HBO Boxing Insiders Year End Picks: Fight of the Year
Kieran Mulvaney: Timothy Bradley W12 Ruslan Provodnikov
In a terrific 12 months of boxing, March produced the two best fights of all. In pretty much any other year, the Mike Alvarado-Brandon Rios rematch would likely have taken this prize (just as the first clash between the pair would have won the same award in 2012 were it not for Juan Manuel Marquez knocking out Manny Pacquiao), but the gold medal goes to Bradley's desperately hard-fought win over Provodnikov, in which the Amercian survived being nearly knocked out by the Russian at the very beginning and the very end, but did enough in between to eke out a thrilling win.
Eric Raskin: Timothy Bradley W 12 Ruslan Provodnikov
If I'm going purely on sustained action, Alvarado-Rios II edges this out. But there was something special about the drama of Bradley-Provodnikov, an edge-of-your-seat factor that Alvarado-Rios II lacked. Bradley showed bigger stones than any other fighter had to in 2013, fighting the last 11 rounds in a fog and surviving a 12th-round onslaught from the animalistic Provodnikov that called to mind the thrills of 2012's incredible finish to Sergio Martinez vs. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
Nat Gottlieb: Timothy Bradley W 12 Ruslan Provodnikov
This was a thriller from start to finish, a crowd-pleasing slugfest with dramatic moments galore. Provodnikov came forward all night, and Bradley didn't back down. Provodnikov added extra drama in the 12th round by knocking Bradley to the canvas, but the Russian couldn't finish him off. Bradley got the close UD win.
Tim Smith: James Kirkland TKO 6 Glen Tapia
You knew Kirkland-Tapia was going to be fireworks from start to finish and it wasn't going to go the distance. Tapia, a New Jersey resident, was seeking to become the new Arturo Gatti -- the all-action king of Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. Kirkland is the embodiment of Gatti's blood and guts spirit. It was one of the few times that a match more than lived up to its billing.
Hamilton Nolan: Guillermo Rigondeaux W12 Nonito Donaire
This certainly won't be a popular pick. It didn't feature a great deal of bloodshed, or staggering fighters winging blows while barely clinging to life. What it did feature was a highly respected but (professionally) untested challenger, Rigondeaux, absolutely dominating every aspect of the fight against Donaire, who had been touted as one of the three best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Rigondeaux proved that master boxing skills can beat athleticism and punching power. Rigondeaux, in fact, is the one who is among the best pound for pound fighters in the world. Anyone who finds his style "boring" is not a fan of boxing.
Michael Gluckstadt: Timothy Bradley W 12 Ruslan Provodnikov
You want backstory? Tim Bradley was coming off one of the most depressing "victories" in the sport; Ruslan Provodnikov, "The Siberian Rocky," has one of the most remarkable backgrounds of any athlete. You want action? From the opening bell Bradley decided to engage and Provodnikov was only too happy to oblige. You want drama? The results of the fight were in doubt until the very last second, with Provodnikov gunning for the KO. This was a fight that had it all.
HBO Boxing Insiders Year End Picks: Fighter of the Year
Kieran Mulvaney: Gennady Golovkin
There are some strong candidates -- Mikey Garcia and Timothy Bradley among them -- but this ultimately comes down to a choice between two men: Adonis Stevenson and Gennady Golovkin. Each fought three times on HBO in 2013, scoring knockouts each time; and although Stevenson's first-round stoppage of Chad Dawson was arguably the single best win of their combined six, the overall level of competition, and the growing sense that Golovkin might be on his way to being a truly special fighter, means I just give the nod to the man from Kazakhstan.
Eric Raskin: Adonis Stevenson
This is a two-man race for me, between Stevenson and Timothy Bradley, and while Bradley fought a higher level of opposition overall, I give the nod to Stevenson for unexpected dominance in his three HBO fights. He was an underdog against Chad Dawson, and he won by knockout in one round to claim the lineal 175-pound championship. He wasn't an underdog against Tavoris Cloud or Tony Bellew, but he turned them both away as convincingly and skillfully as anyone could have predicted.
Nat Gottlieb: Adonis Stevenson.
Stevenson fought three times on HBO this year and won every fight by knockout. His rare, one-punch KO power excited the boxing world and created a new star. While Gennady Golovkin was a prime contender, the nod here goes to Stevenson because he fought better competition. It wasn't Golovkin's fault, of course. Just that the top middleweights didn't want any part of fighting him; he was that scary.
Tim Smith: Gennady Golovkin
Gennady Golovkin was one of the busiest boxers in the business in 2013, fighting four times - three of them on HBO. There are keep-busy fights and fights that propel a boxer into the elite class, and all of Golovkin's matches launched him toward stardom.
Hamilton Nolan: Gennady Golovkin
Everyone who was paying close attention knew that Golovkin was the real deal before this year. But this year, everyone, period, learned that Golovkin is the real deal. He is the most feared fighter in boxing, with good reason. Someone please make Andre Ward fight this man before they both get old.
Michael Gluckstadt: Timothy Bradley
He might not be an exciting new face, but Timothy Bradley had two of the most impressive wins of anyone fighting on HBO this year. His willingness to engage Ruslan Provodnikov in a fierce battle may not have been the safest strategy, but the resilience and bravery he showcased while fighting (through a concussion, no less) is indelible to fans of the sport. Following it up with a well-fought victory against Juan Manuel Marquez -- the guy who beat the guy Bradley "beat" - cements his case as the year's best HBO fighter.
HBO Boxing Insiders Year End Picks: Breakthrough HBO Fighter
Kieran Mulvaney: Adonis Stevenson
It's tempting to nominate Gennady Golovkin, who only made his HBO debut last year and is now widely regarded as being, at worst, on the fringe of many pound-for-pound lists. But I'm going with Stevenson, who exploded onto HBO with a first-round obliteration of Chad Dawson (followed by a 5-mile sprint around the ring) and hasn't looked back. Honorable mentions to Sergey Kovalev and Ruslan Provodnikov.
Eric Raskin: Ruslan Provodnikov
There were so many excellent candidates for this one, and I might have given it to Adonis Stevenson if I hadn't already named him my Fighter of the Year. Instead, in a narrow decision over Gennady Golovkin, Sergey Kovalev, Guillermo Rigondeaux, and Mikey Garcia, I'm picking Provodnikov because of the leap he made relative to my expectations coming into the year. I assumed he was an ESPN2-level boxer, little more than a clubfighter. By nearly defeating Tim Bradley and then forcing a surrender out of Mike Alvarado, the all-action Provodnikov proved me all sorts of wrong.
Nat Gottlieb: Gennady Golovkin
I give it to Golovkin over Stevenson because people already knew about Stevenson coming into this year. Golovkin was largely unknown stateside until this year when he exploded onto the boxing scene by knocking out all four of his opponents in breathtaking fashion. The future is limitless with this guy. The problem is finding opponents for him.
Tim Smith: Adonis Stevenson
Adonis Stevenson is soaring in rarified air. It is not often that a fighter can take over a single division with the kind of concussive force that Stevenson displayed in 2013. Doing it the hard way, starting with the best lightweight heavyweight in the sport, Chad Dawson, Stevenson smashed his way through the division. He won all three of his 2013 matches by knockout. Now he stands as the best light heavyweight champion in the game, setting up an explosive 2014.
Hamilton Nolan: Adonis Stevenson
He knocked off the champ, and knocked out the challengers, and covered the most distance of any fighter in terms of vaulting from relative unknown status to solidified champion status. He should beat Kovalev, but it'll be close.
Michael Gluckstadt: Adonis Stevenson
"Superman" came in to his bout against Chad Dawson as a 7-1 underdog. It'd have been one thing to eke out a win over the lineal light heavyweight champion, but knocking him out before the first round was even out? That was truly shocking. And he followed it up with two impressive defenses, showing that his signature victory was no fluke.
HBO Boxing Insiders Year End Picks: Best Blow
Kieran Mulvaney: Adonis Stevenson's first round left hand versus Chad Dawson
It's a rare and impressive thing, the ability of a fighter to announce his arrival on the world stage with a solitary punch, but Stevenson -- long touted by the late Emanuel Steward as a knockout artist with huge potential -- did just that. His left hand exploded on Dawson's jaw before the light-heavyweight champion had even had a chance to get warmed up, and although Dawson made it to his feet, his senses had already jumped out of the ring and run toward the locker room, prompting the fight to be stopped and launching Stevenson's HBO career.
