What a year it was to be a fan of Boxing, as the sport experienced an unprecedented run to renaissance and a position atop the sporting lexicon. With the departure of world #1 Floyd Mayweather to rival Showtime, HBO tossed chips around the poker table much to our delight, going "all-in" to close the year and continue its dominance in quality broadcast excellence. But Showtime wasn't that far behind. We saw the return of Pacquiao and Ward, a superhero and villainous prototypes, and bouts full of intrigue. Golden Boy and Top Rank will continue their beef- and we won't complain. 2013 was one of the best in sweet science history and its largely in part due to egos out of control.
With that chaos comes an order for more, and these 10 fighters seized an opportunity through madness.
10. Miguel Cotto
You had that strange look on your face just like I did when he partnered up with Freddie Roach. What the hell is he doing? Is he crazy? No. He just went crazy on Delvin Rodriguez and beat him like the B- fighter he was. But if not for Roach, Cotto makes that fight as hard as it was easy. He was so compelling it seemed to erase signs of slippage I know is still in him. But that’s part of Freddie's genius. He’s now up for a blockbuster with Sergio Martinez.
9. Sergei Kovalev
We really knew Kovalev was on to something big when he annihilated Nathan Cleverly. Looking like some sort of light heavyweight James Bond villain, Kovalev emerged as a serious threat to anyone on his radar and one of the most dangerous fighters in the world.
8. Ruslan Provodnikov
What a year it was for the all-action “Siberian Rocky”. He had Tim Bradley looking and feeling like a bobblehead doll, and then he got medieval on Mike Alvarado to pick up some hardware. Not bad for a former sparring partner of the #3 on this list, and someone that took a train from Siberia to Moscow every day. Brutal.
7. Danny Garcia
“Swift” earns a spot on this list alone for his eye-opening win over the nightmare Lucas Matthysse. No one really expected Danny to beat him going in except his Daddy- who would like his chances against Godzilla. Something tells me that we should expect him to surprise us again in 2014.
6. Adonis Stevenson
It was as if “Superman” himself appeared before the world for real in June of this mega year for Boxing. With one crippling overhand left, Adonis Stevenson hammered would-be superman Chad Dawson with Kryptonite and threw himself into stardom. His larger-than-life personality and 2 other subsequent victories set the stage for an epic 2014.
What really makes him compelling depends on how much you hate “Money”, or losing it because he wins. When we last saw him in 2012, he was somewhat bruised and battered in a way we’d never seen him before, courtesy of a few left hands from #10 Cotto. Was he slipping? No. After putting Robert Guerrero in quicksand and Canelo on a little yellow bus, Floyd has spent most of his time watching his little brother get beat up, playing games on Twitter, and apparently getting into greeting card business. And I know what I’m not getting from him next year.
4. Andre Ward
Andre Ward offers definitive proof that the notion of being #2 at anything SUCKS. He was treated like it in 2013. By his promoter (who- come hell or high water he’s determined to successfully sue), his shoulder, and even HBO (who rejected a couple of opponents before settling on Rodriguez- who too had the audacity to treat him like he was #2). In drowning Rodriguez, Ward breathed new life into his prospects for elusive super-stardom in 2014. And for “SOG”, thank God for that.
The world wanted to know how he’d respond to one of the most suddenly violent stoppages in history and a fairly disastrous 2012. So we waited while various aficionados declared him dead. He wasn't- ask Brandon Rios. He and Freddie Roach are more individual gameplan specific than Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. We knew he faced political and religious turmoil to boot, and he must've known about possible IRS action. Someone should conduct a study on his mental strength, because it’s amazing.
2. Adrien Broner
On Facebook you can find a page devoted to “Adrien Boner”, who apparently developed one while getting his ass beat by Marcos Maidana, perhaps adding S&M to his plethora of uh- “interests”. What made Broner really compelling in 2013 is just how much he proved karma cannot be beaten. Ever.
1. Gennady “GGG” Golovkin
“GGG” probably made you order a pizza this year, when in 2012, he could've been the damn delivery guy for all you care. In virtually every fight household in the world, his name has been tossed around your living room with the same authority he pounded opponents all around the world. The middleweight champ was an absolute terror this year, leaving us all to wonder not if – but how- he was going to knock someone out.
2014 can’t get here fast enough.