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."
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 this year's breakthrough HBO fighter.
Kieran Mulvaney: Vasyl Lomachenko
This took some thinking. On one level, the clear winner here is Terence Crawford, who broke through from boxing aficionado cult figure to one of the most widely praised and heavily hyped boxers in the sport. But can you win the Breakout Fighter of the Year award when you're already Fighter of the Year award? More to the point, should you? At some point, you have to start letting somebody else win something, right? Another possibility is Sergey Kovalev, who moved to a new level with his dominant win over Bernard Hopkins; but he was hardly a surprise package, even if the thoroughness of his defining win was in fact surprising. Nicholas Walters was a strong contender here after his spectacular wins against Vic Darchinyan and Nonito Donaire. But I'm going with Lomachenko, because even though he went just 1-1 on HBO in 2014, that record obscures a greater truth: that the Ukrainian, with just four professional fights to his name, is an otherworldly talent.
He lost his first fight of the year, but that was a world title challenge in just his second pro bout, against a veteran with 55 professional fights who came in overweight and used every barely-legal and less-than-legal trick in the book to defeat the precocious challenger. And even then Lomachenko was coming on strong at the end. After rebounding to win a title in his next outing, he returned to HBO on the undercard of Manny Pacquiao's defeat of Chris Algieri, and totally dominated his opponent (an opponent, moreover, with a 52-1 record coming in) despite effectively having to fight half the contest one-handed after he injured his left wrist. This guy is sensational, and watching him take on the rest of the featherweight division (including Walters) in 2015 is going to be fun.
Eric Raskin: Terence Crawford
He wasn't quite my HBO Fighter of the Year, but I can't possibly deny Crawford this honor. For fans in Omaha and on couches across the country, it was a Crawford lovefest all year long. He went from skilled but unexciting prospect to must-see lineal lightweight champion in a single year, and by the time it was over, nobody could think of a single bad thing to say about Crawford—not even on Twitter, which was mostly invented so that people could hurl insults at people they'll never meet.
Hamilton Nolan: David Lemieux
Terence Crawford had a more impressive year overall, but we already had some idea of how good he was. Lemieux, coming down from Canada, was more of an unknown quantity. He showed he can probably hurt anyone in the world.
Nat Gottlieb: Terence Crawford
With convincing title fight victories over Ricky Burns, Yuriorkis Gamboa, and Ray Beltran, Crawford made boxing fans here and in the UK take notice. He's set to join the packed junior welterweight division in 2015 and will have a chance to thrust himself into the conversation for best-of-the-best.
Oliver Goldstein: Jessie Vargas
Ah, remember the heady days of 2012-3, when ex-Soviet Bloc fighters launched onto HBO airwaves like missiles blown into space? This year was less electric, more steady: those who might have been candidates for this award — Chris Algieri, Jose Benavidez — often either followed up their big win with a loss (as in Algieri's case) or never fully deserved their nod in the first place. In any case, Jessie Vargas has done just enough in my book to warrant being called Breakthrough HBO Fighter, after wins against Khabib Allakhverdiev, Anton Novikov, and Antonio DeMarco established him as a top-drawer light welterweight.
Tim Smith: Terence Crawford
He has combined poise, power and charisma with fantastic boxing skills to light up boxing. His two fights on HBO this year were must see-TV.
Diego Morilla: Terence Crawford
As debatable as the rest of the categories may be, this one's the biggest no-brainer of the bunch. A record of 3-0 with two of those wins against former world champions would lock the choice for almost anybody, but Crawford did it with such style and class that it is impossible to ignore him as a potential pound for pound entrant in the very near future. With his amazing athleticism and his polished boxing skills, Crawford took the world of boxing by storm coming out of nowhere – almost literally. Imagining a fighter from Omaha sneaking into the big time boxing picture was probably considered as unlikely as imagining a Jamaican skier making it to the Winter Olympics, but Crawford slalomed his way into the boxing spotlight with the poise of a veteran and the hunger of a young lion, and he is now headed for a career-defining 2015.
Michael Gluckstadt: Nicholas Walters
I almost gave this award to Crawford last year, which makes me think he shouldn't be the one to get it this time. Instead, I'd give it to someone who truly emerged from nowhere this year and has a great nickname to boot. "The Axe Man" chopped down former fighter of the year Nonito Donaire in his HBO debut and set himself up for a tantalizing fight against fellow Breakthrough candidate Vasyl Lomachenko.
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 trainer whose fighters appeared on the network this year:
Kieran Mulvaney: John David Jackson
Not for a body of work with one or more fighters over the course of the year, but for one specific game plan for one particular fight. Sergey Kovalev entered the ring against Bernard Hopkins in Atlantic City in November with a well-earned reputation as a seek-and-destroy knockout artist, while the 49-year-old Hopkins had spent decades between the ropes honing his pugilistic skills. But, while his first-round knockdown, and twelfth-round pummeling, of the old master dominated the highlight reels, what happened in rounds 2 through 11 was in many ways even more remarkable. Kovalev resisted Hopkins’ efforts to walk into counterpunches, and fought a restrained, disciplined fight that left even the wily veteran bereft of answers. It was a masterful plan, perfectly executed by Kovalev, but conceived by Jackson.
