Monday, December 30, 2013

The 2013 Saturday Night Boxing Awards

As a memorable 2013 comes to a close, it's time to hand out the annual hardware and honor those who have provided us with the best ring moments from the past 12 months. The award categories for this year are fighter, fight, knockout, round, upset, trainer, promoter, network and referee of the year. I have also included the past Saturday Night Boxing award winners. Without further ado: the 2013 Saturday Night Boxing Awards.
Fighter of the Year: Adonis Stevenson
It should be remembered that prior to this year that Adonis Stevenson was essentially a mere curiosity from Canada, a powerful southpaw super middleweight with heavy hands, limited opposition and a knockout loss to journeyman Darnell Boone. However, 2013 was Stevenson's year, obtaining four stoppage victories and moving up to light heavyweight to become the number-one fighter in the division. Stevenson started off the year by avenging his loss to Boone. He then jumped at the opportunity to face lineal light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson, where he knocked him out in the first round. For his next fight, Stevenson flashed his boxing skills in addition to his power, battering former titlist Tavoris Cloud around the ring to earn a seventh-round stoppage. In his final outing of the 2013 campaign, Stevenson defeated mandatory challenger Tony Bellew by patiently stalking him and unleashing several left hand bombs in the sixth frame, which ended the match.
With Stevenson's body of work this year, he has become one of the sport's must-see attractions, not to mention a face of HBO Boxing. Already 36, Stevenson is now looking for big fights and he will get them next year against possible opponents such as Sergey Kovalev, the winner of Jean Pascal-Lucian Bute and Bernard Hopkins.
Previous SNB Fighters of the Year:
2012: Nonito Donaire
2011: Andre Ward  

Fight of the Year: Bradley-Provodnikov
Not a whole lot was expected from March's meeting between Tim Bradley and Ruslan Provodnikov. Bradley had been inactive for nine months after his dubious victory over Manny Pacquiao. In the aftermath of the decision, Bradley became persona non grata in the boxing world, receiving death threats, scorn from boxing fans and media and continued derision in the sport after believing that he had actually earned the victory legitimately. With Provodnikov, Bradley was looking to stay busy while he waited for greater things in the sport. 

Provodnikov was thought of as a limited banger who might give Bradley some rounds. However, he was moving up from junior welterweight and most assumed that he wouldn't be successful in imposing himself on Bradley, who had grown into the welterweight division.
From the opening moments of the match, the pre-fight script could have been thrown out the window. In the first, Provodnikov caught Bradley in a sequence with a couple of short, chopping over-the-top right hands and a left hook, causing Bradley to crumble to the canvas in a delayed reaction (referee Pat Russell incorrectly ruled a slip).

In the second, the hard-charging Provodnikov had Bradley essentially out on his feet with a series of short power punches. Provodnikov moved in for the kill against the delirious Bradley, who was winging arm punches out of sheer self-survival. Somehow, Bradley made it out of the round and Russell should be given credit for not stopping the fight.
Then, something strange happened. Bradley regrouped in the corner and dominated Provodnikov with his boxing ability and varied offensive attack. During the next three frames, Bradley continued to cruise and Provodnikov looked like the proverbial "might be dangerous early" type of fighter.  

In the sixth, Provodnikov was soundly getting outboxed early in the round until he connected with his power again, reducing Bradley to a Gumby-type figure. Provodnikov expertly closed the ring off on the champion and fired menacing shots, but Bradley again survived the round.
After the sixth, Bradley recovered between rounds (notice a theme?) and starting plastering Provodnikov with body shots, uppercuts, left hooks and straight rights. As the fight progressed, both trainers told HBO's Max Kellerman that they were considering stopping the fight.
Prior to the 11th, Provodnikov's trainer Freddie Roach told his fighter that he needed a knockout to win. In the 12th, Provodnikov almost got it, beating Bradley mercilessly around the ring. As the round closed, Bradley took a knee, which essentially ended the action of the fight. When the final bell sounded, both fighters felt like they had done enough to win. The official scores were 115-112 and 114-113 (x 2), all for Bradley. (If Russell had correctly ruled the knockdown in the first round, the fight would have been a draw.)
Bradley-Provodnikov exemplified the best of boxing. Many fighters wouldn't have made it out of the first round, yet Bradley somehow overcame four rounds of intense and sustained beatings to pull out the victory. Bradley demonstrated that he had the attributes (heart, skills, courage and determination) that separate elite talents from the merely good ones. He ended 2013 back in boxing fans' good graces. To be more accurate, with his showing against Provodnikov and his subsequent victory over Juan Manuel Marquez, Bradley's status has never been higher in the sport. 
Provodnikov seized his moment. He didn't shrink from the bright lights. After getting outboxed and hit hard through many portions of the fight, he persevered for all 12 rounds, convinced his trainer not to stop the match and almost secured one of the most impressive knockout victories of the modern age. His performances against Bradley and Mike Alvarado, later in the year, signaled that he was a major force to be reckoned with in the welterweight ranks. One really refreshing attribute of Provodnikov is his refusal to make excuses. He didn't complain about fighting at a higher weight against Bradley or squaring off against Alvarado at a disadvantageous high altitude. He just put his head down and landed punishing blows.
Previous SNB Fights of the Year:
2012: Pacquiao-Marquez IV
2011: Rios-Acosta    

