Boxers Most Likely to Go Undefeated in 2014
Roman Gonzalez and Floyd Mayweather are both undefeated, longtime world champions. And I don't expect either one of them to lose for the first time in 2014.
At the world championship level, nothing is a sure thing. Winning 20 to 30 fights straight and collecting a belt or two is tough enough.
But of the small number of fighters who make it to that level, far fewer are able to continue winning year after year once they start facing world-class opponents every time out. Probably at least one fighter on this list will end up losing in 2014 after all.
But out of all of boxing's champions, these are the eight who are most likely to go unbeaten over the next 12 months.
So far in his career, Roman Gonzalez has been a wrecking machine at strawweight and junior flyweight. He has compiled a perfect 37-0 record with 31 KOs.
The explosive Nicaraguan will move up to full flyweight in 2014, and he will continue to dominate. Four- and seven-pound increments can be significant for fighters who are small enough to be jockeys, but Gonzalez is a technically skilled and physically powerful athlete.
He's already recorded a one-sided decision over current WBO flyweight champion Juan Francisco Estrada at 108 lbs.
Last April, two-time Olympic gold medalist Guillermo Rigondeaux (13-0) beat pound-for-pound superstar Nonito Donaire in just his 12th professional fight, unifying the WBO and WBA super bantamweight titles in the process. It was a nearly unprecedented performance for a fighter with such little professional experience.
Donaire was viewed as the obvious No. 1 fighter at 122 pounds going into that fight, and he was rated between three and five in nearly everybody's pound-for-pound rankings. But Rigo beat him with shocking ease.
It's hard to see anybody on the immediate horizon even giving Rigondeaux a competitive fight, let alone beating him. His two toughest potential opponents right now would probably be Abner Mares and Leo Santa Cruz, but they are both promoted by Golden Boy, while Rigo is with bitter rival Top Rank.
Almost a year ago, Mikey Garcia (33-0) started 2013 with a bang, knocking down WBO featherweight champion Orlando Salido and taking his title with an easy eight-round technical decision. In June, he beat the explosive Juan Manuel Lopez by Round 4 TKO.
In November, he became a two-division world champion when he got up from a flash knockdown and pummeled WBO super featherweight champion Roman Martinez before knocking him out in Round 8.
The undefeated Garcia is among the most talented pound-for-pound young fighters in the sport.
He's already scheduled to face the experienced Juan Carlos Burgos in January, and later in the year, he will likely be matched up with Yuriorkis Gamboa.
Gamboa is an agile and explosive puncher who is dangerous for any fighter. But Garcia should finesse him and remain unbeaten in his career.
Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. ran his perfect record to 45-0 in 2013, pitching near shutouts (in reality, if not on all the judges' cards) against Robert Guerrero and Saul Alvarez. Don't expect 2014 to be the year he finally loses.
The two fighters getting the most mention as Mayweather's most likely next opponent are Amir Khan and Marcos Maidana. Neither would likely give "Money" a tough fight.
Light middleweight Erislandy Lara is the toughest available matchup for Mayweather, but he lacks the name recognition to receive a shot in 2014.
The Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao talk is hotter now than it's been since early 2012. It's the only available fight that would give Mayweather a bigger event than his fight with Alvarez last September.
I'll believe that fight is finally happening when I see both men touching gloves in the center of the ring. But even if it does come together next year, don't expect Mayweather to lose.
2013 was Gennady Golovkin's year. He made his U.S. debut in September 2012, battering Top 10-rated Gregorz Proksa by Round 5 TKO.
In 2013, the WBA middleweight champion went 4-0 with four KOs. The highlight of his year was his June 2013 defense against Matthew Macklin.
The hard-nosed Macklin had given a lot of very tough rounds to both Sergio Martinez and Felix Sturm. But against Golovkin, he was a lamb going to slaughter. GGG stalked him relentlessly and knocked him out in Round 3 with a body shot.
The fight that most fans want to see at 160 is Golovkin vs. Martinez. If it happens, and I don't think it will, Golovkin will be too physically powerful for the 39-year-old.
The only potential fight on the near horizon that is dangerous for Golovkin would be a trip up to 168 to face Andre Ward. But that won't happen this year.
Andre Ward hasn't lost a fight since before he was a teenager. The Olympic gold medalist has been undefeated as a high-level amateur and throughout his professional career.
The super middleweight champion has no likely stumbling blocks in his path. Top Rank and HBO will push for him to Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in 2014.
Chavez was lucky to get a decision victory over middleweight journeyman Brian Vera last September. I assume, though with no true confidence, that he would train hard for a fight with Ward, but it wouldn't be a remotely competitive fight.
But nobody out there is likely to give Ward a competitive fight at 168 pounds, at least not until Gennady Golovkin moves up. Ward will likely find more competition in the future, too, if he moves up to light heavyweight.
Don't bet on him losing—and certainly not in 2014.
Sergey Kovalev (23-0) had a year similar to Gennady Golovkin in 2013. The Russian native who now trains in Florida went 4-0 with four brutal stoppages.
He collected the WBO light heavyweight world title in August when he battered Nathan Cleverly in four rounds in front of the Welshman's hometown crowd. He finished the year in November with a frightening Round 2 KO of Ismayl Sillakh.
HBO and boxing fans everywhere would love to see Kovalev face off with WBC and lineal light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson in 2014. They both went 4-0 with four impressive stoppages in 2013, and they appeared together on the same November card in Stevenson's hometown of Montreal.
In his post-fight interview, Stevenson told HBO's Max Kellerman that he might prefer to fight Carl Froch or Bernard Hopkins, instead of Kovalev. Froch and Hopkins are bigger names, and both recorded major wins over Montreal fighters in recent years, so those fights do make sense for the 36-year-old Stevenson.
If Stevenson does fight Kovalev, the Russian will win. If he doesn't fight Kovalev, the Russian destroyer won't have a dangerous fight in 2014.
For years of his career, Wladimir Klitschko has been as dominant as any heavyweight champion in history. Yet he is regarded as notoriously vulnerable. Three times in his career he's been stopped short by TKO against opponents he probably should have beaten with little trouble.
A few fighters in the division present a potential danger to Klitschko. For example, Kubrat Pulev is a former Bulgarian Olympian who has the boxing skills and stature to get into position to touch Klitschko's chin.
Mike Perez is a former Cuban amateur with a high ring IQ and the kind of explosive forward attack that might potentially put Klitschko on the defensive and fighting off his back foot. Olympic bronze medalist Deontay Wilder could knock down a barn, if he could get a clean shot at it with his overhand right.
Still, Klitschko would be the favorite against any of those three, and I don't expect he will even fight one of them in 2014. He is more likely to fight twice against European fighters whom nobody in North America has heard of.
At best, maybe he'll fight Tyson Fury. Either way, he'll have little trouble staying unbeaten on the year.