Ranking the Best Boxing Cards of 2013

Kevin McRae@@McRaeWritesFeatured ColumnistDecember 20, 2013

Ranking the Best Boxing Cards of 2013

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    Mayweather's performance against Canelo might have been the best of his career, but was it the card of the year?
    Mayweather's performance against Canelo might have been the best of his career, but was it the card of the year?Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

    Can't miss action. Dramatic knockouts. Stunning upsets.

    Otherwise known as another day at the office in the world of boxing.

    The year 2013 has wound down—at least insofar as the sweet science is concerned—and it produced more than it's fair share of all three. The fans were treated to dozens of great fights, epic moments and high-profile events featuring the biggest names in the sport.

    It was a great year for the sport, and now we gaze towards the future, in the hopes of things getting even better!

    Here we rank the 10 best fight cards of the year from top to bottom. Some are here for depth, and some for one great fight, but all belong. 

    Let the debate begin!

10. April 27, 2013: Danny Garcia vs. Zab Judah

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    On paper, Danny Garcia's defense of his junior welterweight titles against former multi-weight champion Zab Judah seemed a matchup destined for derision.

    Garcia—who had emerged from the shadows with a stunning knockout of Amir Khan—was a star on the rise, but he had already been the subject of criticism for two of his biggest wins coming over a badly faded Erik Morales. 

    By fighting Judah, who was still a name, but also appeared to be past his best days, Garcia opened himself up to fresh criticism on that front. But that's why they fight in the ring and not on paper.

    Garcia opened up the fight strong, as Judah had one of his customary slow starts. He floored Zab in the eighth round and had him in trouble a few other times earlier in the fight.

    But Judah showed tremendous heart and determination to stay in the fight in the later rounds. He took control down the stretch and forced Garcia to really earn a unanimous decision victory.

    It wasn't a great fight, but it was a very good one, and it definitely exceeded expectations

    The co-featured bout between WBO middleweight champion Peter Quillin and Fernando Guerrero was also exciting, with "Kid Chocolate" scoring an impressive seventh round stoppage. 

9. November 9, 2013: Roman Martinez vs. Mikey Garcia

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    Mikey Garcia had a tremendous 2013, and he'll enter the new year with a very real chance of becoming HBO's next breakout star. And for a network that has focused on building depth since the defection of Floyd Mayweather and the Golden Boy Promotions stable of fighters to Showtime, that is welcome news. 

    Garcia fought three times in 2013 and was progressively more impressive in each fight.

    After winning a featherweight world title from Orlando Salido in January, he returned to the ring in June to stop former world champion Juan Manuel Lopez in emphatic fashion. 

    The final exclamation point of his campaign—that will likely earn him some votes for Fighter of the Year— came in November against rugged WBO super featherweight champion Roman "Rocky" Martinez. 

    Martinez—who had never before been stopped—began the fight well and even dropped Garcia in the second round. But from that point on, the fight was all Mikey, who took it to his foe and scored an eighth round knockout for his second world title in as many weight classes.

    The co-featured bout of the evening featured a pair of fighters with a history and with both guys in desperate need of a victory.

    Nonito Donaire was the fastest rising star in the sport before he ran into Guillermo Rigondeaux earlier this year, and the "Filipino Flash" looked to rebound from that devastating defeat by facing old foe Vic Darchinyan.

    Donaire scored a devastating knockout over Darchinyan back in 2007 and then came from behind to repeat the feat in 2013.

    He was certainly not nearly as impressive as he was in their first bout, and Darchinyan was well ahead on the scorecards when he was stopped in the ninth round. But, it's better late than never.

8. June 22, 2013: Paulie Malignaggi vs. Adrien Broner

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    Adrien Broner got off to a good start in 2013, stopping Gavin Rees in Atlantic City in February before deciding to move up to welterweight and challenge Paulie Malignaggi for a share of the 147 pound title. 

    The promotion for the fight—perhaps even more than the actual bout itself—is a big reason that it made this list.

    It was tense, heated, at times vulgar and bordered on the completely inappropriate. There were many not-so-veiled references to a woman that the two fighters claimed to have been involved with, questions about each guy's manhood and some topics that are even off-limits in the sometimes sordid world of professional prizefighting. 

    As for the fight itself, it was extremely entertaining and competitive. 

    Broner was clearly the harder puncher, but he allowed himself to fall into lulls of inactivity that allowed the hardworking Malignaggi to find openings to steal rounds. Most of the rounds that Paulie won, he did so on sheer work-rate.

    By the end of the fight, most concluded that Broner had done enough to win a narrow and competitive decision. The judges agreed, awarding him a split-decision verdict and his third world title in as many weight classes.

    But the sniping between the two men didn't end there, with Broner famously quipping during the post-fight interview that he had "lifted his [Malignaggi's] belt and his girl."

