|PHILLY BOXING HISTORY - May 04, 2015|
2014 was an excellent year for Philadelphia boxing and thus much for this fall's 8th Annual Briscoe Awards to celebrate. The winners for 2014 include a classic fight, a Herculean performance, a monster KO, a big upset and many other outstanding milestones that will be remembered for many years to come. So with no further ado, here are the winners of the 2014 Briscoe Awards.
2014 PHILLY FIGHTER
OF THE YEAR
A number of Philly fighters had a good 2014. However, Bryant Jennings jumped up a level, winning two bouts (both at MSG and on HBO) and securing a guaranteed shot at the world heavyweight championship. Jennings capped his rapid climb in the rankings with important wins over Artur Szpilka (TKO10) and Mike Perez (W12) to become a top title contender. The squeaker against Perez earned him an opportunity to fight the WBC champ, but Jennings chose the tougher path and opted for a fight with true heavyweight champ Wladimir Kitschko.
It was a terrific 12 months for Jennings and his efforts and attitude put him on the brink of the biggest of big times, and also won him his first Briscoe Award as the "Philly Fighter of the Year". (Jennings has won "Fight of the Year" and "Prospect of the Year" previously at the Briscoes.) Jennings did quite well against the heavyweight champ a little more than one week ago, but that 2015 performance didnít even figure into this award.
The other nominees for Fighter of the Year were Steve Cunningham, Eric Hunter and Amir Mansour. Congratulations are in order for this trio as well.
2014 PHILLY FIGHT OF THE YEAR
The moment Steve Cunningham climbed off the canvas (for the second time) at North Philly's Liacouras Center, his fight with Amir Mansour became a contender for the "2014 Philly Fight of the Year". Once the final bell sounded, it was immediately clear that no other fight would likely top Cunningham vs. Mansour for best fight honors for the year. However, it was only April, so we had to see how the rest of 2014 played out.
There were other good battles still to come. Curtis Stevens vs. Tureano Johnson, Decarlo Perez vs. Tyrone Brunson and Steve Cunningham vs. Natu Visinia were good enough to earn nominations. However, none of them could touch the excitement, drama, and inspiration of the front runner.
Cunningham vs. Mansour was an instant classic and thus was an easy choice (and landslide vote) for the "2014 Philly Fight of the Year".
Steve Cunningham led the pack when it came to quality performances in 2014. His 10-round struggle with Amir Mansour for the USBA heavyweight championship was an incredible fight between two determined and skilled professionals. However, what Cunningham achieved in that fight set an example for courage, focus, toughness and skill.
Just when it appeared that Cunningham had Amir figured out, the murderous-punching Mansour nearly brought the fight to a violent end in round five. Mansour dropped Cunningham twice. The second time it did not appear that Steve would manage to get up. However, Cunningham dug deep and not only got up, he went on to box his way to the USBA title.
It was breathtaking and inspiring, and we're still not sure how he did it. It was a performance for the ages and Cunningham's second recognition for "Performance or the Year". This year, Cunningham will add two Briscoe Awards (Fight & Performance) to the three he's already won in previous years (Fighter (in 2007 & 2010) and Performance (in 2012).
Other nominees included: 1) Eric Hunter who took the USBA featherweight crown against tough Yenifel Vicente on a night of perfection that was long overdue for "The Outlaw", and 2) Bryant Jennings who became a bona fide contender for the heavyweight crown with an impressive KO of then-undefeated Artur Szpilka.
Amir Mansour rebounded from his first professional defeat (vs. Cunningham) with a memorable knockout of Fred Kassi at the Sands in Bethlehem, PA. The crushing KO was quintessential Mansour, who sent the message that he was still in the hunt for the heavyweight title. His brutal right hook ended the fight the instant it landed and was declared the best knockout of the year by Sports Illustrated. At the Briscoe Awards, Mansour will take home two awards (for KO and Fight).
The other big knockouts of the year were: 1) Tony Ferrante KO2 Venroy July and 2) Jason Sosa KO9 Michael Brooks.
