me, my Fighter of the Year pick as of right now, as we head down the home stretch of a semi-cruddy year in boxing, is Sergey Kovalev.
As I Tweeted out after Crawford decisioned ex Manny Pacquiao sparring partner Ray Beltran on Saturday, when you think back on this year in boxing, are you going to remember the three guys who Crawford and Golovkin beat, or will you recall that 2014 was the year that we definitively learned that Bernard Hopkins isn’t immune to the affects of aging, and even more so, is not immune to the affects of a super-strong and technically adept and quite cerebral practitioner of the sweet and savage science, Kovalev?
Hey, we can all have our different criteria when picking and choosing Fighter of the Year. You can factor in strength of schedule, or can attach excess import to one most-meaningful win..or you can even widen it out, and think about who meant the most to the sport as a whole, and fold in factors like personality or quality of character, and how that makes the sport as a whole look. But the single most telling factor for me, when I make my vote, is the fact that Sergey Kovalev completely schooled a master pugilist, and did that in a manner that I didn’t see anyone predict he would. Oh sure, you can hunt around and find a couple smarts who liked Kovalev to beat down the (formerly) ageless wonder. And those smarts may in fact possess a wondrous ability to size up styles and arsenals and predict what happened on Nov. 8 in AC…and were not in fact going out on a limb to make a flashy prediction which can be bragged about if it plays out…and rapidly dismissed if it doesn’t. But this was a 50-50 fight in the eyes of media polled, and many pro hitters I talked to liked Hopkins to use his guile and grab the W. Not to mention, I spoke to one highly placed exec with intimate knowledge of the fighters and their abilities who told me he thought a mistake was being made by Team Kovalev, that the Russian was being thrown to the wolves in something of a cashout cash-grab.
Wins over Cedric Agnew and Blake Caparello aren’t going to land anyone a single vote for Fighter of the Year, of course…but when we look back at this year in boxing, the distance between Agnew and Caparello, and the guys Golovkin beat (Curtis Stevens, 2-2 in his last four, Daniel Geale, Marco Antonio Rubio) and the guys Crawford beat (Ricky Burns, 1-2-1 in his last four, undersized Yuriorkis Gamboa, Ray Beltran) will be negligible, I think. But Bernard Hopkins, that’s a NAME, that’s a legend, that’s a guy higher on pound for pound lists than anyone those other cats beat..yes, even at 49. C’mon now, don’t be dissing the 49-year-old and telling me you knew Kovalev was going to do that to him with a revisionists’ clarity. Or if you do, send me all your prediction picks pre-fight, and help me make some moolah!
No surprise, Kovalev’s promoter, Kathy Duva, agrees with my choice of Kovalev as Fighter of the Year 2014, unless some bizarre and super-scintillating occurrence unfolds on a card between now and New Year’s day. Here’s Duva’s take on why Kovalev should get BWAA love as FOY: “I find it interesting that people are so eager to write off the two undefeated fighters that Sergey fought earlier this year,” she told me. “They were no worse than Burns and Beltran. I tend to think that Agnew, in particular, is underrated if only because Sergey made it look so easy. Also, as you have pointed out, Hopkins is a legend, and half the media was picking him to win! That should trump Gamboa, who was undersized, coming off a long layoff and more distinguished as an amateur than as a pro. Finally, I think that Sergey earned Fighter of the Year not necessarily because he won the fight with Hopkins, but because of the WAY he won the fight. It was a masterful boxing and banging performance against a great boxer. How much more can you do?” I concur…
Also no surprise, our man Bernie Bahrmasel, publicist who does work for Team Golovkin, likes Triple G for 2014 FOY. Here’s why: “With all due respect to the rest of the fighters being considered, GGG is the 2014 Fighter of the Year.” he cited, “3 KOs, stopped two-time former world champion Daniel Geale with the KO of the Year, sold 8500 tickets in NYC, less than 90 days later sold 9300 tickets in LA (that’s Oscar-like popularity on both coasts), tremendous international interest for his fights, seen by over 200 countries, 18 straight KOs.
Lee Samuels, the esteemed gent who heads Top Rank’s PR office, told me he thinks Crawford deserves the nod for FOY, for these reasons: “Absolutely, Top Rank likes Crawford for Fighter of the Year. He defeated Ricky Burns overseas for a title, won a knockdown war over Gamboa, had a UD12 win over a strong Beltran, who came to win. It was a great 2014.”
Plenty of room for debate here, and by no means am I married to my list of three top entrants for FOY honors. Feel free to add your own, in our Forum, and also weigh in on the merits or lack thereof for Kovalev, Golovkin or Crawford getting their hand raised as 2014 Fighter of the Year.
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