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 the…
2013 UPSET OF THE YEAR – JHONNY GONZALEZ KO1 ABNER MARES
(Five 1st place votes; two 2nd place votes, one 3rd place vote)
While it’s foolish to ever count out a power puncher – especially in the lower weight classes – all eyes were on how well Abner Mares and Leo Santa Cruz could perform on the same show. The unbeaten boxers were being groomed for an eventual head-on collision as they shared airtime on their Showtime-televised doubleheader in August, live from the StubHub Center in Carson, California.
Wins by both all but guaranteed a future showdown that would have fans and media coming in with Fight of the Year expectations. Santa Cruz did his part, tearing through Vic Terrazas in less than three rounds to become a two-division titlist.
Mares’ bout with Jhonny Gonzalez ended even quicker – though not in a manner which at all favored the promotion or the local favorite.
The hosting venue has quickly earned a reputation for hosting some of the sport’s most unforgettable moments in recent memory, namely its number of Fight of the Year finalists in recent years. Many expected this bout to fall in that vein, though the common expectation was for Mares to survive the best that the determined former two-division champ had to offer before eventually taking him out.
Gonzalez provided plenty of his best stuff, enough to never allow a rally to occur.
Mares proved his mettle on the big stage, conquering the likes of Anselmo Moreno, Vic Darchinyan, Joseph Agbeko (twice) and most recently Daniel Ponce de Leon heading into last summer’s affair. Most germane to this matchup was Mares’ stoppage of Ponce de Leon, who eight months prior pulled off a shockingly one-sided technical decision win over Gonzalez to claim a featherweight belt.
The title challenger versus Mares was means for Gonzalez to reclaim his old belt while proving the aforementioned loss as a fluke due to a bad night at the office. Pent-up frustration was found in his two-fisted attack early versus Mares, scoring the first knockdown of the night with an unorthodox right hand that sent the unbeaten champ into the ropes and eventually onto the canvas.
Mares managed to survive the fall, but never fully recovered. Gonzales, one of the best finishers in the game today, ended matters with a sweeping left hook off of a subtle feint, sending the defending titlist flat on his back.
There remained sound dispute over whether or not Mares was given every chance to recover and properly defend his title. Rather than counting him out, referee Jack Reiss decided early into his count that Mares was in no way, shape or form able to continue, thus waving off the contest.
The end of the fight came at 2:55 of round one, thus fueling further speculation that – with the benefit of a mandatory eight count playing its course – Mares possibly gets up, survives the round and gets a full minute in between rounds to further shake the cobwebs.
All of that amounts to a lot of ‘What if?’ scenarios, which Mares will have a chance to prove – or onc again fall short - once his rematch with Gonzalez is rescheduled. The two were slated to do it again on February 15, only for Mares to force a postponement after reportedly suffering rib injuries during training camp.
For now, all we have to go by is what actually took place in the ring – which was enough to amount to the most shocking moment of 2013, as seen by the voting staff at Boxingscene.com.
TOP RUNNER UP – FAHLAN SAKKREERIN JR. KO3 RYO MIYAZAKI
Exactly one year prior, Miyazaki picked up his first major title, benefitting from mentor Kazuto Ioka vacating a strawweight belt and moving up in weight. The plan was to follow the same blueprint at 108, with Miyazaki moving up and appearing on the same card as what will conceivably be Ioka’s final title defense before moving up to flyweight.
The pre-fight weigh-in revealed just how dangerous it has been for Miyazaki to shrivel down to strawweight. Even in moving up in weight for a non-title bout, the unbeaten Japanese boxer still struggled with his health, briefly passing out during his pre-fight physical due to dehydration.
It was a clear as sign as any that he had no business fighting at all on the New Year’s Eve card in Osaka, but was inexplicably cleared by the Japanese Boxing Commission. Their decision to allow him to fight set up the final shocking moment of 2013, with visiting Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr. swooping in to pick apart what was left of the walking corpse.
The 20-year old Thai boxer had never before fought outside of his native Thailand, nor had he ever faced anyone remotely on the level of Miyazaki. It showed through two rounds, as neither fighter never able to truly take the lead. Sakkreerin enjoyed brief moments of success, rocking Miyazaki early on but failing to sufficiently follow up.
