By Jake Donovan
In a year many are hailing as the best in recent – and even distant – memory, it’s quite the honor for any fight to stand out as the best of the field.
Except that no single fight – no matter how great – stood out above the rest.
A single late tiebreaking vote was the difference in selecting Boxingscene.com’s top pick for 2013 Fight of the Year. The truth is that no matter which fight was picked, observers would view the winner and collectively reply, “Oh yeah, what a great fight.”
There have already been two ties in this year’s awards, but for this category a single bout barely stands alone. With that we present…
2013 FIGHT OF THE YEAR – TIM BRADLEY UD12 RUSLAN PROVODNIOV
(Three 1st place votes; three 2nd place votes, one 3rd place vote)
Tim Bradley’s marching orders were clear heading into his March 16 showdown with Ruslan Provodnikov; give the fans a reason to like you, and give them a reason to want to see you again.
He and his dance partner for that evening went well beyond the call of duty in that regard.
Public approval was in desperate need for the unbeaten Californian, whose lone bout of 2012 was a highly controversial points win over Manny Pacquiao. Few outside of his immediate camp believed he deserved the nod, a factor magnified by his inability to secure a fight of any kind – meaningful or otherwise – for the next nine months.
Hardly anyone in the industry knew what to expect of his March 16 showdown with Ruslan Provodnikov, a career-long 140 lb. fighter moving up in weight and class.
Bradley quickly learned of the challenger’s capabilities right from the opening bell. He was reminded of them in the championship rounds, but wouldn’t recall them until he had a chance to review the fight for himself weeks after its conclusion.
In between those four rounds of disaster, the defending welterweight titlist amazingly fought through a concussion and another scare – this coming in the fifth rounds – to battle back hard enough to preserve his unbeaten record and his title reign.
Provodnikov remained a valiant challenger every second of the fight, but his explosive start was only enough to bring out the best in his opponent. It was enough for the challenger to earn respect as a world class boxer who graduated with honors from the regional cable circuit to prime time viewing.
The bravery exuded over 12 rounds to come out ahead was more than enough for boxing fans to once again fall in love with Bradley. Suddenly, the controversy that seeped out of Las Vegas nine months prior no longer mattered. Any ill will felt towards Bradley was washed away by what took place at the Home Depot Center (now the StubHub Center) in Carson, California.
What took place that night was the 2013 Fight of the Year.
TOP RUNNER UP – GIOVANI SEGURA KO12 HERNAN ‘TYSON’ MARQUEZ
(Three 1st place votes; two 2nd place votes, two 3rd place votes)
It was a must-win fight for both fighters, but the 11-plus rounds of war that followed meant that the fans were the biggest winners of the night.
Segura entered the fight on the heels of a career bailout knockout win over previously unbeaten Jonathan Gonzalez after having lost two of his previous three – a decision loss to Edgar Sosa and upset 7th round stoppage at the hands of Brian Viloria in Dec. 2011, the latter his last fight before returning early in 2013.
Marquez has landed in this category in each of the previous two years. His first fight with Luis Concepcion was the leading contender for Fight of the Year through the first 9 ½ months of 2011, but it was his knockout loss to Brian Viloria last November – while high among the best of 2012 – that had his career in tatters.
Neither fighter could afford a loss at this stage of their respective careers or so fans assumed heading into the November 2 clash in Hermosillo, Mexico. Eleven rounds, two minutes and 59 seconds of savage warfare later, the question wasn’t so much where either fighter goes from here, but when both will be back in the ring.
Segura struck first and struck very often. Marquez took the pain and dished out plenty in return. So it went all night long in their flyweight thriller, easily the best bout to have aired on UniMas (formerly Telefutura) ever since the network has been reduced endless showcase fights for promoters from which it has received content for the past decade.
It was the type of fight that you just didn’t want to end, but the manner in which it did was enough to provide memories for years to come. It’s rare that a left hook would prove to be the weapon of choice for a fight between southpaw brawlers, but that it precisely how Segura ended the fight, landing the blow while standing straight in front of his opponent.
Marquez had never before lost in Mexico, even more devastating that it occurred just 90 minutes north of hometown in Empalme. It was sweet redemption for Segura, whose last defeat came six months prior in Mexico, the only time he suffered defeat in his birth country.
