2013 was one heck of a year.
And while that phrase can admittedly be interchanged with any opening sentence of any 12-month sport recap, for boxing in 2013, it actually applies.
In fact, while most years have a fight or two—or at least a news item or two—that fans will remember once the page turns from December to January, this year had a torrent of matchups, fighters, upsets and events that seem bound to be recalled frequently even when 2013 is a year, a decade or a generation in the rearview mirror.
Of course, as sports writers, we’re chronically compelled to rank everything we see.
So, toward that end, the members of the Bleacher Report boxing team—namely Kelsey McCarson, Kevin McRae, Briggs Seekins, Jonathan Snowden and yours truly—locked ourselves into a cyber-room with the agreement that none of us would reach for the virtual door until we had reached a consensus.
I’m happy to announce here that it’s finally been accomplished. White smoke is billowing from the B/R chimney, and the five of us have emerged as a cohesive unit. We are ready to endorse and defend the final selections as if they were the ones we’d had upon entering.
Click through to see our choices for 2013’s premier card, knockout, upset, promoter, bust, breakout, fight and fighter. And upon digesting our work, feel free to drop a line or two in the comments section with your own suggestions.
Enjoy...and, of course, Happy New Year.
Every now and then, a pay-per-view event that’s billed in advance as the next big thing—or, in this case, simply as “The One”—actually delivers on its promises.
This one did.
And in doing so, it made a hyperbolic 10-city, nine-day press tour seem appropriate in hindsight.
Not only was there a legitimate ESPN2-level card-topper between Carlos Molina and Ishe Smith and a genuine Showtime-caliber feature in Danny Garcia against Lucas Matthysse at the MGM Grand, but the actual main event between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Canelo Alvarez did what it was supposed to do. It drew big numbers (2.2 million PPV buys) and legitimized the six-fight deal that “Money” had signed with his former network HBO's longtime rival.
Showtime boxing executive Stephen Espinoza had this to say to writer Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports:
Floyd erased all doubt that he is the greatest fighter of his generation and the best of all-time It feels to me, in a general sense, that there has been a noticeable increase in the appreciation of his skills. Maybe in this case it was because he fought a credible, tough opponent...This is Michael Jordan in his final season, Mariano Rivera in his last season. People realize that Floyd is one of those once in a generation special athletes and if it is two, four or maybe even five more fights, they know they have a limited window to enjoy his skills.
Voting recap: Of a possible 15 points from five judges, this one got 13, far outscoring the competition.
Also considered: Andre Berto vs. Jesus Soto Karass; Marcos Maidana vs. Josesito Lopez; Adrien Broner vs. Marcos Maidana
People weren’t exactly sold on “Bad” Chad Dawson. His light heavyweight title defenses over two reigns as champion had been less than inspiring, and his challenge of super middleweight kingpin Andre Ward had ended in a competitive disaster just nine months earlier.
But even with that as a reality, not too many claimed to have seen June 8 coming.
Whether they assumed Dawson would be able to get past Adonis Stevenson or not, it wasn’t at all a consensus going in that the Haitian-turned-Canadian would reduce the champion’s empire to rubble with a single left hand after just 76 seconds of action in his second bout in the weight class.
It was sudden. It was violent. It was stunning. And it set into motion a chain of events—in the form of two more convincing title defenses—that lifted Stevenson into prime candidacy for other year-end honors and made him one of HBO’s most recognizable and popular fighters.
Voting recap: Six fights received at least a mention, but Stevenson vs. Dawson garnered 12 of a possible 15 points and doubled the next nearest candidate.
Also considered: Gennady Golovkin KO 3 Matthew Macklin; Sergey Kovalev KO 2 Ismayl Sillakh; Jhonny Gonzalez KO 1 Abner Mares; Gennady Golovkin KO 3 Nobuhiro Ishida; Lucas Matthysse KO 3 Lamont Peterson
Plenty of people wanted Marcos Maidana to win, but not so many thought he actually would.
But by the end of the first quarter of this 12-rounder, WBA welterweight champion Adrien Broner had already been on the floor and suffered as much punishment in nine minutes as he had in his last several fights.
The action only got more compelling from there. Broner rallied from the early adversity and began utilizing the skill set that he presumed would carry him to victory, but another knockdown and continued grinding aggression from the Argentine never let him seize the momentum for too long.
In the end, the result was a unanimous verdict for the rightful winner Maidana, who picked up a championship belt in his second weight class and instantly thrust himself into big-fight discussions in the sport's most lucrative weight class.
Voting recap: This one went down to the wire, with Maidana vs. Broner taking a slim victory by capturing nine of a possible 15 points, one ahead of the No. 2 selection.
Also considered: Jhonny Gonzalez KO 1 Abner Mares; Adonis Stevenson KO 1 Chad Dawson; Danny Garcia W 12 Lucas Matthysse; Shawn Porter W 12 Devon Alexander
Any promoter whose year included the highest-grossing boxing event in history and the second-biggest pay-per-view seller of all time has a couple of legs up in the race for Promoter of the Year.
With those boxes checked in the column for Golden Boy Promotions, it was a done deal.
The Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Saul Alvarez card in September in Las Vegas was a major success for Golden Boy in its fledgling exclusive relationship with Showtime. The company also scored big with Mayweather’s defeat of Robert Guerrero, Danny Garcia’s wins over Zab Judah and Lucas Matthysse, and Bernard Hopkins’ victories against Tavoris Cloud and Karo Murat.
