Who doesn’t love a good fight? A great bout can announce the arrival of a new star, turn a star into a legend or simply entertain a thrilled audience. And let’s be clear here… 2013 was a great year for fights. The hardest part of compiling this list was thinking about what to leave out rather than looking for bouts to put in and there are number of contests that likely deserve at least an honorable mention only to find themselves excluded because I didn’t want to list dozens of contests.
There are many ways to win a bout in boxing but the knockout has always been the most visceral. It’s been the one that captures the world’s attention and the one that can catapult a boxer to a wider audience. There’s something definitive about a knockout win tha a decision, however comprehensive, often struggles to emulate. And a knockout speaks to the base part of us that enjoys boxing, the primal instinct that fires our blood when we watch two boxers compete. Knockouts have provided some of boxings iconic images and calls, from Ali stopping Foreman to Foreman stopping Moorer to Mercer stopping Morrison to Martinez dropping Williams to Marquez stopping Pacquiao to… well… Tyson. A knockout can come to define a boxer’s career… for good or ill… and today we look at the best knockouts of 2013.
I’ve already looked at those who gained the most this year and those who lost the most. But how about those who basically stood still? As a general rule in boxing you’re either rising to the surface or sinking towards the bottom but for some boxers it appears they spent 2013 treading water. Despite the somewhat pejorative title, this isn’t a list of those who had a bad year… some of these names have had a pretty good year all-told. It’s a list of people we expected more from and for whatever reason… be it in their control or not… it simply hasn’t happened that way.
One of the great joys of boxing is watching new stars appear seemingly from nowhere, thrust into the limelight not by salivating promoters or over-eager media but instead simply through the strength of their performances and the acclamation of their fans. This award is to celebrate those who rose from (relative) obscurity in 2012 to become notable names in boxing as 2013 comes to a close.
Adrien Broner wasn’t used to this.
He was The Problem. He was About Billions. He was the “Can Man” (because *gesticulating to imaginary opponents* he can get it and he can get it… apparently). He was first Mr HBO and then Mr Showtime. He was the next big thing, the new star to carry boxing forward, the apple of Golden Boy’s eye. He was the heir to Mayweather, the next love-to-hate superstar for whom the only thing that matched his arrogance and conceit was his talent and skill.
Adrien Broner has long been used to being the headline… but that was him making them, not him being made into one.
But what Adrien Broner isn’t used to is losing.
Before his bout with Marcos Maidana, Broner was jokingly asking whether Maidana really want to box him or if instead Maidana had simply wanted to meet him in person. After the bout Broner was fleeing the ring as soon as the decision was announced, being pelted with rubbish by the fans in attendance to a chorus of boos.
Early in the bout with Marcos Maidana, Broner had slipped behind Maidana and mockingly humped him. Late in the bout a dejected Broner could do nothing as Maidana slipped around him and did the same thing to howls of approval from the crowd.
And in between Broner had been dropped twice, hurt repeatedly, forced into amateur dramatics in a desperate attempt to get a DQ win, beaten up, broken down and pretty much outclassed.
How did it come to this?
In what on paper was meant to be a relatively soft comeback following being outclassed by then IBF title holder Devon Alexander, Essex brawler Lee Purdy instead found himself beaten up and then stopped by the unheralded Leonard Bundu in a bout that was as much a fight as a boxing match.
Bundu may have been the owner of a pretty 29-0 record and the holder of the European belt, but the 41 year old had barely boxed outside Italy previously and had faced a pretty limited selection of opposition. A younger, fresher Purdy boxing at home was expected to be able to overpower him. Instead, Bundu was simply the better man throughout. The bout was an entertaining, engaging war where both men could be proud of their efforts with Purdy pressing forwards relentlessly to confront Bundu who was trying to keep the battle at range. The issue was that even when he did manage to get to the inside, Bundu still had the edge, landing impressive combinations and cutting Purdy open. As the bout wore on Purdy became wilder and wilder while Bundu’s seemed to become more and more powerful and in the 12th he knocked Purdy down with a right and then swarmed him with follow up punches to earn a deserved stoppage.
