By Jason Pribila: 2012 was a year that saw superstars Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto combine to go 0-4, and Floyd Mayweather fight only once. Now more than ever it was apparent that boxing’s landscape is in need of change sooner rather than later. The sports penthouse is going to have a few vacancies, and it is up to the next crop of superstars to stake their claims for occupancy.
The good news for boxing fans is that established stars kept their momentum moving forward. Sergio Martinez finally fought on a major pay per view. Nonito Donaire fought four times, and looked more impressive each time he laced up his gloves. Canelo Alvarez remains undefeated and poised to finally step up in 2013. And Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. did more for his career in a gutsy loss to Martinez, than he did in any victory prior to 2012.
Each of the fighters above will likely fill up arenas and PPV dates in 2013, but this article is dedicated to a fighter that was not on our radar this time a year ago. This article is dedicated to the Breakout Fighter of 2012. Fortunately for our sport, our newest award had several worthy candidates.
Leo Santa Cruz went from prospect to titlist in 2012. He fought five times, and each time he left the ring he created more buzz. On December 15, his hard work paid off and he was given the main event on an afternoon boxing show that aired on CBS. The fight had a strong college basketball lead in and Santa Cruz made sure that no one changed the channel as he got warmed up and fought his way to a unanimous decision over Alberto Guevara.
After a well-deserved rest, look for Santa-Cruz to again steal whatever show he is scheduled to fight on.
On November 17, Adrien Broner not only made his arrival at lightweight, but he also claimed his spot on the mythical pound for pound list when he dazzled an HBO audience while dispatching of titlist Antonio DeMarco. Broner has never been shy about saying that he belongs with the sports elite, but after this bout he had co-promoter Gary Shaw anointing him as the next Floyd Mayweather Jr. No one could debate after a performance that saw Broner put everything together. He is due back on HBO in February, but it will most likely be another showcase performance. His star will truly rise when he looks across the ring from Yuriorkis Gamboa, a bout that few see as a problem for Broner.
Both Santa-Cruz and Broner were worthy candidates, but the award goes to the Ring Magazine junior welterweight champion, Danny “Swift” Garcia.
As an amateur, Garcia won a US National Championship in 2006 and as a professional he signed with Golden Boy Promotions. The Puerto Rican fights out of Philadelphia, but he fought many of his early fights buried on the undercards of major shows in Las Vegas and California. His career got a boost when he signed with the influential Al Haymon, and soon found himself on the televised portion of Pay Per Views. In 2011 he scored victories over former lightweight champion Nate Campbell and junior welterweight titlist Kendall Holt. Nice wins, but nothing that prepared us for his 2012 campaign.
When Golden Boy manufactured a title for Mexican legend Eric Morales to claim, they matched him with Garcia. Morales failed to make weight leaving the title vacant for Garcia’s taking. After a slow start, Garcia gained control and dropped Morales in the eleventh round en route to winning a title.
Fate would again be kind to Garcia, and he was in the right place at the right time when Amir Khan was in need of an opponent. Khan was set for a rematch against Lamont Peterson, who failed a pre-fight drug test. That opened the door for Garcia to sign on to face Khan in a unification bout. The humble Garcia allowed his trainer-father Angel Garcia to dominate the pre-fight dialogue, and soon effectively getting under Khan’s skin.
Speaking to RingTV.com, Angel Garcia said “I never met a Pakistani that can fight. I’m not trying to sound racist. I’m just being honest.”
Garcia’s “honestly” seemed to cause Khan to forget about boxing and instead look to knock out Garcia. Khan dominated the first two rounds with superior hand speed. Garcia remained focused despite suffering a cut. As round three came to an end, Garcia landed a perfect counter left hook that dropped Khan and nearly finished him. That stoppage inevitably came a round later and Garcia was now on top of a loaded division.
Garcia’s final bout of the year saw him again face Morales, who exercised his rematch clause. This time Morales made weight, but failed pre-fight drug tests. After a talk with his mother, Garcia again went to the ring at a disadvantage against the disrespectful Morales.
This time, with the confidence of a champion, Garcia beat up Morales before ending matters with a knockout of the year candidate during the fourth frame.
Team Garcia went from prospect to champion in 2012. While Angel’s tactics have rubbed some fighters and fans the wrong way, no one could question what Danny was able to accomplish inside the ring. He does not have superior skills, but he is a fundamentally sound fighter who has a great chin, sneaky power, and shows commitment to working his opponents’ body. He displays many of the same skills that we saw Miguel Cotto use in his rise to stardom.
Garcia and his father are inseparable. When seen ringside, it is clear that they are each other’s biggest fans. Their relationship will have them on the short list for fighter on the year, and it has them standing alone as the Secondsout.com Breakout Fighter of the Year.
Garcia is next scheduled to face Zab Judah in the veteran’s home town of Brooklyn on February 9, 2013. If successful, expect a rematch with Khan. If Garcia could duplicate his 2012, expect to read about him during year-end columns for years to come.
Jason Pribila is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He could be reached for questions/comments at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on twitter.com @PribsBoxing.
December 26, 2012