South Philadelphian Taneal Goyco is a tough journeyman who is better than his 7-8-1, 3 KOs, record indicates. Still, very few gave him much of a chance when he faced off with Kensington's Dennis Hasson, who was 16-1, 6 KOs on fight night. But Goyco is used to the underdog role and had pulled the upset a few times before against fighters with better records than his. The fight at the Valley Forge Casino was close, but Goyco dropped Hasson and took the decision after six rounds.
Two other upsets earned nominations in this category: 1) Pedro Martinez W6 Tony Ferrante, and 2) Timur Shailezov TKO3 Miguel Cartagena. Both Martinez and Shailezov trained for their fights at the Diesel Fit Boxing Gym, which made upsets their business in 2014.
Although both Karl Dargan and Jesse Hart had excellent runs in 2014, Ray Robinson edged them both in the closest race in all of this year's categories. Robinson improved on his fine 2013 with three impressive wins against Aslanbek Kozaev (W12), George Sosa (TKO4) and Daniel Sostre (TKO6). He picked up the NABO welterweight title twice during the year and appeared to be on the verge becoming a real contender. Robinson has reached a new level since teaming with trainer Bozy Ennis and it was never clearer than in 2014. His fine performances and obvious promise during the year earned Robinson recognition as the "2014 Prospect of the Year".
2014 was an excellent year for Philly-area rookies. Kyrone Davis (Wilmington) and Avery Sparrow (Philadelphia) both shined in their first ring season, but Philly's Milton Santiago took the award as the "Rookie of the Year" for the excellent 8-0, 3 KOs, stretch that launched his career. Santiago turned pro in February 2014, at the tender age of 17 and never looked back. He stayed busy fighting seven more times. "El Santo" did not only faced typical rookie-level competition, he also stretched against a few tough veterans (Travis Thompson, Josh Beeman and William Lorenzo) with losing records but tough reputations. Santiago passed every test that came his way and promised bigger and better things in the future.
Joey Dawejko was an outstanding amateur and turned pro in 2009 with much fanfare. However the opening chapter of his professional career was a bumpy ride. After a few years in the game, Dawejko had a winning record but seemed to be going nowhere. By the end of 2013, he was 8-3-2, 3 KOs, but had been stopped in his most recent start. It appeared that the once-promising Dawejko had hit bottom.
However, in January of 2014 Dawejko stepped in against veteran Derric Rossy and scored an upset victory, seemingly out of nowhere. He followed that up with another solid points win, this time against undefeated prospect Mark Rideout. On a roll, Dawejko then scored three consecutive first round knockouts that had his confidence at an all time high and his potential completely restored. He finished his 5-0 year with a good-looking record of 13-3-2, 6 KOs. Talk about a breakthrough year! Dawejko turned his career completely around in just 12 months, and was eyeing some big opportunities for the new year as 2014 closed.
Other breakthrough performers in 2014 were middleweight Thomas LaManna (Millville, NJ) and junior lightweight Jason Sosa (Camden, NJ).
19 year old super heavyweight Darmani Rock had an amazing 2014. It was a year loaded with top-level national and international amateur experience. Rock did it all last year. He became the Youth World Champion, the Continental Champion, and the Junior and Youth Open Champion, all before turning 19. He won his Youth World Championship in Bulgaria. His success has made him a prospect for the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil. The current amateur scene in and around Philly is very strong, but 2014 belonged to Darmani Rock.
This year the Briscoe Awards will recognize perhaps the most exceptional fighter of them all. Kennedy Cunningham is not a boxer, but fight she did in 2014. The daughter of Steve and Livvy Cunningham received a heart transplant as 2014 came to a close and fought like a champion all the way. Kennedy showed courage and will and took on life-threatening challenges in stride.
In a year when her father as well as many other fighters showed incredible mettle in the ring, Kennedy Cunningham somehow topped them all outside of it. For her courage, personality and inspiration, Kennedy will receive a special honorary Briscoe Medal at this years awards.
As always, the Everett Brothers Award will also be presented at the event. The winner of this award has not yet been determined and will be announced shortly.
The Briscoe Awards event will occur in the Fall. Watch PhillyBoxingHistory.com in the coming months for more details including the date and venue.