By Mike Sloan: 2013 was a tremendous year for the sport of boxing. While it’ll unlikely go down in history ranked among the best calendar year ever – too many old dinosaurs holding on to the “glory days” will always scoff at anything that occurs past 1965 – this past year was remarkable. When looking back on 2013 as a whole, it clearly ranks among one of the best in memory in terms of the action inside the ring.
In some of the more recent years, there was one cut-and-dry winner of the coveted Fight of the Year award and a pile of other fights, but most of those had been thrown onto the heap more as an addition of depth than anything else. But 2013 provided all of us fight fans with several electrifying battles, each with its own stake as the year’s best. But what made 2013 stand out is that quite a few fighters were involved in multiple battles that took the collective breaths of fight fans the world over.
Mike Alvarado was a participant in two candidates for the best fight of 2013; his magnificent rematch with Brandon Rios and his heart-breaking loss to Ruslan Provodnikov. Never in a dull fight, the Denver fighter demonstrated why he is must-see TV every time he climbs through the ropes. Marcos Maidana was also a man making the rounds as a monster of action, his two epic wars with Adrien Broner and Josesito Lopez evidence of that claim.
Then there were other terrific fights featuring participants that only the hardcore boxing aficionados know, but those are the fights that usually demonstrate why we all love the sport to begin with. Carl Froch’s ninth round stoppage of George Groves; Alejandro Perez toppling Art Hovhannisyan via unanimous decision; Guillermo Jones knocking out Denis Lebedev in the 11th; Sakio Bika squeaking past Marco Antonio Periban;
Juan Francisco Estrada unanimously defeating Milan Melindo; Keith Thurman’s spectacular tenth round KO of Diego Gabriel Chaves; Jesus Soto-Karass knocking Andre Berto out in the 12th; Alex Miskirtchian putting Andreas Evenson to sleep in the final round; and Giovani Segura’s dramatic knockout of Tyson Marquez in the 12th all were worthy contenders for the year’s greatest battle. But when it was all said and done, all of those wonderful wars fell short.
Throughout the year, after watching dozens of boxing matches each month, only one fight stood out as the pinnacle of action, drama and excitement, one that badly needs a sequel: Timothy Bradley’s somewhat controversial unanimous decision win over the aforementioned Ruslan Provodnikov back on March 16.
It was an absolute war from the opening bell. It was a vicious slugfest that almost cost Bradley his unbeaten record and any sort of momentum he gathered after being awarded an unpopular decision win over Manny Pacquiao. Provodnikov, a virtual unknown before the opening bell, had goaded “Desert Storm” into a brutal exchange early on and it was almost over in the opening frame, though the hellfire was just heating up.
During a heated toe-to-toe exchange that saw Bradley landing more punches, the Russian badly rocked the American and had him nearly out on his feet. Somehow Bradley was able to stay afloat and survive the round, but Provodnikov replicated his assault in the second. It seemed as though Bradley’s reign as champion would end violently and early, but he showed the sort of heart legends are made of and finally got himself into a rhythm and began to box better.
Provodnikov was relentless with his pressure and even though Bradley was boxing better, he still was suckered into dangerous slugfests. Bradley’s movement and precision punching allowed him to snatch many of the middle rounds, but Ruslan forced all-out war in rounds nine through twelve. With the fight seemingly on the line, Bradley found himself in serious peril and taking hellacious punishment with 30 seconds left in the fight. Intelligently taking a knee to avoid being stopped, Bradley once again managed to make it out of the fight on his feet and took it to the scorecards.
In the end, Bradley was awarded an unpopular unanimous decision win via tallies of 114-113(twice) and 115-112, but after watching the fight several times, Bradley certainly did enough to earn himself the decision win and retain his title.
The intriguing part of the entire showdown between Bradley and Provodnikov was that the Russian found himself in another torrid trench war with Alvarado a half year later and Bradley – after spending several weeks recovering and dealing with horrendous lingering affects of the battle – outboxed Mexican legend Juan Manuel Marquez a week earlier. As of now there aren’t any concrete talks of a second go-‘round between the two, but it’s certainly a showdown that needs to happen.
In all, 2013 was one of the best years of all-action the sport of boxing has seen in generations, and it’s a testament to how thrilling of a skirmish Timothy Bradley and Ruslan Provodnikov competed in back in March. The Home Depot Center in Carson, California was not filled to capacity by any means, but the smallish crowd certainly got ten times their money’s worth with what transpired inside HBO’s boxing ring.
You can follow Mike Sloan at www.twitter.com/mikesloan19