That changed in a big way in round three. A sweeping right hand should have produced the bout’s first knockdown, only for the sequence to have been ruled a slip. It proved moot; a one-two combination mere moments later put Miyazaki flat on his back to end the fight, as well as his unbeaten run and any near-future hopes of pursuing a 108 lb. title.
It remains to be seen how far Sakkreerin Jr. can go on the heels of the biggest win of his career, which comes more than 20 years after his father, Fahlan Sr. saw his strawweight title reign come to an end. Equally as curious is whether or not Miyazaki can recover from what took place at home on the final day of 2013.
On a truly global stage (meaning, big enough for stateside media and fans to have witnessed in prime time), this goes down as the most shocking result of just about any year.
Marcos Maidana UD12 Adrien Broner – There was a working theory that Broner was biting off more than he could chew in just his second fight at welterweight. However, precious few insiders gave Maidana a chance at pulling off the upset, much less dominating Broner in the manner in which he did in their December clash. A second round knockdown accentuated a thorough humbling of the former unbeaten three-division champ, putting the Argentinian in position for a lucrative 2014 campaign.
Tony Thompson KO2 David Price (first fight) – At least one notable writer claimed Price as the next big thing in the heavyweight division heading into 2013. Middle-aged Thompson didn’t pay it any mind, scoring the year’s first truly shocker with a sudden 2nd round knockout on the road in England to hand the Brit his first loss. Thompson repeated the feat in July, changing Price’s status from the next big thing to the latest big bust.
Simpiwe Vetyeka KO12 Daud Cino Yordan; KO6 Chris John – What a year it was for the battle-tested South African, who singlehandedly shook the Indonesian boxing scene with upset wins over its two best fighters. His year began with a shocking 12th round stoppage of Top 10 featherweight Daud Cino Yordan, a victory he parlayed to a title shot. The moment came at the perfect time, catching Chris John on the downward slide, battering the long-reigning unbeaten titlist into submission after six rounds in their December clash in Australia. The title-winning effort was dedicated to South Africa civil rights activist Nelson Mandela, who passed away 24 hours prior to the bout.
Karim Guerfi MD12 Stephane Jamoye – Purely from a betting odds perspective, this was the biggest upset of the year. Jamoye was a 17-1 favorite in some books, fighting at home and riding a six-fight win streak as he was moving up the bantamweight ranks in hopes of a title shot in the near future. Guerfi had other ideas in mind, marching into Belgium without a care in the world and leaving with the biggest victory of his otherwise journeyman career.
Alex Leapai UD10 Denis Boytsov – What’s worse for a heavyweight than suffering a humiliating loss to the Klitschko brothers? Suffering a humiliating loss before even getting to the Klitschkos. Boytsov was unbeaten and one fight away from a title shot heading into an intended stay-busy affair with Leapai at home in Germany. His top ranking quickly disappeared, as he was humbled by the Australian, who scored two knockdowns en route to a shockingly lopsided win on the road – and with the upset, his own pending title shot at World lineal heavyweight king Wladimir Klitschko.
Dave Ryan W8 Paul McCloskey – An intended showcase appearance in his ring return following a 15-month hiatus instead ended in despair and disbelief for McCloskey. A mid-round knockdown and a soft matchup wasn’t enough of a cushion for the one-time title challenger, as Ryan – a feather-fisted steppingstone who had lost four of his last six – kept things interesting enough every step of the way to pull off the improbable victory.
Shawn Porter UD12 Devon Alexander – Spend enough time around world class fighters and you will eventually look like one yourself. It was tough to gauge whether or not the unbeaten Porter would ever truly reap the benefits of time spent as a chief sparring partner for Manny Pacquiao, but he looked like a world beater after dominating Alexander in early December to win a welterweight belt. Porter’s pair of uneven performances versus faded Julio Diaz cast doubt over his full potential, but he instead made a huge splash in Brooklyn, at a time when it’s highly beneficial to be a player in the welterweight division, easily the most lucrative in the sport today.
Robbery of the Year: Ricky Burns D12 Raymundo Beltran/Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. UD10 Brian Vera
Event of the Year: “The One”
Network of the Year: Showtime
Comeback of the Year: Giovani Segura
Prospect of the Year: Felix Verdejo
Round of the Year: Timothy 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 Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, Yahoo Boxing Ratings Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox