Undefeated Boxing Stars Most Likely to Lose in 2014

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistJanuary 3, 2014

Undefeated Boxing Stars Most Likely to Lose in 2014

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    The "0" has got to go. Or does it?

    That's the question for the 12 high-profile fighters listed here, each of whom enters 2014 with an unbeaten mark that he'll be hoping to extend throughout another 12 months.

    The list was compiled with the help of fellow Bleacher Report columnist Kelsey McCarson, whose most recent pound-for-pound rankings following the Manny Pacquiao-Brandon Rios in November included nine unbeaten fighters. The list was rounded out to an even dozen with the inclusion of three additional unbeaten fighters who were included on the Boxrec.com pound-for-pound list as of Jan. 2.

    Click through to get our take on why they've reached their existing status without a loss, and whether those win streaks are likely to continue in the near future.

Kubrat Pulev (Heavyweight)

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    Record: 19-0, 10 KO

    Why He’s Unbeaten: He's 6'4" and  250 pounds and can punch, which on any given night makes a guy like Kubrat Pulev a threat to become heavyweight champion.

    But, to a large extent, the most significant reason 32-year-old Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev is still unbeaten is because he's not tested his wares against the very best of the heavyweight division, namely Wladimir Klitschko.

    A decision over chief Klitschko gatekeeper Tony Thompson in August thrust him to the front of the line among the guys Wlad has yet to meet and to the No. 1 slot in the IBF rankings for December. The fight has been reported to be on the agenda for the consensus weight-class kingpin for 2014.

    Will the 0 go?: The defeats of Thompson and the other 18 foes notwithstanding, taking the next step to defeat Klitschko is a gargantuan one. If the fight's made, expect Pulev to emerge a semiconscious 19-1.

Andre Ward (Super Middleweight)

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    Record: 27-0, 14 KO

    Why He’s Unbeaten: The 29-year-old former Olympic gold medalist is generally considered the best fighter in the world not named Floyd Mayweather Jr., and he did nothing to lose that standing upon returning from a 14-month layoff to beat the fight out of previously unbeaten Edwin Rodriguez over 12 masterful rounds in mid-November.

    His voicemail is unlikely to stay empty for too long in the New Year, with a host of fighters now targeting him as the litmus test for superiority anywhere from 160 to 175 pounds. Whether it's a rematch with Carl Froch, a showdown with Gennady Golovkin or a summit meeting with light heavyweight champ Adonis Stevenson, Andre Ward will have ample opportunity to boost the street cred in 2014.

    Will the 0 go?: In a word, unlikely. The defeat of Rodriguez showed a guy in the prime of his ring career with complete mastery of offense, defense and the mental game.

    If anyone takes the unbeaten status from him, it'll be among the year's top upsets.

Gennady Golovkin (Middleweight)

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    Record: 28-0, 25 KO

    Why He’s Unbeaten: It's the ultimate chicken-and-egg question for boxing fans. Is Gennady Golovkin unbeaten because he's a beast whom no one wants to fight, or is he unbeaten because he's never fought anyone of great repute?

    Regardless of where you stand on the issue, it's clear that the former amateur champ had a terrific four-KO year in defense of his IBO middleweight title in 2013.

    The true measure of his dominance at 160 pounds would come in the form of a meeting with consensus champion Sergio Martinez, but whether that fight will ever happen, or if Team Martinez ever wants it to happen, is up for similar debate. In the meantime, Golovkin will meet Ghanaian Osumanu Adama in February with eyes on stretching his stoppage streak to 16 in a row.

    Will the 0 go?: Probably not in the near future, if ever, at 160.

Peter Quillin (Middleweight)

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    Record: 30-0, 22 KO

    Why He’s Unbeaten: The Chicago-born New Yorker is now 30 years old. He is no longer the prospect who was carefully steered from the time he turned pro in 2005 until he finally joined the belted fraternity by capturing the WBO's share of the middleweight crown in 2012 with a six-knockdown decision over Cameroon mouthful Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam.

    Still, while he's now two defenses into a title reign, Peter Quillin is typically regarded as no better than No. 3 at 160 pounds behind veteran champion Sergio Martinez and rising Kazakh slugger Gennady Golovkin. He'd be an underdog in unification matches with either man, and he's been pushed to the limits by the likes of Gabriel Rosado, which makes him appear vulnerable at any moment.

