Thursday, 24 January 2013

No Holds Barred End Of Year Boxing Awards 2012

As 2012 ends, another year of boxing begins and us fans can only hope it will be as much of a cracking year as the last. In the annual tradition of summing up the past year's boxing events I present my annual boxing awards for 2012. Agree or not, i think you should find I have chosen some deserving winners, and in some cases "losers".

Fighter of the year: Nonito Donaire

With wins over four top names all in the same calendar year, Donaire was always going to be a heavy favourite to pick up the gong for best fighter. He moved up to super bantamweight back in February and in his first fight won the vacant WBO title with a convincing display against former champion Wilfredo Vazquez Jr whom he defeated on points. His next fight came five months later against tough South African and newly crowned IBF champion, Jeffrey Mathebula who was also defeated over the distance. In October, he defeated Japanese legend Toshiaki Nishioka, arguably his toughest contest to date, via an impressive ninth round stoppage. He ended the year with a three round destruction of Mexican brawler Jorge Arce, who retired from the fight game afterwards.

Other contenders: Juan Manuel Marquez, Brian Viloria, Andre Ward, Robert Guerrero, Juan Carlos Sanchez Jr, Leo Santa Cruz, Carl Froch, Danny Garcia.

Fight of the year: Juan Manuel Marquez KO 6 Manny Pacquiao

Other fights perhaps had more action, other fights might have also had more knockdowns, but none had as much drama as this one. In just 6 rounds this fight proved to be a back and forth affair in what must now rank as one of the greatest rivalries in boxing history. And, let’s not even pretend we saw the knockout coming!

Other contenders: Brandon Rios TKO 7 Mike Alvarado, Brian Viloria TKO 10 Hernan Marquez, Roman Gonzalez UD Juan Francisco Estrada, Kazuto Ioka UD Akira Yaegashi, Orlando Salido TKO 10 Juan Manuel Lopez, Marco Huck Draw Ola Afolabi, Alexander Povetkin MD Marco Huck.

Round of the year: Brian Viloria vs Hernan Marquez - Round 5 

This was a very tough decision to make. What does one choose in these situations: A round of three minutes of relentless punching, a round with two elite fighters going at it, or perhaps a round with drama? I think I have chosen a round which contains all three of those descriptions.

The above description was set up to describe round five of Marquez vs Pacquiao IV. But, I changed my mind. Not one for simply going along with my original plans, I decided to go back to watch over much footage. No round this year had as much drama between two boxing icons as Marquez vs Pacquiao IV. That is undeniably true in my opinion. 

But, round five of Viloria vs Marquez had everything a round–of–the–year should have. The round started with Marquez pressuring Viloria to the extent that Viloria was overwhelmed with punches, fell to the canvas (ruled a slip) and took a whole minute’s worth of relentless punches from the Mexican warrior. Viloria then composed himself and with a combination of heavy hands managed to floor Marquez. The last minute of the round involved both guys going toe–to–toe. Watch the round and see for yourself.

Other contenders: Manny Pacquiao vs Juan Manuel Marquez - Rds 5 & 6, Sergio Martinez vs Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. - Rd 12, Roman Gonzalez vs Juan Francisco Estrada - Rd 6, Brandon Rios vs Mike Alvarado - Rd 5, Orlando Salido vs Juan Manuel Lopez - Rd 9, Marco Huck vs Ola Afolabi - Rd 12.

Knock-out of the year: Juan Manuel Marquez KO 6 Manny Pacquiao

Could there be any other legitimate contender? It was arguably the most important knockout of the last decade.

Other contenders: Orlando Salido TKO 10 Juan Manuel Lopez, Lucas German Priori TKO 3 Pehuen Roberto Correa, Randall Bailey KO 11 Mike Jones, Adonis Stevenson KO 1 Jesus Gonzales, Shinsuke Yamanaka KO 7 Tomas Rojas, Antonio Escalante KO 2 Leonilo Miranda, Mikkel Kessler KO 4 Allan Green, David Lemieux KO 1 Alvaro Gaona, Javier Fortuna TKO 2 Cristobal Cruz, Joan Guzman KO 8 Jesus Pabon, Shane Cameron KO 4 Monte Barrett, Garrett Wilson KO 12 Andres Taylor, Vyacheslav Senchenko KO 9 Ricky Hatton, David Haye TKO 5 Dereck Chisora.

Upset of the year: Juan Manuel Marquez KO 6 Manny Pacquiao

This might be quite a controversial selection so let me explain. There were certainly other fights which could better claim to be more of an upset in 2012. For example, who could have predicted that Sonny Boy Jaro would dethrone Thai legend Wonjongkam? I also think very few would have predicted Danny Garcia to beat Amir Khan or Josesito Lopez to do a number on Victor Ortiz.

