Boxers Who Have Drastically Improved Their Reputations in 2014
Fairly or unfairly, perception is often reality.
Those perceptions can often be more harsh in boxing, considering the one-on-one nature of the sport. Just one or two weaker performances and suddenly the fans and media have gone from thinking you're a boxer on the way up to one who is overrated or perhaps washed up.
However the opposite can be true with an impressive knockout or a surprise victory over a boxer who was thought to be a heavy favorite.
One guy who would have made this list last year is Gennady Golovkin.
GGG knocked out all four of his opponents during 2013 and cemented his spot as a top TV draw on HBO and a top pound-for-pound fighter. In very short time, the former Olympian went from being a boxer few had heard of outside the hardcore fans to a prizefighter headlining major shows in big venues.
While GGG had arguably his best win to date in July 2014, the perception of his reputation hasn't changed, so he won't be on this year's list.
His Reputation Before 2014: Young boxer with a bright future, but questionable stock as a TV star.
Then he won a world title on foreign soil against Ricky Burns and knocked out Yuriorkis Gamboa to change everything.
Suddenly he wasn't just a boxer with a bright future; he became the star of his division, a major draw in his hometown and a boxer who fans were excited to see back on HBO.
His Status Now: Bob Arum talked about him as a future opponent for Manny Pacquiao—is that a big enough increase in reputation for you?
Down the road - and it's very possible - that a year from now we put him in with Pacquiao. That would be a huge fight and a great fight. If you really think you have a great fighter with superstar qualities you move him that way, you don't protect him. You move a superstar into the biggest fights you can make for him, and that's what we are going to do.
A fight with Pacquiao probably won't happen until the fall of 2015 at best, but to be put in that conversation—despite it being sullied by Chris Algieri—is a big deal.
In the short term, Crawford is now a guy who can call his own shots in the lightweight division. He is destined to make more money, and he will continue to be considered for bigger fights.
His Reputation Before 2014: Boxer with solid skills, but he wasn't a major TV attraction and I would guess that a majority of the hardcore fans had not even heard of him.
Chris Algieri got into professional boxing late, making his pro debut at age 24 after fighting as a kickboxer earlier in life. Algieri had fought on ESPN's Friday Night Fights, but the majority of the audience who tuned in for his fight against Ruslan Provodnikov on HBO last June were seeing him for the first time.
In a shocking and controversial decision—I had the fight 115-111 for Provodnikov—Algieri beat the heavily favored titleholder and was suddenly in possession of a junior welterweight belt.
It was almost rags to riches in the matter of one hour.
His Status Now: Though I don't believe he deserved the chance, Algieri was made Manny Pacquiao's opponent for his fall fight in November.
We'll see where his reputation stands after that fight is over, but going from virtual obscurity to fighting the sport's second biggest icon on pay-per-view in a matter months is impressive.
His Reputation Before 2014: Going into his March fight with 140-pound kingpin Danny Garcia, Mauricio Herrera was thought of as a heavy underdog and a soft touch for Garcia, who was returning to the country where his father is from.
As it turned out, Herrera gave Garcia fits. Despite losing, many thought he deserved to win the fight, including myself. His awkward offensive style bothered Garcia, who had trouble getting off his own offense.
Herrera ended up landing 17 more total punches in the fight, but he lost a majority decision, with two judges giving Garcia eight rounds. What fight they were watching I'm not sure—I thought the fight should have been scored 115-113 for Herrera, or at worst a draw.
Herrera followed up outboxing the best fighter at 140 pounds by taking an interim belt off Johan Perez as a part of the undercard for the pay-per-view fight between Canelo Alvarez and Erislandy Lara.
Heck of a year.
His Status Now: ESPN.com has Herrera ranked seventh in the junior welterweight division, and he should be in line for big fights. Since Herrera is signed with Golden Boy Promotions, he should have a shot at the biggest names in the division like Lucas Matthysse, Lamont Peterson, Adrien Broner or even a rematch with Garcia.
His Reputation Before 2014: He was undefeated, but many fans and media members were skeptical given his list of opponents.
Sure, he was unbeaten—but as recently as 2011 he was still fighting guys with 12, nine or eight losses respectively.
Was he a legit welterweight contender? No one was really sure. But after his clear decision victory over Shawn Porter—even though one judge had it as a draw—he's clearly one of the best fighters in the division.
His Status Now: Legitimate top-10 boxer in the welterweight division and a guy who should start to receive bigger fights for bigger purses.
One fight in particular that should be made and would be massive over in England would be Brook vs. former champion Amir Khan. Even if that fight isn't made, since Brook isn't with one of the promotions who won't get together here in the States, he shouldn't have any problem finding interesting fights.
His Reputation Before 2014: I know what you're thinking, Miguel Cotto was already a Hall of Fame caliber boxer before anything he did in 2014. That's true, but his career had taken a downturn, and many thought his prime had long passed him by.
After Cotto was blown out in decisive losses to Floyd Mayweather Jr. and especially to Austin Trout in 2012, many assumed the boxer was starting to decline, having reached the wrong side of 30. Cotto just didn't look like the same fighter, and he seemed to have lost a step, so to speak.
Then he teamed up with Freddie Roach. Changing trainers seemed to light a fire under Cotto and helped him rediscover his offense, especially his dangerous left hook.
Cotto stopped the losing streak in 2013, but given the quality of opponent some weren't sure if his impressive performance was due to him, or rather whatever Delvin Rodriguez was lacking.
That question was answered emphatically with Cotto's decisive victory over lineal middleweight champion Sergio Martinez. The win over Martinez took him from possibly washed up to the top of a fourth weight division. Good enough for me to classify it as an increase in reputation.
His Status Now: Cotto is the top fighter and box-office draw in the middleweight division. Fights against Canelo Alvarez, Gennady Golovkin, Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. are all possible; it doesn't get any bigger than that.
Cotto is back!
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