January 10, 2014

Third Annual 2013 KO Digest Boxing Year End Review & Awards

Boxing's Worst Problem Solved
By Jeffrey Freeman --- At the conclusion of the last great fight in an epic year for boxing, Marcos Maidana's problem solving upset of Adrien Broner, Showtime announcer Al Bernstein called 2013 the best year for boxing in the past twenty five years. Respected boxing historian Lee Groves was equally as impressed on RingTV, calling 2013, "the sport's greatest year this century and perhaps the best in the last several decades." High praise indeed from a pair of men who know a thing or two about the unpredictable nature of the sweet science. Bernstein and Groves are right of course, 2013 was a remarkable year for our sport. Great fights were fought throughout the twelve month period and new stars like Adonis Stevenson and Sergey "Krusher" Kovalev emerged to take center stage.

Timothy Bradley reinvented himself as an "action fighter" with a Fight of the Year win over Ruslan Provodnikov in March that was so brutally contested, many fans felt that Bradley was damaged goods as a result of it. Imagine their surprise when Bradley then handily defeated Juan Manuel Marquez in October, showing no ill-effects of his life and death struggle with Provodnikov. World Super Middleweight Champion Andre Ward returned in November from 14 months of inactivity due to shoulder surgery to dominate an overweight Edwin Rodriguez in impressive fashion. And not to be outdone, Floyd Mayweather Jr (45-0) returned from a 2012 jail stint to reclaim his rightful place on the top of boxing's economic (and pound for pound) pyramid, easily defeating Robert "The Ghost" Guerrero and "Canelo" Alvarez in blockbuster Pay-Per-View events on Showtime, Mayweather's new cable network partner after fighting for many years exclusively on HBO. Mayweather is now a simultaneous two-division world champion at welterweight and junior middleweight. Henry Armstrong's trifecta mark is in reach. Still, Floyd appears uninterested in the three fights fans want most from him; Pac Man, Maravilla, and GGG—but Money's checks always clear"My career isn't over yet. I've faced the best in the sport. I'm happy to be the face of boxing and give the fans the excitement they're looking for."

Mayweather whips Canelo as predicted
What's more, Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado gave fans another war to remember in their March rematch, won this time by Alvarado. Guillermo Rigondeaux bested Nonito Donaire in April at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. For boxing purists, the Cuban's sublime performance against The Filipino Flash was the finest of the year. For everyone else, it was like Christmas came early when Arturo "Thunder" Gatti was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, NY in June. Gennady "Triple G" Golovkin continued his assault on the the middleweight division with four wins by KO in defense of his WBA title, two of which were Knockout of the Year candidates. Meanwhile in Argentina, legitimate World Middleweight Champion Sergio "Maravilla" Martinez retained his linear title with a close and controversial decision over British challenger Martin Murray last April. Danny Garcia earned respect and solidified his claim to the World Light Welterweight Championship with a decisive win over Lucas Matthysse on THE ONE undercard in September. In November, Manny Pacquiao returned from a crushing 2012 knockout loss to rival Juan Manuel Marquez to easily defeat Brandon Rios in China, setting in motion new calls for a long overdue Mayweather vs Pacquiao superfight that still might never happen despite how badly boxing fans want the fight.

For the Bitter Sweet Science, it was the best of times and it was the worst of times because boxing's highs were not without lows in the Year of the Puncher. Life & Death. War & Peace. A tale of two realities. Perhaps more than any other year in recent memory, 2013 reminded us all just how perilous an endeavor pugilism is for those who practice it. To wit:

Bowe knows brain damage 
Last June, in a sure sign of the times, former World Heavyweight Champion Riddick "Big Daddy" Bowe got his ass kicked into submission in a Muay Thai fight in Thailand while on the same day in Sweden, a pretty blonde female boxing champion named Frida "Golden Girl" Wallberg sustained a brain injury during a WBC super featherweight title fight against Diana Prazak. In decades past, the retired ex-heavyweight champ might have been involved in some harmless but degrading professional wrestling while the injured boxer would've surely been a male combatant because women's boxing is such a new phenomenon. Today, Bowe has to take real bumps (and kicks) in the ring if he wants to get paid and it was a female boxer who had her injured brain operated on to save her life after being knocked out in the ring.