Eric Raskin: Freddie Roach
I know, it’s a boring pick. But with two protégés who both had outstanding years at the elite level in Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto, I have to give Roach the slight edge over Abel Sanchez and John David Jackson. Jackson had the singular game plan of the year in Kovalev’s fight against Hopkins, but Roach beats him here on volume.
Hamilton Nolan: John David Jackson
He took Kovalev from a Russian unknown to (my pick for) fighter of the year.
Nat Gottlieb: John David Jackson
There are bigger household names but Jackson took Kovalev to the next level and his game plan against Hopkins was flawless. Maybe one of the most underrated trainers on the planet.
Oliver Goldstein: Freddie Roach
Predictable, perhaps, but who had a better year than Freddie Roach? Manny Pacquiao avenged his loss to Timothy Bradley and thrashed Chris Algieri, while Miguel Cotto is the middleweight champion.
Some pretty handy stuff.
Tim Smith: Abel Sanchez
He has taken some very combustible raw material in Gennady Golovkin and shaped it into an explosive package.
Diego Morilla: Brian "BoMac" McIntyre
Sometimes it’s refreshing to hear things other than “Go for it!” or “Show some balls up there!” from a corner man. And that’s exactly what we’re not hearing in Terence Crawford’s corner in between rounds. Instead, we hear strategic advice, tactical comments, correcting errors and, yes, a healthy but limited dose of the usual alpha-male cheerleading. That, among many things, is what makes McIntyre one of the most interesting trainers to watch, as the head trainer of a well-balanced group that brings advice above attitude in the corner of one of boxing’s most pleasant surprises of 2014.
Michael Gluckstadt: John David Jackson
You may not know this, but Bernard Hopkins tends to talk a lot before a fight. One of the more effective pieces of trash talk before his fight with Sergey Kovalev was calling out Jackson, Kovalev's trainer, who had lost to Hopkins as a fighter in 1999: "How is someone who I beat going to tell Kovalev how to beat me?" He must have figured something out, because Jackson put together the perfect blueprint for not just beating Hopkins, but frankly, embarrassing him. The (much) older fighter didn't win a single round in a fight that established Kovalev as the light heavyweight to beat.
HBO Boxing Insiders Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney look back at the year in boxing and present the first-ever HBO Boxing Podcast awards.
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 single best punch on the network this year:
Kieran Mulvaney: Gennady Golovkin TKO3 Daniel Geale
For all the outstanding branding by Team Golovkin – from Mexican Style to Big Drama Show, to embracing such Golovkinisms as “good boy” – it would all be for naught if the fighter didn't deliver in the ring. But deliver he does, and big time. To fully appreciate the blow that precipitated Geale's fall, watch it in slow-motion: Geale's face registering a glimmer of glee at landing his best punch of the night – a right to Golovkin's face that knocks back the middleweight champ's head – and that glee transmogrifying to shock and horror as the Australian realizes that there's an even bigger right hand coming in the opposite direction, a right hand that sends him to the canvas and discombobulates him in night-ending fashion.
Eric Raskin: Golovkin's knockout-while-getting-hit move
The Lee-Jackson and Froch-Groves knockouts were more crushing blows. But Gennady Golovkin's KO punch against Daniel Geale gets all the points for creativity. As he absorbed a flush right hand to the face, GGG unleashed a right hand of his own that took his Australian opponent down under. A man who can knock another man out while getting hit is a dangerous man indeed.
Hamilton Nolan: Andy Lee knocks out John Jackson
Jackson outboxed him. Jackson was landing at will. Jackson systematically hurt him, and finally moved in for the kill… and caught one crazy Andy Lee punch thrown from off the ropes on a prayer, and it was over. Craziness.
Nat Gottlieb: Andy Lee knocks out John Jackson
Down in Round 1 Andy Lee picked himself up off the deck only to get schooled by John Jackson over five-plus rounds. No one in the house gave Lee any chance, but with his back to the ropes in Round 6, Lee uncorked a signature right hook that put Jackson to sleep for the evening. With that shot Lee launched himself into a world championship bout.
Oliver Goldstein: Andy Lee against Matt Korobov
Having been whacked out the ring by Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in his previous tilt for a belt, Andy Lee must have experienced a familiar feeling through the first five rounds against Matt Korobov. Barring one shot in the third that had Korobov's knees buckle slightly, Lee – tall, gangly, and stiff – was being largely outworked by his stocky opponent. But then came the sixth round – and as an overbold Korobov squared himself up, Lee struck with an incisive right hook that had Korobov's legs fuzzy as analog static. The punch was short, sharp, sweet; and the follow-up onslaught brought the game Lee a first championship belt.
Tim Smith: Golovkin-Geale
The 3rd round KO punch that Golovkin delivered against Geale was a counter right hand over the top a solid left that Geale landed on Golovkin's chin. Golovkin delivered the KO punch while recoiling backwards from Geale's shot.
Diego Morilla: Andy Lee finishes John Jackson
A one-punch stoppage is always an instant candidate for best punch of the year. But if that punch comes while the fighter is being pummeled into submission and almost on the verge of being stopped himself, then the choice is locked. Lee had already visited the canvas of the Madison Square Garden, and was finding himself in the middle of a 20-odd punch salvo while being almost totally outgunned when, out of nowhere, he fired a counter right hook off the ropes from his southpaw stance that landed square on Jackson's cheekbone, sending him to the canvas for the entire count. Irishmen write songs about things like these, and I would be surprised if Lee doesn't already have a ballad written in honor of this demolishing, bone-chilling knockout punch.
Michael Gluckstadt: Golovkin-Geale
This punch shouldn't just win Best Blow, it should win Best Motion Picture for a Comedy or a Drama. The change of expression on Geale's face – and the lack of one on Gennady's – was the boxing year's high point for slapstick humor and range of emotions contained in a single moment.
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 KO on the network this year:
Kieran Mulvaney: Carl Froch KO 8 George Groves
After their first meeting ended in a controversial stoppage, Froch left no doubt in the rematch, icing Groves in front of a massive Wembley Stadium crowd with a picture-perfect KO. A little stutter-step, a feinted jab and then a massive overhand right that poleaxed the Londoner: it was as sweet and definitive an ending to a prizefight as you'll see. Honorable mention to Andy Lee's one-punch stoppage of John Jackson.
Eric Raskin: Andy Lee KO 5 John Jackson
It was a virtual coin flip between Lee-Jackson and Carl Froch's violent rematch knockout of George Groves, but the deciding factor for me was how comprehensively Lee was losing when he uncorked the miracle counter right hook. Aesthetically, the two best HBO-televised knockouts of the year were a dead heat. So Lee's stiffening of the previously unbeaten Jackson at Madison Square Garden wins on the strength of its shock value.
Hamilton Nolan: Andy Lee KO 5 John Jackson
Jackson outboxed him. Jackson was landing at will. Jackson systematically hurt him, and finally moved in for the kill… and caught one crazy Andy Lee punch thrown from off the ropes on a prayer, and it was over. Craziness.
Nat Gottlieb: Nonito Donaire KO 6 Nicholas Walters
Featherweight Nicholas Walters took Nonito Donaire's early fire and then turned it around by pummeling the Filipino into a bloody pulp before he blasted him in round 6 with a thunderous overhand right to the side of the head. Donaire managed to get up, but was so dazed and confused the ref waived it off. A decisive beat down of a onetime superstar.
Oliver Goldstein: Carl Froch KO 8 George Groves
How to right the wrong of one of the most disappointing early finishes in recent history? Carl Froch insisted before his second meeting with George Groves that their first was heading toward a fairer conclusion when Howard Foster screwed the pooch, and this time around delivered when he crashed Groves into another dimension at Wembley in May.
This bout lacked the excitement of their initial tussle, when Groves had thrashed Froch about the ring for seven or so rounds, but its ending was truly memorable, as Froch feinted a left, let Groves bite, then let rip with a right for the ages.
Tim Smith: Terence Crawford KO 9 Yuriorkis Gamboa
Terence Crawford's stunning 9th round of Gamboa. It was a stepping stone fight for Crawford. It was as Crawford KO'ed Gamboa and stepped right into the spotlight as one of boxing's brightest new stars.
Diego Morilla: Wladimir Klitschko KO 5 Kubrat Pulev
Bulgaria's Pulev was tall, bulky, strong, yet agile and skilled, and had the hunger and the credentials of a young Klitschko: an Olympic medal, an unbeaten record and a defiant attitude. Perhaps that's why it was so impressive to see him go down in such a devastating fashion. Klitschko is known for 1-2-ing his foes into submission, using his pawing jab to set up his ramming straight right to then lay a progressive beating on his opponents. But using his often neglected left hook, he sent Pulev to the canvas a total of four times to score his most devastating KO to date.
Michael Gluckstadt: Andy Lee KO 5 John Jackson
How can you not love Andy Lee? He's not the most skilled middleweight, nor the most powerful, but he may have the most heart (a dubious conceit in other sports, but one that certainly exists in boxing). In front of a packed house at Madison Square Garden on the Cotto-Martinez undercard, it looked like we were seeing Andy's end as an elite boxer. Jackson was outworking him and outclassing him, and just when it looked like he was about to finish the job, Lee reached down and unveiled a storybook right hook that ended Jackson's night before he even hit the canvas. Another, similar miracle punch later, and Andy Lee finished 2014 as a middleweight title holder instead of an afterthought.