By Cliff Rold
As the dog days of summer roll on, boxing grinds slowly towards an explosion of fall action certain to make the anticipation worth it. With some of the best matches to be made coming from Heavyweight to Welterweight, boxing fans have a lot to look forward to.
And, already, much to look back on. With the year half over, here are one writer’s quick thoughts on the men who make up the leader board for accomplishment in 2013.
Fighter of the (Half) Year: Guillermo Rigondeuax/Juan Francisco Estrada: This being the half year, there is no need to break the tie emanating from the ballot box of the mind. There have been lots of fighters who received public acclaim this year, and more than a few with high quality victories. None stand out more than these two. Rigondeuax schooled Nonito Donaire to unify titles at 122 lbs. and wrest the lineal crown from the power-punching star. Estrada, on the heels of a career making loss to Roman Gonzalez, outworked and outfoxed streaking Brian Viloria for a pair of Flyweight titles. Donaire and Viloria, fairly, were seen by many as the tops of their talented classes going into those losses. No one else has posted anything better this year.
Honorable Mention: Saul Alvarez – Canelo came closest to the two men listed above in winning a unification decision over Austin Trout and securing a showdown with Floyd Mayweather. A win in that fight would surely secure Fighter of the Year honors for Alvarez…but that’s a lot of looking ahead considering the mountain he’d still have to scale.
Fight of the Year: Timothy Bradley-Ruslan Provodnikov: In a year with some really good fights so far, this remains the most memorable of the year. With drama from the first round to the last, Ruslan Provodnikov made fools of everyone who disparagingly called him an “ESPN” fighter before the bout (as if every good fighter magically develops only on HBO or Showtime). Bradley showed the sort of grit and heart he’d shown before in wins over Junior Witter and Kendall Holt, at a moment when he needed it most of all. Bradley had been dogged for a year by a verdict against Manny Pacquiao that was both wrong and not his doing. In surviving, just barely, the war with Provodnikov, Bradley secured a path to a showdown with Juan Manuel Marquez and a rebuke to every critic.
Honorable Mention: There were quite a few fights that could make a case to run neck and neck with Bradley-Provodnikov. The two best favored here would be the rematch between Mike Alvarado and Brandon Rios and the Cruiserweight war between Guillermo Jones and Denis Lebedev. If anyone reading hasn’t seen the right eye of Lebedev following that encounter, do look it up. It’s a wound Carmen Basilio would envy.
Along with thoughts on the best fight and fighter of the year (so far), a quick check of the picks scorecard shows a nice comeback from a terrible sub-.500 start to the year.
Report Card Picks 2013: 28-16
And, last but not least, the BoxingScene division ratings are a few weeks overdue for an update.
Heavyweight: Based on a year on inactivity in the division, and reported intentions to test the waters at Cruiserweight, Eddie Chambers exits the top ten. Tony Thompson’s off the floor win over David Price in their dramatic rematch earns him a nudge up the charts.
Middleweight: Controversy continues to reign over Sam Soliman’s drug testing issues and he continues to be rated. He is likely to receive an IBF mandatory shot in the near future. Gennady Golovkin, on the strength of his win over Matthew Macklin, moves to the top contender slot at Middleweight.
Strawweight: Moises Fuentes has clearly moved to 108 and that is reflected here, if overdue. Merlito Sabillo enters the top ten. Xiong Zhao Zhong moves up after nicking a win over big punching, but one-armed, Denver Cuello.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]