Boxing review 2012
Adam Norman reflects on the highs and lows that figured prominently in the world of boxing over the past 12 months.
By Adam Norman. Last Updated: 24/12/12 1:21pm
Not for the first time the sport of boxing made the back pages for the right reasons as well as the wrong reasons in 2012.
Ricky Burns and Nathan Cleverly began the year as world champions and they remain WBO title holders, while Carl Froch regained his status by claiming the IBF super-middleweight title on a thrilling night in Nottingham.
Ricky Hatton made a surprise return to the ring after a three year absence but although it was short-lived he can finally retire for good with a sense of closure.
The year in pictures
Check out our pictorial reflection of the boxing year
Several Britons moved to the brink of championship level, headed by Sheffield's Kell Brook who earned himself a title shot in the New Year against IBF welterweight champ Devon Alexander.
Jamie McDonnell, Scott Quigg, Carl Frampton, Tony Bellew, Martin Murray and Tyson Fury all moved into contention for top honours with impressive victories, while David Haye's controversial victory over Dereck Chisora kept him in the title picture.
It was their unseemly clash at a press conference following Chisora's loss to Vitali Klitschko that dragged the sport into the gutter, with boxing's image not being helped by the duo then defying the British Board of Control (who had banned Chisora) to fight in front of a huge crowd at Upton Park.
The world's best pugilist Floyd Mayweather Jr found himself serving time for battery - but not before he was given special dispensation to fight - and beat - Miguel Cotto over 12 rounds. Mayweather's oft-talked about fight with Manny Pacquiao was farther away than ever - especially after the Filipino's shocking losses (for different reasons) to Timothy Bradley and latterly Juan Manuel Marquez.
The sport did itself few favours by handing Bradley a controversial points victory despite the vast majority scoring it in favour of Pacquiao.
Andre Ward, fresh from a dominant win over Carl Froch, had just one fight against Chad Dawson, who boiled down from light-heavyweight only to be dropped three times on the way to a 10th round stoppage.
In contrast, Nonito Donaire finally started to gain the recognition he deserved by becoming a four-weight champion, fighting a total of four times and sending two of his opponents into retirement.
The Klitschkos continued to dominate a dormant heavyweight division, older brother Vitali following up his win over Chisora by stopping Manuel Charr on cuts, while Wladimir remained unparalleled as he enjoyed three easy wins.
However, there is hope on the horizon with both Tyson Fury and David Price working their way into mandatory positions - although the chances of the two domestic giants meeting in the ring anytime soon remain as remote as ever.
Sky Sports and promoters Matchroom teamed up in the second half of the year with a promise to screen bigger and deeper shows, and delivered with huge nights for Brook in Sheffield, Froch in Nottingham plus big shows in London and Belfast featuring established names as well as a glut of promising talent emerging from the amateur ranks.
The unpaid game has never been in a healthier state following the most successful Olympic Games ever for Team GB, with Anthony Joshua, Luke Campbell and Nicola Adams all coming away from London with gold. And with the Briton joining the World Series of Boxing the young guns now have more options should they choose not to go down the professional route.
Fighters of the year
The Filipino Flash had the standout year as he became a four-weight champion and then defended the WBO super-bantamweight title three times. Donaire has now won belts from 112 to 122 and can justifiably be named heir to the throne currently held by countryman Manny Pacquiao. Just eight weeks after sending WBC champ Toshiaki Nishioka into retirement Donaire rounded off 2012 by icing Jorge Arce inside three sessions - the Mexican subsequently calling time on his own career. Donaire is open to fighting anyone, including the unbeaten Abner Mares, at 122lbs but don't be surprised if he steps up again to take on the best featherweights around.
Far from becoming a fading force the 35-year-old Carl Froch took a step towards greatness by winning a super-middleweight world title for a third time. The 'Cobra' said retirement was on the cards if he had lost to the hitherto unbeaten Lucian Bute in May - that he won so convincingly means we can expect more of the same in 2013. Bute went into that fight in Froch's home town the bookies' favourite but they got it very wrong as the Nottingham hero put behind him the worst defeat of his career to Andre Ward in emphatic style. It took fewer than five rounds for Froch to become IBF champion, a belt he defended back at the Capital FM Arena with another demolition job against the over-matched American Yusuf Mack. Froch can look forward to re-matches with Bute, Mikkel Kessler and Ward as well as the birth of a second child next year, but for now he can sit back and reflect on a job well done in 2012.
