10 Burning Boxing Questions for 2014
Boxing fans have had it pretty good during 2013. Compelling, action-packed fights took place in nearly every month of the past year.
Meaningful title fights were fought in the majority of weight classes. New stars emerged, while overhyped contenders went to the back of the line.
Boxing should continue to thrive in 2014. The following will be among the biggest questions going forward into the new year.
10. Will Guillermo Rigondeaux Find a Worthy Opponent?
Last April, two-time Olympic gold medalist Guillermo Rigondeaux beat pound-for-pound superstar Nonito Donaire by one-sided unanimous decision in just his 12th professional fight.
The performance was among the most amazing in recent years, but it failed to provide nonstop excitement and lacked dramatic intensity in the view of many fans. Rigondeaux's return to action in December against Joseph Agbeko was similarly dominant but even less exciting.
Top Rank and HBO have one of the sport's best pound-for-pound performers in Rigondeaux. But in 2014 they would like to find a compelling opponent to market him against.
9. Can Keith Thurman Become the Next Big Star at Welterweight?
While Adrien Broner has received far more media attention in the past two years, many observers have been claiming all along that Keith Thurman is the more solid young star.
"One Time" has always demonstrated fight-ending power during his undefeated career, but as he stepped up in competition in 2013, he showed good ring IQ and the ability to stay patient and adjust.
The welterweight division is always loaded with talent, and it's easy to stumble there even in a stay-busy fight. Fans will be watching to see if Thurman can continue his winning streak.
8. Will Mikey Garcia Fight Yuriorkis Gamboa?
Mikey Garcia is a leading candidate for Fighter of the Year in 2013. Since January, he has won world titles in two different divisions and knocked out an additional former world champion.
Many observers regard him as among the top pound-for-pound fighters in the sport. All he needs is a high-profile opponent to help him get to the next level.
Yuriorkis Gamboa would be the ideal candidate for the role. The explosive Cuban has seen his own career stall out in recent years. He needs a fight with a big-name opponent like Garcia even more than Garcia needs the fight with him.
7. Will Danny Garcia's Star Continue to Rise?
Danny Garcia emerged as a world champion and major star in 2012, when he consolidated the WBA and WBC light welterweight titles with thrilling stoppages of Amir Khan and Erik Morales.
Garcia beat longtime star Zab Judah in April 2013. In September, he faced red-hot Lucas Matthysse in one of the year's most anticipated fights on the Floyd Mayweather vs. Saul Alvarez pay-per-view.
He earned a hard-fought but decisive decision victory over Matthysse, establishing himself as the "man at 140." The undefeated Garcia has to be viewed as one of the top fighters in the welterweight neighborhood.
It will be interesting to see if his star continues to climb in 2014.
6. Is Marcos Maidana a Potential Pound-for-Pound Star?
Heading into his fight with Marcos Maidana earlier this month, Adrien Broner was ranked by The Ring as a pound-for-pound Top 10 fighter.
So given the fact that Maidana beat the crap out of Broner, does that mean the Argentine is therefore in the pound-for-pound Top 10?
Probably not. Maidana lost a fairly one-sided decision to Devon Alexander in February 2012, and Alexander just lost this month to Shawn Porter.
Then again, the Argentine has showed consistent improvement as an all-around fighter in the past two years, working with Robert Garcia. Against Broner, he was a smart bully.
Now that Maidana is a hot fighter with a belt around his waist, he'll get the fights he needs to prove where he ranks.
5. Can Adrien Broner's Ego Overcome Being 'Normal'?
Ever since he emerged on the boxing scene, Broner has been presented to the world as something special. In his early 20s and with wins over exactly nobody truly meaningful, Broner was already being hailed in some quarters as the future of the sport.
Nobody bought into it more fully than the man himself.
Maidana brought the entire artifice crashing down earlier this month, when he knocked down Broner twice and pummeled him en route to a one-sided decision victory.
Broner is too talented to be completely written off. But it's impossible not to wonder how he will react to the disappointment. He spent all year conducting himself as if he was already Floyd Mayweather.
At the end of the year, he found out the hard truth—he's just another talented, young fighter with problems to work out.
4. Is Saul Alvarez a True Boxing Superstar?
There's no question that Saul Alvarez's accomplishments in boxing deserve respect. He turned professional at 15, and by his early 20s, he was an undefeated world champion with more than 40 fights.
His wins over Shane Mosley and Austin Trout demonstrated that he has legitimate, world-class talent.
When tapped by Golden Boy to face Mayweather this past September, he helped break pay-per-view sales records.
But in the ring, he was a disappointment. It's not just that he lost to the pound-for-pound best. He was never, in any way, in the fight.
At this point, he will have to go back and re-establish himself as the top dog at light middleweight, where a number of dangerous fights are waiting for him.
3. Will We Finally See an American Heavyweight Champion?
Earlier this month, Vitali Klitschko vacated the WBC heavyweight title in order to focus on the troubled political situation in his native Ukraine. The WBC has ordered a rematch between Bermane Stiverne and Chris Arreola for the vacant belt.
Stiverne is from Canada, and Arreola is American, so if the fight lines up, we will indeed see a new North American champion. Stiverne won their first meeting last April via a hard-fought unanimous decision.
Arreola rebounded from the loss to demolish heavyweight contender Seth Mitchell by Round 1 KO in September.
It should be a big year for American heavyweights. The WBC also has undefeated prospects Bryant Jennings and Deontay Wilder ranked in the Top Five.
2. Will Sergio Martinez Fight Gennady Golovkin?
Despite a single, lackluster performance in 2013 against Martin Murray, Sergio Martinez remains the lineal middleweight world champion. Many publications even continue to rate him in the pound-for-pound top 10.
Gennady Golovkin meanwhile defended his WBA middleweight belt four times in 2013, winning each fight by brutal stoppage. Fans are starting to view GGG as the "man at 160," especially as Martinez hesitates to give him his rightful shot.
Perhaps Miguel Cotto would provide a bigger payday for Sergio Martinez, so from a business standpoint, that fight might make more sense. But Golovkin is the fight that Martinez needs to take in 2014 if he still wants to be relevant as the champ.
1. Will Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao Finally Fight?
After all these years, how is it that we are still talking about this fight?
I've written this fight off as never happening many times over the years. That's still my official opinion. This fight is never occurring.
But shifts in the boxing landscape make it seem more likely now than a year ago. Mayweather has cashed in on the big payday represented by Alvarez.
Danny Garcia or Maidana could both do decent numbers. But there would be a big letdown after the grand spectacle of last year's run-up with Alvarez.
If The Money Team wants to keep going onward and upward, there's only one choice left: Manny Pacquiao.
I still don't think that means the fight becomes a reality. But it does mean we're going to talk and write about it in 2014.