    That led an enraged "Magic Man" to storm the corner and confront a smirking Broner. It was good and dramatic theater, and it was a pretty good fight too. 

7. April 20, 2013: Canelo Alvarez vs. Austin Trout

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    Saul "Canelo" Alvarez walked into the Alamodome on April 20 knowing that, in all likelihood, only one man stood between him and a chance to hit boxing's lottery by facing Floyd Mayweather in the fall.

    That man was WBA junior middleweight champion Austin Trout, and in Trout, Canelo found an opponent that would either shatter his dream or help to answer many of the lingering questions surrounding his rise to the top.

    Many in the boxing community remained skeptical of Canelo, and despite his clear talents, there was a perception that he was being coddled on the way to a huge money showdown with Mayweather. 

    Trout was the first genuine threat that he would have to face. He was a natural junior middleweight, in his prime and with a tricky style that was enough to give most fighters fits. 

    In the fight, Canelo showed an ability to handle a difficult stylistic matchup, dropped Trout for the first time in his career and scored a unanimous decision victory, even if the official scorecards were a little too wide to reflect the action in the ring.

    It was clear that Canelo landed the harder blows, but Trout had his moments too and made Alvarez overcome adversity to score the biggest win of his career and set up a superfight with boxing's biggest star.

6. May 4, 2013: Floyd Mayweather vs. Robert Guerrero

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    Pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather completely rearranged the cable boxing landscape when he left HBO and signed an exclusive six fight deal with rival Showtime in February. For years, HBO had been synonymous with the big leagues of professional boxing, while Showtime more closely resembled a forgotten stepchild. 

    For his first act, Mayweather chose to return to the welterweight division and defend his WBC title against the rugged, and many felt highly dangerous, Robert "The Ghost" Guerrero.

    Guerrero, whose gritty, determined and physical style some felt would give Floyd fits, had earned his shot with consecutive impressive wins over Selcuk Aydin and Andre Berto. 

    But, on fight night, it was vintage Mayweather. He used his speed and movement to completely blunt Guerrero's offensive attack and win a clear unanimous decision. The fight itself was a bit of a disappointment, but it belongs here because of the event status that surrounded it.

    There was also the extremely deep undercard which featured Daniel Ponce De Leon and Abner Mares in an exciting featherweight scrap, Leo Santa Cruz's demolishing of Alexander Munoz and J'Leon Love's controversial decision victory—later changed to a no contest after Love failed a post-fight drug test—over the tough Gabriel Rosado.

5. March 16, 2013: Timothy Bradley vs. Ruslan Provodnikov

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    Heading into his bout with Ruslan Provodnikov, you couldn't help but feel a pang of sympathy for Timothy Bradley.

    Sure, he got a win over Manny Pacquiao that virtually nobody felt he deserved, but he was then the subject of such vitriolic and over-the-top criticism that you couldn't help but feel bad for the guy. After all, the decision may have been a bad one, but Bradley wasn't guilty of anything more than showing up and fighting.

    Partly to erase the memory of that debacle, but also to increase his marketability with HBO, Bradley engaged Provodnikov at close quarters for much of their bout. This was completely out of character for a fighter who normally relies upon his speed and reflexes to outbox his foe.

    The increased commitment to fighting, rather than pure boxing, led to an extremely dramatic and close fight.

    In the exchanges, Provodnikov was clearly more in his element, and he tagged Bradley with more hard shots than we'd seen him swallow up to that point in his career. To his credit, "Desert Storm" largely held his own in close, and he thoroughly outboxed the Russian when he chose to keep distance.  

    With the fight seemingly in his favor, albeit narrowly, Bradley chose to engage in the final round and almost paid dearly for his decision. He was put on the canvas, and badly hurt, in the closing seconds, and had Provodnikov had more time, he might've scored the stoppage. 

    As it were, Bradley escaped with a narrow, but deserved, unanimous decision, and both men drastically increased their stock with spirited performances. 

4. December 14, 2013: Adrien Broner vs. Marcos Maidana

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    Adrien Broner's mouth finally wrote a check that his fists couldn't cash when he ran into Marcos Maidana in the main event of Showtime's final boxing telecast of 2013.

    The two had been engaged in a high-stakes game of chicken in the lead up to their bout, with Broner doing most of the talking and "El Chino" sitting back just looking to fight.

    Broner's antics before, during and after the fight are certain to win him few—if any—new fans, and the disastrous way in which he lost is likely to buy him no goodwill from a boxing community already done with his claims to be Floyd Mayweather's heir apparent. 

    Maidana blitzed Broner from the opening bell and had him down and in serious trouble during round two. "The Problem" was able to pick himself up and get somewhat back in the fight during the middle rounds before getting dropped a second time in the eighth. 

