Breakout Boxers Who Will Continue Winning in 2014
Gennady Golovkin and Sergey Kovalev were two of boxing's biggest breakout stars in 2013. Each man cut down four opponents by brutal stoppage this year, earning them ever-growing legions of fans in North America.
I don't expect to see either man lose in 2014.
In most cases, once a fighter breaks out to the next level, it only gets harder for him to keep winning. But one thing all six fighters on this list have in common is that they have seemed to improve as their competition has gotten tougher.
That's often the mark of a fighter who will be able to remain unbeaten for a long time.
Guillermo Rigondeaux went leapfrogging up the pound-for-pound rankings last April when he beat four-division world champion Nonito Donaire with shocking ease.
Rigondeaux had certainly come into the fight against Donaire with a following of true believers who were ahead of the curve when it came to rating the former Cuban amateur standout. But by beating Donaire, Rigo made his case as an elite fighter impossible to deny.
It's hard to foresee a situation where Rigondeaux is likely to lose in the next couple of years. His boxing talent is just too good to make him vulnerable against anybody Top Rank Boxing could find to match with him right now.
Vasyl Lomachenko fought just once in 2013, and it was his professional debut. So it might be a stretch to call him a breakout fighter so soon.
Then again, the two-time Olympic gold medalist fought a 10-round bout with 25-3 Jose Ramirez for his debut, and he won it by Round 4 KO. His next fight is in March with WBO featherweight champion Orlando Salido.
So he's very much in the middle of some kind of breakout.
Like any fighter who has been elite as an amateur, Lomachenko is master of controlling distance. He is very slick at moving back, out of his opponent's range, then quickly counterattacking from a more dominant angle.
Even though Salido is probably the most experienced professional in the division, I think Lomachenko will become a world champion in just his second fight.
Mikey Garcia came into 2013 an undefeated prospect with a high KO percentage. A lot of fans were expecting him to breakout big this year, and he more than lived up to the hype.
Garcia picked up world titles in two divisions this year. In January, he dropped WBO featherweight champion Orlando Salido three times and shut him out over an eight-round technical decision.
In November, he knocked out WBO super featherweight champion Roman Martinez. In between collecting the two belts, he TKO'd the explosive Juan Manuel Lopez in four rounds in June.
Garcia is starting to look like a top pound-for-pound fighter. I don't expect him to lose anytime soon.
Keith Thurman could end up having the toughest year of any fighter on this list. That's just the nature of the game in the welterweight division.
Potential opponents for him could include the likes of Marcos Maidana or Robert Guerrero. Thurman spent 2013 positioning himself in the world-title picture in the sport's most competitive division.
But I think Thurman is the real deal. He's demonstrated the kind of explosive power that finishes a fight in a hurry, and he's also showed the ring I.Q. to make adjustments and protect himself while breaking opponents down over rounds.
He looks like a very complete fighter to me, and I expect him to continue winning in 2014.
Gennady Golovkin came into 2013 with a lot of buzz. The Kazakhstan native had made his U.S. debut in September 2012, stopping top-10 rated Gregorz Proksa by punishing Round 5 TKO.
The buzz surrounding Golovkin built into a full roar over the course of this year. GGG went 4-0 with four KOs, including a shocking, one-punch body KO in Round 3 against the highly regarded Matthew Macklin.
Golovkin comes into this year one of the fastest rising stars in boxing. It remains to be seen whether or not lineal middleweight champion Sergio Martinez will defend his title against Golovkin next year.
But either way, I don't expect Golovkin to lose in 2014.
While Gennady Golovkin came into 2013 with a lot of eyes already on him, Sergey Kovalev pretty much exploded onto the scene.
Kovalev started the year in January by demolishing former world champion Gabriel Campillo by a Round 3 TKO. By the end of the year, he had gone 4-0 with four KOs and had collected the WBO light heavyweight championship by smashing Nathan Cleverly in August.
Light heavyweight is a division on the rise, and Kovalev should find himself in some high profile fights during 2014. One possibility could be against lineal and WBC 175-pound champion Adonis Stevenson, who was pretty terrific himself in 2013.
I would never call anything a sure bet against a puncher as dangerous as Stevenson. But if that fight happens, I will be picking Kovalev.
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