It was the shocking way in which Juan Manuel Marquez defeated Manny Pacquiao which makes this fight such a big upset. NOBODY predicted Manny Pacquiao would be out cold, face down on the canvas, and his career arguably in tatters by the sixth round. A decision win for Marquez? Perhaps. A debatable win for Pacquiao? Probably. But a spectacular knockout for the Mexican legend? Highly unlikely.

Other contenders: Sonny Boy Jaro TKO 6 Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, Johnathon Banks TKO 2 Seth Mitchell, Danny Garcia TKO 4 Amir Khan, Carl Froch TKO 5 Lucian Bute, Josesito Lopez RTD 9 Victor Ortiz, Timothy Bradley SD Manny Pacquiao, Randall Bailey KO 11 Mike Jones.

Prospect of the year: Carl Frampton

This one probably needs explaining more than the last category. Searching across the internet i have found that the two other most popular contenders for this award were American talents Keith Thurman and Gary Russell Jr. 

Gary Russell Jr is an immense talent and a certainty to go on to win world honours. However, it was not in 2012 where he showcased his talents to the extreme. He had just two wins this year; against Christopher Perez and Roberto Castaneda; both of whom are domestic level Mexican fighters.

Keith Thurman had a better year for sure. He defeated journeyman Christopher Fernandez, low ranking foes in Brandon Hoskins and Orlando Lora, but ended the year with an impressive fourth round stoppage win over Carlos Quintana.

But, neither of these records beat that of Carl Frampton over the past twelve months. The young Belfast resident gained the Commonwealth super bantamweight title in just his eleventh fight at the end of 2011. He started 2012 with a successful defence against decent domestic opposition in Kris Hughes, followed by a second round stoppage over little known Ghanaian Prosper Ankrah, before defeating the undefeated Mexican Raul Hirales in his third fight of the year. But, it was his fourth and final fight of 2012 which edges him in this category.

In just his fifteenth fight as a pro, he made the step up from domestic level, bypassed European level altogether, and fought former world champion Steve Molitor. Now, some people may well say that Molitor was never a great champion, and this may be true. But he was a champion nonetheless. In fact, he had two reigns as IBF champion, with a combined six title defences. His last world class fight came just eighteen months before in a loss to Takalani Ndlovu, a man who Molitor had previously defeated on two occasions. Throw in Molitors’ wins since 2006 over the likes of Michael Hunter, Jason Booth, Heriberto Ruiz, Fernando Beltran and the aforementioned two wins over Ndlovu and we can see how much of a big win this was for Frampton.

In terms of talent, I am sure Russell Jr and Keith Thurman will go very far in their careers. But, did they have a better 2012 than Carl Frampton though? No.

Other contenders: Keith Thurman, Mateusz Masternak, Rakhim Chakhiev, Krzysztof Glowacki, Jessie Vargas, Billy Joe Saunders, Vyacheslav Glazkov, Eleider Alvarez, Julio Ceja.

Trainer of the year: Robert Garcia

What can you say about the guy? If you look at his roster of talent which includes p4p ranked superstar Nonito Donaire, talented featherweight Mikey Garcia, ferocious light welterweight Brandon Rios, tough Argentinean Marcos Maidana, and many, many more, one could possibly make the case for Garcia being the “new Freddie Roach”, so to speak.

Other contenders: Nacho Beristain, Rob McCracken, Virgil Hunter, Ruben Guerrero, Pablo Sarmiento, Yuichi Kasai.

Women’s fighter of the year: Cecilia Braekhus

The First Lady of boxing was always going to be one of the favourites for this award as her unbeaten streak continues and her win over Anne Sophie Mathis in September really secured it. A very talented fighter and one with a big future still ahead, especially if she can land a dream fight against American superstar Holly Holm.

Other contenders: Ava Knight, Jackie Nava, Yesica Yolanda Bopp, Holly Holm, Erica Anabella Farias.

Promoter of the year: Top Rank

With over thirty events taking place under Bob Arum’s company this year, it’s no surprise they’re still number one. There’s no reason to deny that Bob Arum is not exactly boxing fans’ favourite character but it must be said that he still puts on a good show.

There is no surprise there really when you consider his roster of talent includes Manny Pacquiao, Juan Manuel Marquez, Nonito Donaire, Timothy Bradley, Brandon Rios, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, Mikey Garcia, Guillermo Rigondeaux, Yuriorkis Gamboa, Vanes Martirosyan, Juan Manuel Lopez, and many more.

