Biggest Upset in Boxing Award in 2014:
Big upsets are an integral part of the fight game. If everything went to script all the time, then fights wouldn’t have the same drama or appeal to them. You just never know what’s going to happen with two fighters sharing a ring together, whether it’s an unbeaten prospect learning the hard way he’s not quite so good as he thought, a future Hall of Famer pulling out the biggest win of his nearly-finished career, or an absolute killer getting defanged and letting a slickster peacefully play keepaway all night.
All of these actually happened this year, but it’s the latter which wins our 2014 Upset of the Year Award — Chris Algieri’s Split Decision victory over Ruslan Provodnikov.
Ruslan Provodnikov vs. Chris Algieri
Provodnikov was a massive favorite heading into his fight against Algieri. Even though he was coming off a loss only two fights prior, that was a Welterweight battle against Timothy Bradley, and “The Siberian Rocky” nearly pulled off the kayo. More recently, he pummeled Mike Alvarado into submission. Provodnikov appeared quite the monster, and in hindsight, he was boosted too highly while his flaws were ignored. But that’s in hindsight.
Back to then present-time thinking, the light-hitting Algieri, with perhaps just one or two fringe-quality wins on the ledger, would have absolutely nothing to keep Provodnikov off of him. This fight very much seemed like it would be a short one, with the only remaining question being whether or not Manny Pacquiao would agree to face a stablemate.
That’s how the fight began too, with Provodnikov registering two knockdowns in Round 1, and beginning work on what would become a terribly swollen eye for Algieri. But Algieri composed himself and stayed in the fight, sticking and moving, and not allowing Provodnikov to get much work done. One judge favored Provodnikov’s aggression, handing him a 117-109 score, but the other two saw Algieri win enough rounds to take the fight, with twin 114-112 scores.
The win, of course, launched Algieri into his challenge against Manny Pacquiao. Unsurprisingly, there was no magic in store for him there.
Upset of the Year Runners-Up
- Miguel Cotto TKO10 Sergio Martinez: Maravilla wasn’t a massive favorite in the fight, and indeed there were fans and analysts who pegged Cotto as the winner here. But he was still the reigning Middleweight champion, and Cotto was only one win removed from back to back defeats, first to Floyd Mayweather, and then a surprisingly one-sided loss to Austin Trout. Maravilla’s a tad bit better than Trout, yes? But Freddie Roach rejuvenated Cotto, and the Puerto Rican legend fed off his legions of fans at Madison Square Garden. To thunderous, building-shaking roars, he scored three Round 1 knockdowns en route to his stoppage victory.
- Nicholas Walters TKO6 Nonito Donaire: Donaire had lost much of his luster since losing to Guillermo Rigondeaux. He pulled a win out of his hat in a fight he was losing against Vic Darchinyan, and then had an awkward ending to his title bid against Simpiwe Vetyeka, which technically netted him the linear Featherweight championship. Still, he was our number 13 pound for pound fighter in the world. In Nicholas Walters, he was in against a big, hard-hitting but largely unknown fighter, and he simply couldn’t stand up to the power. Walters grabbed the stoppage win, beating the shit out of Donaire, in his own words, and likely ending the era of the Filipino Flash.
- Rogelio Medina KO3 J’Leon Love: Certainly smaller in scale the others listed here, Love was nevertheless an 18-0, heavily hyped prospect. I noted in our rankings at the time that he appeared to be missing the “it” factor of a great fighter after he hardly got past Gabriel Rosado, in a fight later ruled a No Contest, and survived a late scare against Marco Antonio Periban. Still, this was supposed to be a gimme fight while Love bided his time for a title fight. “Porky” had other plans, scoring a quick KO win and handing Love his first loss.