COMMENTARY | As writers and boxing websites release their year-end awards, there seems to be only one area of dispute. Experts seem split on who deserves Fighter of the Year honors.
Some have pegged "The Filipino Flash," Nonito Donaire for top honors, while others have put Juan Manuel Marquez in the top slot.
Of course, all of these lists and awards are subjective, easily open to debate and based solely on the personal aesthetics and criteria of those making the judgment. Like in most areas of boxing, shades of gray color the decision and, really, a case can be made for both fighters getting the award.
Those that favor Donaire will argue that Donaire's level of activity, fighting four times this year against three legitimately Top Ten-ranked fighters (and Jorge Arce), should earn him the honors.
While Donaire was favored to beat all four of his foes this year, the level of his opposition was, overall, very good. Sure, Arce was a total mismatch and a gimme, but Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. was a solid fight, Jeffrey Mathebula was the reigning IBF junior featherweight champ, and Toshiaki Nishioka, despite being inactive due to injury, was regarded by many as the true no. 1 fighter in the division when he faced Donaire.
Then, there's the outside-the-ring Donaire, who is personable, charismatic, and has recently generated a media-friendly public relations coup by being the first fighter to agree to year-round random drug testing under the supervision of the Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency (VADA).
Donaire, to many, has done everything expected of a Fighter of the Year. As Jake Donovan of Boxingscene wrote: "To not accept Nonito Donaire as the runaway favorite for 2012's Fighter of the Year is to expect too much from a fighter who spent the entire year constantly going above and beyond the call of duty."
Marquez, on the other hand, only fought twice in 2012. His first victory came in April when he scored a one-sided unanimous decision over the Ukraine's Serhiy Fedchenko to win the interim WBO junior welterweight title. It was, admittedly, a very forgettable bout, but a solid enough victory for a then-38-year-old fighter competing at the 140 lb. limit for only the second time of his career.
Next came his big fight and, obviously, the win that pushed him into Fighter of the Year contention, when he knocked out a hard-charging Manny Pacquiao in six rounds. Marquez's flattening of Pacquiao was the single biggest boxing moment of the year and, quite literally, the "shot heard 'round the world." It was also a point of pride and career validation for the Mexican, who finally has a clear victory over his arch-rival after three close and controversial decisions left him with an 0-2-1 record in the series.
But how do the years of Donaire and Marquez compare to one another when it comes to Fighter of the Year consideration?
Donaire was favored to beat all of his opponents this year and did exactly what was expected of him. He scored victories over solid, quality opposition and performed just as a divisional alpha dog should. There was nothing Earth-shattering or even all that surprising about his 2012. It was, no doubt, the best year of his career as a professional, but there was no Abner Mares, no Guillermo Rigondeaux. Nothing above and beyond what was expected of him. In short, Nonito Donaire spent 2012 being Nonito Donaire-- good enough to beat legitimate Top 10 challengers, but with two major names missing from his resume. Anything outside the ring, like the drug testing stance, should be left outside the ring.
Marquez, however, was victorious over one marginal guy and one of this era's greats. Not only did he beat Pacquiao, but he beat a Pacquiao that was very sharp on that particular night. Although the 8-division champ was officially coming off a loss to Tim Bradley in June, smart fans and observers know that Pacquiao really beat Bradley and, so, should've still been regarded as no. 1 in the welterweight division. Marquez's knockout of Pacquiao was truly headline-making and legacy-defining.
After considering both fighters and their respective years, the decision is whether the busier fighter scoring solid wins against talented, but underdog, opposition compares to the fighter who was less busy, but who registered the single biggest boxing win of the year in a wildly competitive bout against a pound-for-pound great.
With much respect given to Donaire, his resume, and his incredible talent, this writer gives the edge to Marquez, who accomplished the near-impossible and turned the sport on its ear with one tremendously gutsy performance and a perfectly-timed right hand.
Juan Manuel Marquez should be the 2012 Fighter of the Year.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and as Editor-in-Chief of The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. For breaking news, additional analysis, and assorted crazy commentary, follow him on Facebook, @TheBoxingTribune or on Twitter, @BoxingBTBC.Source: Jake Donovan, BoxingScene's 2012 Year End Awards: Fighter of the Year, Boxingscene
- Sports & Recreation
- Nonito Donaire
- Juan Manuel Marquez
- Manny Pacquiao