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Ranking the Boxers Most Likely to Win Fighter of the Year in 2014

Lyle FitzsimmonsFeatured ColumnistJanuary 8, 2014

Ranking the Boxers Most Likely to Win Fighter of the Year in 2014

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    Mark Nolan/Getty Images

    OK, go ahead and assemble whatever tools best enhance your foresight, because the task before us involves the ability to look into the future and pluck out nuggets of evidence from events not yet occurred.

    Specifically, we're assembling a list of those most likely to be in the discussion 12 months from now when it comes to crowning boxing's Fighter of the Year for the year 2014.

    Needless to say, it's a challenging undertaking.

    Because boxing runs via a series of thrown-together events rather than the painstakingly scripted schedules of the National Football League and its other mainstream ilk, it's often hard enough to simply assemble a list of matches that will happen in a given year—let alone who'll win them.

    So, even if the right fights do get made and the right guys dominate them, it still in many cases gets left up to the judgement of others to determine the best of the best (Hint: For those who agree with me on who truly deserved the honor in 2013, the photo accompanying this intro wasn't an accident). And given the year boxing has just completed, putting your faith in the judging of others isn't an easy allowance.

    Armed with those precursors, we plunge forward here. The half-dozen contenders that follow were chosen based on the fights that seem easiest to assume will occur, and on the would-be winners. So, as nice as it would be to select the 14th-rated fighter in a given division and insist he's on the verge of a breakout, it's not so practical in these circumstances.

    Click through and see what we came up with...and leave your selections among the comments.

6. Marcos Maidana

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    How It Can Happen

    Had he not burst the bubble of Adrien Broner last month in San Antonio, chances are pretty slim that Marcos Maidana would have competed for many things beyond "toughest guy" or "guy you'd most like behind you in an alley fight" for 2014. But now that he's beaten Broner and reached the radar of one Floyd Mayweather Jr., more opportunities could follow as well.

    Should the fight between Mayweather and Englishman Amir Khan go off in May as has been widely discussed, Maidana would make some sense for "Money" if he's looking to take on the latest 147-pound flavor of the month.

    He's a fan favorite. He beat a big name. And the vocal minority exists, just as it has with many past Mayweather opponents, that he's big, strong and rough enough to shock the world.

    If he does it, go ahead and hand him the trophy in the ring. It's a no-brainer.

     

    Odds it will happen: 100-1

5. Floyd Mayweather Jr.

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    How It Can Happen

    Coming off a year in which he fought two times for the first time since 2007 and heading into a year when he plans to do again, it’s easy to assume Floyd Mayweather Jr. will once again be in the Fighter of the Year discussion for 2014. He’s just that good.

    Assuming the tea leaves are correct and he faces a twosome including Amir Khan and Marcos Maidana in May and September, it’s hardly a stretch to say he’ll be considered. He’ll be hugely favored in both fights and expected to win both with the same level of mild irritation he was given by 2013 opponents Robert Guerrero and Saul Alvarez.

    It’ll be far more of a story if he’s not a finalist than if he is, but the gut feeling here is that others will do more to warrant consideration over him at the end.

     

    Odds it will happen: 10-1

4. Gennady Golovkin

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    How It Can Happen

    The unbeaten Kazakhstan middleweight with the cool nickname (“Triple G”) and menacing fists (stoppage wins in 15 straight fights) was the choice of Ring magazine for the honor of 2013’s top fighter.

    Whether wins over guys named Rosado, Ishida, Macklin and Stevens warranted that is up for debate, but the idea that he’s another perennial contender is not.

    It says here, however, that he needs a big-time opponent or a voluntary step aside by reigning consensus 160-pound champ Sergio Martinez, to truly reach the mountaintop. But don’t be surprised if another four KO victories—regardless of opposition—gets him back in the mix once again come this year’s holiday season.

     

    Odds it will happen: 5-1

3. Andre Ward

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    How It Can Happen

    It’s hard to believe Andre Ward, the highly acclaimed king of the super middleweights, was on the shelf for 14 months before returning in November for a smashing 12-round decision over hopelessly outgunned top contender Edwin Rodriguez, who, incidentally, had entered with 24 straight wins and 16 KOs.

    If he’s able to maintain that level going through 2014 and find a couple of dance partners along the way—perhaps a Carl Froch rematch—he’ll certainly be a fighter of the year candidate. And if he lands a bout with Golovkin or Adonis Stevenson, consider him the most likely fighter to challenge Floyd Mayweather Jr. when it comes to pound-for-pound rankings.

     

    Odds it will happen: 3-1

2. Manny Pacquiao

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    Nicky Loh/Getty Images

    How It Can Happen

    Already a three-time winner of the Boxing Writers Association of America’s top individual honor, seven-division champ Manny Pacquiao returned to the forefront after an 11-month hiatus in late 2013 with a one-sided beating of Brandon Rios to headline Top Rank’s initial pay-per-view foray into the Chinese market.

    Discussions have swirled around him fighting either Freddie Roach stablemate Ruslan Provodnikov or having a rematch with dubious 2012 conqueror Timothy Bradley this year, and defeats of those two streaking welterweights would make him a slam-dunk choice for another yearly commendation.

    And yeah, the pleas for a Mayweather fight would continue, too.

     

    Odds it will happen: 2-1

1. Timothy Bradley

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    Jeff Bottari/Getty Images

    How It Can Happen

    After he’d emerged from 2012 as the punchline of that year’s worst decisions against Manny Pacquiao, Timothy Bradley had some image reclamation to do. He did just that in 2013, kicking it off with a rousing defeat of Ruslan Provodnikov and ending it with a clinical 12-round decision over of fellow Pacquiao conqueror Juan Manuel Marquez.

    He can raise the game this year, particularly if a recent report that Pacquiao desires another go-round with Bradley over a match with Provodnikov is accurate. Should that fight occur, it’ll be an ideal time for “Desert Storm” to display the varied skill set he showed in the pair of 2013 wins—both guts and resilience against Provodnikov and speed and athleticism against Marquez.

    Put them together and he beats Pacquiao again, for real this time.

     

    Odds it will happen: 7-5

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