Editor's note: Yahoo Sports expert Kevin Iole resumes his year-end honors Thursday with the Boxing Fight of the Year. The schedule for the rest of the awards:
A momentous year for boxing has come to an end, and my fervent wish is that 2014 will surpass the excitement and the greatness that we saw throughout 2013.
There remains a few honors to dole out for 2013, as well as a few wishes for 2014, so let's get to it.
Knockout of the Year, Gennady Golovkin KO3 Nobuhiro Ishida, March 30 – There were several great candidates, including two knockouts of Mike Mollo by Artur Szpilka; a first-round knockout by Lucas Matthysse of Mike Dallas Jr.; a second-round stoppage by Sergey Kovalev over Ismayl Sillakh; Adonis Stevenson's first-round blowout of Chad Dawson; and a first-rounder by Javier Fortuna over Miguel Zamudio. The best, though, was Golovkin's devastating right hand that not only put Ishida out, but sent him hurtling through the ropes.
Slugger of the Year, Sergey Kovalev – Kovalev fought four times in 2013 and didn't fight a full 12 rounds. He scored a second-round knockout of Ismayl Sillakh and had TKO victories over Nathan Cleverly (fourth), Cornelius White (third) and Gabriel Campillo (third). When Kovalev shows up to fight, he means it. There is no feeling-out process and everything he throws is designed to hurt. Honorable mention goes to Gennady Golovkin, Ruslan Provodnikov, Adonis Stevenson, James Kirkland, Marcos Maidana and Alfredo Angulo.
Pure Boxer of the Year, Guillermo Rigondeaux – I don't like Rigondeaux's style overall because he doesn't bring enough offense. He's by far the best at avoiding being hit and making his opponents look silly in the ring. But he is highly risk averse and doesn't subscribe to the theory that when he makes someone miss, he needs to make them pay by throwing the counter. He got angry at Nonito Donaire late and began hurting Donaire with clean shots, but he needs to do far more of that to grow his fan base from a devoted but tiny group. But Rigondeaux is by far the sport's slickest boxer.
Most Exciting Fighter, Keith Thurman – I agonized over whether to choose Thurman or middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin, but Thurman fought better opposition in 2013 and so he gets the edge. Thurman makes things fun at all times with a high work rate, almost frightening intensity and good power. The runner-up is Golovkin, with honorable mentions going to Sergey Kovalev, Adonis Stevenson, Leo Santa Cruz, Ruslan Provodnikov, Mikey Garcia, Marcos Maidana, Artur Szpilka, Mike Alvarado, Brandon Rios and Josesito Lopez.
Next boxing superstar, Mikey Garcia – Garcia has everything needed to become a big-ticket seller and pay-per-view attraction: He's an extremely gifted boxer, he has very good power, he fights an exciting style and he's articulate and accessible. He appeals to a wide cross-section of the fan base and has a lot of fights that could be made that will help him to achieve that status.
Worst stoppage by a referee, Steve Smoger – Smoger is one of boxing's best referees, but he has a reputation for letting fights go on when one side is hurt. But he went too far in the Dec. 7 Glen Tapia-James Kirkland fight. Tapia should not have been allowed to start the fifth round – he was badly beaten and wobbled to his corner at the end of the fourth. Remarkably, Smoger and trainer Alex Devia let him out. The same thing happened after the fifth. But in the sixth, as Kirkland was teeing off with nothing coming back, Smoger reached his arm in way too late and without enough authority. That allowed Kirkland to land a vicious right hand well after the fight was stopped. Smoger should A) have stopped the fight much sooner and B) should have wrapped his arms around Kirkland in the sixth when he finally decided to stop it and pushed him back to prevent the last blow.