Key fights: Juan Manuel Marquez KO 6 Manny Pacquiao, Brandon Rios TKO 7 Mike Alvarado, Nonito Donaire TKO 9 Toshiaki Nishioka, Nonito Donaire KO 3 Jorge Arce, Timothy Bradley SD Manny Pacquiao, Brian Viloria TKO 10 Hernan Marquez, Mikey Garcia TKO 8 Jonathan Victor Barros, Roman Martinez SD Miguel Beltran Jr, Sergio Martinez UD Julio Cesar Chavez, Randall Bailey KO 11 Mike Jones, Brandon Rios SD Richard Abril, Mike Alvarado UD Mauricio Herrera, Orlando Salido TKO 10 Juan Manuel Lopez.

Other key moments: Their plentiful supply of boxing all year round and in countries just outside of the USA; The continual rise of prospects such as Diego & Jesse Magdaleno, Jose Benavidez, Mickey Bey, Brad Solomon, Terence Crawford, Omar Chavez, Matt Korobov, Glen Tapia, Oscar Valdez, and others; Their continued promotion of women’s boxing; Nonito Donaire’s four world class fights in a single calendar year.

Other contenders: Matchroom Sport, Zanfer Promotions, ALA Promotions, Teiken Promotions, Sauerland Event.

Worst fight of the year: Miguel Vazquez UD Mercito Gesta

What makes a fight “awful”? That’s the main question here, I suppose. Is it a fight that lasts just one punch? Or is it a fight which drags on over twelve rounds in which neither guy makes much of an effort to win? Or is it a badly matched fight where one guy just beats on the other guy until the referee finally stops the fight? I presume everybody has their own opinion on this.

Maybe former cricket star Freddie Flintoff should not have been granted a boxing licence after years of injuries suffered in his previous sport. Perhaps Wladimir Klitschko should not have defended his title against Jean Marc Mormeck. I know Alexander Povetkin most certainly should have never entered the ring against Hasim Rahman!

But, picture this for a second: A young Filipino prospect with a respectable record of 26-0-1, the intimidating nickname of “No Mercy”, and unsurprisingly heralded as the “New Manny Pacquiao” gets a world title shot against a very respectable Mexican champion. One would expect to see fireworks, right? What we actually saw was quite possibly the worst title challenge in recent memory. I do not need to look at punch stats for this one to know that Gesta barely threw anything and landed even less throughout the twelve rounds. 

This might not have been the most boring affair of the year but the fact Gesta was given the opportunity of a lifetime but didn’t fulfil his end of the deal I consider this fight the worst fight of the year.

Other contenders: Alexander Povetkin TKO 2 Hasim Rahman, Freddie Flintoff PTS Richard Dawson, David Price TKO 1 Audley Harrison, Devon Alexander UD Randall Bailey, Deontay Wilder TKO 1 Jesse Oltmanns, Shawn Estrada UD Terrance Woods, Wladimir Klitschko KO 4 Jean Marc Mormeck.

Robbery of the year: Brandon Rios SD Richard Abril

Many fans seem unanimous in considering this one to be given this not-so-sought-after award. Fans were baffled, writers were appalled, and pundits were shocked; Just another day at the office in this crazy world of boxing of ours.

Other contenders: Timothy Bradley SD Manny Pacquiao, Rances Barthelemy UD Arash Usmanee, Edmund Gerber UD Maurice Harris, Tavoris Cloud SD Gabriel Campillo, Goekalp Oezekler SD Mouez Fhima, James Kirkland DQ 10 Carlos Molina.

Shock of the year: Dereck Chisora-David Haye brawl in Germany

There is no other contender which comes close. Dereck Chisora met Vitali Klitschko on February 18 in Munich. The fight had already began in fiery circumstances as Chisora firstly slapped Vitali across the face at the pre-fight weigh-in before then spitting water in the face of Vitali's brother Wladimir in the ring before the fight started. After being defeated by the WBC heavyweight champion via a unanimous decision, Chisora then appeared at the post-fight press conference alongside his promoter Frank Warren, trainer Don Charles and the Klitschko team. David Haye was in the crowd and began a loud verbal exchange with Vitali and his manager Bernd Boente, claiming that the WBC champion didn't want to fight him. At this point Chisora chimed in saying Haye was an "embarrassment" and "if he was a fighter, he would fight me!". Haye responded by telling Chisora "you've lost three fights in a row!" and then exchanged words with Frank Warren. After more disruption, Chisora said to Haye "I'm coming down there, tell me to my face!". 

We all know what happened after this: Haye punched Chisora (glass in hand), more punches were thrown, things went flying, Haye's trainer Adam Booth was left with a cut, whilst the Klitschko brothers laughed at their British colleagues. It resulted in a police investigation, a ban for Dereck Chisora, a subsequent Chisora-Haye bout organised by the now infamous Luxembourg commission, and now arguably tops the not-so-prestigious  list of craziest boxing events to happen outside of the boxing ring.

