Boxers Whose Stock Is Soaring in 2014
Miguel Cotto entered this year already being one of the most popular boxers of his generation and a first-ballot Hall of Famer. But beating Sergio Martinez for the world middleweight title earlier this month shot his stock to another level.
At age 33, his career is hotter than it's ever been.
When Chris Algieri entered 2014, few fans outside of the Northeast were even aware of him. After his gritty upset of Ruslan Provodnikov, he has rocketed up the welterweight rankings.
Fortunes can rise and fall quickly in boxing. One fight can send a fighter's stock through the roof or tumbling to the floor.
The fighters on this list are all on the rise.
10. Carlos Takam
Carlos Takam represented Cameroon in the 2004 Olympics, but after turning professional in 2005, he fought almost exclusively in France before this year. But last January he traveled to Quebec and faced undefeated heavyweight contender Mike Perez, earning a split-decision draw with one judge picking him as the rightful winner.
The fight marked Takam's arrival on the world heavyweight scene. He followed it up by beating Tony Thompson earlier this month. Thompson is a former world-title challenger and remains one of the division's toughest gatekeepers.
He's also 42. And Mike Perez was possibly in a tough psychological spot after putting Magomed Abdusalamov in a life-threatening coma in his previous fight.
But Takam still deserves credit for the banner year he's had to date. He's a big, athletic heavyweight with a strong amateur background. Heavyweights tend to develop slowly in the professional ranks, so it's reasonable to suspect that he might be entering a promising period in his career.
9. Naoya Inoue
It's tough to drive up your stock when you fight in the 108-pound light flyweight division. But Japan's Naoya Inoue has made a push to do it this year, and with only six professional fights on his resume.
In April the phenom beat Adrian Hernandez by TKO to capture the WBC belt. Hernandez was a mature, internationally experienced world champion. But Inoue was simply too physically imposing for him to handle.
Inoue's punches were having an obvious effect from the opening round. It was much more a case of Inoue looking exceptional than Hernandez looking poor.
It's easy to miss out on the action in the lightest weight classes, especially with Asian fighters. But Inoue looks like he could continue developing into a special breed.
8. Vyacheslav Glazkov
2008 Olympic bronze medalist Vyacheslav Glazkov was supposed to have his first major step-up fight last November against two-division world champion Tomasz Adamek. But Adamek had to pull out due to illness, and cruiserweight journeyman Garrett Wilson was substituted at the last minute.
Glazkov beat Wilson decisively, but the tough Philadelphia fighter made the most of his high-profile opportunity and forced the Ukrainian contender into a physical, awkward fight that left him badly cut near the eye from an accidental headbutt.
It was not the kind of statement "The Czar" had been looking to make on national television. But this past March he finally got his shot against Adamek and made good on it, winning by unanimous decision and forcing himself into the top-10 rankings at heavyweight.
Whether or not Glazkov is a future world champion is debatable. But he's been a big part of making 2014 a terrific year for the division, and his stock is up as a result.
7. Jessie Vargas
Undefeated Jessie Vargas has been viewed as a rising prospect for years. In 2014, at age 25, his stock has finally started to rise as anticipated.
On the Manny Pacquiao vs. Timothy Bradley undercard in April, Vargas captured his first world-title belt when he beat fellow unbeaten fighter Khabib Allakhverdiev for the vacant WBA light welterweight belt.
Now the idea that the WBA 140-pound belt was "vacant" is, of course, rather curious. It's based on the conceit that the WBA can simply make one (or even two) fighters "super" champions and thus free up room for yet another "world champion."
By any rational analysis, Danny Garcia remains the WBA world champion at light welterweight.
But Vargas' performance against Allakhverdiev was impressive either way. He fought a smart, gutsy fight and is now firmly in the top 10 in the division. He's in line for major fights now, so his stock is clearly on the rise.
6. Manny Pacquiao
Manny Pacquiao entered this year as one of the most popular stars in the sport and a pound-for-pound, top-10 fighter. So his stock only had so much room left to rise.
But it was definitely at the lowest point it had been in a decade coming into 2014. Although few people thought he should have lost to Timothy Bradley in June 2012, he did look sluggish in the fight. In December of that year, longtime rival Juan Manuel Marquez knocked him out.
Pacquiao's unanimous decision over Brandon Rios last fall didn't exactly prove a lot, aside from that he wasn't completely shot. Heading into his rematch with Bradley last April, "Desert Storm" was the hotter fighter.
But Pacquiao fought a smart, energetic fight and won by clear unanimous decision to avenge the previous injustice. His massive international fanbase is re-energized, and Pac-Man's stock is back on the rise.