It was a beating.
Marcos Rene Maidana, the hard punching Argentinian, outworked, bullied and most shockingly at times outclassed the incredibly highly regarded Adrien Broner to win a one-sided decision having dropped Broner twice and had a point deducted himself.
The simple way to look at the bout was that Maidana outworked Broner, in some rounds throwing going on ten times the punches that the WBA champion threw in return. But that misses the fact that Maidana wasn’t just throwing, he was also landing. Broner’s defence has always been more porous then one would expect considering his reputation but here it was wide open at times. Throughout the bout Broner couldn’t read Maidana’s jab, being speared by it multiple times and, more worryingly, unable to tell when it would turn from a jab to a hook to either the head or body and even when Maidana reverted to type and threw wild, looping shoots Broner still found himself caught. To be fair many of the punches were blocked, deflected or ridden but a significant number landed and the roar from the crowd whenever one did made clear who the partisan fans favoured… especially when Broner tumbled to the floor twice.
6 November 2003: James Kirkland smashes an overmatched Russell Jordan in a round, improving to 11-0. The 19 year old former National Golden Gloves finalist is considered a great talent and one to keep an eye on.
Later in 2003: James Kirkland is arrested for his participation in an armed robbery and is sentenced to jail time. His boxing career is put on hold for two and a half years.
7 March 2009: James Kirkland blasts his way through gatekeeper Joel Julio, forcing him to quit in six rounds to set up a seemingly inevitable title shot. Since returning to boxing in 2006, Kirkland is 14-0 with 13 stoppages. Promoted by Golden Boy he has been heavily featured on TV and is one of the names to watch in boxing.
23 September 2009: James Kirkland is sentenced to two years in prison following an April arrest for possession of a firearm when a convicted felon.
5 March 2011: James Kirkland returns to boxing, flattening Ahsandi Gibbs in a single round. With a new trainer and team around him Golden Boy intend to keep James Kirkland busy on his way to a title shot.
5 November 2011: Having won a couple of keep busy bouts in the interim, James Kirkland is selected as an opponent for Alfredo Angulo and his return to boxing. Travelling to Mexico few give Kirkland a chance but with his old trainer back in his corner he comes back from a first round knockdown to score one of his own (part of a clear round of the year candidate) and proceeds to give Angulo a beating before stopping him in six rounds. Kirkland follows this win by beating spoiler Carlos Molina in an awkward bout to keep his hopes of a title shot alive.
17 August 2012: James Kirkland accuses his team of drugging him prior to the Molina bout. He then threatens to sue Golden Boy, his trainer and his management and puts the first steps into motion of doing so. His career stalls for 18 months. In that time he is also arrested for assault.
7 December 2013: James Kirkland returns to boxing once again, brutalising the fairly well regarded Glen Tapia to a sixth round stoppage.
Marcos Maidana has been here before.
In June 2009, Golden Boy were throwing their full promotional weight behind a young fighter. Victor Ortiz was 24-1-1 with the loss being a slightly controversial DQ and the draw being a technical decision with less than a round boxed. He had fast, heavy hands having stopped 19 of his opponents and he’d picked up some notable wins… blasting out former world champion Carlos Maussa in a round and the then still fairly well regarded Mike Arnaoutis. More then that he was handsome and personable with more than a hint of Oscar De La Hoya himself about him. Golden Boy expected big things from the young man as he prepared to box for his first world title against a little known Argentinian who had lost his last bout.
Adrien Broner is not in exactly the same position Victor Ortiz was. While Ortiz was a contender with the hope of going further, Broner is already a three weight world champion with notable wins over Daniel Ponce De Leon, Jason Litzau, Vicente Escobedo, Antonio DeMarco and Paulie Malignaggi. But Broner is a young man who Golden Boy promotions (and in extension, Showtime) have put a lot of effort into hyping and are looking to as someone who can carry the company forward in years to come. And now, much like Ortiz, Broner finds himself standing opposite an menacing Argentinian power puncher who wants to make a mockery of such ambitions.
Can he do it?