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The 2014 boxing wish list: Top 5 fights to make it a banner year

Credit: Chris Farina - Top Rank

Best Fights to Make in Boxing for 2014:

After a successful 2013, boxing needs to capitalize on the good momentum. One way to do that is to go with the same recipe that made for a great 2013. That includes making a bunch of fan-friendly fights that cannot miss. When looking for different things that can bring boxing back to the status the sport once enjoyed, nothing works better than making great fights. Here are five bouts that can go a long way toward making 2014 as good if not better than 2013.

Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao

This is less for the entertainment the fight might provide and more for the exposure it would bring to the sport. This might be the last year where this long-awaited matchup is still plausible, with both men getting closer to the finish line. Let’s face it, now it’s up to Floyd to make this happen. He would be at least a 3-to-1 favorite over a guy who many have long-accused him of avoiding. Pacquiao has slipped some and if Mayweather can’t bring himself to get in the ring with Pacman in 2014, it’ll probably never happen. Frankly, the fact that many of us have spent 5 years talking this fight up to no avail is ridiculous.

Floyd may use his win over Canelo as license to engage in another series of bouts against undemanding foes that have zero clamor. Despite all his bluster, PR acumen, and the fact that most experts think he would easily handle Pacquiao, there really is no excuse to continue ignoring the man who has been his most compelling opponent for at least 5 years. All the greats eventually get around to fighting their most obvious rival and Floyd should stop denying the fans this fight out of spite toward Pacquiao and Arum or because he simply can at this point. Time’s running out and it’s really now or never.

Floyd has certainly enjoyed a fantastic career and deserves all the adulation he receives, including his run as 2013 Fighter of the Year. If he retires without making this happen, it will be difficult to ignore the fact that he went out of his way to avoid the guy people most wanted him to fight. That would make his claims of being “TBE” ring a bit emptier than it otherwise would.

While there are some all-time top-20ish greats who maybe ducked guys for a while or waited for their rivals to grow over-ripe, it’s hard to think of a top guy who was this tone-deaf to his own legacy in terms of flat-out not fighting such a no-brainer obvious rival. You’d have to go back to Jack Dempsey not giving qualified black contenders a shot. With Pacquiao nearly 35 and two fights removed from being rendered unconscious by a man Floyd easily beat, the risk-reward ratio seems too good for Floyd to pass up at this point. Let’s hope he realizes that before it’s too late.

Sergio Martinez vs. Gennady Golovkin

You have two supreme fighters at the top of the same division. GGG is coming on strong, compiling a list of scary knockouts that have many people thinking he’s the best middleweight in the world. While Golovkin actually earned honors as our 2013 Champion of the Year, we all know the real champion is Sergio Martinez, who has been sidelined with injuries. Maybe this layoff will help the old guy recharge his batteries. Martinez will be 39 by the next time he fights and coming off two fights where he narrowly escaped defeat, a lot of experts think it’s only a matter of time before the Argentine fades into the sunset.

Despite the apparent rapid accumulation of ring-wear and the fact that he’s pushing 40, Martinez appears to have some stylistic components that should trouble the rampaging Golovkin. Not to mention that even an inactive and aging Martinez would represent a gargantuan jump in class for Golovkin. Let’s hope this can be made in the last-third of 2014, as Golovkin continues to capture the attention of the boxing public, with Martinez getting a chance to be eased back into action before accepting this challenge.

Adonis Stevenson vs. Sergey Kovalev

The urge of the powers-that-be will probably be to let this percolate a bit before making the fight. But this one sort of fell into our laps, with both fighters crashing into the collective boxing consciousness only in 2013. The fact they were both featured on the same card recently gives hope that they’re setting up a match between the two. It promises to be a hard-hitting and thrilling encounter where it’s hard to pick a winner.

The winner would become the de-facto king at 175, with all due respect to Bernard Hopkins, who also holds a light heavyweight title. Let’s face it, it’s been a long time since we had anything to get terribly excited about at 175 pounds, a division that used to supply endless thrills. A Stevenson vs. Kovalev bout, with two of the hardest hitters and most explosive offensive fighters in the game, would put this division back in the spotlight.

Danny Garcia vs. Ruslan Provodnikov

No one is really talking about this fight, but it makes a ton of sense. Garcia is the far more-schooled fighter, a technically sound champion who also has a ton of grit and resolve. Provodnikov is the fearless trench warrior who showed in 2013 that he deserves to be included in big fights at either 140 or 147. Given both men’s history, this seems like a guaranteed barnburner.

Again, Provodnikov will be facing a major deficit in the skills category, but that didn’t stop him from nearly beating Timothy Bradley and upsetting Mike Alvarado in 2013. The easy pick would be Garcia, but with the Siberian warrior, you can never be too sure. One could understand why Garcia would be hesitant to take this fight, with such big things lying ahead. Even so, his options at 140 are drying up a bit and it’s hard to identify a different opponent at this weight who would generate the same amount of interest. This one would be fun.

Miguel Cotto vs. James Kirkland

There hasn’t been much banter about this particular matchup, as well. In addition, this matchup wouldn’t be a bout of super-high importance. It’s just that this one would be such a great match-up of styles–a must-see type of fight. With both men right on the edge of the top-tier of 154, the winner would be in a spot to land some really big fights. You have to wonder if those who guide Cotto’s career would want to subject their man to the ring-wear that could result in fighting a guy like Kirkland. That’s even more the case if Cotto can just go ahead and book that fight with Martinez without having to go through Kirkland first.

The match-up is so pleasing, an aggressive yet refined battler in Cotto against an unhinged brawler in Kirkland. It’s a way for Cotto to notch a big win against a guy he could potentially dissect with his superior skill-set. We know it wouldn’t be easy, with Kirkland’s off-the-charts toughness, punch-rate, and warrior attitude. This is one where the fans and the sport of boxing wins. It’s hard to think other fights that would cause you to cancel Saturday night plans as quickly as you would for this fight.

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Scott Levinson has been a rabid boxing fan since his earliest memories. A writer and educator, Scott has been studying the sport's history for over 25 years. He also has extensive knowledge of the game on an international level, as he has closely followed the sport in Europe, Asia, and South America for many years. He is based in the San Diego area, and can be contacted at scottmlevinson@yahoo.com.