by David P. Greisman
We don’t know yet who the fighter of the year will be for 2013. We do know who it won’t be, however.
It won’t be any of the winners from the past five years. It won’t be 2012’s winners: Nonito Donaire, who was recognized by the Boxing Writers Association of America, and Juan Manuel Marquez, who was picked by “The Ring” magazine. Donaire lost a decision to Guillermo Rigondeaux in April, while Marquez came up short on the scorecards against Timothy Bradley last week.
Andre Ward, who won in 2011, will only have one bout this year, his upcoming fight against Edwin Rodriguez. The same can be said for Sergio Martinez, 2010’s winner, who defeated Martin Murray by decision in April and then took off the remainder of the year to recover from injuries; as well as Manny Pacquiao, who won in 2008 and 2009 and whose sole appearance of this year will come against Brandon Rios next month.
It’s easy to decide who won’t be honored as having the best year. What isn’t easy — at least not yet — is finding a standout candidate. There isn’t one yet. There are a handful of nominees, however. From heaviest to lightest, they are light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson, welterweight titleholder/junior middleweight champion Floyd Mayweather, junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia, and flyweight contender Edgar Sosa.
Some cases for recognition are stronger than others. And some cases are contingent on fights still to come.
Stevenson’s fought three times in 2013 and will have his fourth bout this November. He began the year with a March win over Darnell Boone, a tough journeyman with a deceiving record. Theirs was a rematch of a 2010 fight in which Boone knocked Stevenson out, giving him his lone professional loss. This time, Stevenson beat Boone in six.
While important for Stevenson, it won’t factor into our consideration.
Instead, we turn our attention to Stevenson’s first-round stoppage of Chad Dawson, a win that made him the lineal light heavyweight champion. That came in June. Stevenson returned in September, battering former titleholder Tavoris Cloud en route to a seventh-round technical knockout. On Nov. 30, Stevenson will defend his sanctioning body belt against mandatory challenger Tony Bellew.
It’s a good campaign, one worthy of respect, though there are those who will note reasons why Stevenson’s 2013 run might not be worthy of earning him the honor of being fighter of the year.
Dawson was coming off a drubbing at the hands of Andre Ward. He’d gone down to 168 for that fight last year and then came back up to 175 to face Stevenson. Given that Dawson’s camp claimed he was drained at super middleweight, it’s reasonable to wonder whether the drop to 168, and the defeat against Ward, took a lot out of Dawson. As for Cloud, he’d lost earlier this year to Bernard Hopkins. Bellew, meanwhile, has yet to stand out at light heavyweight.
Mayweather’s two fights in 2013 were a unanimous decision over 147-pound titleholder Robert Guerrero in May and a majority decision over 154-pound titleholder Canelo Alvarez in September. The bout over Alvarez established Mayweather as the true champion at junior middleweight, the fourth division in which he has been lineal champ.
Despite his exemplary 17-year career, Mayweather’s only been named fighter of the year twice before. He was last honored in 2007, when he beat Oscar De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton. Prior to that, “The Ring” magazine had Mayweather as its best fighter of 1998, a year in which he won seven fights, with one of them coming against Genaro Hernandez, making Mayweather the lineal champion at 130. (The BWAA had Shane Mosley as its best of 1998.)
It’s not surprising that Mayweather hasn’t won since 2007, given that he took off 2008 and only fought once in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.
One thing that might work against Mayweather is that he’s so great that he’s expected to win. Guerrero wasn’t one of the best welterweights, but he was a legitimate Top 10 opponent. More impressive is what Mayweather did against Alvarez. Forget the majority decision; the poor judging doesn’t accurately reflect Mayweather’s victory over a younger, heavier foe. Alas, while Alvarez could someday prove to be very good, he’s still a largely unproven entity despite his 44 pro fights (and the two world titles he held prior to facing Mayweather).
