By Derek Bonnett: Over the last few months, a rumble in the tummy that is professional prizefighting began getting more and more audible as boxing pundits began mulling over the possibilities for who to bestow upon the crown of Fighter of the Year. The year 2012 was one bruised by controversy and bloodied by broken contracts, but not fully marred due to the excellent action taking place between the ropes. In summation, 2012 was a lot like many other years in boxing as it just might have blackened its one good eye as Larry Merchant so famously illustrated, but, because of its most prominent practitioners, the manly art of self-defense has always built up enough of a lead to win a technical decision if the powers that be decide we have to go to the scorecards early.
Credit for building that lead goes to Andre Ward, 26-0 (14), who produced the most flawless performance of 2012 while in against an elite class opponent. Going into the bout, Ward was favored, but Chad Dawson had his share of supporters. The most commonly projected scenario depicted Ward winning a competitive decision. Instead, Ward staged a virtuoso performance whilst dropping Dawson in the third, fourth, and tenth rounds. His lone crime? He only fought once in 2012. Had Ward, 28, soundly outpointed Carl Froch a couple of weeks later in 2012 instead of 2011, he would most assuredly be honored with Fighter of the Year credit.
Also doing his part as a lead performer in 2012, and my personal selection for FOTY, was Filipino sensation Nonito Donaire. Conversely to Ward, Donaire, 31-1 (20), punched his pugilistic time card four times in 2012. While he failed to meet a Super Fight caliber opponent, he dominated four top ten super bantamweight contenders, all of which were former champions. Donaire, who has moved from 112 to 122 pounds since 2007, made his super bantamweight debut and proved his punching power had not been comprised by dropping all four of his opponent in 2012. Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. and Jeffrey Mathebula managed to hear the final bells after rising from the canvas. However, Toshiaki Nishioka and Jorge Arce were not as fortunate as they were not only blasted in stellar fashion, but knocked right into retirement. All the while, Donaire, 30, voluntarily submitted himself to anti-doping testing to prove his performance had only been enhanced by hard work and natural talent. Yet, it was not enough to earn FOTY recognition due to the fact that he failed to meet a fellow pound for pound entrant.
The distinction of Fighter of the Year at SecondsOut was granted to Juan Manuel Marquez, 55-6-1 (40), who exorcised eight years of demons with an emphatic, off the canvas, one-punch sixth round KO of arch-nemesis Manny Pacquiao. Magnitude would reap the rewards in 2012 as Marquez only laced up the gloves one other time, producing a lopsided unanimous decision over Serhiy Fedchenko in April. At thirty-nine, Marquez whipped himself into the finest condition of his career to add some much needed strength to close the gap between he and Pacquiao in order to secure the first win of their four bout classic. Although the current tally stands at 2-1-1 in favor of Pacquiao, Marquez can rest easy knowing the most conclusive, and concussive, result belongs to him. In stopping a fellow pound for pound all-time great, Marquez stands above all other prizefighters in 2012.