While we recall fights in total, it is often easy to forget the form. A fight can end at any moment but, if it does not, it happens in increments.
In any one of those seconds, a single punch can change everything. Any ten of those seconds spent on the deck can spell the end. When a fighter has made it through eleven of those hellish blocks of time, fairly certain they are ahead, the final frame arrives. The finish line is close and yet so far.
This year’s round of the year came at the end of an epic Welterweight encounter. The man who came into the ring with the title was seeking redemption after what should have been his best night turned out to be his worst. Hurt early, and then again, and again, on the night, he’d still managed to win enough rounds to appear ahead in the bout. He had only to make it three more minutes against a brick handed challenger who went from underdog to rabid dog on March 16th, the most important night of his life.
2013 Round of the Year: Timothy Bradley-Ruslan Provodnikov Round 12 (Four 1st Place Votes, 1 2nd Place Vote)
Timothy Bradley was making his first start since a highly controversial decision verdict over Manny Pacquiao in 2012 that garnered the WBO belt at 147 lbs. and mountains of grief from network talking heads, fans, and the wild world of social media. Matched with the ESPN2 staple Provodnikov, it looked like Bradley had been given a chance to look good against a fighter who never makes a bad fight.
Provodnikov had other ideas. He was ready to graduate to he next level and made a statement in the opening round, badly hurting Bradley and scoring what should have been called a knockdown. He’d hurt Bradley again in the second and sixth rounds only for Bradley to move his hands and win many of the rounds between. In the final round, he had to survive one more time.
…things really reached a fever pitch in the twelfth and final round as Ruslan almost closed the show in dramatic fashion. Another right hand would hurt Bradley. And this time he would have no choice but to succumb to Ruslan’s attack as he finally went down with just a few seconds left in the fight. He…beat the count…and prevented Provodnikov from finishing things…the outcome was left to the judges.
While Provodnikov lost what remains a debated decision, he rode the wave from that final round into a title one class below later in the year, stopping Mike Alvarado. Bradley went on to defend successfully against future Hall of Famer Juan Manuel Marquez.
Those closing moments, with Bradley on a knee and finding the grit to hear the bell, spoke to the tremendous war of attrition both men had provided the world. They kept us on the edge of our seat for all of their 12 rounds and saved their best for last.
Round 12 of Bradley-Provodnikov: the BoxingScene 2013 Round of the Year.
Runner-Ups (In Order by Date)
Sakio Bika-Marco Antonio Periban Round 12 (One 2nd Place Vote): Ever a groomsmen, Sakio Bika made it to the altar on June 22nd in his fourth attempt at a major title. He won the vacant WBC Super Middleweight title by majority decision in a fight where both men were still letting the leather fly to the final bell. As described by BoxingScene’s Thomas Gerbasi :
With the bout still close, Bika and Periban decided that winning a world title was more important than defense, and both teed off on each other in the final round. With a minute left, the crowd got on their feet, and just when Bika seemed to be surging ahead, Periban would fire back, and then the pattern would repeat in reverse, putting an exclamation mark on a true championship fight.
John Molina-Mickey Bey Round 10 (One 2nd Place Vote): Timothy Bradley survived his epic final round. Mickey Bey did not. Unlike Bradley, he didn’t look in any danger heading into the tenth and final round of this Lightweight clash. Well ahead on the cards on the fateful night of July 19th, the undefeated Bey never saw it coming. As reported by BoxingScene’s Ryan Burton :
Molina was missing all night long, but he finally caught Bey in the final round to stun him bad - and then unloaded with a massive amount of punches to force the referee to jump in as Bey was out on his feet. The scores at the time of the stoppage were 90-81, 89-82, 88-83 - all for Bey.
So much for the scorecards.
Omar Figueroa-Nihito Arakawa Round 3 (Two 1st Place Votes, Two 2nd Place Votes, 1 3rd Place Vote): On July 27th, fans were treated to a barnburner between a Lightweight star on the rise and a man unknown by most in the US. Coming off the floor in round two and already taking a beating, Japan’s Arakawa showed the depths of his soul. As reported by BoxingScene’s Jake Donovan :
Concerns over Arakawa’s health and welfare were raised going into the third, but the visiting Japanese southpaw dug deep and managed to punch his way back into contention. The brave stand trickled into a frenetically paced three minutes of warfare that will garner serious consideration when the best rounds of the year are discussed in late December.
Serious consideration indeed.
Carl Froch-George Groves Round 6 (One 2nd Place Vote): Before referee Howard John Foster ruined one of the best fights of the year with a classically awful stoppage in the ninth, Froch and Groves were giving fans everything they could ask for. Off the floor in the first, Froch truly began to get back into the fight in a violent sixth. Groves still got the better of the frame, rocking Froch early, but it was the defending IBF and WBA titlist at 168 who appeared to be coming on late. The crowd roared their approval. They were getting their money’s worth on November 23rd.
James Kirkland-Glen Tapia Round 3 (One 1st Place Vote, One 2nd Place Vote, Two 3rd Place Votes): Returning to the ring for the first time since early 2012, Jr. Middleweight terror James Kirkland reminded fans of why he was so missed on December 7th. He didn’t do it alone. While there was much discussion about how long the fight was allowed to continue, that would come after a sensational third round. Kirkland was rocked only to battle back on the inside while Tapia took the best the big puncher dished out and continued to seek range for bombs of his own. Kirkland took over for good in the fourth and went on to victory but it was the inferno of the third that made the fight as memorable as it was.
There were several more memorable rounds to recall on the year. Here is just a sample as, in a year as fine as 2013 in the ring, it’s hard to credit them all… As good as their final round was, the first, second, and sixth rounds of Bradley-Provodnikov were almost as dramatic and made their own cases for round of the year as well…Mike Alvarado and Brandon Rios wasted little time resuming hostilities in their March 30th rematch of a 2012 Fight of the Year candidate. In round two, Rios badly hurt Alvarado only for Alvarado to find his legs and surge back as the round wore on. Alvarado would ultimately go on to earn a decision and revenge after being stopped by Rios the first time around…Darren Barker was dropped and looked ready to go in round six of his August 17th challenge of Daniel Geale for the IBF Middleweight belt but he rose and was swinging back by the end, holding his hands up in relief and celebration at the end of the round. Barker would go on to win a decision…Giovani Segura got into the title picture at Flyweight with a knockout of Tyson Marquez on November 2nd. It wasn’t easy. After scoring a knockdown in the fourth, Segura found himself in a brawl as Marquez rebounded in the fifth to further the fight’s status as a hardcore classic…And then there was December 31st. Saving (one of) the best for last, challenger Daiki Kaneko dug deep after trailing through nine rounds in his New Year's Eve 130 lb. title fight with Takashi Uchiyama in Japan. Kaneko scored a dramatic 10th round knockdown, riding that momentum into an unforgettable 11th round that saw Uchiyama in danger of his title reign coming to an end before rallying back hard late in the round.
BoxingScene Awards 2013
Robbery of the Year: Ricky Burns D12 Raymundo Beltran/Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. UD10 Brain Vera
Network of the Year: Showtime
Comeback of the Year: Giovanni Segura
Prospect of the Year: Felix Verdejo
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]