    Will the 0 go?: Depends on the matchup. In fact, it might be more surprising if it doesn't than if it does.


Floyd Mayweather Jr. (Welterweight)

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    Record: 45-0, 26 KO

    Why He’s Unbeaten: Some will insist it's because he ducks legitimate challengers. Others will claim it's because he's one of the best fighters of all time.

    Either way, the man known as "Money" is the ideal conversation starter for those looking to stir the passions of boxing fans. Much like the New York Yankees or Notre Dame, you either love him or you live for the day when he'll get pummeled.

    The problem for the latter crowd? It doesn't look like that day will come anytime soon.

    A 36-year-old version of Floyd Mayweather Jr. dispatched No. 1 welterweight contender Robert Guerrero and 154-pound champion Saul "Canelo" Alvarez in his two 2013 appearances while barely losing a round to either.

    Will the 0 go?: Not so much. The tea leaves indicate that he'll be fighting Amir Khan in May, while Marcos Maidana remains on the radar for later in the year. Neither will be perceived as a close fight, and a victory for either challenger would be filed among the biggest shockers of the decade.

Timothy Bradley (Welterweight)

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    Record: 31-0, 12 KO

    Why He’s Unbeaten: What a difference a year makes for Timothy Bradley. When January 2013 got underway, he was a dubious champion at 147 pounds after what was considered one of the previous calendar's most disgraceful decisions against Manny Pacquiao. These days, after a gutty brawl against Ruslan Provodnikov and a clinical handling of Juan Manuel Marquez, his rep has taken a positive turn.

    The New Year could be all about the rematch for the 30-year-old Californian, who shares promotional ties with both Provodnikov and Pacquiao.

    He'd be a favorite to once again outlast the Russian, providing he could avoid the winging punches he was repeatedly clipped with in March. He'd be perhaps a slightly narrower underdog against the Filipino, considering the skill shown in the October defeat of Marquez.

    Will the 0 go?: If those are indeed the two foes in line for 2014, we'll take a bold stance here and say no, the 0 will not go. He plays it a little safer and outboxes Provodnikov in their second go-round, and he uses speed and angles to befuddle Pacquiao, for real this time, if they indeed meet again.


Kell Brook (Welterweight)

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    Record: 31-0, 21 KO

    Why He’s Unbeaten: A 27-year-old from Sheffield, England, Kell Brook has remained unbeaten so far for a pair of reasons. First, he's not a bad fighter, as 31 wins and 21 KOs in a nine-plus-year pro career ably illustrates. Second, he's been working the UK side of the street in what's clearly a US-dominated division, along with a satellite empire located in exile somewhere around Manila.

    2014 will go a long way to determining whether the man billed as "The Special One" warrants entry into the true upper echelon of the division. He's the No. 1 contender to newly minted IBF welterweight champion Shawn Porter, and he'd hardly be a prohibitive underdog if that one gets made.

    If he's still pristine afterward, there'll be something to discuss going forward. If not, never mind.

    Will the 0 go?: So long as he avoids the true power players at 147, namely Mayweather, Bradley and Pacquiao, he'll keep the win streak intact. But he'll also stay in the relative anonymity in which he finds himself once the discussion leaves England.

Danny Garcia (Junior Welterweight)

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    Record: 27-0, 16 KO

    Why He’s Unbeaten: Based on the late adversity he faced in defeating a rugged Zab Judah and the momentum with which his next opponent, Lucas Matthysse, was entering their September match on the Mayweather-Alvarez undercard, not many folks thought Philadelphian Danny Garcia would emerge from that fight in possession of his belts, his record or his senses.

    He pulled one of the year's underappreciated surprises with a clear 12-round decision over the streaking Argentine, and for a time he seemed the logical choice as fight No. 3 on the Mayweather/Showtime agenda. That vibe has since cooled in favor of Amir Khan, a man Garcia stopped in four rounds in 2012, but Garcia remains one of the most interesting commodities in the 140-147 corridor.

    Will the 0 go?: Will his power carry to 147 pounds? Will he get a Mayweather fight in September, if not in May? Those are the pertinent questions as it relates to the consensus junior welterweight kingpin and his record.

    He'd be a sizable underdog in there with "Money," but he'd be as interesting as any option out there.

