Boxers Most Likely to Crack Pound-for-Pound Top-10 Lists in 2014
Shawn Porter and Terence Crawford have been two of the top breakouts stars of 2014. They've both defended world titles with dominant stoppages of former champions.
Gennady Golovkin has been one of the most exciting knockout artists of the past two years. Few fighters have excited fans more than Triple G.
By the end of the year, at least one of the three could be a consensus pound-for-pound top-10 star.
Top-10 lists are ultimately based on opinion, so naturally they vary widely. But there is generally widespread consensus about most of the names, with the real debate focused on the bubble between slots seven and 20.
The fighters on this list have the potential to move off the bubble soon.
Mikey Garcia is probably already in some people's pound-for-pound top 10. At just 26, he's a two-division world champion. His career record is a perfect 34-0 with 28 KOs.
He has already recorded dominant wins over other world-class fighters and former champions. So far in 2014 he has fought just once, earning a one-sided unanimous decision over Juan Carlos Burgos last January.
To make the leap to universal top 10 this year, he's going to need to beat either another major star or at least collect a third world title at lightweight in dominant fashion. Francisco Vargas is currently the hottest North American fighter in his division.
But a move to 135 pounds to challenge Terence Crawford would be a superfight and send the winner's stock skyrocketing.
So far 2014 has been Terence Crawford's year. The Nebraska native went to Scotland in March to take the WBO lightweight belt from the tough veteran Ricky Burns.
But in June he demonstrated his vast potential when he fought a brilliant tactical fight and completely broke down the extremely dangerous Yuriorkis Gamboa. The Cuban is a fighter who was viewed as a top-10 talent by many observers.
Crawford adjusted to him and then destroyed him, knocking him down four times before the referee waved off a final count in Round 9. Crawford should probably fight at least once more in 2014, and I expect he'll face another big name, at either 135 or 140 pounds.
The right kind of win should force his name onto the rankings.
Keith Thurman is probably the biggest long shot on this list for reaching pound-for-pound top-10 status during 2014. He hasn't beaten quite the same quality of opponents as the rest of the list, and it might be tough for him to find the kind of opponent this year that he would need to make the jump.
Still, Thurman's performances to date have been so compelling that many observers are anxious to embrace him as the sport's next superstar. He has stopped 21 opponents while compiling a perfect 23-0 record.
Beyond his explosive power, he's shown mature ring intelligence and adaptability. He can box when he has to and end a fight in a hurry when the opportunity presents itself.
If he can land the right fight before the end of the year, Thurman could be ready to emerge.
Shawn Porter came from relative obscurity to capture the IBF Welterweight Championship from Devon Alexander last December. But it was the kind of win that puts a young fighter instantly on the map.
Alexander is a talented boxer and a two-division world champion, but Porter's physicality and more well-rounded skill set earned him a convincing decision in a great fight.
For his first defense, Porter took on crafty veteran Paulie Malignaggi last April. While Malignaggi is hardly a world-beater, he is an experienced, two-division world champion with a difficult technical style and a very solid chin. In 2013 he lost a controversial split decision to Adrien Broner at a time when The Ring had Broner ranked in the pound-for-pound top 10.
But Porter steamrolled the Brooklyn native, TKOing Malignaggi in four rounds. Nobody has every blown out Malignaggi in that fashion.
The undefeated Porter appears to be entering the prime of what could be a very exciting boxing career. He faces undefeated Brit Kell Brook in August. Another dominant win there and a big victory later in the year could force him onto everybody's top 10.
There's a strong argument for Gennady Golovkin deserving pound-for-pound top-10 status now. The undefeated WBA middleweight champion has knocked out 16 straight opponents. He's probably the most avoided fighter in the sport over the past few years.
But some fans still object to rating him high based on the quality of his opposition. I will note that a lot of people who denigrate his opposition make the classic boxing-fan mistake of assuming that because they haven't heard of a guy, he must not be very good.
GGG has destroyed a bunch of fighters who, while unfamiliar to American fans, have given competitive fights and won rounds against other world champions.
Either way, by the end of 2014, I expect Golovkin to remove all doubt about his true status. He's scheduled to face tough former champion Daniel Geale later this summer. A dominant win over the Australian should cement his place in the top 10.
Moreover, it should set him up for a high-profile fight for late 2014 or earlier 2015.
Adonis Stevenson was a leading candidate for 2013's Fighter of the Year, when he went 4-0 with four KOs. He shocked the boxing world when he captured the WBC and lineal middleweight titles with his Round 1 KO of Chad Dawson in June.
His 2014 has been less active. In May he earned a hard-fought but decisive unanimous decision over tough Polish contender Andrzej Fonfara. Although it was less flashy than some of his wins last year, it did give a fuller picture of Superman's entire range of ability.
Stevenson is very likely to fight Bernard Hopkins by the end of the year. B-Hop has history in Stevenson's hometown of Montreal, and the fight would do great numbers there.
Hopkins will probably be less than 90 days from his 50th birthday when the fight takes place, but if Stevenson can beat the ageless wonder, it will give him three of the four major belts at 175 pounds, along with his lineal claim to the title.
If he can manage to become the first man ever to stop the legendary Hopkins, that could be enough to make Stevenson a near-universal pound-for-pound top-10 fighter.
Like Keith Thurman, Sergey Kovalev is a dark horse on this list, because he might not get a significant enough fight before the end of the year to raise his stock. When fellow light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson jumped ship from HBO to Showtime earlier this year, it left Kovalev without the major bout he needed.
WBA and IBF champion Bernard Hopkins has been vocal about his willingness to fight Kovalev, but given the network complications, I suspect that's an empty challenge at this point.
Still, like Thurman, Kovalev is a special talent. If things fall together for him with the right fight in the late fall, he can't be counted out. He is a smart offensive fighter with absolutely chilling punching power.