Fight of the year
Brandon Rios v Mike Alvarado
Few surprises here as one of the most talked-about brawls of recent times gets top billing. It may not have lasted seven rounds, but those present in Carson, California got their money's worth alright. Both men came into it with their '0' intact, and one was as determined as the other to remain that way. It was the proverbial 'phone booth' brawl as they slugged away at each other for more than 18 minutes, neither taking a single backward step. But something had to give that October night and it was 'Bam Bam' Rios, in his first light-welterweight fight, who landed the real telling blows midway through the sixth - a series of spiteful right hooks leaving Alvarado reeling on the ropes and spared only by a timely intervention from referee Pat Russell. Hopes are high they will clash again in 2013.
Knockout of the year
Juan Manuel Marquez v Manny Pacquiao
There may have better KOs in a visual sense in 2012 but the nature of Pacquiao's demise at the hands of his old enemy was as shocking as it was surprising. Nobody foresaw an outcome to the duo's fourth fight ending with Pacquiao - a controversial winner of two and fortunate to earn a draw in the other previous clash - face down and lifeless on the canvas. But that is exactly what happened when the Filipino walked onto a perfectly-timed straight right hand from the 39-year-old from Mexico. It was a rare OMG moment.
Shock of the year
Danny Garcia v Amir Khan
Khan's career was firmly back on track and he had made five defences of the WBA strap before Lamont Peterson controversially de-railed any talk of a fight with Floyd Mayweather. But the Brit was still talking himself up ahead of the July clash with WBC champ Garcia, who was considered to be talented yet raw and very much the underdog. However, the American set Khan's plans back to square one with a wild left hook that landed under the ear and turned his legs to jelly. There was no way back for Amir after that, while Garcia is now top dog at 140lbs.
Comebacks of the year
Nobody was happier than the 'Dazzler' himself after he put a traumatic 14 months behind him with an impressive victory over Kerry Hope in December. Barker was on the verge of calling it a day in the summer after a return from hip surgery was called off when he injured an arm in training. However, he was talked into giving it another shot and more than a year after he last fought - in a world title fight against Sergio Martinez - he returned to stop former European champ Hope in the fourth.
'The Ghost' put behind him more than a year of inactivity due to a shoulder injury and his wife's leukaemia to win a portion of the WBC welterweight title. Bravely moving up two weight classes in a bid to secure bigger fights, the former two-weight champion beat the undefeated Turk Selcuk Aydin before decisioning Andre Berto in a bruising encounter. And with talk of a clash with Floyd Mayweather in the air, 2012 was a year to remember for the Californian.
Quotes of the year
"I think it's a bit early for him to be fighting me but him being a world champion, I think it'll be a good fight as he's never tasted defeat before." - Amir Khan on Danny Garcia.
"We got a little complacent and he took advantage and he caught me. I was a little surprised the referee stopped it. I thought he was going to let us continue." - Amir Khan after being knocked out by Garcia.
"I thank Lucian Bute and his team for coming over, but I'm telling you now he's made a big mistake." - Carl Froch talking tough prior to knocking out Bute.
"It is the biggest fight of the year and the fact of the matter is that the fight is legal, lawful and will go ahead." - Frank Warren on promoting Haye v Chisora on a Luxembourg licence.
"I've never been as ashamed of the sport of boxing as I am tonight. I'll make a lot of money off the rematch, but this was outrageous." Bob Arum after Tim Bradley was given the decision over Manny Pacquiao.
"On a few occasions I haven't shown up which has really hurt my reputation, but I will show up in Liverpool. I have the spirit and tenacity to dust myself off and give it another go." Audley Harrison before he was knocked unconscious in 82 seconds by David Price.
"I have a long road ahead and a lot of work in front of me. The stakes are high." - former England cricketer Andrew Flintoff on his decision to become a boxer.
"I want British boxing to be proud of me again. I want my kids to look at me and say 'that's my dad there'. Ricky Hatton is redeeming himself." - Ricky Hatton announces his ill-fated comeback after three years out.
"Amir Khan has been knocked out at lightweight and light-welterweight, and I'll finish him off at welterweight, no problem." - Kell Brook.
"He's round the bend. He cannot handle other people getting praise and credit and that's why he spat his dummy out on TV and made an absolute fool of himself by the sound of it." - David Price on Tyson Fury's ringside rant.
Haye and Chisora brawl in Munich: Memorable for all the wrong reasons, the post-fight scuffle between the two British heavyweights stained the name of boxing. Whether a publicity stunt or not, the pair nevertheless did well out of it as 30,000 filled Upton Park to see them box in a fight sanctioned by the Luxembourg Board of Control.