In October, boxing suffered its worst case scenario, a ring death, when 26-year-old Francisco "The Little Soldier" Leal was tragically killed in action doing what fans love to see Mexican warriors do. Leal died from boxing related brain injuries in San Diego, CA. on October 22nd, three days after a knockout loss in Mexico at the hands of Raul Hirales. Much was written after the fact about Leal's knockout loss to Evgeny Gradovich in March of 2012, a grueling fight which resulted in Leal's removal from the ring on stretcher as well as a trip to the hospital. The case was made that Leal shouldn't have been in the ring at all after having been injured there so recently. No amount of talk will bring Leal back but it might improve fighter safety in the future. Leal's death need not be in vain if the lesson of his life was learned, but in boxing, lessons are seldom learned, more often they're forgotten or ignored in favor of the next big fight.  

The harsh reality of boxing
Then in November, tragedy struck again, this time in New York City at Madison Square Garden Theater on HBO. The boxing world (and the mainstream media which had grown accustomed to ignoring boxing) was forced to stand up and take notice when Russian heavyweight prospect Magomed Abdusalamov (18-1, 18 KO's) was beaten so badly by fellow prospect Mike Perez (20-0, 12 KO's) that when Abdusalamov finally made his way to a Manhattan hospital some time after the fight, a blood clot was discovered on his swollen brain, requiring emergency surgery. Abdusalamov was then placed in a medically induced coma where he remained for over a month during which time he also suffered a debilitating stroke. Abdusalamov was recently removed from his coma and the fighter was transferred to a rehab facility where the long and painful process of healing will take place. Abdusalamov's promising career as a boxer is most certainly over. The outpouring of sympathy and financial aid from the boxing community, while generous, is nearing its end. A heartbroken family is now left with their wounded provider and a mountain of medical debt that will surely get larger before it ever gets smaller.

Also in November, Colombian contender Jose Carmona was badly brain damaged against legendary former champion Jorge Arce in Arce's comeback bout in Mexico after retiring last year in the wake of a knockout loss to Nonito Donaire.

And if all that wasn't bad enough, on April 15th, an accomplished amateur boxer from Massachusetts named Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his younger brother bombed the Boston Marathon, killing four and maiming many more. Discarded in all the hysteria that followed the attack was the inconvenient truth that the Chechen born bomber was a boxer, a 2009 and 2010 winner of the Rocky Marciano trophy at the Golden Gloves in Lowell, MA. Also willfully overlooked was the possibility that boxing related brain trauma may have played a role in what the elder Tsarnaev did before he was ultimately hunted down and killed by police. According to those in the boxing community who knew him and boxed against him, Tsarnaev took a reckless approach to safety and often liked to spar without the protection of headgear.

Mile High Mike lives to fight another day
All of which brings us to Mike Alvarado, vilified by blood thirsty ghouls masquerading as boxing fans for "quitting" on the stool after ten brutal rounds with Provodnikov on the same night in October that Frankie Leal was beaten past the point of no return in Mexico. On the verge of being seriously injured or even killed himself, Alvarado wisely decided that it's better to live and fight another day than to end up dead or in a coma. So, did anybody learn a thing or are we still so dazzled by what a "great" year it was for boxing? Say a prayer for Abdusalamov, Wallberg, Carmona, and for the souls we lost in 2013: Frankie Leal, Emile Griffith, Tommy Morrison, Ken Norton, Carl Williams, Johnny Bos, Omar Henry, Baby Jake Matlala, and referee Earl Morton.

Great White Heavyweight Coincidence: Tommy "The Duke" Morrison passed away in 2013 at the age of 44 on the same date that "Brockton Blockbuster" Rocky Marciano was born - September 1st. Morrison's death came exactly 90 years to the day after Marciano's birth in 1923. Consider also that Marciano passed away in 1969, the same year Morrison was born. In Rocky 5, Rocky Balboa should have given Tommy Gunn that Rocky Marciano cufflink after all!

With triumph and tragedy in mind, KO Digest is proud to offer its third annual 2013 Year End Boxing Awards:

Round of the Year: Mickey Bey vs John Molina - Round 10 

 "I never go into a fight with a game plan. I just adapt, see what makes my opponent feel uncomfortable and go from there. We all know what John Molina is going to do, come at me and try and land his money punch, the right hand."

