By Lyle Fitzsimmons
We’re three months in… but the jury’s still out.
I’d certainly expected, as I committed some crystal ball boxing thoughts to paper in late December, that by the time we got to the year’s quarter-pole in the first week of April we’d already have some idea of how the picks were shaping up.
I didn’t imagine it’d look good.
Still, a guy can hope, right?
But, alas, now that the initial 24 hours of the month is complete and gullible fools have been pranked via Facebook and elsewhere – you know, I really thought that Nigerian price email looked legit – we remain in the same boat when it comes to whether the award forecasts we made three months ago have any real chance of holding up.
For reminding purposes, here’s a look at what we said would happen… with pertinent updates as to who’d win the respective hardware if we’d given it by the quarter.
COMEBACK OF THE YEAR
The December Pick: Shane Mosley
The April Reality: Bernard Hopkins
I groaned along with the general populace when Mosley announced he’d return for another crack at a first win since Margarito and “WrapsGate” in 2009, but when it looked like Paul Malignaggi was his opponent of choice, it became less impossible to envision another helping of “Sugar” at 147.
That fight didn’t come off as planned, leaving Mosley to return instead against the last man Malignaggi “beat” in young Mexican Pablo Cesar Cano, who was two months short of birthday No. 8 when Shane won the IBF lightweight championship in 1997.
The clear winner in the interim is the ever-surprising Hopkins, who again became the oldest man to cop a world title by flummoxing Tavoris Cloud over 12 to win the IBF’s light heavy strap in Brooklyn.
If we retire the award for 2014, we’ll name it after Bernard.
UPSET OF THE YEAR
The December Pick: Zab Judah KO 6 Danny Garcia
The April Reality: Same as above
I’d assumed that I’d be basking in the glory of this one by the time spring arrived, but a training camp injury to the champion stalled the prognosticative momentum.
No matter, hope springs eternal with a rescheduled date of April 27 and I remain just as confident that at least some version of “Good” Zab will arrive in his hometown prepared to prove that he’s still a relevant commodity at 140 pounds. Thus, there’s no need for an interim award-winner.
This one’s solid as a rock.
Of course, if at any point during the evening Judah hurls a stool… I withdraw the selection.
KNOCKOUT OF THE YEAR
The December Pick: Manny Pacquiao TKO 8 Juan Manuel Marquez
The April Reality (asterisk division): Mickey Bey Jr. TKO 3 Robert Rodriguez*
Perhaps no one short of Bob Arum knows if the dance that’s gone on since Marquez laid Pacquiao out in December will lead to a fifth bout. Marquez has talked retirement, Arum has suggested pairing him with others and Manny has been AWOL while allowing experts to decide if he’ll ever be the same Manny.
Into their breach stepped intermittent pro Mickey Bey Jr., who returned for the first time in 15 months – promoted by Floyd Mayweather Jr., ironically, after a previous relationship with Arum – with a pair of gorgeous left hooks that separated Robert Rodriguez from his senses in a February lightweight bout in Las Vegas.
Problem was, power and technique weren’t all Bey was packing that night. Turns out his post-fight urine test came up really dirty – the second-dirtiest in state history when it comes to testosterone, according to Keith Kizer – and the result was quickly switched from TKO 3 to no-contest.
Hence, he wins the asterisk division’s award only. The regular title remains vacant.
FIGHT OF THE YEAR
The December Pick: Bernard Hopkins W 12 Tavoris Cloud
The Pick Reality: Timothy Bradley W 12 Ruslan Provodnikov
Go ahead and say it, I should have known better – even in a column where I’m tongue-in-cheekily guessing at things up to a year in advance – to have surmised B-Hop would have ever been involved in a fight of the year candidate.
Trust me, I agree.
But I blame the lack of sustained violence more on a curiously passive Cloud than on an old man who was right there in front of him for 36 straight minutes.
Regardless, the correct pick of the quarter rightfully goes to welterweight champion Bradley, who salved at least some still hurting over the Pacquiao verdict by winning a thrilling 12-rounder over a Russian who was as violent as any loser ought to be.
FIGHTER OF THE YEAR
The December Pick: Carl Froch
The April Reality: Adrien Broner
The reality is that no fighter has scored a single 2013 win transformative enough to already be prescribed the best of the lot for the year. But, in terms of adding another notch to a recently precipitous climb toward the top, Broner’s wipeout of Welshman Gavin Rees was pretty good.
Not only did it validate the vault at 135 that Broner made with a complete destruction of Antonio DeMarco just three months earlier, but it also kick-started talk for a bevy of would-be matchups for “The Problem” at 140 pounds, or even 147 as was widely reported.
As for Froch, if he’s as dominant in the May rematch with Kessler as I expect him to be, he’ll have all the evidence needed to make himself a factor in this category come year’s end.
And if I get a one-on-one chat with Rachael Cordingley because of it… well, that’s fine, too.
* * * * * * * * * *
This week’s title-fight schedule:
WBA/WBO flyweight titles – Macao, China
Brian Viloria (WBA/WBO champion) vs. Juan Francisco Estrada (No. 14 WBA/No. 9 WBO)
Viloria (32-3, 19 KO): Fourth WBO title defense (first WBA); First fight in China
Estrada (22-2, 18 KO): Second title fight (0-1); Second fight outside Mexico (0-1)
Fitzbitz says: “Challenger has a nice KO record and youth on his side, but no track record to indicate he’s ready for a foe of Viloria’s caliber.” Viloria by decision
WBO junior lightweight title – Macao, China
Roman Martinez (champion) vs. Diego Magdaleno (No. 1 contender)
Martinez (26-1-2, 16 KO): Second title defense; Held WBO title in 2009-10 (two defenses)
Magdaleno (23-0, 9 KO): First title fight; First fight outside United States
Fitzbitz says: “The young American is taking a step up in class and making a long commute, but he should have enough to handle a sturdy, but not dominant champ.” Magdaleno by decision
WBC bantamweight title – Tokyo, Japan
Shinsuke Yamanaka (champion) vs. Malcolm Tunacao (No. 1 contender)
Yamanaka (17-0-2, 12 KO): Third title defense; Ten KOs in last 11 fights
Tunacao (32-2-3, 20 KO): Fourth title fight; Held WBC title at 112 (2000-01, one defense)
Fitzbitz says: "Streaking incumbent has become dominant on recent stoppage streak and has improved since winning championship." Yamanaka in 10
WBC flyweight title – Tokyo, Japan
Toshiyuki Igarashi (champion) vs. Akira Yaegashi (No. 6 contender)
Igarashi (17-1-1, 10 KO): Second title defense; Unbeaten since 2008 (10-0)
Yaegashi (16-3, 9 KO): Fourth title fight; Held WBA title at 105 (2011-12, zero defenses)
Fitzbitz says: "Once-beaten flyweight has surged in last 10 fights and should handle capable veteran who's fallen short at top level." Igarashi by decision
WBC super featherweight title – Tokyo, Japan
Gamaliel Diaz (contender) vs. Takashi Miura (No. 13 contender)
Diaz (37-9-2, 17 KO): First title defense; Lost first two title fights at 126, 130
Miura (24-2-2, 18 KO): Second title fight; Third fight in March (2-0)
Fitzbitz says: "Younger southpaw appears ready for modest rise in competition, and should be helped by hometown advantage." Miura 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: 2-0
2013 picks record: 12-9 (57.1 percent)
Overall picks record: 475-161 (74.6 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.