There’s nothing like a good come from behind victory. In the case of these fighters, it wasn’t just one showing. It was a year’s worth of moves in and out of the ring that erased their 2012 struggles and made them sought after names for 2014. Whether it came in the guise of a Fight of the Year, or simply an efficient beating of a decent contender, these are the fighters who recaptured your imagination in 2013.
5. JHONNY GONZALEZ, 55-8 (47 KOs)
3-0 (2 KOs) in 2013
Became the first man to defeat Abner Mares (TKO1)
Became a two-time featherweight champion
Gonzalez was written off after getting beat down by Daniel Ponce de Leon in route to losing a technical decision and his WBC featherweight title. But Gonzalez persevered, scoring two victories over fringe contenders Eusebio Osejo and Akihiko Katagiri to land a shot at the new champion, Abner Mares. Gonzalez was supposed to play the role of a solid, older challenger who gets overwhelmed by a young, surging champion.
Gonzalez had other plans. With a left hook that shocked Abner Mares and the boxing world, Gonzalez blew through his young opponent and immediately returned to the forefront of the division. He’ll get the chance to prove it was no fluke when he rematches Mares on February 15.[youtube http://youtu.be/O-_PRfYWs1Y]
4. JAMES KIRKLAND, 32-1 (28 KOs)
1-0 (1 KO)
Returned to original trainer Ann Wolfe
Signed with 50 Cent’s SMS Promotions
The Mandingo Warrior didn’t return to title contention or even beat a Top 10 junior middleweight for his lone 2013 fight, but James Kirkland did put the demand for him back in the mouth of every boxing fan. When HBO and Showtime went head to head on December 7, Kirkland’s battle with Glen Tapia upstaged every other bout. He reminded fans of his ruthless aggression, put the 154 division back on notice, and looked as powerful (and reckless) as he had before being shelved due to legal issues with former promoter Golden Boy.
Now with 50 Cent’s SMS outfit and HBO, Kirkland is rumored to be in the running to land his first title shot, a showdown with WBA middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin.
3. MIGUEL COTTO, 38-4, (31 KOs)
1-0 (1 KO)
Hired Freddie Roach
Offered $8 million to face Canelo Alvarez on Showtime pay-per-view
Oftered over $10 million to face Sergio Martinez on HBO pay-per-view
2012 was rough year for Miguel Cotto. Sure, he made excellent money and got a rep boost from the boxing community for his competitive performance against Floyd Mayweather. Still, a loss is a loss, and Cotto was held winless in that year, also dropping a decision in Madison Square Garden to Austin Trout. After that fight, a visibly upset Cotto barked on Jim Gray before storming out the ring.
Cotto regrouped this year partly by simply not rushing back into the ring and reaping the benefits of the cold war between HBO/Top Rank and Showtime/Golden Boy. With Cotto having history with both networks and promotional companies, his name value became highly sought after. Reps for Canelo Alvarez and Sergio Martinez have spent the last few months attempting to woo Cotto with offers of $8 million (Canelo) and $10-15 million (Martinez).
Cotto ended up choosing HBO to showcase his new partnership with Freddie Roach. The result was a third-round annihilation of Delvin Rodriguez, which seemed to create even more of a signing frenzy between Top Rank and Golden Boy. As of now, Top Rank and HBO are back in the lead. Cotto enjoys an autonomy over his career better than any other active fighter not named Floyd Mayweather.
2. FELIX STURM, 39-3-2, 18 KOs
2-0 (1 KO) with 1 No Contest
Defeated Darren Barker to win the IBF middleweight title (3rd title reign)
Call Felix Sturm what you will — just make sure you include “three-time middleweight champion” in the description. After holding the WBA middleweight crown for five years and making over 10 title defenses, Sturm’s time at the top seemed to be at an end just 15 months ago. He lost a unification bout with IBF titlist Daniel Geale in September 2012. In February, Sturm suffered a huge upset to old veteran Sam Soliman.
Luckily for Sturm, Soliman was later found to have taken the illegal stimulant methylsynephrine, changing that defeat to a No-Contest. Sturm wasted no time getting back in the ring, scoring a fourth round TKO over Predrag Radosevic. That earned Sturm a shot with Geale-conqueror and newly crowned IBF champ Darren Barker.
Showing surprising power and capitalizing on a severe injury to Barker’s right hip, Sturm scored a quick second round knockout for his third middleweight title reign.
1. TIMOTHY BRADLEY, 31-0, (12 KOs)
Won Fight of the Year contender over Ruslan Provodnikov
Defeated Juan Manuel Marquez by split decision
Timothy Bradley came into 2013 depressed and from his own words, damn near suicidal. His biggest win, a highly controversial decision win over Manny Pacquiao, was declared a robbery and Bradley became the unfair whipping boy for judging ineptitude.
Personally hurt by the criticism of his fighting style, he initially fought a slugging war with Ruslan Provodnikov before boxing enough in spots to escape with a narrow decision win and a bad concussion gift from Provodnikov. Instead of taking the rest of the year off (Bradley admitted he slurred his words for months after the fight), he jumped back in the ring with Pacquiao-conqueror Juan Manuel Marquez, outboxing the Mexican legend to cap his best year as a professional.
Tim Bradley ended 2012 the butt of jokes and viewed as a paper champion. He goes into 2014 now highly respected as a warrior and a technician.