Looking ahead, emerging stars on the GBP roster include heavyweight Deontay Wilder, middleweight Peter Quillin and welterweight Keith Thurman. Those fighters are positioned alongside proven competitors in Paulie Malignaggi, Marcos Maidana and 122-pound champion Leo Santa Cruz.
Voting recap: Golden Boy more than lapped the field of five other organizations receiving votes, picking up 13 of a possible 15 points—or more than double the next in line.
Also considered: DiBella Entertainment; Top Rank Boxing; Main Events; Leija Battah Promotions; Matchroom Sport
There’s a flip side to the bravado.
And if you’re going to claim a spot among history’s best fighters and interrupt live premium cable interviews with requests that your girlfriend brush your hair, you can’t be all that surprised at how fast people turn on you when the momentum comes to a screeching halt.
Such is the case for now-former welterweight titleholder Adrien Broner, who tumbled from pound-for-pound A-lister to year-end column punch line after a one-sided December loss to Marcos Maidana, where he went down for the first two times in his five-year professional career.
“The Problem” didn’t help matters by bolting from the ring without speaking to Showtime reporter Jim Gray. The knee-jerk reaction to the upset from many has been to label Broner as a fraud who’s unlikely to rebound.
Voting recap: This category tied for the most nominations (nine) of the bunch, which led to a more spread-out final tally. In the end, Broner was a one-point winner over bust candidate No. 2.
Also considered: Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.; Abner Mares; “Canelo Mania”; Gary Russell Jr.; Klitschko vs. Povetkin; Brandon Rios; Andre Berto; Chad Dawson
When Adonis Stevenson's year began, he had spent time in two divisions but hadn't achieved a marquee victory in either, unless your regard for Aaron Pryor Jr. and Don George is higher than most.
By the time 2013 ended, however, he was a consensus world champion who'd fought four times, won a belt and defended it twice, all in a grand total of 20 rounds in the ring.
The first of the four triumphs was a sixth-round rematch erasure in March of Darnell Boone, who is still the only man who's beaten Stevenson (TKO 2, 2010). He dethroned WBC champ Chad Dawson with a single left hand less than three months later and then added to his breakout street cred with beatdowns of ex-IBF champ Tavoris Cloud (KO 7) in September and British contender Tony Bellew (TKO 6) in November.
On the agenda, perhaps, is a unification match with fellow 175-pound slugger and WBO titleholder Sergey Kovalev or a big-money showdown with consensus super middleweight kingpin Andre Ward.
Voting recap: Another crowded nine-candidate field led to a far-flung collection of votes, with Stevenson's six points (of a possible 15) good enough to beat a pair of runners-up by one.
Also considered: Mikey Garcia; Guillermo Rigondeaux; Danny Garcia; Sergey Kovalev; Gennady Golovkin; Erislandy Lara; Keith Thurman; Ruslan Provodnikov
In a calendar year dotted with memorable fights, a welterweight title showdown between a prohibitive American favorite and an unheralded foreign-born challenger walked away—or perhaps more appropriately, staggered away—as the best of 2013.
Timothy Bradley vs. Ruslan Provodnikov, come on down.
Though he entered the fight as a 5-to-1 betting lock, the incumbent WBO champ at 147 pounds quickly discovered that his Russian challenger was bringing more to the table than just an 11-letter surname.
Bradley barely survived a second round in which he was continually punished, before briefly taking control with his superior skills over the subsequent nine minutes. The sixth round was another dicey proposition thanks to Provodnikov’s right hands in the session’s second half. Bradley rallied again through rounds seven, eight and nine, but he was punished down the stretch and forced to take a knee in the 12th before escaping with official scores of 115-112, 114-113 and 114-113.
Voting recap: This was as close to a unanimous choice as there was in the voting room, with 14 of a possible 15 points in tow.
Also considered: Omar Figueroa W 12 Nihito Arakawa; Erislandy Lara KO 10 Alfredo Angulo; Mike Alvarado W 12 Brandon Rios; Marcos Maidana KO 6 Josesito Lopez; Artur Szpilka KO 6 Mike Mollo
A guy with wins in all 45 of his pro fights and championships in five weight classes is bound to be a candidate for fighter of the year every 12 months.
But this year, the first since 2007 when Floyd Mayweather Jr. fought twice, the man known as "Money" was the best fighter by popular acclaim.
A one-sided 12-round decision over Robert Guerrero kicked off Mayweather's lucrative deal with Showtime in May, and that win was followed up four months later by the highest-grossing pay-per-view fight of all time, a majority decision win over previously unbeaten 154-pound champ Saul "Canelo" Alvarez.
The double triumphs lifted Money back to his consensus pedestal atop boxing's pound-for-pound kingdom and naturally restarted chatter that he'll one day meet his generation's other signature fighter: seven-division Filipino champ Manny Pacquiao.
Regardless of what happens in 2014 and beyond, though...2013 was clearly a Money year.
Voting recap: The only voting deadlock among the eight categories necessitated use of a tie-breaking procedure, which gave Mayweather the nod by virtue of more first-place votes, even though he was included on fewer overall ballots than the eventual runner-up.
Also considered: Adonis Stevenson; Guillermo Rigondeaux; Timothy Bradley; Mikey Garcia; Danny Garcia; Gennady Golovkin