• Review of the Year

Pacquiao's star fades as bulky Brits emerge

ESPN staff
December 24, 2012
Carl Froch does not top any of our lists but if there were a good bloke award, he would get it © Getty Images

The fights which generated the biggest buzz this year predictably involved Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao.

It was as if generating a frenzy around this pair might fill the vacuum where once hopes that they would fight each other lay. 2012 destroyed that prospect and Mayweather now parades himself as several leagues above Pacman.

Instead, the fabled super-fight has been (almost) replaced by Pacquiao's rivalry with Juan Manuel Marquez and the hope that somewhere in the boxing mist is an opponent who Mayweather will lose to.

Miguel Cotto was in with a shout of being that man and he drew Mayweather's deepest praise after his failure but "Money" will welcome in 2013 at 43-0.

Unless he loses next year, the world's focus will shift to the heavyweight division with the prospect of the Klitschko brothers carving up their five-fight TV deal between them, and anyone brave enough to put up their hand.

David Haye could be a potential contender for Vitali Klitschko if the latter can be coaxed back from politics - and the fight is not held in Ukraine. Tyson Fury's promoter Mick Hennessy is talking up his man to fight either brother but if that does not get the go-ahead then a showdown with David Price would rapidly whip up interest.

But, however the fight contracts are assigned, heavyweight Britons are set to feature more prominently next year. As the poster boys of the sport, they are the fighters who turn the vaguely interested into avid fans and bring boxing out of the sidebars and onto the back pages.

At the very least that will make Fury's pre-fight jig into a viral hit and perhaps encourage him to work on one more befitting of a heavyweight British boxer.

Think Henry Cooper not Tommy in 2013, Tyson.

David Price tucks in heartily to Matt Skelton in his second-longest fight of the year. It lasted two rounds. © PA Photos

Fighter of the Year

Winner: David Price

Runner-up: Carl Froch

The 2012 ledger for British heavyweight David Price reads: four fights, four knockouts. Such has been the 29-year-old's efficiency this year that his overall time in the ring equates to eight rounds out of a possible 48.

Price saw the year in with a win over John McDermott in January, which was sewn up in the first round. From there he beat Sam Sexton in four rounds, demolished Audley Harrison and finished up with Matt Skelton - fighting all four in his home town of Liverpool.

While this year has been an excellent one for the heavyweight, 2013 could be far more exciting as a bout with Tyson Fury is a possibility. But it will depend on whether the younger Fury gets in the ring with one of the Klitschko brothers first.

Should an all-British clash happen, it could well feature in next year's 'Fight of the Year' section. It will certainly be one of the most hoped for over the next 12 months.

Floyd Mayweather Jr was left blooded but unbowed by Miguel Cotto © Getty Images

Fight of the Year

Winner: Floyd Mayweather Jr v Miguel Cotto

Runner-up: Juan Manuel Marquez v Manny Pacquiao

When Miguel Cotto made Floyd Mayweather Jr bleed in the fifth round in Las Vegas in May, the American let a smile creep across his face.

Witnessing his own mortality first-hand does not happen very often to Mayweather but at that point he knew he was in a fight. Seven rounds later "Money" had another victory, albeit on points, but he told the Puerto Rican afterwards: "You're a hell of a champion. You're the toughest guy I ever fought."

The crowd had cheered every picture of a bleeding Mayweather which flashed across the big screen at the MGM Grand and were infuriated when he blew kisses back at them after the fight.

Las Vegas wanted Mayweather to lose and he came as close to obliging Sin City's populace as he ever has done. There was the usual showmanship, celebrity faces and bizarre antics that always accompany Mayweather but this time there was a true contest to drown that out.

Anthony Ogogo lost to the better fighter in Brazil's Esquiva Falcao in the Olympic middleweight semi-final © Getty Images

Comeback of the Year

Winner: Anthony Ogogo

Runner-up: Wladimir Klitschko

In February this year, Anthony Ogogo was back training five months after undergoing shoulder surgery in a bid to make Team GB's Olympic squad.

A full recovery can take up to a year and while Ogogo had access to the best physios in the sport, his injury must have hurt much more than he was letting on.

His determination helped him qualify for the Games but in the run up to London his resolve was severely tested again when his mother Teresa suffered a brain haemorrhage on June 19. Agogo combined being at her bedside in Suffolk with training for the biggest challenge of his career and although many had ear-marked him for an early exit he made the semi-finals. He was resoundly beaten by Brazil's Esquiva Falcao Florentino but still earned a bronze medal.

Ogogo will probably end the year as a professional boxer as reports indicate he may be about to sign for prestigious boxing promoter Golden Boy. Quite an end to a tough year.

Wladimir Klitschko also overcame personal troubles to beat Mariusz Wach three weeks after his coach Emanuel Steward had died from cancer.

