By Lyle Fitzsimmons
All the signs of fall are arriving.
The kids (at least in my section of Florida) are back in school, the rains (again, in my section of Florida) have ebbed from a constant torrent to an occasional drizzle and the intermittent slow spots that typically dot the middle months of the year in the boxing ring are just about complete.
A card this weekend in Atlantic City will start the clock ticking toward next month’s pay-per-view super show in Las Vegas, which, pending its own results in the final undercard bout and the main event, will chart the course for the next high-end show later this year or early in 2014.
Given all that, it seemed as good a time as any to look back at this space’s effort at fortune-telling back at the outset of 2013 – when your favorite Tuesday scribe ventured guesses at what’d turn out to be the winners of the meatiest awards in holiday-season ceremonies.
The premature envelopes, please…
COMEBACK OF THE YEAR: Shane Mosley
Though my rationale for picking him in January was a forecast that he’d return with a defeat of Paulie Malignaggi, the fact that “Sugar Shane” ended his brief hiatus with a unanimous 12-round defeat of the fighter that many thought defeated Malignaggi himself seven months earlier is equally noteworthy.
So long as he doesn’t tangle with the truly big guns of the 147-pound ranks between now and the end of the calendar year, it looks like Mosley will be right in the mix when the official comeback votes are counted.
UPSET OF THE YEAR: Judah over Garcia
OK, the scorecards gave the springtime grudge match to the Philadelphian by a unanimous verdict. But it’s not as if the brash Brooklyn native didn’t put up a fight when he and Garcia finally shut up long enough to get 12 rounds in at the Barclays Center.
The old man controlled the last three rounds and gave the 25-year-old a significant push, which at least somewhat validates the early-year guess that he’d get the job done in surprising fashion.
KNOCKOUT OF THE YEAR: Pacquiao over Marquez
Call me crazy enough to have believed in January that the 40-year-old Mexican would quickly take the Bob Arum bait and be willing to put a second exclamation point on a multi-year rival with his pound-for-pound Filipino nemesis.
Instead, he went after Manny’s other 2012 conqueror in Tim Bradley, delaying the fifth fight with Pac Man until either the very late stages of 2013 or the first few months of 2014. It’s my call that the quintet bout still arrives someday, but its absence so far yields an incomplete grade here.
FIGHT OF THE YEAR: Hopkins over Cloud
Yeah, I know. The mere suggestion that Bernard Hopkins would be involved in a fight of the year candidate is grounds for Baker Act paperwork, but there was something about the mix of the ancient stylist and the muscle-bound Floridian that made me think mayhem would commence.
Instead, it was the latest in a series of moderately violent clinics the ex-middleweight king has put on since being dethroned at 160 by Jermain Taylor (remember him?) eight years ago. He threw some shots, made the youngster look green and walked away with an easy win… just like everyone else expected.
FIGHTER OF THE YEAR: Carl Froch
It looked so clear last winter. The Nottingham slugger, who was a serious contender for 2012’s top fighter after a pair of hometown routs, would finally climb the mountain in 2013 with a rematch defeat of ex-conqueror Mikkel Kessler and a repeat domination of Lucian Bute on North American turf.
As it turned out the Kessler thing was spot on, but rather than Bute or – dare to dream – Andre Ward as a follow-up, he’s using countryman George Groves as the encore. Problem is, while it ought to result in another 2-0 year, it’ll probably yield repeat also-ran status come awards season.
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This week’s title-fight schedule:
IBF middleweight title – Atlantic City, N.J.
Daniel Geale (champion) vs. Darren Barker (No. 3 contender)
Geale (29-1, 15 KO): Fifth title defense; Third fight outside Australia (2-0)
Barker (25-1, 16 KO): First title fight; Third fight outside United Kingdom (1-1)
Fitzbitz says: “The Aussie believes himself to be the best middleweight in the world not named Sergio Martinez, and, while a win here doesn’t enhance much, it won’t hurt either.” Geale by decision
IBF junior featherweight title – Atlantic City, N.J.
Jhonatan Romero (champion) vs. Kiko Martinez (No. 15 contender)
Romero (23-0, 12 KO): First title defense; Fifth fight in United States (4-0)
Martinez (28-4, 20 KO): First title fight; Each of four career losses has come outside Spain
Fitzbitz says: “It’s likely that neither participant is the best in the world at 122 pounds, but the Colombian ought to retain his place closer to the front of the line.” Romero by decision
WBC superfeatherweight title –Cancun, Mexico
Takashi Miura (champion) vs. Sergio Thompson (No. 1 contender)
Miura (25-2-2, 19 KO): First title defense; First fight outside Japan
Thompson (27-2, 25 KO): First title fight; Eleven straight wins by stoppage
Fitzbitz says: “A trip across the world is hard enough, but a trip across the world to face a local guy with all but two of his wins inside the distance may be too much to ask for the champ.” Thompson in 8
WBO light heavyweight title – Cardiff, Wales
Nathan Cleverly (champion) vs. Sergey Kovalev (No. 2 contender)
Cleverly (26-0, 12 KO): Sixth title defense; Seventh fight in Wales (6-0)
Kovalev (21-0-1, 19 KO): First title fight; Nine straight wins by stoppage
Fitzbitz says: “The oddsmakers have labeled this one as a toss-up, though the vibe from writers, etc. is that Kovalev is too powerful. As for me, I think the Welshman will impress at home.” Cleverly by decision
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: 3-0
2013 picks record: 46-25 (64.8 percent)
Overall picks record: 509-177 (74.2 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 [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.