Molina swings for the fences in the final round
Boxing is unlike other sports. Boxing is a true man-on-man, one-on-one sport, uninfluenced by the usage of machines or teammates. It is jammed with action from start to finish, with no called timeouts to gain composure or alter the complexion of the game. It is violent, yet it is an art form. One thing in particular makes this science especially sweet. Despite the scorecards, the momentum, and the odds; absolutely anything can happen. While a football player can only score 6 points on a touchdown and a baseball player can only score four runs on a grand slam, a boxer can turn the tables with one punch regardless of the circumstances. In the tenth and final round of John Molina’s fight against Mickey Bey last July at the Joint in Las Vegas, Showtime commentator Steve Farhood said Molina needed a nine run homerun, and it surely looked like he wasn’t going to hit one. Then, just over halfway through the round, Molina connected with a left hook that stunned Molina, and a series of flush haymakers from straight out of right field lit up the scoreboard and turned a one-sided fight into a whole new ballgame.

Heading into the final round, the undefeated Bey was ahead on all three scorecards, 90-81, 89-82, and 88-83. Molina stayed competitive and landed hard shots throughout the fight, but he was outshined by the unbeaten prospect during most of the bout. Even in the opening minute of the final round, a spirited body attack by Bey seemed as though it might cripple Molina’s spirit once and for all, an all-out attack that brought the crowd to its feet. Undeterred, Molina fought back, and although Bey was never floored, a furious and unchallenged attack had Bey dazed along the ropes, badly enough for referee Vic Drakulich to stop the fight at 2:01 of the last round. Though the future for each in 2014 is unclear, John Molina and Mickey Bey both gave us something in 2013 that no boxing fan will soon forget, the Round of the Year.

Best of the Rest: Tim Bradley vs Ruslan Provodnikov Round 12 and Darren Barker vs Daniel Geale Round 6. 

2012 Winner: Sergio Martinez vs Julio Cesar Chavez Jr Round 12 
2011 Winner: James Kirkland vs Alfredo Angulo Round 1

Written By Joel Sebastianelli - exclusively for KO Digest  

Upset of the Year: Jhonny Gonzalez TKO1 Abner Mares

Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer apparently spoke too soon. You might even say he jinxed his own fighter. Less than a week before Abner Mares' fateful encounter with power punching Jhonny Gonzalez, and with Mares surging up many mythical pound for pound lists, the Golden Boy boss offered the following on behalf of his then undefeated young champion, "When I look at these lists, and I know people have different opinions, I believe that Mares belongs in the number two spot. Floyd Mayweather is the clear number one pound for pound. We have Andre Ward, a fighter I respect, who has had tremendous accomplishments. He won the Super Six tournament. Mares won the bantamweight tournament. Both of them fought the best in their division. Look what Mares has done since then. Look at what Ward has done since then. No question that pound for pound star Abner Mares belongs in the number two spot."

Gonzalez celebrates while Mares wobbles
While capable and dangerous with either hand, Gonzalez was seen by experts as just another beatable opponent for Mares who had been gaining in stature as a complete fighter with recent wins over Daniel Ponce De Leon, Eric Morel, and Anselmo Moreno. Gonzalez, a more natural featherweight than the newly crowned WBC champion, brought his formidable power to bear on Mares early in their August matchup and the defending featherweight titlist found himself on the canvas twice in the first round before referee Jack Reiss decided he'd seen enough and stopped the contest with Mares googly eyed and on his back as a result of a devastating left hook. Just like that, Mares had lost his world title, his unbeaten record, and his growing reputation as an elite pound for pound fighter. Back to the drawing board as they say.

For Gonzalez, who regained the WBC featherweight championship he lost to Ponce De Leon on a technical decision in 2012, the upset win over Mares was pure joy and pure vindication, "This moment right now is the single greatest and most glorious moment of my life. When I came to the United States for this fight, no one gave me any credit. All they talked about was Mares fighting Leo Santa Cruz. I didn't say anything but I knew I was getting disrespected."

Mares down again in the first 
"Jhonny and I go back a long ways. We were once both trained by Nacho Beristain. I was one of Jhonny's sparring partners in Big Bear before his fight against Israel Vazquez but that was a long time ago. Look at where we are now," said Mares.

