2012   Leave a comment

Male Fighter of the Year: Nonito Donaire

Respect has to be given to this man for taking 4 good fights in 2012, 3 of which were against legitimate world champions in his weight class (super bantamweight). Jeffrey Mathebula was officially the reigning IBF champ, Toshiaki Nishioka was a stripped WBC champ (and most proven world title holder in the division), and Jorge Arce was the last WBO champion before Donaire picked up the vacant title against Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. All of those fights happened in 2012. All of the opponents were legitimate top 10 rated fighters. Donaire didn’t particularly impress me against Vazquez or Mathebula, but he deserved to win both fights and was impressive in his wins over Nishioka and Arce. My other top choices for “Fighter of the Year” only had 2 fights in 2012 anyways, so I think it’s only fair to give Donaire a pass for not shining in every fight. Tomasz Adamek had a comparable 4 win 2012, and look how awful he performed…

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TV Network of the Year: WealthTV

WealthTV put on the best card of the year with Viloria-Marquez and had some other very good ones like Stevenson-George and Bute-Grachev. And the keyword there is card; they showed every fight on every bill. You get to see fewer fights on HBO PPV than WealthTV provided. They also only charge $1/month for the most reliable live streams you’ll find online. So not only do you get to see the best fights, you barely even have to pay for them. All around it’s just an amazing deal.

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Promoter of the Year: Main Events

Main Events accomplished 2 major things in 2012. They brought regularly televised boxing back to the east coast with NBC Sports and they even put it on regular NBC once too, network television. Adamek-Cunningham II peaked at a 2.2 Nielsen rating with 3.2 million average viewers. That’s the best good news for the sport of boxing I’ve heard all year. Main Events and NBC somehow pulled that off during an afternoon a few days before Christmas. For a promotional outfit to accomplish that with only a fraction of the resources that Golden Boy or Top Rank have is truly impressive.

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Upset of the Year: Sonny Boy Jaro TKO6 Pongsaklek Wonjongkam

Really there is no option besides going with Jaro over Wonjongkam. Wonjongkam was widely still regarded as a top 10 p4p fighter and is one of the greatest flyweights of all time. Jaro on the other hand was a journeyman with 10 losses on his record and no notable wins to speak of.

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Male Comeback Fighters of the Year: Arthur Abraham, Kelly Pavlik, Danny Jacobs

Voting for Comeback Fighter of the Year is pretty convoluted. Some fighters come back from devastating losses; some fighters come back from injuries. Some fighters from back from alcohol/drug addictions; some fighters come back from diseases. Differentiating between which injuries, losses, or drugs were bigger obstacles to overcome is a task in itself. But then you have to assess how well the fighter came back and put it into perspective with who they came back against. Danny Jacobs beating cancer is the single greatest feat of all the fighters in the running for this award, but he didn’t take any fights people thought he had a chance of losing. Kelly Pavlik came back from alcoholism following a loss to Sergio Martinez and a questionable win over Alfonso Lopez. People still expected Pavlik to beat Will Rosinsky, but Rosinsky at least went in with a prayer.

And then there’s Arthur Abraham. He lost his last 3 fights to world class opponents but at best was merely over coming depression after once being favored to win the entire Super Six tournament. Most people thought Abraham was done as a top fighter. Many still do. Nonetheless Abraham managed to become a 2 time world champion in as many weight classes. Robert Stieglitz is no Carl Froch, but was good enough to split predictions as to who would win. So do you vote for the guy who came back from the most difficult situation (Jacobs), the guy who went on to secure the most impressive wins (Abraham), or the guy in the middle of the road in both departments (Pavlik)? To be perfectly honest I have no real preference.

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Breakthrough Fighter of the Year: Danny Garcia

Danny Garcia was in the running for fighter of the year but I think he’s more appropriately deserving of the breakthrough fighter award. Garcia basically went from prospect to #1 junior welterweight in 2012. He picked up the WBC, super WBA, and RING titles for his wins over Erik Morales and Amir Khan. He knocked both of them out in spectacular fashion (Morales 2nd fight) and he did it on HBO. Due to the large Mexican and British fan bases of Morales and Khan respectively, Garcia’s notoriety grew exponentially.