Other contenders: Floyd Mayweather Jr. receiving a three-month prison sentence for domestic violence; Manny Pacquiao going seven years and fifteen fights without a loss only to then lose twice in 2012; Michael Sprott's push on referee Gerhard Sigl after losing to Edmund Gerber.

Time to call it quits: Roy Jones Jr

Many fighters should hang them up for good, and in some cases await their induction into the International Boxing Hall Of Fame, but none more so than Roy Jones Jr. So far past his best, so long since we saw his majestic skill, and so long gone are the fond memories we had of his career. Things have got so bad that a fight with 48 year old Steve Collins, who last fought in 1997, is rumoured to be on the horizon. We can only hope that the boxing authorities make the right decision and do not allow the fight to take place.

Other contenders: Shane Mosley, Erik Morales, Shannon Briggs, Audley Harrison, Hasim Rahman, Evander Holyfield, and plenty more.

Fight I most want to see in 2013: Brandon Rios vs Lucas Matthysse

This one was a close category considering just how many great fights there are to be made; not bad for a “dead sport” I suppose. This was my pick of the bunch. 

Brandon Rios’ power, aggression and willingness to fight pitted against Lucas Matthysse’s equal power, speed and determination to make right the decisions which have gone against him in the past. This one has Fight of the Year written all over it!

Other contenders: Brandon Rios vs Marcos Maidana, Lucas Matthysse vs Marcos Maidana, Adrien Broner vs Ricky Burns, Adrien Broner Yuriorkis Gamboa, Carl Froch vs Lucian Bute II, Floyd Mayweather Jr vs Saul Alvarez, Brian Viloria vs Roman Gonzalez, Nonito Donaire vs Guillermo Rigondeaux, Nonito Donaire vs Abner Mares, Yoan Pablo Hernandez vs Marco Huck.

Merit Award: London 2012 female Olympic boxers

Plenty of candidates were worthy of this award and all as deserving as each other but London’s female warriors stood out the most.

I could have included their male counterparts, as they were every bit as successful, but men have been involved in Olympic boxing since we can all remember. This was the first year that women were able to compete and so it was an important year for women’s boxing. I for one believe their achievements deserve to be highlighted.

Nicola Adams’ wins over three-time world champion Ren Cancan - the woman who defeated her to the gold medal in all 3 tournaments, and five-time world champion Mary Kom stand out as the biggest wins of this past summer Olympics. 

American teenager Claressa Shields, just 17 at the time of her victory over Russia’s Nadezda Torlopova, was just as spectacular as she lifted the USA’s only boxing gold. Her American colleague Marlen Esparza also won a medal as she took the bronze after losing to China’s Ren Cancan in the semi-finals. 

Ireland’s golden girl Katie Taylor added yet another gold medal to her already overflowing collection as she defeated Russia’s Sofya Ochigava in the lightweight final. Not to mention she was Ireland’s choice to walk the Irish flag into the arena at the opening ceremony.

This also doesn’t take into account all of the other superb talents who took part such as Mavzuna Chorieva, Adriana Araujo, Mariana Volnova, Li Jinzi, Savannah Marshall, Natasha Jonas, Queen Underwood, and many more.

Other contenders: Jonathan Banks’ training of Wladimir Klitschko after the death of Emanuel Steward followed by his very own success in one of the shocks of the year as he stopped Seth Mitchell just a week later; Alfredo Angulo’s return to boxing with two wins after being detained for seven months on immigration charges; Larry Ekundayo’s win in “Prizefighter - light middleweights III” despite having had only two prior fights as a professional; Nonito Donaire’s successful year which took in four world class fights, an amount most elite fighters do not even contemplate; Danny Jacobs’ victory over cancer was followed by more success in the ring; The Klitschko brother’s continued dominance of the heavyweight division whilst remaining dignified individuals who do much for charity, and politics also in the case of Vitali.

Special Mention: Emanuel Steward

A special mention must be paid to the legendary trainer who sadly passed away this year at the age of 68. The Detroit resident trained some of the most legendary names in boxing history including Lennox Lewis, Thomas Hearns, Mike McCallum, and most recently Wladimir Klitschko. Having been a successful trainer for forty years as well as doing much for charity, and for being an HBO commentator since 2001, he was considered one of the most likeable and respected people in boxing.

Equal mentions go out to the following who also had a big impact on boxing but sadly passed away this year: Legendary boxing coach Angelo Dundee, who famously trained Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Jose Napoles, and many others; The great boxing writer and sports historian Bert Sugar; Cuban Olympic icon Teofilo Stevenson; Three-weight world champions Hector Camacho and Johnny Tapia; Two-weight world champion tough guy Carmen Basilio; Former WBO world champion Corrie Sanders, Former world title challenging middleweight Don Fullmer; Former WBA heavyweight champion Michael Dokes.