Eric Raskin: James Kirkland's final punch versus Glen Tapia
I could just as easily call this my "Worst Blow," since it was a dirty punch from Kirkland and the result of a poor refereeing performance by Steve Smoger. The punch never should have happened. But it did, and it made me cringe more than any other shot delivered in 2013. For sheer viciousness and violence, nothing topped that last left hand from Kirkland that left us all fearing for Tapia's well-being.
Nat Gottlieb: Wladimir Klitschko's second round jab against Alexander Povetkin
This is a tough one. I remember saying "whoa" when Wladimir Klitschko knocked Povetkin down to all fours with a just a jab in the second round. It was a big surprise to see a durable guy like Povetkin go down like that early in a big fight. Povetkin had never been knocked down before, either as an amateur or a pro.
Tim Smith: Gennady Golvokin's second round left hook against Curtis Stevens
The left hook that Gennady Golovkin landed on the jaw of Curtis Stevens in the second round that sent Stevens falling backwards to the canvas. It was the first significant shot that Golovkin landed in the fight. The wide-eyed expression on Stevens's face as he sat on the canvas staring up at Golovkin told the story of the fight. It was a combination of fear and surprise. It's the same look you get when you take the first drop on a steep, fast falling rollercoaster.
Hamilton Nolan: Golovkin's third round body shot versus Matthew Macklin
Golovkin's body shot that dropped Matthew Macklin for good. Never will you see a more pure example of a devastating left hook to the body, an art that only a select few in boxing still practice well.
Michael Gluckstadt: Golovkin's third round body shot versus Matthew Macklin
Matthew Macklin is a tough fighter who's shown he can take a punch. But he was no match for a well-placed left hook to the body from Golovkin. It was as if Golovkin flipped the "off" switch that had kept Macklin on his feet. If I hadn't seen him fight in Atlantic City recently, I'd assumed Macklin was still lying on the canvas at Foxwoods.
HBO Boxing Insiders Year End Picks: Best HBO Boxing Moments
In a year full of great moments, three in particular come to mind. One was interviewing boxers during the promo shoot for HBO's Epic Fall of Boxing, highlighted by the contrast between discussing Russian poetry with Ruslan Provodnikov one minute, and then hearing his screams of "Champ-ee-on" echo through the studio stage as he posed beneath an artificial waterfall the next. The others come from Macau: finding ourselves hopelessly lost on a day out, only to be rescued by a bar owner who saw the credential hanging round HBO photographer Will Hart's neck and walked up to us shouting, "Hey! Manny Pacquiao"; and sitting in the arena at 10AM on a Sunday morning, taking in the scene as 12,000 people packed the venue and screamed themselves hoarse at what was the first -- but surely not the last -- big boxing pay-per-view on Chinese soil.
Tim Bradley's raw comments during Face Off With Max Kellerman:
Bradley talking openly about the aftereffects of his fight with Provodnikov as he sat across the table from Juan Manuel Marquez, admitting to a concussion and two months of slurred speech, was one of the more harrowing, gripping, honest moments of TV I saw all year.
Arturo Gatti's daughter reading his Hall of Fame plaque:
If you didn't well up at least a little bit during the final minutes of the Legendary Nights doc on the Gatti-Micky Ward trilogy, then you might want to check yourself for a pulse.
Darren Barker getting off the canvas after Daniel Geale's sixth-round bodyshot:
Referee Eddie Cotton's count was at about 9 and 99/100ths. It's remarkable that Barker not only got up, but rallied back and won the fight.
So many great moments. Tough to choose. I loved virtually every episode of the 24/7 series. Choose between them? Not me. I vote the entirety of the 24/7 series as my favorite "moments" of the year.
During the Face-Off between Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios, Max Kellerman asked Rios if he thought he was being insulted by Pacquiao selecting him as an opponent that he could look exciting against and whom he could beat up. As Rios answered the question, boasting about what he could do against Pacman, Pacquiao had a smirking smile on his face. It was as if he knew he was going to beat the stuffing out of Rios and look good doing it.