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KO of the Year: Lucas Priori KO3 Pehuen Correa


It didn’t take long for 2012 to produce the knockout of the year when just 2 weeks into it, on January 13th, Priori annihilated Correa in the 3rd round. This was the pro debut for both fighters and it was Priori who first tasted the canvas in round 2. It was clear that both fighters were going for the KO from the opening round and neither showed a decisive advantage. Early in round 2 they traded hooks which culminated in Priori touching down with both gloves and 1 knee. Priori complained that it was a slip but a punch did land, sort of. Priori led with a right hook and followed with a left while Correa did the exact opposite and landed inside Correa’s wide shots. Priori effectively swung himself off balance and Correa probably didn’t even have to hit him that hard to drop him. Upon viewing the slow motion replay you can see that the punch that dropped Priori merely grazed him.

After the referee administered an 8 count for Priori, Correa jumped on him immediately in hopes that he was ready to go. Correa was not so lucky. The 2 young prospects waged war on each other and Correa took the worst of it, losing his mouthpiece in the process. Correa, out gunned, wisely resorted to holding and picking his shots to stay competitive in the remainder of the round (which he still clearly deserved to win).

And then there was round 3, well, all 21 seconds of it. Ultimately Priori missed with a hellacious uppercut then followed it up with a short left hook that Correa never saw coming. Not only did this shot put Correa to sleep, not only did it snap his head up and around, but it actually spun his entire body over 180 degrees before crashing to the canvas. He was knocked out cold.

2012 KO of the Year

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Male Round of the Year: Brian Viloria vs Hernan Marquez – Round 5

Marquez hurt Viloria with a right hook at about 40 seconds into the 5th round and continued his assault without much coming back from Viloria for a full minute. Marquez managed to get off well over 100 punches in that interval alone. But then Viloria put his punches together, put his body weight behind his shots (as opposed to many of the arm punches Marquez was throwing), and sat Marquez down. With more than a minute left on the clock Marquez got up and waged war to the end. The punch output and determination by Marquez was unreal. The precision and technique of Viloria was outstanding. The speed and power of both fighters was amazing. (You can view the round @ the 1:00:39 mark of the above video)

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Male Fight of the Year: Roman Gonzalez UD12 Juan F. Estrada

The fight seemed closer than the scorecards indicated and I felt that Estrada actually had the better of the 2nd half of the fight. The level of action sustained throughout the bout was incredible. Estrada looked like he would be broken early but just kept coming and even got stronger. He was a machine. Gonzalez on the other hand was the full package as usual. His consistent work to the head and body along with his granite chin earned him a hard fought victory. Rounds 8 and 12 were particularly some of the very best rounds I’ve seen all year in any fight.

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Female Fighter of the Year: Ava Knight

In 2012 Ava Knight progressed from world champion to pound for pound star. She began the year by defending her IBF flyweight title against Vacharaporn Prachumchai (currently fighting under the alias Hongfah Tor Buamas). Tor Buamas isn’t one of the most skilled female fighters in boxing, but she was never previously knocked out and was riding an 11 fight win streak. Knight stopped her in the 10th round after a brutal beating. Next, Knight defended her IBF crown once more against former WBC bantamweight champion Susana Vazquez. She bested the veteran by clear cut unanimous decision.

And then there was Mariana “La Barbie” Juarez. Juarez was a long reigning WBC female flyweight champion and had won her last 21 fights. Knight was the underdog going in but dethroned the division’s queen regardless. I previously wrote a detailed description of that fight here. Following this sensational year, Ava Knight is now rated #3 p4p by Sweet Boxing.

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Female Comeback Fighter of the Year: Holly Holm

Holm, who will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest female fighters of all time, looked all but finished in December of 2011 after being brutally stopped by Anne Sophie Mathis inside 7 rounds. It was one of the most vicious female knockouts I’ve ever seen and could have ended tragically thanks the disgraceful refereeing of Rocky Burke. The end really began in the 6th round and it’s all been captured in slow motion on YouTube. The linked video is not for the faint of heart.

Holm, after being world champion more times than I can be bothered to count, in 3 different weight divisions, was worthy of the hall of fame whether she made a comeback or not. She went unbeaten from June 2004 to December 2011 and dusted off legends Christy Martin and Mia St. John as early as 2005 (back when both were still considered among the best). Three years later Holm bested Mary Jo Sanders, widely regarded as the best female fighter in the world aside from Holm. Then three years after that Mathis seized Holm’s crown. Was it Holly’s time or was Mathis just that good?

Lucia Rijker, previously the baddest female light welterweight on the planet, had her last fight in 2004. Her crown was never passed on in the ring but Holm basically assumed the status by default. Meanwhile Mathis (unbeaten since 1995) was nipping at Holm’s heels every step of the way. Mathis first broke onto the scene when she defeated previously unbeaten Nathalie Toro for the EBU female light welterweight title in 2005. The very next year Mathis dethroned undefeated WBA female light welterweight champion Myriam Lamare in the 2006 “Female Fight of the Year.” But by the time Mathis and Holm eventually met in 2011, the 5’11” towering Mathis had outgrown the light welterweight division and established herself as best welterweight in the world not named Holm or Braekhus (more on her later). Holm can still make 140 easily today but was good enough to fight the best all the way up to 154.