Knockout of the Year: Stephen Smith KO 5 Gary Buckland
Before we go any further, watch this uppercut! 

Now that's a nasty shot! In August, rising prospect Stephen "Swifty" Smith faced the capable Gary Buckland for a British super featherweight title. Through the first four rounds, the action was fairly even. To that point, it was a well fought if slightly pedestrian contest. But in the fifth, Smith slipped a jab to the outside and then BAMMMMM! He connected with one of the best counter right uppercuts you will ever see. Buckland remained face down on the canvas for several moments after the fight and Smith had his signature moment of his career – pure devastation.
Previous SNB Knockouts of the Year:
2012: Juan Manuel Marquez KO 6 Manny Pacquiao
2011: Takashi Uchiyama TKO 11 Jorge Solis 

Round of the Year: Tim Bradley-Ruslan Provodnikov Round 12
The first two minutes of the final round of Bradley-Provodnikov were rather non-descript. Bradley's trainer, Joel Diaz, correctly informed his fighter prior to the round that Provodnikov would be gunning for the knockout. In the other corner, Provodnikov knew exactly what he needed to do to win the fight. Provodnikov started the round stalking Bradley with lead left hooks, but Bradley evaded most of the damage, using the ring and firing back quick combinations to stay out of harm's way.
However, at just over the two-minute mark, Provodnikov landed a huge left hook that drove Bradley across the ring to the ropes. The shot stunned Bradley but he seemed to have his bearings. A few seconds later, Provodnikov landed a powerful counter right hand that again sent Bradley back to the ropes. Now Bradley was in real trouble. His legs were gone and he had no strength left in his punches. Provodnikov connected with two more right hands straight on the button. Bradley held on and then used the ring to try and stave off further damage. Another left hook scored for Provodnikov and as he was about to move in for the finish, Bradley took a knee.
Similar to the thrilling ending of the 2012 Sergio Martinez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. fight, Bradley, so close to the final bell, needed to make it back on his feet to give himself a chance to win. By Pat Russell's eight-count, Bradley rose and collected himself in the corner. Russell instructed Bradley to move forward. The champion nonchalantly gave a shrug and walked towards the referee. Russell inspected Bradley and let the fight continue. Then, the final bell sounded.
This fight had everything a boxing fan could ever want but the last round passed my strict criteria for round of the year. Was I out of my seat jumping up and down like an idiot? Of course I was. This final battle between hunter and prey was the most thrilling action of 2013.
Previous SNB Rounds of the Year:
2012: Sergio Martinez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Round 12
2011: Hernan Marquez-Luis Concepcion I Round 1