Speaking in a language that all boxing fans understand, the Mexican born Gonzalez (55-8, 47 KO's) let his fists do the talking and by doing it so impressively against Mares, his stunning first round knockout is the 2013 KO Digest Upset of the Year. An immediate rematch, originally scheduled for February 15th on Showtime, was recently postponed when Mares (26-1-1) suffered a rib injury in training.

Best of the Rest: Juan Francisco Estrada W12 Brian Viloria, Simpiwe Vetyeka TKO6 Chris John, Marcos "The Solution" Maidana W12 Adrien Broner, Tony Thompson KO2 David Price, and Shawn Porter W12 Devon Alexander. 

2012 Winner: Josesito Lopez TKO9 Victor Ortiz 
2011 Winner: Orlando Salido TKO8 Juan Manuel Lopez 

Knockout of the Year: Deontay Wilder KO1 Sergei Liakhovich

Tuscaloosa Alabama's Deontay Wilder was quite confident the day before the biggest fight of his life, a Showtime televised bout against former WBO heavyweight champion Siarhei Liakhovich,"I don’t think they could have picked a better opponent for me. I don’t go in looking for a knockout. They just happen. I don’t put pressure on myself to knock anybody out. At the end of the day, all I want to do is win and see where I'm at. I hope to make some new fans too."

The heavyweight division might be on life support in the United States with Dr's Ironfist and Steelhammer having anesthetized nearly every challenger imaginable to maintain their stranglehold on the World Heavyweight Championship. In the States, the term Great White Hope has been replaced with Great American Hope. It's been over a decade since an American, Hasim Rahman, held the undisputed crown. The Brothers Klitschko might have a serious new challenger in 2008 Olympic Bronze Medalist Deontay "The Bronze Bomber" Wilder. Going into his August bout against the former WBO title holder Liakhovich, Wilder was 28-0 with 28 KO's. Less than a round later, the 28-year-old knockout artist was 29-0, with 29 KO's. By year's end, the American heavyweight hopeful was 30-0, with 30 KO's.

Bombs away for Wilder
The knockout of Liakhovich was especially chilling. Less than two minutes into their fight at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, CA., the 6 foot, 7 inch Wilder let off a lethal one-two combination to the head of Liakhovich that forced "The White Wolf" into the ropes where Wilder followed up immediately by repeating the sequence. This time, a Wilder right hand landed flush and Liakhovich had already begun his descent when a follow-up left hook landed to the top of his head. The sudden assault left Liakhovich convulsing uncontrollably on the canvas, appearing as though he'd literally been taser gunned by the police. "It was very scary," recalled Wilder to KO Digest's intrepid fight scribe Terry Strawson in the October 2013 edition of KO Digest's Spotlight on Boxing's Up and Comers.    

It was scary and unlike other "2013 Knockout of the Year" favorites such as Adonis Stevenson's first round technical knockout of Chad Dawson, the beaten fighter in this case did not get up, did not surrender on his feet, and there was absolutely no doubt that the 2013 KO Digest Knockout of the Year had just taken place. A ridiculous Liakhovich protest, filed a week after the brutal loss, having something to do with an alleged illegal punch, went absolutely nowhere.

Wilder hopes to face the winner of Bermane Stiverne vs Chris Arreola for the WBC title vacated by Vitali Klitschko. 

Best of the Rest: Gennady Golovkin KO3 Matthew Macklin, Gennady Golovkin KO3 Nobuhiro Ishida, Adonis Stevenson TKO1 Chad Dawson, Sergey Kovalev TKO2 Ismayl Sillakh, and Ryan Kielczweski KO5 Miguel Soto. 