Ultimately, Holm’s supreme confidence in her abilities was her undoing. Mathis hadn’t beaten anyone Holm couldn’t beat (they actually shared a few opponents) and despite Anne’s height she was only a natural welterweight. Holm had already beaten arguably the greatest female junior middleweight of all time in Sanders. What was there to fear? And that’s exactly how she fought Mathis the first time, fearless. Holm, much like Sugar Ray Leonard against Roberto Duran the first time around, wanted to beat Mathis at her own game. It was a mistake. Holm was too small and has never been a big puncher. Mathis, one of the greatest female punchers of all time, just walked right through Holm and broke her down.

Needless to say, the rematch was a different story. Holly got on her bicycle from the very beginning and gave Anne a boxing lesson. A lot of people say “Holly ran” and consider the result a “hometown decision”, but forget that. Fights are primarily scored on clean punching. Ring generalship, defense, and effective aggression are all secondary factors into scoring a fight (by a large margin). The fact of the matter is Holm clearly did the vast majority of the clean punching in the rematch. It doesn’t matter how she accomplished that as long as she wasn’t cheating to do it. People have every right in the world to not like the way Holm fought Mathis in the rematch. They however have no right to claim their entertainment has any bearing whatsoever on how a round should be scored. If people would prefer a sport similar to boxing with different rules, I suggest they go invent it. There’s always MMA, too. But hey, I’m just the messenger. Don’t shoot me…

Credit must be given where it’s due. Holly Holm conquered her demons and immediately came back from a truly devastating defeat after an extensively accomplished career. In a loose analogy, this was like Mike Tyson coming back to defeat Evander Holyfield (as opposed to biting his ear off and getting disqualified instead). It was enough to vote Holm the “Comeback Fighter of the Year” based on the Mathis rematch alone. But I might as well mention that she followed it up with a shut out of Diana Prazak.

Prazak, the reigning WIBA super featherweight champion, was riding a solid winning streak and met Holm at light welterweight for a couple vacant world titles. Sure, it was a 2 weight division jump, be we all saw what Juan Manuel Marquez did to Manny Pacquiao… Furthermore, Prazak was a former Australia light welterweight champion anyways. But this was all just icing on the cake for Holm anyways. She’s my definitive choice for 2012’s “Comeback Fighter of the Year” and I wish her the best in 2013. This year she’ll hopefully, and finally, fight the unbeaten welterweight triple world champion Cecilia Braekhus. The WBC has recently ordered the fight.

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Female Fight of the Year: Arely Mucino SD10 Melissa McMorrow

No one was seriously hurt, dropped, or stopped, yet somehow through 10 rounds of blistering, non-stop action, Mucino-McMorrow became my “Fight of the Year.” Ironically the primary competition was another Mucino fight (against Mariana Juarez). The first time I scored this fight I had McMorrow the winner by 2 points and saw most of the rounds as swing rounds. Upon watching it again months later, I switched my score in round 10 (resulting in a draw) and thought all of the rounds could have gone either way. It’s an added bonus when a fight is as competitive as it is thrilling. One of the rounds was good enough to make my “Round of the Year” front runner list, too.

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Female Round of the Year: Heather Hardy vs Mikayla Nebel – Round 1

As none of our 2012 Olympic medalists have turned pro, Heather Hardy has consequently become the most talked about American prospect in women’s boxing today. Although a 2011 National Golden Gloves champion at 125 pounds, I would not say the primary interest in Hardy is talent. From what I’ve seen of her so far I estimate Hardy is the new, female version of John Duddy. Like Duddy, she’s going to excite fans and sell tickets. Her pro debut against Mikayla Nebel was anything but a disappointment.

Both fighters came out guns blazing but it was Nebel who got Hardy backing up. Forty seconds into the round this lead to Hardy being dropped by a hard right hand as she poorly covered up against the ropes. She got back up pretty quickly but she was clearly dazed. However, rather than play defense, hold, or do anything else that might help her recover, Hardy just went to war. Non-stop, 2-way, head snapping bombs ensued for the remainder of the round. The shoulder rolling and sharp countering skills of Nebel impressed me just as much as Hardy’s tenacity. It was, simply put, the female “Round of the Year.”

Posted February 27, 2014 by sweetboxingratings

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