With the end of the year approaching and Boxing's Best airing, HBO Boxing Insiders are taking a look back at 2014. Here, they make their selections for the best HBO Boxing moments this year.
Terence Crawford Returns to Omaha
From Ron Stander – who lost to Joe Frazier in Omaha's most recent previous title bout, in 1972 – shadowboxing at ringside, to Crawford prevailing in a terrific bout against Yuriorkis Gamboa and standing on the turnbuckle, arms aloft, drinking in the adoration of his hometown fans, this was a night that will live long in Cornhusker State sporting history and turned one of the sport's best technicians into a legitimate star.
George Groves Rides into Wembley
Eighty thousand fans were packed into Wembley Stadium as George Groves made his entrance for his rematch with Carl Froch, and quite the entrance it was: there were pyrotechnics, there was loud music, and there was Groves on top of a double-decker bus. Eight rounds later, his exit wasn't quite as grand.
Momma Pacquiao's hexes
Just what exactly is Dionesia Dapridan-Pacquiao doing at ringside with her rosary beads, her stares and her pointing? If it's some kind of hex on her son's opponents, it worked like a charm in 2014.
The Chris Algieri Show
I know his almost comically resolute self-confidence grated on some people after a while, but for me, Algieri was a breath of fresh air. He was a new name and a new face, he had a fun backstory, he was hugely accommodating to the media and was a terrific interview, and in two fights he demonstrated superhuman fortitude. I hope he gets further opportunities, I really do. Which makes it all the more unfortunate that his year will chiefly be remembered for …
Tim Lane's Extraordinary Optimism
Particularly one spectacularly ill-timed comment to Max Kellerman that had gone viral before Chris Algieri had finished hitting the canvas against Manny Pacquiao.
Eric Raskin: The "cage" interview
Yes, the jokes were beaten into the ground within 15 minutes of it happening. But that in no way diminishes what a fantastic, hilarious moment it was when Chris Algieri's trainer, Tim Lane, told Max Kellerman he was almost ready to let Algieri "out of the cage" … and two seconds later, Manny Pacquiao floored Algieri. You couldn't have scripted it any better.
The funniest moment of the year to me was Nonito Donaire's post-fight interview in which he kept talking on and on and on, effusively, about how badly Nicholas Walters beat his ass. Points for honesty, I guess? I also liked the HBO announcer's willingness to point out when fight scores were trash. I hope they continue doing this until fight scores are not trashy any more.
With his total beat down of Sergio Martinez, who hadn't lost in five years, Miguel Cotto captured the linear middleweight title in spectacular fashion at age 34, and did it in the Mecca of boxing, Madison Square Garden, before a raucous sellout crowd of adoring fans.
Middleweight Gennady Golovkin filled the stadium in Carson, CA this fall and it didn't matter if he was fighting Marco Antonio Rubio or Marco Polo. This guy puts asses in the seats. For the first time ever in boxing at The Stub Hub Center, extra seats had to be erected just to accommodate the mass of fans who wanted to see this ferocious knockout artist, clearly a must-see attraction.
The best moments are the entire story arc of Chris Algieri that played out on HBO. It went from his rise from obscurity, fighting in club shows in Huntington, L.I., to get his big break fighting Provodnikov on HBO for the first time, pulling off the stunning upset, and then getting that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in a major pay per view event against superstar Manny Pacquiao. Unfortunately for Algieri it ended in a heart-wrenching fashion with the six knockdowns on the way to losing a lopsided decision.
Diego Morilla: Miguel Cotto wins the middleweight title
Winning a world title is always a memorable moment for any fighter. But becoming the first fighter from a boxing-crazy country to win titles in four different divisions, and doing it against all odds by decisively stopping a pound-for-pound undisputed champion in front of thousands of loyal fans has to be the greatest possible feeling for anybody, and especially if that fighter comes from a proud nation of boxing legends such as Puerto Rico. And Cotto achieved just that in his surprisingly dominant win over Sergio Martinez in June at the Madison Square Garden, in an emotionally-charged fight that is now part of the island's rich boxing lore.
There really are too many to count. Andy Lee's two(!) miracle come-from-behind KOs. Chris Algieri's interest in avocados. The "Did Karim Mayfield lick Thomas Dulorme?" subplot. Wembley. Omaha. Cotto at the Garden. Bernard Hopkins visiting the doctor in an alien mask. John David Jackson's plan for Hopkins. Tim Lane's "plan" for Algieri. Ruslan Provodnikov's surreal "2 Days." Wladimir Klitschko's most exciting KO in years. "The Axe Man." Mama Pacquiao. Kovalev's crotch feint. The way Raskin says "Harold!" on the HBO Boxing Podcast, and for that matter, "Hey Harold!" Gabriel Rosado's left eye. David Lemieux's left hook.
All in all, you could sum up my feelings as follows (through a wide Kazakh grin): "This is fight. This is not game, this is fight. I love fight."