By Derek Bonnett: The boxing calendar for 2013 presented copious opportunities for many of boxing’s best to shine and, hyperbole aside, they did shine. Determining the special practitioner of the Sweet Science to follow up Juan Manuel Marquez’ Fighter of the Year run in 2012 was no small task. A multitude of elite class boxers names were in the running as strong candidates. The number of candidates in this race rivaled that of the Republican party during the 2012 Presidential election. However, the merit of these candidates was far stronger with numerous proving themselves more than worthy of carrying the title of Fighter of the Year for 2013.
With an exciting victory over Ruslan Provodnikov and a close decision over Marquez, Timothy Bradley was the choice of some fans, but his ability only to squeeze by his opposition, as talented as it might have been, hurt him in the running for this honor. Danny Garcia was another favorite after outpointing Zab Judah and Lucas Matthysse, but the fact that Judah was old, faded, and still managed to hurt the champion late discredited his candidacy. Floyd Mayweather Jr. also had an impressive year in defeating Robert Guerrero and Saul Alvarez by comfortable decisions and, perhaps, in any other year this would have likely been enough to win, but not in 2013. The same could be said of Sergey Kovalev who smashed his opposition in 2013. Kovalev faced four light heavyweight challenges in Gabriel Campillo, Cornelius White, Nathan Cleverly, and Ismayl Sillakh and dispatched each before the end of four rounds. Close, but no cigar. Not in 2013 at least.
This year’s SecondsOut Fighter of the Year needed to soar above the rest and separate himself from the pack with the right mix of quality and quantity. This fighter had a banner year in 2013 as he avenged his lone professional loss, blitzed the best in his division to claim his first world title, defended his belt against a seasoned champion, and dispatched a leading contender. These acts can only be completed by a super man in a singular calendar year. Thus, SecondsOut’s award for Fighter of the Year goes to none other than WBC light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson, today’s premiere boxer from the Kronk stable.
One clear indicator of a great fighter is his willingness to go back and right the wrongs of the past. In boxing, this manifests itself through rematching one’s previous conquerors. For Stevenson, that conqueror was crowd pleasing spoiler Darnell Boone, who stopped Stevenson in just two round back in 2010. The rematch took place in March of this year and one weight class north. Stevenson executed a wiser game plan this time around as he immediately softened Boone’s body with thunderous shots to the body in the opening round. His hands were still too low for the comfort of some and Boone’s counters were able to land, but Stevenson’s purpose of redemption outweighed Boone’s for validation. Stevenson knocked Boone badly off balance in round two and kept him in retreat or along the ropes with a quick jab for much of the fight. Boone fought courageously, but there would be no Kryptonite in his gloves this night. After a strong fourth round, Boone was badly hurt early in the fifth by a Stevenson left hook and again a few moments later with a straight left. In final seconds of the round, Boone was rocked back on his heels in a foreboding glimpse at how this bout was going to end. Boone started the sixth quickly, but was soon directed into a corner by the Stevenson jab. Stevenson began working the left hand lead to the head and following it with a right to the body. He worked this combination several times before he found his mark and dropped Boone to his hands and knees. Boone rose and let his hands go admirably, but there was no cure for his hurt as Stevenson lumbered in to chop him down with heavy hooks from both sides. The end came after Boone managed his way off the ropes right into a beautiful left uppercut, which separated him from his senses. Stevenson landed a straight left a couple seconds later after watching his nemesis teeter about on spaghetti legs. No count was necessary as Stevenson avenged his on professional defeat at the 2:43 mark. One note that was forgotten as 2013 advanced month to month was that this KO was also an early candidate for KO of the Year.
Three months later in June, Stevenson had earned a WBC light heavyweight title shot against Chad Dawson, who was returning to 175 after an ill-advised trip to super middleweight to meet Andre Ward. Dawson was still heavily favored in spite of Stevenson possessing numerous qualities which led some to believe he was the worst possible opponent for Dawson to try to rebuild upon. Those who listened to their guts were rewarded in this case. There would not be much to breakdown in this one as Stevenson captured his first world championship at 1:16 of the first round. A quick right-left over the guard of Dawson put the champion down on his back. He rose, but wobbled back on unsteady legs to prompt a stoppage. The right up the middle by Stevenson served more to blind the champion as the left hook/cross took flight. It landed, cleanly. In the eyes of many, this win was a shock and worthy of Upset of the Year nomination. To others, it was a better fit for KO of the Year.
Three more months later in September, Stevenson looked to defend his title against former IBF light heavyweight champion Tavoris Cloud. Stevenson had shaken many of his naysayers at this point of the year, but many were still confident Cloud’s power could rain on Stevenson’s hit parade. From the first round on, it became apparent that Javan "Sugar" Hill’s Kronk-pupil had been growing not just as a puncher, but a technical fighter. He power-boxed Cloud from the onset using his southpaw jab to set up the left hand. Stevenson controlled the distance on Cloud and used both movement and reach to negate Cloud’s attacks in their neophyte stages. Stevenson’s long-range attack showed greater versatility than we had seen from the Haitian-Canadian previously. Cloud’s complete befuddlement was something experts did not anticipate in favor of prognostications depicting more of a rock’n sock’em war. Stevenson proved he was more than just a puncher and above being romanced by his headlines. He punched with precision and in combination to thoroughly breakdown a former world champion. In doing so, he proved far too elusive for Cloud to land anything significantly on. Cloud never hit the canvas, but fell back on his heels, missed wildly, and bled from both eyes before he wisely retired on his stool before the start of the seventh round.