Ranking the 10 Most-Impressive Performances in Boxing in 2013
A technical masterpiece by Guillermo Rigondeaux and stunning first-round KOs by Adonis Stevenson and Jhonny Gonzalez top this year's list of most impressive boxing performances.
Note that this is not a ranking of Fighter of the Year candidates, though almost every name on the list here could be considered for the honor. But for this story, I am considering single-fight performances only.
Boxing has thrived this year. This list details some of the biggest highlights.
10. Lucas Matthysse TKO 3 Lamont Peterson
Lucas Matthysse was one of the hottest fighters in the sport for much of this year and his three-round destruction of Lamont Peterson in May played a big role in generating so much excitement.
Peterson is the IBF light welterweight champion, a title that was not on the line against Matthysse. Prior to this fight he had lost just once in his career, to Timothy Bradley by decision.
Matthysse completely steamrolled him. His dominant performance against Peterson made his showdown later in the year with Danny Garcia one of the year's most highly anticipated fights.
9. Floyd Mayweather MD over Saul Alvarez
It's possible that I've got this performance rated too low. Floyd Mayweather has set a high bar for his performances and writers and fans tend to grade him on a much steeper curve than other fighters.
But against Canelo Alvarez he was facing a much younger and larger boxer and he thoroughly routed him. Judge C.J. Ross' card of 114-114 will go down in boxing lore as one of the most embarrassing performances ever by a judge. But even Dave Moretti and Craig Metcalfe, who scored four and three rounds for Alvarez respectively, were way out of line.
Some fans have been dismissive of this performance, claiming that Alvarez has been overhyped all along. That's true to an extent, but Canelo's performances against Austin Trout, Shane Mosley and Kermit Cintron proved he is a legitimately talented boxer.
And Mayweather's handling of the young star is just the latest demonstration that Mayweather simply operates on a different level than most other fighters.
8. Mikey Garcia KO 8 Roman Martinez
This victory on November 9 may have clinched Fighter of the Year honors for Mikey Garcia. It gave him his second world title in his second weight class for 2013.
Martinez had lost just once in his career and had never been knocked out. He managed to score a flash knockdown on Garcia in Round 2.
But Garcia took the knockdown in stride and quickly reasserted himself in the fight. Once again Garcia was able to take apart a world-class fighter with ruthless efficiency.
The younger brother of super trainer Robert Garcia is quickly making a name for himself as one of the sport's top pound-for-pound stars.
7. Gennady Golovkin KO 3 Matthew Macklin
Matthew Macklin was supposed to be the opponent who finally tested Gennady Golovkin. Macklin was a legitimate top-five middleweight.
He'd challenged twice for world titles. Against Felix Sturm in 2011 he had lost a split decision in Germany that many observers felt he deserved to win. Against Sergio Martinez in 2012 he knocked the pound-for-pound star down and fought on competitive terms for much of the fight before getting TKOd in Round 11.
But against GGG, Macklin was nothing but stalked prey. Golovkin cut Macklin over the eye in Round 2 and knocked him out with a single body shot in the third.
As HBO analyst Max Kellerman noted repeatedly during the broadcast, "This is not normal."
6. Sergey Kovalev TKO 4 Nathan Cleverly
Sergey Kovalev started 2013 in impressive fashion, TKOing former world champion Gabriel Campillo in three rounds in January. In June he stopped 21-1 Cornelius White in three.
But when he travelled to Wales in August to challenge WBO light heavyweight champion Nathan Cleverly, a substantial portion of the boxing media picked the champion to prevail in front of his hometown crowd.
Instead Kovalev rolled to victory, smashing Cleverly by Round 4 TKO. Make no mistake, Campillo and Cleverly are both skilled boxers.
But Kovalev is a former amateur standout himself. The combination of his technical ability and other-worldly power made him one of 2013's biggest breakout stars.
5. Danny Garcia UD over Lucas Matthysse
Danny Garcia is a little bit like boxing's version of Rodney Dangerfield. For some reason, he's never gotten the respect he deserves.
Against Amir Khan in July 2012 he was viewed as an opponent. The HBO broadcast team was treating a Khan victory as a sure thing after two rounds. Instead Garcia dropped Khan with a left hook in Round 3 and finished him in the fourth.
Even though he was the WBC and WBA champion when he faced Lucas Matthysse on the Floyd Mayweather-Saul Alvarez undercard in May, he was still cast in the role of underdog.
Garcia is a classic case of an athlete who does everything right without being flashy. It's easy to underestimate a guy like that. But you always do it at your own risk.
Against the gunslinging Matthysse, Garcia was a composed master craftsman. He closed Matthysse's eye and won a hard-fought but decisive decision.
I tend to think boxing fans and writers are done underestimating him.
4. Timothy Bradley SD over Juan Manuel Marquez
This fight played out like a chess match with punching.
Only one man has truly been able to decode the problem of Manny Pacquiao over the past decade, and that has been master technician Juan Manuel Marquez. Few fighters in the past two decades have been able to compare to Marquez when it comes to ring I.Q. and craft.
Even though this was a split decision, I don't think it was really that close. Marquez certainly won some rounds, but I had it 116-112 Bradley.
Bradley's youth and incredible physical strength were definitely the deciding factors here. But without his own high-level boxing craft, those physical advantages would never have been enough.
3. Adonis Stevenson KO 1 Chad Dawson
This was Chad Dawson's first fight back after his brutal-KO loss to Andre Ward in September 2012. It's very likely that fight took a lot out of Dawson.
Either way, Adonis Stevenson's Round 1 KO of Dawson last June was a stunner. Dawson might not have been a fan favorite, but he was a highly accomplished boxer with tremendous skill. He'd beaten Bernard Hopkins. He'd beaten Glen Johnson and Antonio Tarver twice each.
Prior to Vitali Klitschko, Dawson was the only man to have beaten Tomasz Adamek as a professional.
But Stevenson jumped all over him. It's easy to view a quick knockout as a freak occurrence. But against a guy as experienced and skilled as Dawson, there is no such thing as luck.
2. Jhonny Gonzalez KO 1 Abner Mares
I have to think Jhonny Gonzalez came into this fight with a little bit of a chip on his shoulder. He was an extremely experienced former world champion and was being treated as nothing but an opponent.
But Abner Mares was one of the sport's hottest fighters. After cleaning out the bantamweight division he had captured a title at 122 pounds, he then moved up to featherweight and earned a title in a third division with his extremely impressive TKO of Daniel Ponce De Leon in May.
In the week before the showdown with Gonzalez, Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer gave several interviews stating that Mares deserved to be ranked No. 2 pound-for-pound, behind only Floyd Mayweather. While most writers felt Schaefer was exaggerating, few disagreed about Mares as a legitimate pound-for-pound top 10.
Gonzalez was wowed by none of this. He blitzed Mares and never allowed him to get in the fight.
1. Guillermo Rigondeaux UD over Nonito Donaire
Nonito Donaire came into this fight rated between three and five on pretty much every pound-for-pound list in existence. He was the 2012 Fighter of the Year. He had compiled an entire highlight reel full of knockouts of world champions and future Hall of Famers.
He was one of the most explosive offensive fighters in the entire sport. But last April Guillermo Rigondeaux handed him a boxing lesson. Rigo used movement and control of distance to completely take away Donaire's offense and seriously swell his face.
This was Rigondeaux's 12th professional fight. For Rigo to handle a fighter rated as highly as Donaire with such ease, so soon into his professional career, is nearly unheard of.