Upset of the Year: Jhonny Gonzalez KO 1 Abner Mares
From 2010 to 2013 Abner Mares faced a Murderer's Row of opposition, including Yonnhy Perez, Vic Darchinyan, Joseph Agbeko, Anselmo Moreno and Daniel Ponce de Leon. Winning belts in three divisions, Mares had established himself as one of the sport's elite fighters. For his first featherweight title defense, Mares was given a supposed softer touch with the 32-year-old Jhonny Gonzalez, a powerful fighter, but one who had lost to Ponce de Leon in 2012 and had been knocked out three times previously. Going into the fight, Mares was anywhere from an 8-1 to 12-1 favorite.
However, no one told Gonzalez that he was in Carson, California to lose. Working with Hall of Fame trainer Nacho Beristain, Gonzalez immediately landed a punch which forever changed the fortunes of the two fighters. Cocking his left arm slightly down and to the side, Gonzalez was signaling a forthcoming left hook to the body, Mares dropped his right hand to prepare for the punch. Instead, Gonzalez went upstairs with the left hook, sending Mares down to the canvas violently. Mares beat the count and the fight continued, but Gonzalez jumped on him with a series of power shots putting Mares on the canvas again. Ref Jack Reiss took a long look at Mares on the ground and waved off the fight. In a brief sequence, one of the top young fighters of the sport was sent back to the drawing board.
Previous SNB Upset of the Year:
2012: Sonny Boy Jaro TKO 6 Pongsaklek Wonjongkam 

Trainer of the Year: Kenny Porter
In my estimation, a trainer has four main responsibilities: 1. Ensure that his fighter is in peak mental and physical conditioning for a fight. 2. Continue to make improvements with his fighter. 3. Concoct and implement a game plan for each fight. 4. If needed, make critical adjustments during the fight. With these considerations in mind, I don't believe that any trainer had a better year than Kenny Porter, who took his son, Shawn Porter, from welterweight afterthought to champion in 2013.
Shawn Porter had a ho-hum 2012. He failed to impress in a workmanlike decision against journeyman Alfonso Gomez and engaged in a spirited draw against former lightweight titlist Julio Diaz, a fighter long thought to have been past his expiration date. In the Diaz fight, Porter mixed in periods of dominance with stretches of uncertainty. He seemed caught in-between styles, sometimes a boxer, sometimes a slugger. The end result was something far less than anticipated.
Porter didn't fight again until May of 2013, when he stepped in against wildly overmatched Phil Lo Greco, a club fighter whose gaudy undefeated record was nothing more than smoke-and mirrors. Lo Greco showed a world-class ability to take a beating, but nothing more.
In September, Porter returned to the ring to square off against Diaz in a rematch. For this fight, Porter had a much surer sense of his ring identity. He utilized his athleticism, boxing skills and sharp power punches to keep the veteran Diaz at bay. As the fight progressed, Porter's class rose to the top. It was a confident performance and one he could build off of.
For his next fight, Porter found himself in a title shot against Devon Alexander. Porter, a significant underdog, lacked the world-class experience that Alexander had. To many boxing observers (myself included), this fight was seemingly a case of too much-too soon for Porter.
However, Kenny Porter had a brilliant game plan for the fight. Studying Alexander's loss to Tim Bradley, Porter found the exact formula for how his son could impose his will on Alexander. Porter even had his camp contact Joel Diaz, Bradley's trainer, to get additional pointers for facing Alexander.
From the opening bell, Porter jumped on Alexander with a display of power punches, mugging on the inside and a high work rate. Alexander seemed incapable of keeping the more spirited Porter from coming forward. Using the combination of his athleticism and power punches, Porter swarmed Alexander and made him uncomfortable throughout the first five rounds.
But by the sixth, Alexander started to get his sea legs and worked his way into the fight. Porter's work rate started to drop. As the fight progressed, Alexander appeared to be the fresher combatant.
However, Kenny Porter would not let victory slip away. Goading his son prior to the championship rounds, Porter exclaimed how the fight was still in the balance and emphasized that Shawn needed to close strongly. Shawn immediately responded and found his second wind. He had two big closing rounds to earn the victory, securing his first world title.
Ultimately, Kenny Porter had the perfect game plan to help his son become champion. However, when self-doubt, fatigue or the enormity of the moment may have crawled into the mind of the fighter, Porter showed the urgency needed to push his charge over the top. It was a masterful performance. There certainly were bigger-name trainers than Porter in 2013, but there wasn't a better one.
Previous SNB Trainers of the Year:
2012: Robert McCracken
2011: Robert Garcia 
Promoter of the Year: (Tie) Golden Boy Promotions and Top Rank Promotions
The two major American promoters both had excellent years in 2013. Golden Boy put together the highest grossing pay per view of all time with "The One," headlined by Mayweather-Alvarez. Even though Golden Boy was kicked off of HBO in 2013, the company responded by making some of the more memorable fight cards of the year, including the wonderful Knockout Kings II during the summer and Broner-Maidana to end the year. The company also started a new biweekly boxing series on FS1, which has yielded mixed results to this point, but the series could certainly become a platform for sterling fights in the future.