Juan Manuel Marquez finally earned a clear victory over Manny Pacquiao thanks to the 'perfect punch' © Getty Images

Knockout of the Year

Winner: Juan Manuel Marquez's super punch on Manny Pacquiao

Runner-up: Danny Garcia's left hook on Amir Khan

Juan Manuel Marquez's right which blew Manny Pacquiao's circuit breakers and sent him crashing to the canvas in the sixth round of their fourth fight was a perfect punch.

ESPN.co.uk's very own Steve Bunce said he had only witnessed a dozen such crisp connections in his 25 years covering boxing.

The punch came out of nowhere as Marquez seemingly backed away from the Filipino before landing his career-defining punch from close range.

Pacquiao collapsed instantly, his 5ft 6.5in frame crumpling forward with his head resting almost outside of the ring as he lay unconscious.

Marquez knew he finally had his out-right victory after one draw and two points losses but he did not dare preempt the greatest moment in his career. He waited for the referee's signal before wheeling away and climbing the ropes in celebration.

Chris Eubank Jr has the 'look' of a future champion © PA Photos


Winner: Chris Eubank Jr

Runner-up: Tyson Fury

With a famous father and a presence about him in the ring, Chris Eubank Jr has been talked about throughout his youth as a champion-in-waiting.

He is in no way a dead-cert to succeed in the sport but no-one can deny the ease with which he dances around the ring and nonchalantly lands his punches.

In beating Bradley Pryce in December, Eubank Jr impressed in flashes but his naivety was evident and he let his guard down too often. The 23-year-old has fought eight times in 2012 and is, of course, unbeaten, although he has yet to go beyond eight rounds.

He now has to earn his own reputation so that opponents start fearing the 'Jr' in his name. We will know more when he starts going the full distance in his middleweight division but for now he remains a serious prospect for the future.

Timothy Bradley had nothing on Manny Pacquiao, quite literally in terms of punches © PA Photos

Controversy of the Year

Winner: Timothy Bradley beating Manny Pacquiao

Runner-up: Lamont Peterson's drug-tainted victory over Amir Khan

The popular opinion after Timothy Bradley was awarded a points victory over Manny Pacquiao in June at the MGM Grand was that the American won without throwing a punch.

Two judges awarded Bradley a 115-113 victory while only one gave the fight to Pacquiao by the same score. However the statistics tell a different story, as will every single person who watched the fight from start to scandalous finish.

Bradley rained down his punches from all corners but was wasteful with his throws, converting just 19% of his 839 punches while Pacquiao landed 34% of his 751 attempts.

Bradley was shown up even more by his jab statistics which showed him connecting with just 11% of his 258 jabs but Pacquiao returned 24% of his and threw almost twice as many.

A super-fight between Mayweather and Pacquiao had probably already passed but after this fight all hope evaporated completely, with Mayweather recently saying he feels sorry for Pacman.

Nicola Adams has done so much for female boxing in Britain © PA Photos

Champagne moment

Winner: Nicola Adams' Olympic gold

Runner-up: Mikkel Kessler's knockout of Brain Magee

As the first ever women's boxing gold medallist, Nicola Adams is a name which will live long in the memory of all sporting stattos.

If you are not one of these noble creatures but happened to chance across an ancient sporting festival in London this summer, the chances are you will still remember Adams for a long time thanks to her post-fight smile and boxing class.

Adams has had a stellar year in the amateur ranks. In the flyweight world championships she took a silver medal, losing out to China's Ren Cancan. But in the run up to London she beat her rival and then made it a double in front of home fans at the ExCeL, in the gold medal match no less.

After winning, an outrageous grin broke across her face and to many middle-class boxing observers she immediately became an acceptable face for the sport. Although that sounds disparaging it is also true and her efforts and grace will no doubt lead to more girls taking up the sport across the country.

Amir Khan suffered the worst defeat of his career in 2012 © Getty Images

Upset of the Year

Winner: Danny Garcia's knockout of Amir Khan

Runner-up: Carl Froch stopping Lucian Bute

When a boxer goes into a fight off the back of a defeat and is still the overwhelming favourite with the bookies, it says a lot about his opponent. That was the preamble to Amir Khan's fight with the unbeaten Danny Garcia in Las Vegas in July.

The Bolton fighter was attempting to get his career back on track after a wobble in losing to Lamont Peterson seven months before. But Garcia's fourth round knockout shattered Khan's plans, causing him to reconfigure as a fighter.

He subsequently switched trainers and, as his recent defeat of Carlos Molina showed, is leaning towards a more disciplined fighting style under Virgil Hunter.

Garcia meanwhile has a world light-welterweight title bout in 2013 set up with Zab Judah - a man Khan knocked out before his poor run kicked-in.

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