The Adam Smith End Of Year Boxing Awards
So another year has past and we’re all a bit older but not all a bit wiser. Here goes my world famous end of year awards blog.
Domestic fight of the year
British boxing at a domestic level was as competitive as ever in 2012 and threw up some absolute crackers along the way. There are five fights that stand out for me and Manchester lightweight Anthony Crolla was involved in two of them. Crolla went into his April British title showdown with Derry Mathews as the betting favourite but couldn’t fend off his determined opponent despite a good start. Mathews came out on top with an impressive 6th round KO at the Oldham Sports Cente.
Crolla fought for the British title again in December, this time against the unbeaten Kieran Farrell and it was toe to toe action for 10 full blooded rounds. Crolla’s flashier work caught the eye of the judges on this occasion.
Up and coming promoter Dave Caldwell has had a great year (also promoted Crolla vs Farrell) and his standout bout of the year was Dale Miles’ KO victory over former professional footballer Curtis Woodhouse. Both men put it all on the line at the Magna Centre in Rotherham and it wasn’t long before both men were bloodied. Miles used his power to good effect and finished his opponent in convincing fashion in the 5th.
For poor quality of boxing I must mention the rematch Scott Quigg and Rendall Munroe. I was ringside at the Manchester Arena and thought Munroe started really well and out thought the younger Quigg and used his experience to frustrate the betting favourite. Quigg showed plenty of maturity to get back in the fight and use his advantages to deter the relentless Munroe. Quigg dominated rounds five and six from range and downed Munroe twice with viscous body shots en route to becoming the first man to ever stop his super bantamweight rival.
The best fight of the year for me was right at the start of 2012 as Erick Ochieng and Nick Quigley contested a close quarters classic at the mecca of boxing, York Hall. With the vacant English light middleweight title on the line it was clear that neither man was going to back down. The referee was hardly needed and the ring was at least 5 times too big for the space these fellas required, a phone box would’ve sufficed. The action went back and forth until Ochieng’s superior fitness and quality showed when forcing Quigley to retire before round ten.
International fight of the year
This just has to be Robert Guerrero vs Andre Berto. There were plenty of questions going into this welterweight fight; was Guerrero big enough and good enough up at 147? Could Berto win without failing a drugs test?
The fight started in a slightly strange fashion as Berto looked out of sorts and Guerrero downed him twice in the first two rounds although Berto never looked in real danger. Heavy damage to Berto’s left eye was done but the 29-year-old fought back incredibly well to push Guerrero all the way, even rocking the hometown hero on a number of occasions down the stretch. It wasn’t the cleanest of contests but for pure entertainment this was the best of the year for me, the two combatants even put in some overtime as the bombs continued to fly after the final bell! Guerrero got the nod from the judges and now looks like facing Floyd Mayweather in 2013.
The best heavyweight fight of the year was without doubt Alexander Povetkin and Marco Huck for the simple reason that Huck genuinely tested the over protected Povetkin for the first time in his career. Huck had Povetkin seriously wobbled at regular intervals and landed particularly well with straight shots but somehow managed to lose on the scorecards with Povetkin taking a debatable majority decision. Rematch please.
Andre Ward’s masterful demolition of Chad Dawson deserves a mention for the pure quality of work displayed. Ward was the favourite going into the fight but few predicted a knockout win for the super middleweight star after his last four bouts went the distance. Yes, Dawson was coming down from light heavyweight but voiced no problems with this stipulation in the build-up and was completely dominated by Ward who confirmed his position amongst the world’s best with this performance.
Two fights must be mentioned for pure shock. Amir Khan was a heavy favourite to beat the up and coming Danny Garcia but Garcia had other ideas and knocked Khan almost senseless in the third with a huge left hook. Khan survived the round and even fought back but succumbed to his rival’s power in the fourth.
The second major shock of the year was seeing Manny Pacquiao laid face down on the canvas after six rounds vs Juan Manuel Marquez. Marquez winning the fight wasn’t a massive shock, many pundits thought he would win, but the devastating fashion in achieving that win was shocking. The fourth encounter between the two was turning into a classic with one knockdown apiece and Paquiao growing into the fight but he walked on to a huge Marquez right hand at the end of the sixth and was left motionless on the mat.
Domestic KO of the year
As ever, there were plenty of decent knockouts on the domestic circuit with some up and coming talent dismissing some average opposition in brutal fashion. For that reason readers are likely to oppose my selection but here goes.
Ricky Burns vs Kevin Mitchell was supposed to be close. The bookies could hardly split the lightweight rivals and I certainly couldn’t pick a winner beforehand. But the way Burns took apart Mitchell was very impressive, and this is a man not known for his power! Mitchell can be a slippery customer but Burns showed tactical nous to quickly identify weaknesses and land some big right handers to force a stoppage. Not the most devastating, highlight reel KO of 2012 but the most impressive for me in terms of technique and class.
