2011 Boxing Fighter Of The Year Nominees

Welcome to The Queensberry Rules’ annual year-end awards, continuing throughout the week. Here’s how we do it around these parts:

The major categories are Knockout of the Year, Round of the Year, Fight of the Year and Fighter of the Year. The final leg is a pu-pu platter of awards ranging from Trainer of the Year to more frivolous topics.

For each category, I give five finalists, with video and/or relevant info. You tell me if my finalists and honorable mentions are lacking, and give your vote on who you think should win. Maybe you sway me to adjust the list, and maybe you sway me on the eventual winner. On the second day after a category is introduced, I give that winner and explain why. (There are no major fights left in 2011, but we reserve the right to change our category winners if something crazy happens.)

So, up now: Fighter of the Year candidates. On deck: Fight of the Year winner and Fighter of the Year winner. Previously: Knockout of the Year and Round of the Year candidates, followed by the winners in both categories, and Fight of the Year candidates.



Nonito Donaire

Wins: Fernando Montiel (technical knockout, 2nd round, February); Omar Narvaez (unanimous decision, October)… With his win over fellow bantamweight Montiel, made his case as arguably the third best fighter in the world… Montiel coming into that fight was a top-10 caliber pound-for-pound boxer, and Donaire destroyed him easily with a left hook that authored TQBR’s 2011 Knockout of the Year… Followed that up in October with a routine win over an unwilling Omar Narvaez… Donaire didn’t look as extraordinary against Narvaez, but that was mostly Narvaez’ fault… And Narvaez still was perhaps the best junior bantamweight in the world, so Donaire gets credit for the victory… With his scintillating talent, vibrant personality and backing from the Philippines, he has probably only begun to skim the surface of the kind of star he could become.


Hernan Marquez

Wins: Luis Concepcion (TKO11, April); Edrin Dapudong (TKO3, July); Luis Concepcion in a rematch (TKO1, October)… Thought of as something of a stay-busy opponent for Concepcion in April, Marquez instead came off the mat in the 1st round of his war with Concepcion to stop him late… It was a candidate for Fight of the Year, and with the win, Marquez beat the man many considered the #1 flyweight in the world behind champion Pongsaklek Wonjongkam… Followed that up with a quick defeat of fringe contender Dapudong, a warm-up for the rematch with Concepcion — necessary not just because the first was so good, but also because Concepcion was thought to lose more because of a damaged eye than anything… Answered any doubters about whether he got lucky the first time by thrashing Concepcion in one round in the rematch… Will never match Mike Tyson in any way, but that “Tyson” nickname is a lot less laughable after three TKO wins for the little man who once had been best known for losing to Donaire.


Brandon Rios

Wins: Miguel Acosta (TKO10, February); Urbano Antillon (KO3, July); John Murray (TKO11, December)… In 2011, Rios became boxing’s most reliable source of action fights, as every single fight featured seesaw action and tons of punches landed and received…  It looked as though Acosta might outbox him, but Rios proved he wasn’t as rudimentary as anyone thought, and his toughness shined through, too, as he eventually stopped Acosta after being hurt early… Next up was Antillon, and while it was ultimately a one-sided fight, Antillon also got to Rios a little in a close-quarters brawl… Lastly, Rios went from gaunt and ghost-like at the weigh-in for the Murray bout where he simply couldn’t make the lightweight limit to a slow start in the fight itself before giving Murray a cringe-inducing beating… That’s three wins over top-10 caliber lightweights, all by stoppage, two of them Fight of the Year-style bouts with Round of the Year-style action in both… Firmly established himself as the world’s #1 lightweight behind champ Juan Manuel Marquez and entered TQBR’s pound-for-pound rankings… Mysteriously, despite being promoted by Mexican-friendly Top Rank, he hasn’t proven a good ticketseller yet, maybe because he’s only recently arrived on the map, or maybe because of/despite a personality that exists on the borderline of roguishly charming and flat-out obnoxious.


Brian Viloria

Wins: Julio Cesar Miranda (UD12, July); Giovani Segura (TKO8, December)… Boxing’s most mercurial talent — he’s capable of beating the likes of Ulises Solis but losing to the likes of Carlos Tamara — had an up year, to say the least… Miranda is the kind of guy who’s capable of beating Viloria, and the pair went at it pretty hard before Viloria barely edged it on two scorecards and had it firmly under control on the third… When Segura, the junior flyweight champion, moved up to the flyweight division, his first real challenge was against Viloria, and Viloria was the underdog… In truth, Viloria had a fairly easy time with Segura, who’d drawn pound-for-pound top-10 plaudits… Viloria was too strong and too skilled in an excellent performance, one that vaulted him into TQBR’s pound-for-pound top 20… Like Donaire, his Filipino heritage and vibrant personality help his star potential, as do his ties to Hawaii, but time will tell if Viloria can get consistent or if 2011 was his peak; if this is as good as he gets, it’s still very good.

Andre Ward

Wins: Arthur Abraham (UD12, May); Carl Froch (UD12, Carl Froch)… In 2011 Ward completed a two-year quest to win Showtime’s Super Six tournament and establish himself as the top super middleweight in what began as a deep and crowded field… The Abraham win was somewhat perfunctory, as Abraham had lost two in a row coming in, but Abraham was a bit more vivacious than in recent bouts early against Ward, and Ward handled the stiffer-than-expected challenge with his usual poise and intelligence to get the easy decision… Next up was Froch in the Super Six finale, and Ward was brilliant early, appearing on his way to a shocking stoppage of the iron-chinned Froch, who had trouble laying a glove on him… As it turned out, Ward had broken his left hand in the fight, which explained his mid-fight fade, not that it was enough for Froch to catch up with the ultra-skilled and quick Ward… Now can claim the lineal Ring magazine super middleweight championship and is one of the five best fighters in the world… Despite the professional success, despite the Olympic gold medal, and despite a charismatic demeanor, though, Ward has only so far proven a draw in his native Oakland, and even then he has sold few tickets in each successive fight.

Your honorable mentions, in no particular order:

Juan Manuel Marquez (if you think he beat Manny Pacquiao, despite what the scorecards said, you can make a case for him as 2011’s best)

Lamont Peterson (the win over Victor Cayo was good, but the narrow, disputed win over Amir Khan was a victory over a boxer some thought of as one of the top couple talents in the sport)

Bernard Hopkins (became the oldest world champion in boxing history when he beat Jean Pascal, but followed it up with an ugly no-contest against Chad Dawson)

Vitali Klitscko (beat two top-10 heavyweights, including borderline pound-for-pound top-20 Tomasz Adamek)

Miguel Cotto (didn’t beat anyone special — Ricardo Mayorga and Antonio Margarito — but re-established himself as one of the world’s best in two fun battles, one of which was one of the year’s most anticipated fights)

Kazuto Ioka (won an alphabet title in just his seventh pro fight, topped it off with two more decent-to-good wins)

Jorge Arce (came from behind to defeat Wilfredo Vazquez, Jr. in a major upset, then in two rematches avenged an old loss and improved upon a technical decision victory)

(Photos taken from Ring magazine’s website.)

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (http://www.tbrb.org). He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.