Danny Garcia will end 2013 with two appearances: his April decision over Zab Judah, and his September decision victory against Lucas Matthysse. The win against Matthysse was somewhat close on the scorecards — two judges had him winning seven rounds, while the third judge had him father ahead, winning eight — but nonetheless was a win that Garcia clearly deserved. It also made Garcia the true junior welterweight champion and was an impressive performance against Matthysse, who had been steamrolling through foes.
Garcia did have some trouble late in his fight with Judah — a capable opponent, but one who has been coming up short in his biggest fights for years.
Finally, there’s Sosa, whose 2013 so far isn’t at all worthy of making him fighter of the year, but whose next scheduled bout could put him in a better position.
Sosa is a former 108-pound titleholder who is now competing in the flyweight division. He knocked out Ulises Solis in March and outpointed Giovani Segura in May; both Solis and Segura had also previously held world titles at 108.
In December, Sosa is scheduled to travel to Japan to challenge Akira Yaegashi, a former 105-pound titleholder who presently is the champion at 112 — lineage that in recent years has passed down from Pongsaklek Wonjongkam to Sonny Boy Jaro to Toshiyuki Igarashi to Yaegashi.
Those are four of the leading contenders for fight of the year. One dark horse possibility, meanwhile, is Edwin Rodriguez, should he score a major upset over super middleweight champion Andre Ward in November.
It probably won’t be Mikey Garcia, who beat 126-pound titleholder Orlando Salido by technical decision in January, came in overweight for his knockout win over faded Juan Manuel Lopez in June, and is scheduled to challenge 130-pound titleholder Roman Martinez in November.
It probably won’t be Adrien Broner, who successfully defended his lightweight title against Gavin Rees in February, jumped up to welterweight to win a world title against Paulie Malignaggi in June, and will face Marcos Maidana at 147 this December. It’s a decent year for Broner, but the level of opponents isn’t quite what it should take for a boxer to be named the year’s best.
It likely won’t be Timothy Bradley, despite his very good split decision win over Juan Manuel Marquez earlier this month and his victory in a brutal war with Ruslan Provodnikov in March. For much of this year, Bradley’s win over Provodnikov was held against him. Though he gutted out the victory, many felt he performed poorly by getting drawn into battle, and he very well could have lost that fight. Given Provodnikov’s title win at 140 against Mike Alvarado this past weekend, Bradley’s victory over Provodnikov might begin to look better in voters’ eyes.
It definitely won’t be Provodnikov either, though his emergence in 2013 has been great to watch.
It probably won’t be Gennady Golovkin, despite his three knockout wins (against Gabriel Rosado, Nobuhiro Ishida and Matthew Macklin) and what could be a fourth should he beat Curtis Stevens in November. Golovkin’s deservingly ascended toward the top of the middleweight division, though he hasn’t actually fought another top 160-pounder yet.
It probably won’t be Guillermo Rigondeaux, despite his big win over Nonito Donaire in April in a fight that made Rigondeaux the true champion of the 122-pound weight class. Rigondeaux’s second appearance of the year is scheduled to come in December against former bantamweight titleholder Joseph Agbeko. It’s possible that voters will hold the manner in which Rigondeaux beat Donaire — a skillful but not overly entertaining boxing performance — against him.
And it won’t be two other light heavyweight titleholders besides the aforementioned Stevenson. Bernard Hopkins, who fights Karo Murat this coming weekend, topped Tavoris Cloud earlier this year. Sergey Kovalev, like Stevenson, will end up with four fights for 2013: knockouts of Gabriel Campillo, Cornelius White, now-former beltholder Nathan Cleverly, and an upcoming bout against Ismayl Sillakh.
There’s no one standout among all of the above names, not even among the leading candidates. That’s fine. The award can be a good marketing tool for the winner. But not getting the honor doesn’t hamper anyone’s career.
We need not merely think of 2013 as a year with one great. Rather, we can reflect back on it and recognize that there was a lot of good.
The 10 Count will return next week.
“Fighting Words” appears every Monday on BoxingScene.com. Pick up a copy of David’s new book, “Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing,” at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsamazon . Send questions/comments via email at [email protected]