Poorest decision by a corner, John David Jackson – Jackson allowed his fighter, Magomed Abdusalamov, to continue to go out and take punishment from Mike Perez in a bout in New York televised on HBO. Abdusalamov was hurt early in the fight and talked about it in the corner, but Jackson encouraged him to keep fighting. But by about the seventh round, Perez was simply teeing off on Abdusalamov and Jackson should have halted the carnage. He did not. Dishonorable mention goes to Alex Devia, who kept sending Glen Tapia out to face James Kirkland even though it was obvious that Tapia had nothing left and was simply being battered. It's worth noting that the trainer's primary job is to protect his fighter.
Announcer of the Year, Mauro Ranallo – Ranallo, Showtime's play-by-play man, is an acquired taste, and his propensity for alliterations and corny catch phrases turns some off. It's clear, though, that he has a great passion for the sport and that rubs off on the viewer. A play-by-play man's job is to inform the viewers and bring them into the broadcast and Ranallo has a knack for getting fans into it.
Most promising announcing prospect – Chris Mannix, NBC Sports Network and Epix. Mannix, an NBA and boxing columnist for Sports Illustrated, clearly has a home on television. He's telegenic, comfortable in front of the camera and knows the sport. He served as an in-ring interview and roving reporter, but he's got great potential as an analyst. He's quick, well-spoken and knows how to deliver an opinion forcefully but succinctly so as not to take away from the action. Honorable mentions go to Andre Ward of HBO and Paulie Malignaggi of Showtime.
Fighter most deserving of TV exposure on HBO or Showtime, Roman Gonzalez – The two premium cable channels love fighters who are talented, come to fight and score knockouts. They get all of that and more in Gonzalez, a flyweight who is 37-0 with 31 knockouts. He's one of the best fighters in the world, though because the lighter weight fighters don't get much exposure on American TV, particularly on Showtime Championship Boxing or HBO World Championship Boxing, the casual fans aren't aware how fun to watch and how talented he is.
Fight that must be made in early 2014, Adonis Stevenson vs. Sergey Kovalev – The match has the potential to be mind-blowingly entertaining. They fought on the same card in November in Montreal, and fight fans assumed that if each won their bouts, they'd fight each other next. But then Stevenson began talking about fighting someone else after he stopped Tony Bellew. This was a massive mistake on HBO's part to put them on the same card together without guaranteeing they'd fight each other next. If that does not occur, someone in HBO's boxing department is going to have to answer to some very angry top executives.
Best interview: Timothy Bradley and Keith Thurman (tie) – Bradley is always an interesting interview, and he spoke compellingly of his battle to overcome a concussion suffered in a fight with Ruslan Provodnikov. Thurman is a bright, insightful guy who understands the need to promote himself.
Biggest disappointment…still: No progress made toward putting Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao in the ring together – For all the great things that promoters Richard Schaefer and Bob Arum have done, both in their careers and in 2013, they deserved to be excoriated for doing nothing to try to make the fight the fans want to see. They have made millions upon millions of dollars from this sport, but they won't settle their ridiculously petty differences and make the fight that the people who have made them rich so desperately want to see.
Most fervent wish for 2014, pipe-dream edition: Eradication of performance enhancing drugs from boxing – Some day, a fighter will die in a fight and the surviving opponent will test positive for a performance-enhancing drugs. That will be a dark day for the sport, but rest assured, it will happen. Too many fighters are cheating and not nearly enough is being done to stop it. The Association of Boxing Commissions should convene to find a way to get the funds so that athletic commission testing in each state is dramatically improved and made significantly more effective at catching the cheaters. And hopefully, the boxers will learn some respect for their opponents and decide not to cheat.
Most fervent wish for 2014, realistic edition: Boxing continues its momentum – 2013 was a great year because promoters put their best fighters into exciting bouts, and the fighters responded. The easiest way to grow the sport is to consistently make the best fights.
- Sports & Recreation
- Gennady Golovkin
- Sergey Kovalev
- Adonis Stevenson
- James Kirkland
- Guillermo Rigondeaux
- Keith Thurman
- Steve Smoger
- Ruslan Provodnikov
- Nobuhiro Ishida