Gennady Golovkin/Photo by Associated Press
Any time you’re picking a Fighter of the Year, you’d love it to be a no-brainer because there is no second-guessing. It was not that way in 2014, where there was no real obvious winner.
Some of those strongly considered here included flyweight champion Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev and lightweight champion Terence Crawford. Among others given thought but perhaps not real strong consideration included welterweight champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. and two-division champion Naoya Inoue of Japan.
It wasn’t any of them. It was middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin, who is trained by West Covina native Abel Sanchez out of Big Bear.
Golovkin, of Kazakhstan, went 3-0 in 2014 – all three fights ending with Golovkin stopping his opponent inside the distance. Golovkin scored a seventh-round TKO over Osumanu Adama on Feb. 1, a very impressive third-round TKO over former champion Daniel Geale in July and a first-round knockout of interim champion Marco Antonio Rubio in October at StubHub Center in Carson.
Remember how Mike Tyson used to have opponents quaking in their shoes ahead of fights? Golovkin is beginning to take on a similar persona that is not yet to that extreme, but seemingly moving toward that.
The only loss by Rubio in the past five years had been to Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., and Rubio went the 12-round distance with Chavez. Also keep in mind that Geale was 5-0 in world-title fights until losing his title to Darren Barker via split-decision in August 2013, so he was no slouch. Golovkin made him look like one, though.
Every time we think of Golovkin, it brings us back to an email Sanchez sent yours truly when he first started training Golovkin in 2010. Sanchez, not the type to go overboard in his assessment of his fighters, said Golovkin was a can’t-miss superstar on the horizon. Sanchez was right.
Let’s not forget, Golovkin won his second and third fights of the year – over Geale and Rubio – after his father died suddenly of a heart attack on Feb. 18 at the age of 68. For a fighter to have to pull himself together after that kind of tragedy has got to be the hardest thing.
Golovkin, 32, is 31-0 with 28 knockouts. That’s a knockout ratio of 90.3 percent.
Touching on a few of the others who did not get the nod here but had very good years, very impressive was what Gonzalez accomplished. He went 4-0 with all four victories by TKO. He won the flyweight world title with his third win of the year – a ninth-round TKO over Akira Yaegashi – and then defended that belt with a sixth-round TKO over Rocky Fuentes.
Interestingly, three of Gonzalez’s four fights were in Japan. Gonzalez, 27, is from Nicaragua.
Also substantial was what Kovalev did. He went 3-0 with two knockouts. He defended his title against Cedric Agnew (KO 7) and Blake Caparello (TKO 2) and won a very wide unanimous decision over ageless wonder Bernard Hopkins in a light heavyweight title-unification bout.
We also really liked what Crawford did in 2014. He ventured to Scotland to win the title with a unanimous decision over Ricky Burns, then defended it twice in his hometown of Omaha, Neb. First, he stopped Yuriorkis Gamboa in the ninth round, then he won a unanimous decision over Raymundo Beltran.
Good stuff by all of these fighters. They are to be commended.
(Trainer of the Year)
The aforementioned Sanchez is our Trainer of the Year. The reason whys are quite simple. Keeping in mind that we like what several other trainers did, Sanchez was charged with helping keep a heartbroken Golovkin in the proper frame of mind once he began training again after some personal time to heal.
And Sanchez was just the trainer to do that. Sanchez, who trained former junior middleweight champion “Terrible” Terry Norris, is that cool personality that fits perfectly with a caring and sensitive yet absolutely vicious fighter like Golovkin.
Also, Sanchez encourages Golovkin to be the most destructive fighter he can possible be; he knows that’s what the fans crave.