David Price knocks Audley Harrison out: We'd all had enough of 'A-Force' after his farcical fight with David Haye but once again he was in the right place at the right time - at least to bank another decent paycheck. But Price was able to do what the majority of the paying public were hoping Haye would do - knock Harrison into retirement. It took the giant Liverpudlian all of 82 seconds to get the job done in brutal fashion. Audley says he will fight on - but has the UK finally seen the last of him?
Tyson Fury's bizarre rant: After hearing of arch-enemy Price's demolition of Harrison, Fury told a startled Ch5 audience: "You plumber from Liverpool, it's serious between me and you and I'm going to give you some serious harm, you big stiff idiot. You're going to need 10 plumbers when I've finished with you. Call me any names and you are getting it." It is a fight the whole nation wishes to see.
Eddie Hearn loses the plot: The Matchroom promoter was so overwhelmed by Carl Froch's demolition of Lucian Bute that he charged into the ring, grabbed the 'Cobra' from behind and lifted him aloft - even though the referee was still administering a count. Froch later said he had no idea who it was - but thankfully Sky's cameras captured the moment in high definition.
Ricky Hatton's return to the ring: Manchester's favourite son had still not put his defeat to Manny Pacquiao to bed...three years after that dark night in Las Vegas. Hatton had hit rock bottom - drink, drugs and depression leading him to balloon in weight and his life spiral to out of control. But he got back in shape training young fighters and the hunger returned, enough to encourage him to give it one last go. Almost 18,000 loyal fans packed the Manchester Arena to see the 'Hitman' appear to the sound of 'Blue Moon' for what turned out to be the final time.
Brook v Khan clash on Ringside: There is no love lost between the British duo and another 'War of the Roses' could be on for 2013, at least if their spat on Ringside was anything to go by. "I used to box Kell all round the ring, that's the honest truth," said Khan of their sparring sessions as amateurs. Brook responded: "He'll get demolished, he'll do that funny dance he does. I'll take him out. He can't hold a shot!" It was TV gold.
Olympic success: Never before has Team GB enjoyed such success at an Olympic Games. Building on the success of James DeGale and fellow medallists David Price and Tony Jeffries in Beijing, hopes were high that Britain's 10-strong squad would deliver the goods in London. And they certainly did, with Anthony Joshua, Luke Campbell and Nicola Adams winning gold, Fred Evans taking silver and Anthony Ogogo bagging bronze.
Few could have made a bigger impact on the domestic scene in six months as a professional than the Birmingham bantam. Limited but durable Mexican Victor Koh aside, Yafai despatched his overmatched opponents with an impressive mix of power and precision. Promoter Eddie Hearn may look beyond faded veteran Jason Booth in the New Year and head towards Commonwealth champion Stuart Hall.
The 24-year-old Floridian has been steadily building his profile in the US by knocking all those put in front of him. However, his eye-catching victory over the wily Carlos Quintana in November made a lot of people sit up and take notice. With that rare gift of being able to punch above his weight, Thurman is rightly worried the big names will look to avoid him. Willing to fight at welter or light-middleweight, he seems sure to make giant strides in 2013.
The Hitman's comeback was greeted enthusiastically by many, but not all, and it was the doubters who were proved correct as a tearful Hatton called it quits after being stopped by Vyasheslav Senchenko in Manchester.
The Mexican hardman will never be forgiven by many after being found to have 'loaded gloves' before a fight in 2009. However, over a career spanning 18 years and a lengthy spell as WBO welterweight champ, he overcame three early losses to provide thrills aplenty.
The popular Sheffield light-middleweight called time on his remarkable career after losing to Sergey Rabchenko. The former 'Spice Boy' won a Lonsdale Belt in a record 90 days in 1997 and after failing to cut it at 11st 6lb came back to prove himself all over again.
It's many years since 'Sugar' Shane ruled as an undefeated lightweight champion and after moving through the divisions, picking up titles in two further weight classes, Mosley finally called it a day at the age of 40 after dropping a lop-sided decision to Saul Alvarez.
*Stop press; Shane is in talks to fight Paul Malignaggi in the New Year.
Ronald 'Winky' Wright
A contemporary of Mosley and twice a conqueror of 'Sugar', Wright also rung the bell on a long career that spanned the globe. Without those two wins the largely avoided southpaw would not have been afforded potential Hall of Fame status. As it was, a dominant victory over Felix Trinidad may well have secured it.
Gone, but not forgotten
Joe Frazier, heavyweight legend, 67
Hector Camacho, three-weight champion, 50
Corrie Sanders, heavyweight champion, 46
Johnny Tapia, three-weight champion, 45
Michael Dokes, heavyweight champion, 54
Angelo Dundee, legendary trainer, 90
Manny Steward, legendary trainer, 68
Bert Randolph Sugar, boxing writer, 75