2012 Winner: Juan Manuel Marquez KO6 Manny Pacquiao
2011 Winner: Floyd Mayweather KO4 Victor Ortiz   

Comeback Fighter of the Year: Marcos Maidana

Maidana's Comeback Was No Problem 
Back in February of 2012, Marcos Rene Maidana had the opportunity to earn a place among the welterweight elite by defeating, fellow former 140-pound titlist, Devon Alexander. Instead, he lost a three judge near shutout, winning only a single round in the score totals. Maidana was not forgotten, but he was relegated to fringe contender status; a fighter notable only for his exciting style and not his winning ways. He was indeed a man in need of a big comeback. Enter trainer Robert Garcia. Maidana, 30, won his next three bouts under the highly regarded tutelage of Garcia, but wins over Jesus Soto Karass and Angel Martinez were hardly his ticket back into the thick of the welterweight rankings. It took his June stoppage of Josesito Lopez, which saw equal parts of Maidana the boxer as it did Maidana the puncher.

Against the Riverside Rocky, Maidana boxed effectively behind a jab. We even saw him slip a few punches before letting his inner puncher out to finish the popular Lopez. Maidana was on the way to redemption and he found it six months later to close out 2013. This time it was the challenge of recently crowned WBA welterweight champ Adrien Broner in front of Maidana. This was another opportunity, one with far higher stakes, for the Argentine to prove he belonged among the elites at 147. This time Maidana made a statement. After brushing off Broner at the weigh-in with a bump of dismissal, Maidana entered the ring and made it clear that AB was in a fight. It turned out to be a brawl, but a more calculated one which saw Maidana using his jab and setting traps for the allegedly more talented champion. After knockdowns in rounds two and eight, there was no question the title was going to change hands after the final bell tolled and that Maidana (35-3, 31 KO's) would become KO Digest's best choice for 2013 Comeback Fighter of the Year.

Best of the Rest: Bernard Hopkins, Manny Pacquiao, Jhonny Gonzalez, and Tony Thompson. 

2012 Winner: Devon Alexander
2011 Winner: Floyd Mayweather Jr  

Written By Derek Bonnett - exclusively for KO Digest 

Robbery of the Year: Ricky Burns D12 Raymundo Beltran

Even Scottish fans knew Beltran was the real winner
In boxing, there's a big difference between an unpopular decision and a robbery. It's important for fans to know the difference. Sugar Ray Leonard's split decision over Marvelous Marvin Hagler in 1987 was a very unpopular decision but by no means a robbery. Same with Leonard's rematch draw against Thomas Hearns in 1989, very unpopular, but not a robbery. Brandon Rios' 2012 decision over Richard Abril was a robbery; so too was Paul Williams' decision over Erislandy Lara in 2011. This year, boxing fans apparently got confused. They labelled Julio Cesar Chavez Jr's close decision win over Brian Vera a robbery (which it wasn't) all the while ignoring one of the most egregious robberies in recent memory, the outrageous homecooked draw Ricky Burns received in Scotland to controversially defend his WBO lightweight title against Ray Beltran in September.

Beltran appeared to have clearly won at least six rounds, he broke Burns' jaw early in the fight, and he knocked the champion down in the eighth round but still only received a draw, a robbery that transcends the likes of controversial but close decisions such as Chavez Jr vs Vera. In the dubious case of Beltran vs Burns, the better man in the ring did not win on the scorecards, and nor did the fans win in a decision that holds no merit. "I beat him and I dominated him. 
He knew the right people and I don't," said Beltran to Joel Sebastianelli in the October edition of KO Digest Interview.

A disgusted Beltran (28-6-1, 17 KO's) told KO Digest he had no interest in a Burns (36-2-1, 11 KO's) rematch. 

Worst of the Rest: Vivian Harris W10 Danny O'Connor and Roman Martinez D12 Juan Carlos Burgos. 
Dishonorable diSTINKtion goes to inept judge CJ Ross who scored Mayweather-Canelo a ridiculous 114-114 draw. 

The 45-0 Money May would be wise to beware of Rock Marciano's undefeated (49-0) ghost.  

Worst of 2012: Brandon Rios W12 Richard Abril
Worst of 2011: Paul Williams W12 Erislandy Lara

2013 Fight of the Year: Timothy Bradley W12 Ruslan Provodnikov

Bradley and Provodnikov kicked off a stellar year for boxing
When asked what made him fight so out of character against Ruslan Provodnikov, WBO welterweight champ Tim "Desert Storm" Bradley explained, "I needed to do something to change the fans outlook on me as a fighter, and as a world champion." Known more as a boxer with good counterpunching skills, Bradley instead elected to brawl with the fighter known as the Siberian Rocky, much to the delight of fans. Fighting for the first time in almost a year, Bradley admitted he'd been in a dark place since his 2012 decision "win" over Pacquiao, even receiving death threats from hostile fans. "The Pacquiao fight really put a halt on my career," he confessed.