International KO of the year
Danny Garcia and Juan Manuel Marquez get deserved mentions in this also and Garcia comes a close second in this category for his near beheading of Erik Morales in October.
My overall winner here is Mikkel Kessler who landed a massive looping left to finish Allan Green in round four of their May clash. Kessler was returning from an injury layoff and suffered a shock knockdown himself in the opening round against Green but the fight came to an abrupt end when Kesller landed that big left. Kessler then went on to dismantle Brian Magee in three rounds in December. Expect to see the Viking Warrior in some big fights next year.
Domestic disappointment of the year
Nathan Cleverly fought only twice in a reasonably talent rich division and should be fighting more at just 25-years-old. Frank Warren will claim he did everything in his power to get his man big fights but the fact is he didn’t deliver and Tommy Karpency and Shawn Hawk shouldn’t have been anyway near a world title shot in 2012. Cleverly certainly didn’t progress in 2012.
Ricky Hatton also enters the fray here. The Manchester hero decided to make a comeback in November this year and it didn’t go well. Vyacheslav Senchenko was picked as a relatively easy opponent but survived the early onslaught to punish the Hatton to the body late on. The Hitman announced his ring retirement for the second time and this time I hope he means it.
International disappointment of the year
This award had Yuriokis Gamboa’s name written all over it until December when the Cuban defect eventually made his 2012 bow with an entertaining scrap against Michael Farenas.
As a result there might not be an outright winner of this award.
Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto entered 2012 as numbers 2 and 3 on many popularity rankings but both fought and lost twice in the 12 months that followed. ‘Fallen Idol’ was the Boxing News headline after the Filipino got flattened by Marquez. Bernard Hopkins was seen in a ring once and wasn’t impressive. Lamont Peterson was found to be using performance enhancing drugs and didn’t see a ring at all.
Worst refereeing of the year
Enzo Maccarinelli has history of being vulnerable and that blot on his CV was the sole reason he was ‘stopped’ by Ovill McKenzie in November 2011. Since being stopped by David Haye in 2008 Enzo had fought 10 times and been brutally KOd on 3 occasions. Enzo took the first round against McKenzie but referee Ian John-Lewis stepped in to halt the action at the first sign of danger for Maccarinelli in round 2. Enzo was upright and blocking a mini onslaught from McKenzie when the ref stepped between the fighters and waved his arms despite Enzo looking directly at him on steady legs. His reputation went before him and John-Lewis admitted his mistake afterwards.
Worst judging decision of the year
Legendary promoter Bob Arum described Timothy Bradley’s shock decision win over Manny Pacquiao as the worst he had ever seen but it wasn’t even the worst of 2012 in my book. That award goes to the Brandon Rios vs Richard Abril fight from April. Rios missed the lightweight limit for the second fight running and was completely outboxed by the slick Abril from start to finish. Adalaide Byrd seemed to have called it spot on with a score of 117-111 in Abril’s favour but Jerry Roth (116-112) and Glenn Trowbridge (115-113) managed to award Rios the fight.
The decision was deemed that bad that the WBA let Abril keep his interim lightweight title.
Domestic fighter of the year
Scott Quigg overcame a knockdown to stop Jamie Arthur in February then fought to a technical draw after a clash of heads halted his June showdown with Rendall Munroe. 24-year-old Quigg saved the best till last in November when he produced the performance of his career to pick apart Munroe in the rematch. Munroe caused more than a few problems for Quigg early on but the Bury native adapted to Munroe’s awkwardness and became the first man to stop Munroe in his 28 fight career. Quigg started the year as British super bantamweight champion and ended it with the WBA interim strap.
International fighter of the year
Nonito Donaire has well and truly established himself as one of the best pound for pound fighters on the planet this year. The Filipino Flash seems ready to take the national mantle from Manny Pacquiao and was easily the busiest elite level fighter on the planet in 2012.
Donaire opened the year with a move up to super bantamweight and got a decision over the more than useful Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. The 30-year-old was next seen in July where he unified the division by taking the IBF title from Jeffrey Mathebula. Donaire impressed further in October with an utterly dominant display against genuine world class performer (and long term WBC champion) Toshiaki Nishioka, knocking him out for the first time in 17 years!
Like Quigg, Donaire saved his best till last in 2012 by completely demolishing (yes I am running out of superlatives in this long blog!) Jorge Arce in a three round show of supreme power. Donaire finished the year by sending two of the division’s best into retirement within 2 months! Fans hope to see him against the likes of Abner Mares and Guillermo Rigondeaux in 2013!
Look out for
I know he’s already world champion and will be well known in boxing circles but Gennady Golovkin is the man to look out for in 2013. He fought in America for the first time in September 2012 and is only just coming to the forefront after 24 fights undefeated. The Kazakhstani is in a hot division, can knock opponents out with either hand and isn’t scared to fight anyone. Add to that the fact that he is promoted by someone with no real alliances or feuds in the US (K2 Promotions) and 2013 could be an exciting year for the WBA middleweight champion.
Who would be your winners?