With its deep stable of fighters, a commitment to exciting boxing cards and an ability to expand boxing's reach for the company's biggest attractions, Golden Boy has demonstrated forward thinking in the sport and has generated a lot of momentum in the boxing world. 
Top Rank had my fight of the year in 2013 (Bradley-Provodnikov), perhaps the second best fight of the year (Rios-Alvarado II) and a number of other solid scraps in the past 12 months. In addition, with Vasyl Lomachenko (who might win a world title next year in his second pro fight), Felix Verdejo and Oscar Valdez, Top Rank clearly signed up the most impressive talents from the 2012 Olympics. From a strategic standpoint, perhaps its most important new fighter is Zou Shiming, the Chinese gold medalist. Featuring Shiming, Top Rank held three fight cards in the gambling Mecca of Macau (including Pacquiao-Rios), just a quick trip away from the Chinese mainland.
By working to build the Chinese professional boxing audience as well as further cementing its status in Asian boxing, Top Rank positioned itself well in 2013 for future prosperity. Its talent pipeline has been replenished and the company has realized more than any of its competitors that boxing stars can come from anywhere. Becoming too reliant on American or North American-born boxers runs the risk of myopia. Talent is talent. If it's there, Top Rank has enough faith in its own capabilities that it can produce the next wave of boxing stars, regardless of country of origin.
Previous SNB Promoters of the Year:
2012: Golden Boy Promotions
2011: Top Rank Promotions 

Network of the Year: Showtime
Sure, landing Floyd Mayweather was a big coup for Showtime and it immediately paid off dividends for the network, which had the biggest two pay per views of the year. Previously, HBO was thought of as a far superior entity in terms of successful pay per views. What Showtime demonstrated with this change was that it could certainly compete with HBO in helping to maximize revenue for big events. 

But two fights don't make a network; with that said, Showtime produced one of its best years in boxing. Investing heavily in its product, Showtime saw double-digit gains in ratings for 2013 and set new internal viewership records for a number of its fights. 
Working exclusively with Golden Boy as lead promoter, Showtime, led by boxing head Stephen Espinoza, insisted on asserting quality control for its telecasts. The network refused to let Golden Boy's "Most Favored Nation" status drag down its overall product, which had happened previously in the sport when similar exclusive network-promoter arrangements existed. After the first quarter of the year, Showtime hardly had a misstep. In addition, Showtime also raised the bar on American airwaves by filling its telecasts with three and four title fights as well as showing key undercard matches on one of its other networks. Finally, with Al Bernstein and Paulie Malignaggi, Showtime can now boast of having the best two fight analysts working on American television. Overall, it was a stellar year for the network.
Previous SNB Network of the Year:
2012: BoxNation
Referee of the Year: Tony Weeks
Nevada-based Tony Weeks has long been regarded as one of the best referees in boxing. His decisive work in Danny Garcia-Lucas Matthysse illustrates why this reputation is deserved. After Garcia closed Matthysse's eye in the seventh round from a left hook, Weeks continued to let Matthysse fight on. Matthysse would later demonstrate in both the 11th and 12 rounds that he had more than enough ability, even in a diminished state, to win the fight. In the 11th round, Matthysse got tangled up in the ropes and as he re-emerged, Garcia landed a chopping left hook that sent Matthysse to the canvas. It was a slight shot but Weeks made the correct call by scoring a knockdown. 

Finally, in the 12th, with the fight potentially in the balance, Weeks demonstrated no hesitation in issuing a point deduction for a flagrant low blow by Garcia. Again, Weeks made the correct call and wasn't awed by the big stage in the slightest. He did his job with aplomb and helped to preserve a clean and fair fight. 
Weeks also officiated two of the better fights of the year in Alvarado-Provodnikov and Rios-Alvarado II. Weeks did right by Alvarado by letting him continue after getting knocked down twice in the eighth. The referee was also a wonderfully unobtrusive presence during Rios-Alvarado II, a fight that featured some of the best inside combat of the year. All around, it was a great 2013 for Weeks.
Previous SNB Referee of the Year:
2012: Eddie Claudio

Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
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