Takashi Uchiyama (Junior Lightweight)

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    Record: 21-0-1, 17 KO

    Why He’s Unbeaten: It's a shame the hardcore fans who are addicted to watching semi-reliable Internet fight streams in the wee hours of the morning from Japan are the only people who know about Takashi Uchiyama, because he's good enough, smart enough and interesting enough for the rest of us to enjoy, too.

    The WBA's champion at 130 pounds since 2010, the 34-year-old had scored 10 consecutive wins by stoppage before going the full 12 rounds and getting off the deck himself for a unanimous nod over Daiki Kaneko on New Year's Eve in Tokyo. He was the consensus best in the division after the exit of Adrien Broner and before the arrival of Mikey Garcia, but he hasn't had the big fight on a big stage.

    Will the 0 go?: He's already beaten the WBC's champion by stoppage, which leaves IBF champ Argenis Mendez and new WBO champ Garcia as the biggest fish for him to pursue. It says here that the former would earn Uchiyama another belt, but the latter would end the win streak.

Mikey Garcia (Junior Lightweight)

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    Record: 33-0, 28 KO

    Why He’s Unbeaten: Whether he was seriously considered for Promoter of the Year or not, it's hard to argue that Top Rank's Bob Arum didn't have a magical 2013 as it related to Mikey Garcia.

    The Oxnard, Calif.-born Garcia, who turned 26 just 10 days before Christmas, began the year as a prized but untested prospect on the verge of a featherweight title shot against tough veteran Orlando Salido.

    He emerged from 2013 with the pelt of Salido on his wall by eighth-round technical decision after four knockdowns. He then added the faded carcass of Juan Manuel Lopez before jumping to 130 to wrest the WBO title from Roman Martinez via eighth-round stoppage. He's one of the sport's most highly regarded young stars and seems destined to carry the Top Rank flag after Manny Pacquiao's run fades to black.

    Will the 0 go?: If you're looking for another Top Rank fighter to make a run across a handful of weight divisions, Garcia might be your guy. His mix of technical acumen, old-school body work and one-shot rattling power is an ideal mix for a crowded trophy case. He won't be losing anytime soon.

Guillermo Rigondeaux (Junior Featherweight)

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    Record: 13-0, 8 KO

    Why He’s Unbeaten: Speaking of Top Rank fighters who had big years, Cuban-born Guillermo Rigondeaux was certainly one of them.

    He wasn't expected to emerge unbeaten when matched with reigning Boxing Writers Association of America fighter of the year Nonito Donaire in April, but, once he did, his status on pound-for-pound lists of all repute was cemented.

    A wide decision of unwilling 122-pound challenger Joseph Agbeko capped off his year on Dec. 7 in Atlantic City, and Rigondeaux enters 2014 as a hot commodity among the hardcore fans, even if he cannot generate consistent interest from premium cable TV networks. Perhaps a rise to 126 pounds, a la Donaire, is the path he'll need to take to achieve mainstream success.

    Will the 0 go?: Based on how good he looked against Donaire and Agbeko, it's hard to see any fighter in adjacent weight classes coming up with the goods to beat him. That said, if Ukrainian Vasyl Lomachenko is successful in his featherweight title shot with Orlando Salido, it's an intriguing fight.

Roman Gonzalez (Junior Flyweight)

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    Record: 37-0, 31 KO

    Why He’s Unbeaten: With all that he's already accomplished in a professional career that stretches back to 2005, it's hard to believe Nicaraguan slugger Roman "El Chocolatito" Gonzalez is only 26 years old. He was a three-defense champion at 105 pounds between 2008 and 2010, then gathered up a belt at 108 pounds in 2011 and defended it four times.

    He climbed the ladder to flyweight in 2013 and debuted at No. 1 in Ring magazine's divisional rankings in November after a second-round blowout of former regional champion Oscar Blanquet in Tokyo. His potential dance partners at 112 pounds include rising WBA junior flyweight champ Kazuto Ioka and a former foe, Juan Francisco Estrada, whom he defeated in 2012 before Estrada won a belt at 112.

    Will the 0 go?: Another of the favorites of the hardcore fans, Gonzalez fights promise action and violence no matter the opponent or the weight class. Ultimately, he might run into the opponent who'll get him before he gets them, but it doesn't seem imminent in 2014.