    His dramatic—we hear there's a nomination for Best Actor in the offing—overreaction to a headbutt following the knockdown, and his earlier humping of Maidana in the corner were other lowlights en route to his first career defeat.

    On the televised undercard, Keith "One Time" Thurman continued his blitzkrieg through the welterweight division with an extremely impressive knockout of the dangerous Jesus Soto Karass. And before that, fans were treated to a surprisingly entertaining scrap between super bantamweight champion Leo Santa Cruz and a game Cesar Seda.

3. June 8, 2013: Marcos Maidana vs. Josesito Lopez

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    You can pretty much bank on a night of exciting boxing when Marcos Maidana appears on the card. The Argentine champion is as tough as they come, he loves to fight and he always seems to be at his best when the odds seem their longest.

    When Maidana signed up to face Josesito Lopez in June, the writing was already on the wall. Two all-action fighters, both in need of a win and you have a recipe for the dramatic. 

    And dramatic it was. 

    The first two rounds seemed to belong to Maidana, who backed up Lopez with his trademark aggression. But in the third and fourth, Lopez laid a vicious beating on the Argentine, and he appeared on his way to out-slugging his foe for an impressive victory.

    With his back—both proverbially and nearly literally—against the wall, Maidana landed a massive overhand right that felled Lopez in the sixth round. He beat the count but was immediately greeted with a big uppercut that left him wobbly and forced the referee to stop the bout. 

    The co-featured bout also had its share of drama, as Erislandy Lara survived knockdowns in rounds four and nine to stop a determined Alfredo Angulo. 

    The end came in the 10th when Angulo, who had a grotesquely swollen left eye, turned his back on the fight and stated he couldn't continue. It was originally believed that he had broken the eye socket but this proved to not be the case.

2. September 14, 2013: Floyd Mayweather vs. Canelo Alvarez

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    In terms of pure event status, boxing has never seen anything like "The One: Mayweather vs. Canelo."

    On Sept. 14, 2013, you couldn't escape the palpable feeling of a really big event—not just a fight—while walking the Vegas strip. The bout between pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather and Saul "Canelo" Alvarez was promoted more heavily and across more platforms than any fight in recent memory, and you couldn't avoid it. 

    Throngs of fans—overwhelmingly pro-Canelo—descended on the MGM Grand and dominated nearly every square-inch of available space. Mexican flags waving—in homage to their guy's heritage—and raucous chants of "Canelo, Canelo," could be seen and heard, literally, everywhere. 

    As for the fight itself, it may not have lived up to the massive hype—but how could it?—and Mayweather was as dominant—if not more so—than ever. You could easily make a case that he won every single round, and he deserved much better than the ludicrous majority-decision he received. 

    But hey, at least the right guy won. Could you imagine the fallout if CJ Ross and her ridiculous scorecard had actually impacted the final result?

    On the undercard, fans were treated to a co-feature that itself could easily have been a main event in its own right. Danny Garcia, overcoming the majority of the boxing public's opinion that he would get flattened, fought the fight of his life to upset—odd given he entered as the unified junior welterweight champion—Lucas Matthysse to retain his titles.

1. July 27, 2013: Andre Berto vs. Jesus Soto Karass

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    Jesus Soto Karass is the type of fighter who you'd easily dismiss if you just looked at the numbers that make up his record. He entered his fight with comebacking former welterweight champion Andre Berto in July with a deceiving record of 28-8 with 17 knockouts. 

    Now, when you look at a guy who has eight losses, you can easily assume that he's not all that good. But you do that with Soto Karass at your own peril. The 31 year old Mexican has been in the ring with plenty of excellent opponents, and he's absolutely one of the toughest and most determined fighters you'll ever see.

    It was those characteristics that willed him past Berto and secured the biggest win of his career. With the fight on the table heading into the final two rounds, Soto Karass was dropped hard in the 11th round. It appeared that the fight was slipping away from him and he wouldn't be able to close the show.

    But close it he did, and he did it in emphatic fashion. 

    Sensing the fight was close on the scorecards—and wanting to leave no doubt—Soto Karass came out swinging to start the 12th and dropped Berto with a compact left hand. When he rose to his feet, Berto was clearly done and stumbled across the ring, prompting the referee to stop the contest.

    But that might not have even been the fight of the night.

    Earlier, Keith Thurman—who is developing a propensity to appear on these lists—had stopped a game Diego Chaves, but the show was clearly stolen by the lightweights.

    If you haven't seen Omar Figueroa's fight with Nihito Arakawa yet then you're slacking. Find it immediately, sit down and watch it.

    But beware, it's brutal. The sweet science it isn't, but instead, just two guys absolutely teeing off one each other for a full 12 rounds.