After a proposed rematch with the Philippino fighter fell through, Bradley soon discovered that he was the odd man out amongst the welterweight elite. Frustrated, Bradley finally settled for the relatively unknown Provodnikov, the chief sparring  partner for Pacquiao. Unlike last year's "Fight of the Year" between Pacquiao and Marquez, no one saw this one coming. In fact, expectations were not high for this fight, and with an attendance of just over three thousand paying customers, nothing out of the ordinary was expected. What would unfold on March 16th at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California made this fight the logical choice as KO Digest 2013 Fight of the Year.

Bradley was forced to dig deep as a fighter within the first six minutes of the match. In the opening round, a short right hand by the heavy handed Provodnikov exploded on Bradley's jaw after he foolishly stood his ground and traded. The champion fell down as Provodnikov easily escaped from his grasp. "He hit me so hard, it sent my chin all the way to the back of my neck," Bradley claimed later. As Bradley struggled to regain his feet, he flashed a silly grin through his mouthpiece as he fell backwards in an awkward position. Provodnikov raised his glove in victory, not realizing that referee Pat Russell had ruled the knockdown a slip. "If he would have stepped back, rather than push me down, I would have fell on my own, and it would have been ruled a knockdown," said Bradley of the inexperienced challenger. The Russian hurt Bradley again in the second, as he stumbled backwards on unsteady legs, but the excited challenger headhunted while he punched himself out. Provodnikov would also strike in the sixth, as Bradley elected once again to trade with the "Siberian Rocky." A booming left hook made his legs buckle, and both men flailed away until the bell.

As Bradley yelled in his corner and flexed his muscles, an angry Joel Diaz let him have it, "If you don't follow the game plan, I'm going to throw in the towel," the trainer warned. The threat seemed to work as the WBO champion wisely boxed, busting up Provodnikov's left eye in the process. Bradley developed a slight lead on the cards after ten rounds, and Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach even considered pulling his brave challenger out in the ninth.

"He's going to try and knock you out," Diaz warned Bradley before the start of the final round.

"Action Fighter" Bradley beats Rocky & JMM in 2013
To the surprise of Provodnikov, Bradley stubbornly stood his ground in the final round, and a left hook sent "Desert Storm" stumbling across the ring. With just 11 seconds remaining in the fight, the champion was dropped to his knee for the first official knockdown of the fight from a series of right hands, but the final bell rang before the challenger could inflict further damage. "It's a Rocky movie! That was Rocky!," blurted Max Kellerman seconds later. The judges scores of 114-113 (twice) and 115-112 for Bradley suggest the fight would have had a different outcome if the knockdown was called in the first round. Bradley had nothing but praise for the challenger. "I think I have a concussion," he half kidded. Several months later, and still on the mend, Bradley took the time to reflect on the fight."Everyone definitely warned about Provodnikov. But it was a Rocky fight. I hit you. You hit me. Over and over again." 
With Bradley now receiving the well deserved respect of fans, the champion seems to finally be at peace with himself.

Best of the Rest: Mike Alvarado W12 Brandon Rios II, Ruslan Provodnikov TKO10 Mike Alvarado, Giovani Segura KO12 Hernan Marquez, Marcos Maidana W12 Adrien Broner, and Omar Figueroa W12 Nihito Arakawa. 

2012 WinnerJuan Manuel Marquez KO6 Manny Pacquiao IV
2011 Winner: Victor Ortiz W12 Andre Berto 

Written By David McLeod - exclusively for KO Digest

2013 KO Digest Fighter of the Year: Adonis "Superman" Stevenson

When 2013 began, Adonis "Superman" Stevenson was a relatively obscure super middleweight contender with a recent knockout loss on his 19-1 record at the hands of journeyman Darnell Boone. The best win on the 35-year-old power puncher's resume was a 12th round stoppage of Don George, a fighter with an even worse reputation than Stevenson for extracurricular activity committed outside of the ring. What a difference a year makes. Fighting under the tutelage of trainer Javan "Sugar" Hill and in the KRONK tradition of his late mentor Emanuel Steward, Stevenson transformed himself in a manner truly befitting his otherworldly namesake.

