2014 Upset of the Year

Nominated:
Vivian Harris W10 Jorge Paez Jr.
Chris Algieri W12 Ruslan Provodnikov
James De La Rosa W10 Alfredo Angulo
Rogelio Medina KO3 J’Leon Love
Derreck Edwards KO1 Badou Jack

Winner: Chris Algieri W12 Ruslan Provodnikov

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Who the hell was Chris Algieri? And why was he getting a title shot against Ruslan Provodnikov?

The match made little sense. Or if it did, it was only in terms of “The Siberian Rocky,” who had won his WBO super-lightweight title by thrashing Mike Alvarado in October of 2013, getting a “gimme” or a “soft touch” on his way to bigger paydays with the likes of Manny Pacquiao, or in a rematch with Timothy Bradley. And in the opening round it appeared everything would unfold as expected.

A huge left hook put Algieri down hard but he rose, only to be floored again. Displaying exceptional toughness and determination, the unsung challenger kept getting up and fighting back, even as the former kickboxer’s right eye began swelling up. Soon enough the optic was swollen shut, but to everyone’s surprise, despite this handicap, Algieri boxed effectively, keeping the plodding Provodnikov on the end of his punches and evading many of the champion’s power shots. No question, it was a close fight, and some felt the champion deserved more credit for his aggression and power advantage, but Algieri clearly landed more punches while using effective movement and defense.

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But Algieri’s eye-opening (pun intended) performance aside, the key reason this is our Upset of the Year has as much to do with the ramifications of the fight, as it does with the match itself. No other unexpected result was felt as profoundly by the sport, as Algieri scuttled any plans for either a hoped-for Ruslan-Bradley rematch or a highly attractive Pacquiao vs Provodnikov clash.

Instead boxing fans got Algieri vs Pacquiao, a match with little appeal. Algieri has decent boxing skills and against a limited slugger like Provodnikov he appeared especially effective, but once in the ring with the Pacman, his deficiencies became glaringly apparent. In Macau, he was out of his depth, as was his corner. He suffered six knockdowns on the way to a lopsided decision loss.

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Still, Algieri is now a recognizable name in the sport and the New Yorker stands to profit even more in the near future (and he might even move out of his parents’ basement). Meanwhile, Provodnikov is picking up the pieces. A mismatch win over Jose Luis Castillo did nothing to restore his reputation and with his marketability, limited as it was, taking a big hit courtesy of the unheralded New Yorker, the question now is who will want to face his toughness and power for little in the way of tangible benefits? Precious few, one would think. The Algieri upset could well prove to be a setback “The Siberian Rocky” may never overcome.              

— Robert Portis

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