By Tyson Bruce
1. Mayweather Remains a Paradox: In 2013 Floyd Mayweather again showed why he remains the finest prizefighter on Earth. In perhaps his most superlative year in the ring since 2007, he hardly lost a round dominating two world-class professionals in Robert Guerrero and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. He came dangerously close to having what he’s always desired: winning the battle of public opinion in regards to his superiority over Pacquaio, without actually having to fight him. However, Pacquaio bounced back with a dominant win against Rios and with a quickly fading roster of potential opponents, public demand for what remains the best fight in boxing has resurfaced. Yet Mayweather, who is an obvious favorite to beat Pacquiao, has once again taken the low road by hurling insults on social media and making ridiculous claims of other opponent’s superior merit. He just flat doesn’t want to fight this guy—never has and never will. While no one questions Mayweather’s incredible talent, he remains a frustrating guy to root for because of his reluctance to give the fans what they desire. And by yet again avoiding Pacquaio, he has managed to undo all of the goodwill that his sensational victories and more demure persona had granted him.
2. Eastern European Guys Are Terrifying: For the majority of modern professional boxing history the ‘Iron Curtain’ of the old Soviet Union has prevented many of the finest amateurs in history from plying their trade as professionals. One could only speculate how they would have done against the Ali and Leonard’s of the world. However, since the ‘fall of the wall’ we have seen the gradual emergence of many talented fighters from the bowels of Eastern Europe. This is almost certainly the product of the successful pro careers of the Klitschko brothers. However, in 2013 this trend literally exploded with fighters like Gennady Golovkin, Sergie Kovalev, and Ruslan Provodnikov all having breakout years.
Oh, and they all have one thing in common: they’re absolutely terrifying. They fight with a ruthless aggression and determination that is the product of a tough upbringing in the poverty and devastation that was the post-Soviet condition. All three boxers work with American trainers and have cultivated a style that is a hybrid of the old technical and disciplined Soviet system with the raw aggression and killer instinct of the traditional Mexican brawler. It makes for amazing TV viewing and within the span of twelve months they have become among the most exciting and explosive attractions in the whole sport. The prodigiously ambitious former amateur star Vasyl Lomanchenko may soon join the aforementioned, by challenging for a title in just his second pro fight.
3. Don’t Believe Your Own Hype: Sometime during the course of Adrien Broner’s life (probably birth) he began to buy into his own hype just a little bit too much. Since his first round destruction of Jason Litzau on HBO everyone from boxing pundits, trainers, and TV analysts were telling us that Adrien Broner was boxing’s next superstar. And while Broner has always been a flashy and arrogant guy, his ego entered a new and vastly more delusional stratosphere in 2013.
He began the year by fighting the dreadfully average Gavin Reese, disposing of him with predictable ease. While he looked impressive, the mismatch only added credence to the argument that Broner was spoiled and a carefully managed brat. In reaction to this he took a calculated risk by jumping up two weight divisions to challenge the respected but feather fisted Paulie Malignaggi. Broner secured the victory with a tight split-decision victory, but his low punch output, wide stance, and misuse of the shoulder-roll defense were exposed as potential red flags for a future defeat.
Instead of being a professional and going back to the gym and correcting his mistakes like his idol Mayweather did after a sloppy performance against Cotto, he chose to go on a rap tour with LiL Wayne, take a bowel movement in a Popeye’s bathroom and make a sex tape. The insolence of it was just incredible and justice was served when he took a good old-fashioned beat down from one of the most honest and likeable fighters in the sport in Marcos Maidana. It served as a valuable lesson to all the young fighters out there that success is earned through sacrifice and no matter how talented you are you should never take your own hype too seriously.
4. Never Underestimate a Puncher: You would think that a chronically unlucky guy like Chad Dawson wouldn’t take anything for granted and yet he did just that when he mocked and scorned Adonis Stevenson as a nobody in the build up to their June 8th showdown. Unbeknownst to Dawson, Stevenson had been on a quiet little rampage at Super Middleweight, where he became one of the most actively avoided fighters in the sport because of his freakish punching power. Dawson’s people selected Stevenson as an opponent because his fan base and Dawson’s familiarity in Montreal made it the most lucrative comeback fight for him.
When a boxer comes back from a beating like the one Dawson took from Andre Ward he needs to walk a delicate line between recognizing that something went wrong but not losing confidence in the ability that made you a world class prizefighter. After all, Dawson had a built in excuse from the loss by draining himself to make 168 and had only suffered one controversial defeat at his natural weight of 175. At the weigh in and press conference Dawson and his new trainer Eddie Mustafa Muhammad made it obvious that they held Stevenson’s ability in utter contempt. He was just a one-dimensional puncher on his way to a boxing lesson.
In just 68 seconds Stevenson managed to wipe that smirk clean off Dawson’s face by laying him out with a single, brilliant counter left hand. You should never underestimate a puncher because at any moment they can turn your best laid plans into a nightmare. Since that fight Stevenson has established himself as the kingpin in the light heavyweight division and Dawson has disappeared off the face of the earth.
5. In Ain’t Over Yet: Manny Pacquaio used to be the most beloved and respected prizefighter on Earth. That is until the cold mistress that is boxing descended on him after a pair of lethargic performances against Marquez and Bradley and an absolute waxing by Marquez in their fourth and final meeting. The lap jockeys disappeared or went silent, critics lamented that the end was immanent, and his naysayers used it as proof that Pacquiao was never the fighter people believed he was. Inexplicably, people seemed to forget that the losses came against two of the very best fighters on the planet and that if you fight the best on a consistent enough basis it’s just a matter of time before you will suffer a defeat. Pacquiao had earned the right to comeback and prove to the people that he had something left. The sheer venom of the criticism perpetrated on social media and even by some members of the boxing media was shameful.
To his credit Pacquaio did the right thing and took a full year away from the ring to get his mind correct. When he finally signed on to fight Brandon Rios he went into seclusion and left nothing to chance. Rios is no Roberto Duran but he’s as game as they come and it served as an excellent measuring stick for where Pacquaio was at in his career. Pacquaio fought a brilliant fight by using his quick foot movement, speedy combination punching, and excellent conditioning to brutalize Rios for an easy unanimous decision victory. Was he the Pacquiao of 2009? Of course not, but he proved that with some slight tweaks to his style he still has more than enough to compete with the very best fighters on the planet.