First up for Stevenson was a shot at redemption against the only fighter to have beaten him, Deezol Boone. In the March rematch, Stevenson showed none of the vulnerability that marked his 2nd round TKO loss to Boone in 2010. This time around, it was all Stevenson and he finished off Boone with an impressive 6th round knockout. Next up for the fast rising Superman was a move up to 175 lbs where a shot at World Light Heavyweight Champion Bad Chad Dawson resulted in a stunning 1st round TKO upset win for Superman to claim the WBC title. Suddenly, Stevenson was a legitimate world champion in one of boxing's Original 8 weight classes and the manner in which he won the title was as thrilling as it was conclusive. The fight lasted all of 76 seconds. It was as Max said on HBO, a star making performance.

Boxing's newest star arrived in 2013
Stevenson's next two fights in 2013 would prove the boxing axiom that becoming a world champion makes any fighter at least 50% better than he was before he won the title. In September, Stevenson took on the challenge of former IBF light heavyweight title holder Tavoris Cloud. What was thought to be a competitive and exciting matchup turned into a slaughter. Stevenson outboxed Cloud and he outfought him, cutting both of Cloud's eyes before the Don King promoted fighter retired in the corner with a sad look of defeat on his bloody face after seven one-sided rounds. Fighting for money, titles, and the Canadian way, the KRONK clad super hero from Haiti then closed out his historic year, keeping his pimp hand strong with another impressive performance in defense of his world title, a 6th round TKO of deserving but outgunned British challenger Tony "Bomber" Bellew.

Adonis "Superman" Stevenson is the 2013 KO Digest Fighter of the Year.

He is the one fighter in boxing today most like the power punching super heroes from boxing's Golden Age - 1980's. 

Stevenson (23-1, 20 KO's) is also one half of the most exciting match-up in boxing, a light heavyweight unification  fight against WBO champion (23-0, 21 KO's) Sergey "Krusher" Kovalev. If it happens, call it the Krusher vs the KRONK.   

Best of the Rest: Floyd Mayweather, Tim Bradley, Gennady Golovkin, and Guillermo Rigondeaux.

2012 Winners: Juan Manuel Marquez & Nonito Donaire (co-fighters of the year)
2011 Winner: Andre "The Son of God" Ward

KO Digest Prediction of the Year: Provodnikov TKO10 Alvarado

Behind the keyboard, 2013 was a successful year for KO Digest and as the Editor in Chief of a busy social media outlet for boxing, I was gratefully afforded the opportunity by Lem Satterfield to regularly contribute expert predictions for big fights this year as a member of RingTV's "Ask the Experts" panel. It was an honor for me to write alongside some the brightest minds in boxing, men like Jack Obermayer, Cliff Rold, and John "The Iceman" Scully.  My final record for the year was a very respectable 26-11 with one unforgettable knockout, the Rocky Mountain War waged by the Siberian Rocky and Mile High Mike Alvarado. You might say I pulled a Colorado crystal ball out of my boxing media bag.

Here is how on RingTV I predicted the Rocky Moutian War would go a week before opening shots were fired:

Ruslan Provodnikov TKO10 Mike Alvarado: Returning home to Colorado after two fan-friendly firefights with Brandon Rios, there's no rest for the weary, or for Mike Alvarado. "Mile High" Mike is matched tough against Ruslan Provodnikov, a Russian mauler coming off a brutal confrontation of his own against Tim "Desert Storm" Bradley.

Which warrior goes into this battle more shell-shocked from recent combat? It has to be Alvarado. Those 19 rounds against Rios probably took more out of him than Bradley could ever take from Provodnikov no matter how many times they fought. To win, Alvarado must fight smart and dial back his taste for exchanges like he did in the Rios rematch, but there will be great pressure to perform combatively in Denver for his hometown fans.