5. Carl Froch
Carl Froch beat George Groves by TKO last November to retain his IBF and WBA super middleweight titles. But the fight put his stock temporarily in decline. Groves knocked Froch down in the first round and was ahead on the cards when Froch benefited from one of the most controversial stoppages in recent years.
Froch was coming back when the stoppage happened. But Groves was ahead and obviously not finished yet. It was hard not to wonder if Froch, at 36, wasn't about to be surpassed as England's top fighter.
An immediate rematch was signed, and last May 31 the two Brits met again in a packed Wembley Stadium. The pace was slow in the early going, but Groves built a clear lead behind a stiff jab.
But Froch's ring intelligence and physicality began to sway the fight by the middle rounds. In Round 8, "The Cobra" connected with one of the best punches of his entire career and sent the upstart Groves to the canvas in a heap.
Referee Charlie Fitch wasted no time waving off the action, and Froch's stock was back on the rise.
4. Bermane Stiverne
The heavyweight scene in North America has spent much of this century on life support. It still hasn't returned to its former glory in 2014, but it's at least sitting up in bed now, taking solid food and making big plans.
Haitian native, Canadian citizen and Las Vegas resident Bermane Stiverne has been the major player in this development. In April 2013 he busted Chris Arreola's nose and beat him by unanimous decision to earn No. 1 contender status against WBC champion Vitali Klitschko.
When Klitschko retired and vacated the belt last December, the WBC ordered a rematch between Stiverne and Arreola with the championship at stake. Last April they faced off, with a determined Arreola taking an early lead.
But Stiverne caught up to Arreola with his sweeping right hand in Round 6, dropping him twice before the referee waved off the action. Stiverne showed high ring intelligence in the way he set that punch up and explosive power to stop an iron-jawed heavyweight like Arreola.
And now, for the first time in years, a portion of the heavyweight title resides in the United States. Stiverne's stock is climbing as a result.
3. Shawn Porter
Last December Shawn Porter shot to prominence by winning the IBF welterweight belt from Devon Alexander. A former sparring partner to Manny Pacquiao, the strong and athletic Porter showed high ring intelligence and world-class boxing skills to take home the belt.
The win elevated him tremendously. Capturing a belt in impressive fashion in the welterweight division makes a fighter a top star almost by definition.
In April he defended against crafty veteran and two-division world champion Paulie Malignaggi and stopped him in four rounds.
That he beat Malignaggi was not exactly a surprise. But the way Porter did it was a major statement. Malignaggi is known for having a stiff chin, but Porter crushed him.
Next up is undefeated Kell Brook of England in August. Porter will go into the fight with his stock sky-high.
2. Chris Algieri
After Ruslan Provodnikov's Fight of the Year war with Timothy Bradley and his TKO destruction of Mike Alvarado in 2013, "The Siberian Rocky" entered this year as one of the hottest fighters in the sport. His reputation had grown so fearsome that he had trouble locating a big-name opponent.
Chris Algieri was viewed as an unsatisfying option. Sure, the former kickboxing world champion was undefeated at 19-0, but he hadn't fought anybody close to Provodnikov's level.
Things started out as ugly as possible for Algieri, as Provodnikov dropped him twice in the first round. Somehow Algieri managed to recover and turn the fight competitive, even while fighting with an absolutely gruesome injury to his right eye.
It was enough to earn him a split-decision victory and the WBO light welterweight strap. These kind of upsets add excitement to the sport.
With the win, Algieri goes from relative obscurity to being the new name on everybody's lips. His stock has risen more dramatically than almost anybody else's in the sport this year.
1. Miguel Cotto
When the fight between Migel Cotto and Sergio Martinez was first announced, I wrote that if Cotto won, it would say more about Martinez than it did about Cotto. Honestly, I'm still not sure that isn't the case.
But earlier this month one of the biggest boxing stars of this generation executed a perfect game plan and picked up the biggest win of his career. Cotto is now the first Puerto Rican boxer ever to win world titles in four divisions.
He deserves to bask in the glow of his triumph. It was one of the biggest boxing nights in recent years.
The victory leaves him with more potential superfights in front of him than any other star in the sport. Now that's he is the lineal middleweight champ, rematches with Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather are definite possibilities.
Unification fights with middleweight titleholders Gennady Golovkin and Brooklyn-based Peter Quillin would pack Madison Square Garden once more. A fight with Saul "Canelo" Alvarez would probably set pay-per-view records.
"Junito's" stock has never been higher than it is now.