2012 Boxing Fighter Of The Year Nominees

Welcome to The Queensberry Rules' annual year-end awards, continuing throughout the week and into next. 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 a subseqent day after a category is introduced, I give that winner and explain why. (There are virtually no major fights left in 2012, but we reserve the right to change our category winners if something crazy happens.)

Previously: Knockout of the Year candidates; Round of the Year candidates; Knockout of the Year; Round of the Year; Fight of the Year candidates. On deck: Fight of the Year; Fighter of the Year.

(listed in alphabetical order)




Nonito Donaire

Wins: Wilfredo Vazquez, Jr. (12-round split decision, February); Jeffrey Mathebula (12-round unanimous decision, July); Toshiaki Nishioka (9th round technical knockout, October); Jorge Arce (3rd round knockout, December)… Became the lineal Transnational Boxing Rankings Board junior featherweight champion with his win over an older but still viable version of Nishioka, surely the highlight of his year… All of his opponents in 2012 figured out it was safer to keep their distance and spoil than to test his fearsome left hook, so he only looked terrific in one of the fights, his big knockout of the faded Arce, an honorable mention for KO of the Year… Despite appearing lackluster at times, controlled every fight; the Vazquez win was closer on the scorecards than in reality, and the Mathebula fight was closer in reality than on the scorecards, but Donaire still won them all without question… Fought four times, a rarity for an elite fighter, and all four of his opponents were top-10 or near top-10 junior feathers… Outside the ring, led by example on the performance enhancing drug fight with year-round testing by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency.. Hasn't yet translated into a television ratings attraction, despite the HBO push and a Filipino heritage that helped propel Manny Pacquiao to the top, but the ratings might still be coming — his lower weight class residence might hurt his appeal, as well as his inability to get to opponents who want to play keep-away, but he has all the talent in the world, is scintillating when he's at his best and has at least two opponents (Abner Mares and Guillermo Rigondeaux) who could give him one of his career-defining fights. 


Danny Garcia

Wins: Erik Morales (UD12, March); Amir Khan (TKO4, July); Morales rematch (KO4, October)… The solid win over Morales, an aged but cagey old warrior who remained a top 10 junior welterweight, probably helped him grow as a fighter pave the way for his breakthrough victory… Brought in as a replacement opponent for Khan when Khan's rematch with Lamont Peterson fell through, he was being outboxed early before he shocked and stopped the Brit… The win heralded his arrival as a fighter with a future, whereas before opinions were mixed… Few wanted to see Garcia-Morales II, but Garcia commendably took the fight after Morales failed a drug test and delivered an honorable mention for KO of the Year… The first Morales fight and the Khan fight were crowd-pleasing, if not all-action brawls of the kind that make fans delirious… With the wins, rose to the #1 spot at junior welterweight… Backed by powerful adviser Al Haymon and loudmouth, racist father Angel, he doesn't have the cuddliest cast of characters surrounding him but they're also probably helping him get attention, and he has for his part comported himself with a reasonable amount of class that makes the "good guy/villainous team" dynamic interesting… Remains to be seen if he can become a ratings star or live gate draw, but he's based in Philly and he has talent, anyway, to build upon.


Robert Guerrero

Wins: Selcuk Aydin (UD12, July); Andre Berto (UD12, November)… When the year began, boxing writers laughed off Guerrero's calls to fight Floyd Mayweather, but by year's end, he had earned the shot as much as anyone… Beating Aydin was impressive enough, since Aydin was a top-10 welteweight and Guerrero, who has fought as low as 122 pounds, made his name at featherweight — plus, Aydin was a strong, hard-hitting welter, and Guerrero stood up to him… Beating Berto was even more impressive, because, for all his flaws, Berto is a fighter with gifts that are hard to ignore… Over 12 rounds, Guerrero bullied the naturally bigger man, took the best Berto had to offer and gave even more back… In the end, it was a TQBR Fight of the Year finalist… With the two fights, established himself as a top-5 welterweight, and entered some pound-for-pound rankings… Has a touching back story, with a wife who beat leukemia… Is very popular in Gilroy and Northern California, and while it remains to be seen how big a star he can become, he's already marketable enough to become a viable opponent for the money-hungry Mayweather.


Juan Manuel Marquez

Wins: Serhiy Fedchenko (UD12, April); Manny Pacquiao (KO6, December)… The win over Fechencko gave Marquez a foothold at 140 pounds, if anything, but Marquez's resume for Fighter of the Year is about one fight and one fight only… But what a fight, and what a win… Avenged two losses and a draw against his career-defining rival, Pacquiao, in a fight where he was knocked down, nearly stopped and scored the Knockout of the Year to get the win… Round 5 was a Round of the Year finalist, too… It was also one of the biggest fights of the year, a live gate sellout that ESPN couldn't stop plastering across all of its networks both before and after… Marquez probably already had eclipsed his generation's peers, Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera, but the win over Pacquiao cemented it beyond a shadow of a doubt… The only knock on his year is the suspicion of performance enhancing drug usage due to his affiliation with an ex-BALCO chemist, Angel Hernandez, but there is no proof of any wrongdoing (and for that matter, Donaire has ALSO been affiliated with an ex-BALCO figure, Victor Conte)… He's neck-and-neck with Saul Alvarez and Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. for the most popular Mexican boxer, a fighter who mixes intelligent counterpunching with machismo in a style that both wins and thrills. 

Brian Viloria

Wins: Omar Nino Romero (TKO9, May); Hernan Marquez (TKO10, November)… Like fellow Filipino Donaire, Viloria is the only man to make this list for two consecutive years… In his third meeting with Nino, finally got a win — he lost both times, but the second was ruled a no contest later after Nino failed a post-fight drug test… Nino had faded slightly as a truly top-notch junior flyweight contender, but Viloria handling him like that, even at flyweight, was an important victory… VIloria's next fight was even more important, a meeting of arguably the two best flyweights, himself and Hernan "Tyson" Marquez… The pair went to war, delivering a FIght of the Year honorable mention and Round of the Year finalist… Now has an argument for being one of the 10 best fighters in the world, regardless of size… Has finally developed the consistency that he struggled with for so much of his career… His only limitatation now is, well, his size, because fighters as tiny as him really never become big U.S. stars, but he's shown that when he fights in the Philippines he can rustle up a crowd.

Honorable mentions: Abner Mares, Adrien Broner, Andre Ward, Austin Trout, Carl Froch, Floyd Mayweather, Sergio Martinez

(mug shots via RingTV)


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.