KO Digest & The Bible of Boxing
Then there's the pressure that Provodnikov will be applying in the ring. It'll all be too much for Alvarado to abide. "This fight has war written all over it," said Alvarado in promotion for the bout, and he's right. When the boxing stops and the hostilities inevitably commence, Provodnikov will be the fresher of the two. Look for him to out-last Alvarado down the stretch and batter the WBO champion for a late round TKO. ~ Jeffrey Freeman, KO Digest

As Fight Week revealed more closely to Fight Night, my sources in the Mile High state were accurate and so on Facebook I added this to an already bold prediction -- "Mike Alvarado is not ready to fight up to his potential tonight and Ruslan Provodnikov has to know it from looking at his emaciated opponent at the 24-hour weigh-in. Alvarado looked drained and unhealthy after dropping the single pound he needed to drop to make weight. Tonight, I expect Provodnikov to jump on the WBO champion early to see if he's all there. When the Russian discovers that Alvarado is just a shell of himself, he'll walk "Mile High" down, batter him, and take him out. Alvarado will put up a fight but the wars and the weight will finally catch up to him. It's the "Siberian Rocky" Ruslan Provodnikov by TKO in 10 or less." 

Needless to say, that is all exactly how it went down.

Thankfully there were no casualties in this war.  

KO's Best of the Rest on RingTV: Tim Bradley W12 Juan Manuel Marquez, Erislandy Lara W12 Austin "No Doubt" Trout, Paulie Malignaggi W12 Zab Judah, Keith Thurman TKO8 Diego Chavez, and Canelo Alvarez W12 Austin Trout.

2013 Boxing Prospect of the Year: Vasyl Lomachenko 

1-0 and ready for a WBO title shot
As we draw the curtain on another action-packed year in boxing, many young fighters have propelled themselves from prospects into contenders. Many have fought more than half a dozen times in a bid to gain the necessary rounds and experience required in order to compete at the highest level. However, not many are considered ready to challenge for a world championship in just their second professional fight but that appears to be the case with Vasyl Lomachenko, the KO Digest Prospect of the Year. A two-time Olympic gold medalist from Ukraine, Lomachenko is now signed with Top Rank and he made his debut on the undercard of the Timothy Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez Pay-Per-View in October. Experts and fans alike hold Lomachenko in high regard and KO Digest's own Edwin Ayala was quick and correct to make a case for him as Prospect of the Year. "It's Lomachenko without a doubt. His stellar amateur career along with his impressive professional debut to win the WBO International featherweight title provides us the proof."

His debut came against the vastly experienced Jose Ramirez, (24-3) and his sole outing as a prizefighter thus far produced a victory that has, potentially, elevated him into position to face Orlando Salido for the WBO featherweight crown early next year. His amateur pedigree is evident in his work yet he looks every bit the professional. Using angles, and varying his attack between the head and body, Lomachenko is enjoyable viewing. He looks calm and composed under pressure and he joins a growing list of Eastern European fighters who have been enjoying much success of late. 

2012 Winner: Keith Thurman 
2011 Winner: Gary Russell Jr 

Written By Terry Strawson - exclusively for KO Digest  

Quotes of the Year: Bernard "The Alien" Hopkins & Promoter Bob Arum

"If you have a store and you don't have any goods on the shelf, nobody will come in there and eventually you have to pack up and go. You can't sell something you don't have. Whoever thought that Bernard Hopkins out of anybody - not the mob, not the street people, not the fighters that have threatened him over the years, not the other promoters - whoever thought that it would be me that shut Don King down? What better way to get the last nail in his coffin, I'm honored to do it." ~ 48 year old IBF light heavyweight champion after beating the King's last pawn Tavoris Cloud.

"The fans aren't stupid, they want to see action. Rios and Alvarado are action fighters. Tim Bradley showed he's an action fighter. Juan Manuel Marquez is an action fighter. Manny Pacquiao is an action fighter. Ruslan Provodnikov is an action fighter. They don't play around. They fight, that's what the public wants. So we'll mix and match because those are the fights people want to see and there is the way the fighters can be rewarded monetarily." ~ Top Rank's Uncle Bob

Rest in Peace Little KIA Soldier

The third annual 2013 KO Digest Boxing Year End Review and Awards was written, produced, and edited by KO Digest Editor in Chief Jeffrey Freeman with invaluable contributions from the following of KO's Contributors - Terry Strawson, David McLeod, Derek Bonnett, Joel "The Future" Sebastianelli, and Edwin "Ace" Ayala.