By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Presents delivered and unwrapped. Check.
Champagne chilled and corks popped. Check.
Favorite NFL teams excruciatingly eliminated from playoffs. Check.
OK, having dispensed with the traditional New Year’s items around the sunny Fitzbitz estate, it feels about time to press on with the third edition of the yearly preview column in this space – referred to affectionately, by me at least – as “Fitz Hitz and Misses” for 2013.
In it, rather than simply reviewing last year’s big events and claiming I’d seen them coming a mile away, I’ll instead put my Bayless-quality forecasting skills to the test and tell each of you precisely what you’ll be reading about in those very recap columns 12 months from today.
Make no mistake, friends, I do it for the love of the game. But if any of you should feel the urge to donate proceeds of winnings you might acquire through my toil in 2013, well, be my guest.
After all, these Botox treatments don’t pay for themselves.
Now… on with the big winners:
COMEBACK OF THE YEAR – Shane Mosley
I’ll concede to have groaned right along with you when it was announced that the affable Californian – already a past champion in three weight classes – would end a short-lived hiatus to try again for a first victory since 2009. After all, most of us had seen plenty in the losses to Floyd Mayweather Jr., Manny Pacquiao and Saul Alvarez to be beyond doubt that “Sugar’s” best days were irrevocably behind him.
But when his return foe was revealed to be light-hitting Paulie Malignaggi, the initial disgust turned to the notion that, while he might get his ears boxed off against the “Magic Man,” chances are the beating wouldn’t put him in long-term ICU. And when fight night finally arrived in May, it turned out even better as Mosley scored a flash early knockdown and earned a close, if not popular, split decision.
(2012 prediction – Amir Khan. Grade: D)
UPSET OF THE YEAR – Zab Judah KO 6 Danny Garcia
It’d been a few years since “Super” Zab was the hotshot puncher at 140 pounds, and his last several dates with the elites at both junior welterweight and welterweight – Mayweather, Miguel Cotto, Joshua Clottey, Khan, etc. – ended poorly. But the matchup with the hard-hitting Garcia before a hometown crowd in Brooklyn was a perfect storm of good fortune for the still-relevant 35-year-old.
Judah frustrated the youngster – not to mention the kid’s father – by giving as good as he got during the pre-fight run-up, then handled himself the same way in the ring as the two fighters split the initial five rounds. A left early in round six was a legitimate difference-maker, however, and a follow-up flurry was enough to prompt a quick stoppage that both incited a melee and ended a title reign.
(2012 prediction – Molina W 12 Alvarez. Grade: N/A)
KNOCKOUT OF THE YEAR – Manny Pacquiao TKO 8 Juan Manuel Marquez
The fifth edition of the sport’s best Filipino-Mexican rivalry was the first in which Pacquiao entered as a consensus underdog, on the heels of the chilling one-shot loss he sustained in 2012 in what wound up as that year’s top stoppage. But as hard as promoter Bob Arum sold it, there was something about the pre-fight hype for No. 5 that looked iffy for Marquez.
Maybe age – he turned 40 in 2013 – caught up to him all at once, or maybe the prospect of riding in as the favorite changed his preparation. Either way, it was the most one-sided of the series as Pacquiao scored knockdowns in rounds 3, 4 and 7 before finally finishing his nemesis with a jolting straight left that left Marquez sagging dangerously and warranted an immediate rescue.
(2012 prediction – V. Klitschko KO 3 Haye. Grade: N/A)
FIGHT OF THE YEAR – Bernard Hopkins W 12 Tavoris Cloud
You want to say the Philadelphia-based “Executioner” is the king of the incendiary press conference? OK. But it’s been a rare occasion across parts of two centuries that one of Hopkins’s fights has been noteworthy for its action. As it turned out, that prospect presented itself when he signed on to meet the burly Floridian for the IBF share of the light heavyweight title.
Cloud followed his usual ferocious script and pressed the action in the early going, leaving Hopkins no choice but to engage in order to weather the violent storm. The momentum swung in the middle rounds, though, and a swollen Hopkins provided what turned out to be a decisive scorecard margin with a pair of knockdowns in the 11th that secured the unanimous nod.
(2012 prediction – Mayweather TKO 11 Pacquiao. Grade: N/A)
FIGHTER OF THE YEAR – Carl Froch
The Nottingham slugger was on the short list for FOTY in 2012 after two smashing hometown wins brought him back from a .500 stretch in 2010 and 2011. He continued the resurgence as a 35-year-old in 2013 by signing to meet one of the two who beat him – Mikkel Kessler – and then heading across the Atlantic to face Lucian Bute on the ex-champ’s turf.
The former was a candidate for individual fight superlatives after Froch overcame a bloody gash in the early rounds and gradually wore down the “Viking Warrior” for a split-decision win. As an autumnal encore, the “Cobra” dominated Bute in a fashion similar to their initial meeting – ultimately closing the show via 10th-round TKO and instantly stoking fires for a 2014 return with Andre Ward.
(2012 PREDICTION – Floyd Mayweather. Grade: C)
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This week’s title-fight schedule:
No fights scheduled.
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full- fledged title-holder -- no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Last week’s picks: 2-2
Overall picks record: 373-121 (75.5 percent)
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.