The end result meant at least one more title shot for Segura, a former World lineal 108 lb. king who is being groomed for a fight with unified flyweight titlist Juan Estrada. It also means Marquez – a former flyweight titlist – is in need of at least one more similar effort in order to maintain viewing interest in his career.
OTHER MEMORABLE FIGHTS RECEIVING VOTES (IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER)
Mike Alvarado UD12 Brandon Rios (03/30/2013) – The sequel didn’t quite live up to its predecessor five months prior, which was 1A in the 2012 Fight of the Year running right behind Juan Manuel Marquez-Manny Paacquiao IV. Still, the familiar foes provided plenty of thrills on Easter weekend in Vegas. Rios threatened to repeat with an early knockout, but Alvarado rode out the storm and boxed his way through the back six to avenge his lone loss (at the time) while handing Rios his first defeat.
Guillermo Jones KO11 Denis Lebedev (05/17/2013) – Jones had fought just three times in five years, turned 40 years old and fighting on the road in Russia following an 18-month hiatus. On top of that, he overcame a deficit on the scorecards to rally and stop the power-punching Lebedev in the 11th round of an instant classic. Preventing it from being an all-time classic is the fact that Jones tested positive for a banned diuretic, though will be given another chance at redemption (as will Lebedev) with an ordered rematch.
Omar Figueroa UD12 Nihito Arakawa (07/27/2013) – What appeared to be an early rout turned out to be the most unforgettable fight of an otherwise slow summer. Figueroa dropped Arakawa early on, but was given a handful from the visiting Japanese boxer, who absorbed inhuman amounts of punishment and dished out plenty in return over the course of 12 furiously paced rounds.
Ruslan Provodnikov KO10 Mike Alvarado (10/19/2013) – It’s not often that two fighters land on the winning and losing side of separate Fight of the Year entrants. This was hardly surprising considering the matchup, as they lived up to pre-fight expectations of pure unadulterated warfare. The first several rounds had this slugfest as a FOTY frontrunner, before Provodnikov kicked it into another gear, dropping Alvarado en route to beating him into submission on the road in Denver.
Carl Froch TKO9 George Groves (11/23/2013) – The bout was meant as a routine mandatory defense for Froch, who was being groomed for a potential rematch with Andre Ward in 2014. The lesson learned, never take your eye off of the ball, as Groves gave his countryman all he could handle, enjoying a sizeable lead through eight round. Froch rallied back in the ninth, and while Groves was in trouble, the unbeaten challenger was denied the opportunity to rally back (or definitively collapse) as a premature stoppage ended what was otherwise the most surprising entry in this category.
Marcos Maidana UD12 Adrien Broner (12/14/2013) – Broner’s star was on the rise heading into his second fight at welterweight, though – despite the lopsided pre-fight odds – concern was expressed over his biting off more than he can chew. Maidana justified those suspicions, making the brash unbeaten three-division champ pay. A second round knockdown was immediately captured through online memes on social media outlets, though Broner – way down late in the fight and even looking for a way out after exaggerating his pain from an intentional foul – managed to dig deep and fight back hard even with the fight out of reach.
Kazuto Ioka UD12 Felix Alvarado (12/31/2013) – Nothing closing out the year with a bang. The very last day of the year featured plenty of thrills in Osaka, Japan. Ioka was masterful through six rounds, perfecting the art of hit-and-don’t-get-hit, while busting up Alvarado’s eye early on. The back six featured some of the best two-way action of the year, with the unbeaten Nicaraguan rallying hard to give Ioka a major scare and the capacity crowd plenty of reason to rise and cheer.
BOXINGSCENE.COM 2014 YEAR-END AWARDS
Robbery of the Year: Ricky Burns D12 Raymundo Beltran/Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. UD10 Brian Vera
Event of the Year: Mayweather-Alvarez "The One" PPV Event (From Buildup To Box Office Results)
Network of the Year: SHOWTIME
Comeback of the Year: Giovani Segura
Prospect of the Year: Felix Verdejo
Round of the Year: Tim Bradley-Ruslan Provodnikov, Round 12
Knockout of the Year: Adonis Stevenson KO1 Chad Dawson
Fight of the Year: Tim Bradley UD12 Ruslan Provodnikov
Upset of the Year: Jhonny Gonzalez KO1 Abner Mares
Fighter of the Year: Adonis Stevenson
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox