By Cliff Rold
When two big punchers on a roll square off, anything can happen. On December 11, 2011, anything was a one-sided pasting.
It was the end of a hell of a run.
Giovani Segura rebounded from his first career loss to Cesar Canchila, on points, with immediate revenge. He stopped Canchila in four to begin a nine-fight knockout streak that included unifying two major titles at 108 lbs. and lifting the lineal crown from master boxer Ivan Calderon with an eighth-round knockout in the 2010 BoxingScene and Ring Magazine Fight of the Year.
After a rematch pasting of Calderon in 2011, a move to Flyweight seemed inevitable and a title shot in the higher class came against former Olympian Brian Viloria. Viloria, who found new life after an up and down run at 108, won nearly every round of the fight and laid a bad beating on Segura.
The all-action Mexican, always wide open as he came forward with a windmill style based on heavy hands and reckless aggression, was left a wreck. Out of the ring for fourteen months, one could wonder if he’d ever find his form again. Winning three of four fights in 2013, fans got their answer.
2013 Comeback of the Year: Giovani Segura (Two 1st Place Votes)
Segura finally returned from Viloria with a ninth-round stoppage of one-time contender Omar Salado on February 23rd, setting the stage for bigger tests to come. In the first of those bigger tests, Segura was matched with another former Jr. Flyweight champion Edgar Sosa. In one of what were many outstanding Flyweight clashes in 2013, Segura fell behind early before working his way back into the fight in the middle stages.
Down the stretch, both men had their moments but it was Sosa doing more, landing more, to pull away and ensure a competitive but clear unanimous decision. Had the best of his year stopped there, Segura wouldn’t be where he is in this category.
It didn’t stop there.
On August 17th, Segura was put in a familiar position in boxing. Take one presumed faded former champion, match him with the next big thing, and watch the escalator roll in opposite directions. A clash with then undefeated Puerto Rican Jonathan Gonzalez, 13-0 with 11 KO’s coming in, turned out to be a sucker bet. Segura dropped Gonzalez once in the second and twice in the fourth to earn a knockout victory.
Then came the height of his year. Hotly anticipated in hardcore circles, Segura faced former Flyweight titlist Hernan “Tyson” Marquez in a contest that looked like a potential Fight of the Year candidate on paper. Both men delivered on November 2nd.
As reported by BoxingScene’s Jake Donovan:
Giovani Segura added yet another memorable knockout to his ledger, stopping Hernan 'Tyson' Marquez in the 12th and final round of their flyweight war Saturday evening in Hermosillo, Mexico.
The bout was the savage war that was expected industry-wide, if not exceeding expectations. Neither fighter had it in them to take a backwards step and dare attempt to box. The strategy ultimately backfired on Marquez, though enjoying a large amount of success right up until the knockout blow - a sweeping left hook that put him down and out.
The official time was 1:57 of round twelve.
The win over Marquez put Segura in line for a title shot in 2014 and showed that a loss or two against top-flight competition isn’t the end of the world. As the deep, and deepening, field at Flyweight likely continues to provide the division’s followers with sensational brawls in the year ahead, Segura will be right in the mix. Segura put the Viloria loss behind him. He’s back.
He’s the comeback fighter of the year.
Kiko Martinez (One 1st Place Vote, One 3rd Place Vote)
Not many fighters experience their lowest and highest moments in the same calendar year. Martinez is a rare man. The Spaniard opened his 2013 campaign with his first stoppage loss, a ninth-round besting at the hands of undefeated Carl Frampton in Northern Ireland on February 9th. Martinez’s year was just getting started. Two fights after Frampton, Martinez knocked out undefeated Jhonatan Romero for the IBF belt at 122 lbs. on August 17th and closed his campaign with a ninth-round knockout win over former titlist Jeffrey Mathebula on December 21st to defend his belt. Mathebula, who went the distance with Nonito Donaire in 2012, hadn’t been stopped since 2003. As 2014 beckons, Martinez has made a serious place for himself in an emerging field of new faces at 122 lbs.
Guillermo Jones (Two 2nd Place Votes)
One of the more intriguing men in boxing, the 41-year old Jones has been plagued by ridiculous amounts of inactivity and yet never seems to lose a step. A Jr. Middleweight challenger in 1998, Jones emerged as one of the best Cruiserweights of the 2000s, his lone loss in the division a split verdict versus Steve Cunningham. Making his first start since 2011, Jones won an absolutely medieval affair on May 17th, stopping Denis Lebedev to regain the WBA strap in round eleven. Lebedev’s right eye was almost as big a mess in the fight as the test results afterwards. Jones tested positive for a diuretic and, while the win remains official on his record, the WBA has since returned the title to Lebedev. A rematch may occur in 2014.
Bernard Hopkins (One 3rd Place Vote)
How many times will the ageless wonder of the ring be in this category? Does Hopkins ever really ‘come back?’ One fight after losing the lineal Light Heavyweight crown to Chad Dawson, Hopkins proved himself, even at 48, still a master against the right foes. On March 9th, he made himself the oldest man to win a major sanctioning body belt (IBF) with an easy unanimous decision win over undefeated Tavoris Cloud. He defended it against mandatory challenger Karo Murat on October 26th. In a fight that started an eyesore but got fun in spots in the second half, Hopkins posted another lopsided points victory. As 2014 and age 49 beckon, talk is of a unification clash with WBA titlist Beibut Shumenov. If he can win, there will likely be plenty wondering if network and promotional politics can be set aside to see if Hopkins can upend current lineal champion Adonis Stevenson and turn history on its ear one more time.
Katsunari Takayama (One 3rd Place Vote)
Longevity in boxing’s smallest weight class, 105 lbs., is often hard to come by at the championship level. Takayama just seems to stick around. While only 30, it was a surprise to see him rejoin the titled ranks in 2013. A WBC beltholder for a cup of coffee in 2005, winning the belt from Isaac Bustos only to immediately lose it to Eagle Kyowa, Takayama had fallen short in three attempts to regain gold over the years. A brief stay as an interim titlist didn’t mean much as he lost in real challenges of Yutaka Niida (WBA) in 2007, Roman Gonzalez (WBA) in 2009, and Nkosinathi Joyi (IBF) in 2012; a 2011 challenge of Joyi ended in a “No Contest”. A decision loss to journeyman Mateo Handing, also in 2012, seemed to signal the beginning of the end for Takayama as a force. On March 30th of this year, posting his first win since 2010, Takayama changed his career trajectory with an upset decision over Mario Rodriguez for the IBF 105 lb. belt. He added a defense over Vergilio Silvano on December 3rd to seal his place amongst the best comebacks of the year.
Editor’s Note: While some seem to be making him their choice, newly minted Welterweight titlist Marcos Maidana missed the cut here. The reason was simple: he wasn’t really coming back from anything in 2013. After losing to Devon Alexander in February 2012, he won two more fights to close that year including a strong win over Jesus Soto Karass. Adding two more wins in 2013 isn’t a comeback. It’s winning streak.
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]