"Gabriel is... good boy." - Gennady Golovkin, after nearly murdering Gabriel Rosado.
My least favorite moments of the year were the fights that did not get stopped when they should have, including Abdusalamov and Tapia.
Ruslan Provodnikov's mom, a Russian nesting doll come to life, joining her just-crowned champion son in the ring, brings a smile to my face whenever I think about it.
In 24/7 Bradley/Marquez, Juan Manuel Marquez broke down the footage of his KO of Manny Pacquiao, describing the feint he had been waiting for all night to unleash a vicious counterpunch, and removing any doubt that what he had landed could be considered a lucky punch.
Sitting in the driving rain in Club Atlético Vélez Sarsfield in Buenos Aires, Argentina, I was unsure if Sergio Martinez's fight against Martin Murray was about to take place or not. Once it did, I'll never forget clearing a path through a mass of humanity (and no security), before celebrating a job done remarkably well with the HBO production team.
HBO Boxing Insiders Year End Picks: Trainer of the Year
Kieran Mulvaney: Javan "Sugar" Hill
Abel Sanchez has overseen the emerging superstardom of Gennady Golovkin, but as effective as he has been in molding his charge into the fan-friendly fighter we see today, the raw material with which he had to work was of the highest quality. Adonis Stevenson, on the other hand, was more of a diamond in the rough. The great Emanuel Steward barely had time to begin polishing that diamond before his untimely passing; Hill, Steward's nephew, has taken over the work his uncle started and has helped create a versatile and fan-friendly star in the making.
Eric Raskin: Javan "Sugar" Hill
In a year in which the most recognizable trainers with deep stables-Freddie Roach, Robert Garcia, Virgil Hunter-had too many ups and downs to keep track of, Hill is my pick because of what Adonis Stevenson achieved. Also, by picking Hill, I'm giving a bit of a posthumous award to the best trainer of recent decades, Emanuel Steward, who worked with Stevenson and Hill prior to his untimely passing in 2012.
Nat Gottlieb: Robert Garcia.
He's the hottest young trainer in the business, and he had a great year. Among the A-list of fighters he worked with this year were Nonito Donaire, Evgeny Gradovich, Brandon Rios, and his own younger brother, Mikey.
Tim Smith: Javan "Sugar'' Hill
The trainer for Adonis Stevenson set himself apart in 2013. Hill, the nephew of the late Emanuel Steward, took over training Stevenson after Steward passed away. Hill built on the foundation that Steward established and has set Stevenson on a path for greatness.
Hamilton Nolan: Abel Sanchez
There are plenty of good trainers and plenty of good fighters. But since no trainer this year can really claim two fighters who had incredible years, I have to go with the trainer whose one fighter--Golovkin--had the most incredible year. Sanchez is relaxed, cerebral, and knows what he's doing. Golovkin is lucky to have him.
Michael Gluckstadt: Freddie Roach
Just because someone's the best player year after year, doesn't mean you stop giving them the MVP. Roach continued to ply his trade as the best trainer in the game, overseeing the emergence of Ruslan Provodnikov, the resurgence of Miguel Cotto, and the return of Manny Pacquiao, among other feats. And the former boxer also showed he can still take a blow -- in this case, a kick to the stomach from Alex Ariza.
HBO Boxing Insiders Year End Picks: HBO Round of the Year
Kieran Mulvaney: Darren Barker vs. Daniel Geale, Round 6
When a fighter crumples to the canvas from a body shot, he normally stays there. It isn't a question of having his senses scrambled; it's more that every last molecule of oxygen and vestige of energy has escaped through his pores, to be replaced by a paralyzing agent that renders movement impossible. Yet somehow, when Barker dropped to the floor against Geale, he found a way to will himself to his feet; amazingly, after withstanding Geale's efforts to finish him, he actually turned the tide and by the end of the round was the one battering his opponent.
Eric Raskin: Timothy Bradley vs. Ruslan Provodnikov, Round 12
Rounds two and six of this fight were also in contention, as were half the rounds in Alvarado-Rios 2, but the "will he or won't we?" intrigue over Provodnikov's pursuit of a needed knockout in the frenetic final round separates these three minutes from the other candidates.
