Spotlight | on Boxing

No shortage of excellent matchups highlighted 2013

 

Coming up

Friday (9 p.m., ESPN2): Argenis Mendez vs. Rances Barthelemy, 12, for Mendez’s IBF junior-lightweight title.


Special to the Miami Herald

Despite the continued knocks from the sport’s casual observers who could not name an active fighter past Floyd Mayweather Jr., boxing enjoyed a busy and productive 2013.

Intriguing bouts and successful performances from established and emerging fighters highlighted a year that featured important matches on the national landscape as late as two weeks ago.

Mayweather remained the sport’s top attraction and pound-for-pound fighter after his dominant wins against Robert Guerrero in May and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez four months later. The bouts were also Mayweather’s first of a six-fight deal with Showtime after his previous association with rival HBO.

The Mayweather-Alvarez bout also became the highest grossing pay-per-view event in boxing history.

Manny Pacquiao shared with Mayweather pound-for-pound supremacy during a five year-stretch until his two losses in 2012. The native of the Philippines returned to the ring after an 11-month absence and won a convincing decision over Brandon Rios in November.

Pacquiao’s 2012 conquerors met in October as Timothy Bradley won a split decision over Juan Manuel Marquez and retained his welterweight title. In March, Bradley won a narrow decision against Ruslan Provodnikov but withstood a brutal challenge from his Russian opponent and sustained a concussion.

Like Pacquiao, super-middleweight titleholder Andre Ward returned to the ring after a lengthy absence and won a decision over Edwin Rodriguez in November. Ward, who was inactive because of shoulder surgery, is now considered by many experts as boxing’s second best pound-for-pound fighter.

Nonito Donaire also had a spot on the pound-for-pound list until he faced Miami resident Guillermo Rigondeaux in April. Rigondeaux’s superb boxing skills frustrated Donaire and the Cuba native won a unanimous decision in their super-bantamweight title unification bout. Rigondeaux retained his two belts with a convincing decision against Joseph Agbeko in December.

Gennady Golovkin perhaps made the biggest move toward stardom with a busy year for a champion in contemporary boxing. The native of Kazakhstan successfully defended his middleweight belt four times with four knockout victories. Golovkin’s fight-finishing prowess is winning over admirers and TV network executives.

A possible Golovkin opponent next year in a title unification fight had one ring appearance. Sergio Martinez, considered the best 160-pound fighter the past three years, survived a knockdown and won a unanimous decision against Martin Murray in April.

Super-lightweight champion Danny Garcia was not considered the favorite in his title defense against power-punching menace Lucas Matthysse on the Mayweather-Alvarez undercard. But Garcia frustrated Matthyse with timely combinations and won a hard-fought decision.

Nothing changed with the heavyweight division as Wladimir Klitschko continued his monopoly of most of the sanctioning body titles. A part-time Hollywood resident, Klitschko had two successful title defenses with wins over Alexander Povetkin and Francesco Pianeta.

The division should have an opening for a new titleholder not named Klitschko next year. Vitali Klitschko, who held one of the alphabet soup belts not owned by his brother, has been inactive since Sept. 2012 and recently announced he would vacate the title to become a candidate for president in Ukraine.

Bernard Hopkins will turn 49 in two weeks but the part-time Miami Beach resident showed no indications of retiring. Hopkins continued to defy age when he defeated Tavoris Cloud in March for a third stint as light-heavyweight champion. Seven months later, Hopkins retained his belt with a convincing decision against Karo Murat.

The Bradley-Provodnikov and Garcia-Matthysse bouts were obvious favorites for Fight of the Year. Marcos Maidana and Adrien Broner also made their claim for such recognition in their entertaining welterweight title bout Dec. 14.

Maidana won a unanimous decision against the previously unbeaten Broner, who had moved up from lightweight class and won a welterweight belt against Paulie Malignaggi in September.

Haiti-born Adonis Stevenson made a substantial impact with a first-round TKO win over defending champion Chad Dawson for a light-heavyweight belt in March. Stevenson maintained a busy titleholder schedule with stoppage wins over Cloud in September and Tony Bellew two months later.

Two additional fighters considered on the rise are junior-middleweight Erislandy Lara and super-featherweight titleholder Mikey Garcia.

Lara, a native of Cuba, stopped feared slugger Alfredo Angulo in June and won a second-tier super-welterweight belt in a convincing decision against Austin Trout six months later.

Garcia is becoming one of the best fighters below the 135-pound class after his three knockout wins. Garcia won a featherweight belt against veteran Orlando Salido in January, lost the title on the scales but nonetheless stopped Juan Manuel Lopez in June and closed the year with an eighth-round stoppage of Roman Martinez for a super-featherweight crown in November.

The sport had noticeable TV presence as ESPN2 again showcased boxing with its Friday Night Fights series through August and Fox Sports1’s monthly events. Telemundo also aired 12 shows but switched to a seasonal-format instead of its previous monthly telecasts.

HBO and Showtime featured boxing throughout the year but fighters’ tie-ins to rival promoters and the competing networks continue deny fans dream matches.

The South Florida fight scene had one of its weakest years. Local fight fans were left with many idle months of card activity.

Golden Boy Promotions presented four shows at the BB&T Center. But its last card in November was the only event that featured local fighters in important bouts.

Hard Rock Live Arena, one of South Florida’s busiest fight venues, had only one card in November. Times indeed have changed from the years when Hard Rock Live frequently hosted world title fights.

There were high expectations that the Magic City Casino at the former Flagler Dog Track would become a popular location for fight shows, especially with the unveiling of its adjacent 900-seat multi-purpose room. But after a card the first week in January, boxing was not showcased at Magic City the rest of the year.

The former Miami Jai-Alai Fronton, now Casino Miami Jai-Alai, featured shows in April and August. Veteran trainer and promoter Al Bonanni plans to return for additional cards next year at a venue popular for its shows in the 1980s and 1990s.

Read more Boxing stories from the Miami Herald

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