It was a strange year in so many ways in boxing. There were so many very good performances, but no one fighter stood out clearly above the others.
Take, for instance, WBC middleweight champion Miguel Cotto. No single fighter might have had a better one night than Cotto did on June 7 at Madison Square Garden. He thrilled an overflowing crowd by knocking Sergio Martinez down three times in the first round en route to a 10th-round stoppage in a bout for the linear world title.
For those who don't know what the linear title is, it's as impressive as it gets: He's the man who beat the man who beat the man. Being the linear champion means one has worked through all the sanctioning body politics that too often strangle the sport and simply won the "real" championship.
It's a big deal.
And so, Cotto could easily be the 2014 Fighter of the Year.
But he's not, because that bout against a hobbled Martinez was his only match of the year. The Fighter of the Year has to do a bit more than nine full rounds, no matter how good those nine rounds were.
At the other end of the spectrum, it's difficult to ignore the achievements of Naoya Inoue, the 21-year-old Japanese star who was 3-0 in two world title fights and won belts at light flyweight and super flyweight.
Inoue was just 20 years old with a 5-0 record when 2014 began. Just four days before his 21st birthday, he defeated Adrian Hernandez for the WBC light flyweight title, winning the first five rounds on all three judges' cards before stopping Hernandez in the sixth.
He defended the belt in impressive fashion Sept. 5, when he won all 10 completed rounds on all three judges' cards and then stopped Samartlek Kokietgym in the 11th.
To top that off, he moved up to super flyweight and knocked out longtime title-holder Omar Narvaez in the second round to capture the WBO belt. He knocked Narvaez down twice in the first and twice in the second.
It was, by any measure, an extraordinary performance and not only puts him into the running for Fighter of the Year, but makes him one of the strongest candidates.
He's not alone, however. There are a slew of strong candidates. Manny Pacquiao was 2-0 in 2014, beating Timothy Bradley in impressive fashion and knocking Chris Algieri down six times in a one-sided win. He won nearly every round against two unbeaten fighters, which is highly impressive and puts him in the middle of the competition.
Terence "Bud" Crawford was 3-0 on the year. He went to Scotland to lift the WBO lightweight title from Ricky Burns. He then overpowered unbeaten Yuriorkis Gamboa in a wildly entertaining slugfest and blew out tough guy Ray Beltran in one-sided fashion.
Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez is one of the world's best fighters whom no one outside of the sport's hardcore fan base knows about. Gonzalez is not only 41-0 with 35 knockouts, he's a technically skilled fighter who comes to fight every time out.
It's an absolute travesty that Gonzalez isn't a regular on either HBO or Showtime. The weight classes that HBO and Showtime ignore – strawweight through super flyweight – regularly produce the greatest fights. Francisco Rodriguez Jr. and Katsunari Takayama put on an all-timer in their IBF/WBO strawweight unification fight in August.
Gonzalez is the best fighter of the aforementioned candidates, which is saying a lot, and he competes at flyweight. He was 4-0 in 2014 with four knockouts. He began the year without a belt and won two fights, but then was 2-0 in flyweight title bouts.
Frankly, Gonzalez would be an ideal Fighter of the Year.
But the vote for the 2014 Yahoo Sports Fighter of the Year goes to Gennady Golovkin, the highly popular WBA/WBC middleweight champion.
Golovkin was 3-0 in 2014, stopping Osumanu Adama in the seventh, former world champion Daniel Geale in the third and Marco Antonio Rubio in the second.
It's troubling the level of competition he's fighting, but it's not as if he's ducking anyone. There aren't a lot of great middleweights out there. Cotto isn't looking to fight him at this point, and Golovkin’s effort to get Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. into the ring failed.
Golovkin is fighting the best available guys and simply blowing them out.
He's a highly skilled boxer with a mean streak, a guy who hurts his opposition with literally every punch he throws.
It was difficult to separate the contenders, because there was something about each of them that didn't make them an obvious choice.
But Golovkin gets the nod here because of the way he makes his opponents look inept. He's so good and so powerful, they look putrid by comparison.
It's why Golovkin is the tough choice as the Yahoo Sports Fighter of the Year for 2014.