Nat Gottlieb: James Kirkland vs. Glen Tapia, Round 2
Not having fought in 20 months, Kirkland took on the undefeated but unproven Tapia and changed the course of a brutal fight when he landed a ferocious straight left with about 1:10 to go in the round that clearly hurt Tapia. From then on, Tapia fought purely on courage, but after that round, the end was inevitable.
Tim Smith: James Kirkland vs. Glen Tapia, Round 1
The first round of Kirkland-Tapia was the kind of opening salvo you would have expected in a match of this type. Neither gave an inch and they traded punches like kids swapping baseball cards. It set the stage for a back and forth battle of attrition that you know would leave only one man standing.
Hamilton Nolan: Timothy Bradley vs. Ruslan Provodnikov, Round 12
The fact that Tim Bradley stayed awake and on his feet for 12 rounds with Provodnikov is the year's best survival story. The fact that he won is icing on a most delicious cake. Here's to you, Tim Bradley. Never try to slug like that again, you psycho.
Michael Gluckstadt: Darren Barker vs. Daniel Geale, Round 6
A good measure for picking round of the year is how closely it resembles Round 9 of the first Gatti-Ward fight. When Barker mashed his face against the canvas in anguish after being felled by a left to his liver, it did not look like he was getting up. And when he did get up and couldn't throw a punch for 30 seconds, it didn't look like he would get out of the round. But Barker willed himself back into the fight and finished the round strongly en route to a split decision victory.
HBO Boxing Insiders Year End Picks: KO of the Year
Kieran Mulvaney: Gennady Golovkin KO3 Matthew Macklin
Adonis Stevenson's annihilation of Chad Dawson and the cold-eyed destruction of Ismayl Sillakh by Sergey Kovalev are high on the list, but Golovkin's one-punch body shot stoppage of Macklin was the kind of performance that burns itself into the memory. Macklin, a quality contender who had pushed Sergio Martinez to the brink, looked confident before the fight, deeply concerned after taking his opponent's first couple of punches, and broken in half after Golovkin dropped him with a shot that cracked his rib and kept him on the canvas for several minutes. It was an emphatic end to a powerfully dominant performance from the Kazakh-born sensation -- one that announced he is a true force to be reckoned with in the middleweight division.
Eric Raskin: Gennady Golovkin KO3 Matthew Macklin
Because I didn't care for the way in which Stevenson-Dawson was stopped -- the ref never asked Dawson to step forward and called what struck me as a slightly panicky halt in a fight of that magnitude -- I have to pick GGG's bodyshot blastout of Macklin. This wasn't like Bernard Hopkins' bodyshot stoppage of Oscar De La Hoya, which did the job but didn't look like much. Golovkin's left hook to Macklin's middle packed all the aesthetic punch you could ask for. You could almost feel Macklin's pain from your living room couch -- especially when he was still struggling for breath as Michael Buffer announced the result a couple of minutes later.
Nat Gottlieb: Adonis Stevenson KO1 Chad Dawson
Complete shocker as Dawson, despite his loss at 168 to Ward, was still considered the man at 175. Adonis took over The Man status in short order with a brutal left cross that nearly lifted Dawson off his feet and sent him down flat on his back. Dawson bravely got up to beat the count, but the ref took one look at the fighter, who probably didn't know where he even was, and waved it off.
Tim Smith: Mikey Garcia KO8 Roman Martinez
There is nothing quite like a perfectly executed left hook to the liver to bring matters in the ring to a quick and decisive conclusion. And that is exactly what Mikey Garcia did when he landed that perfect KO shot on Roman "Rocky'' Martinez at 56 seconds of the eighth round of their WBO super featherweight match. When Garcia landed the shot, Martinez was frozen like a block of ice from its paralyzing effect. The victory solidified Garcia's credentials a legitimate star.
Hamilton: Adonis Stevenson KO1 Chad Dawson
Adonis Stevenson knocking out Chad Dawson in the first round. This was the single most emphatic "Hello, goodbye" moment of the year in boxing. A changing of the guard.
Michael Gluckstadt: Adonis Stevenson KO1 Chad Dawson
There was no KO more emphatic or dramatic than Adonis Stevenson proving out Emmanuel Steward's prediction that he would be the number one fighter at light heavyweight, and doing so in the first round.