Every weekend lately, it's Fight of the Year candidates and Round of the Year candidates and Knockout of the Year candidates. That particular KO of the Year candidate was a bit on the sickening side, because it was touch and go at the time whether Juan Garcia would get back up from that big blow from lightweight prospect Angelo Santana. He did, and Santana is now one of the bright spots of ShoBox this year overall in what has been a less than ideal season for the Showtime series (even if I think some have dissed it more than I would).
You don't get that many Blank of the Year candidates without it being busy, and it sure was. TQBR alone had scribes at four different live shows, and covered two others besides. That means we don't have to go into quite the usual Weekend Afterthoughts depth we might otherwise. But it's nice to have tasty things to chew on, compared to some sour stretches of boxing's 2012.
- Adrien Broner's future. Broner beats anyone at 135 pounds and probably anyone at 140. He's a big lightweight who took Antonio DeMarco's punches well, what few landed, and because of that I suspect he'd be able to stand up to Lucas Matthysse, Brandon Rios and Danny Garcia one division upward, too. That means Broner probably won't lose for the next year or two, and as much as I love Hamilton Nolan's breakdown of why Broner is tough to beat, I think the real question for Broner's unbeatability becomes what he does if he goes to 147 and whether he can stand shots there, too. I'd also like to see what he does with someone who is anywhere remotely near his speed level. Floyd Mayweather, the fighter Broner is naturally compared to, struggled with a lesser fighter, Zab Judah, who could come close to his own speed. All this means I'm not quite ready to crown Broner "the next Mayweather," despite the obvious comparisons, some of the obvious improvements over the original — greater willingness to take chances, bigger power — and the fact that, at 23, he's surely nowhere near his peak. I will say this, though: Every few years, boxing fans panic that there's no one ready to take over for the elite talents/draws who currently rule the sport, and today, a great young crop is waiting in the wings that is increasingly battle-tested. Broner is near the top of that class. Super middleweight Andre Ward is at the actual top — both do solid-to-excellent ratings and ticket sales, and both could one day rule the pound-for-pound roost. And while they are lesser talents, Mexican middleweight types Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. and Saul Alvarez are bigger draws than those two. There are some others who could sneak in there, too, but the point is, we're shaking the Polaroids now and seeing who's got a really strong chance of being "next."
- Antonio DeMarco's chances. I've seen a lot of criticism of DeMarco simply standing in front of Broner at Broner's ideal range and taking an ass-kicking, but that's not what I saw. He started off on the outside, and he couldn't connect on Broner from there because his hands had to travel farther and Broner had more time to use his extrasensory reflexes to dodge. DeMarco went inside in a deliberate shift in tactics, and was actually connecting more there, but he was also getting hammered, of course. He was also trying to turn on the inside, but his feet were too slow and Broner saw where he was going and had a punch waiting at the door, "DING-DONG, fist in your face, fist in your body." If you expected DeMarco to turn defensive genius from one fight to the next or somehow get superfast, you had unrealistic expectations for DeMarco's best argument for winning. DeMarco is good; I think he'd be very competitive with and might even beat the other two top lightweights prior to Broner's arrival, Ricky Burns and Miguel Vazquez. But he's not amazing, and even some of his secondary wins have been a real grind. I'm not diminishing Broner's win. I'm just saying that the criticisms of DeMarco I've seen seem to be emphasizing what he did wrong and not what Broner did right, because what Broner did right was, to me, the definitive decider.
- Next for Johnathon Banks. It's hard to tell whether Banks' big win over hyped heavyweight Seth Mitchell says more about Banks finally putting it all together or Mitchell's flaws. But for now, he is in a great position to capitalize off that win, and deserves it. He talked after the win about fighting Tomasz Adamek in a rematch and Alexander Povetkin. He would make a great match for either man. Adamek-Banks I wasn't a total blowout, and if Banks has matured, he could give Adamek an even better fight. Povetkin is perenially vulnerable.
- Seth Mitchell aftermath. It's a lazy thought to say a fighter who loses was "exposed," but there are, truthfully, worries that's what happened with Mitchell. Some are really savoring the idea, just because Mitchell has a promoter and manager and push from a network that some fans don't like. I'll never understand that mentality. Who cares who promotes a guy, or what HBO says about him? Like him for who he is (or, don't). I happen to like Mitchell, because he's been fun so far, he has some power, he has a great personality and he has proven himself popular in my backyard of Washington, D.C. But he also has now been wobbled by a light-punching heavyweight, Chazz Witherspoon, and stopped by a blown-up cruiserweight in Banks. A hard-hitting heavyweight who can't take as good as he gives is a recipe for a fun gatekeeper, not THE top American big man prospect. Based on results prior, it made sense to match Mitchell with someone like Banks in what figured as a fairly safe developmental fight by my eyes. That Mitchell was upset like this isn't a positive. But look, a lot of fighters have found a way to mask shaky chins, and a lot of fighters have found they were too inexperienced for a step-up fight. If I was on Mitchell's team, I'd very slowly get him back into the picture, keeping him busy and getting him rounds and working on his flaws, then, a year or two from now, try to step up again. There should be no rush. He's an older fighter, but not an old heavyweight. And I've seen a lot of guys after they've lost react a lot of different ways. Paul Williams shrugged off his loss to Sergio Martinez like it was nothing; he was almost too cavalier about what the loss said about him. Some fighters get really emotional and are on shaky ground for a while as they try to rebuild their confidence. Mitchell's body language at the post-fight press conference was as good as I'd ever seen: He was calm, like he hadn't lost at all. As Banks was describing what happened in the fight, Mitchell was nodding his head, like he had already learned a lesson and looked at this as a chance to grow. I worry that Michell was exposed, yes, but I also think his head is as right as it can be for a comeback.
- Brian Viloria vs. Roman Gonzalez. There was some talk after these two won thrilling fights on the same card that they might fight each other next, but I had my doubts and, it turns out, so did Viloria, who said it's not on the immediate agenda. Viloria is a flyweight who ate up a then-elite Giovani Segura when he arrived from one division south, and Gonzalez is a junior flyweight. I'm not worried about Gonzalez's power as a junior flyweight, because I saw his non-knockout of Juan Francisco Estrada as a testament to Estrada's toughness; Gonzalez has stomped legit junior flyweights with relative ease, prior. But if I'm Gonzalez's people, I'm not all that eager to move up in weight to face a Viloria who has found his groove. Viloria was terrific against Hernan Marquez, and I expected a more competitive fight based on the reviews than what I saw once I caught up to it. I don't think Viloria was ever very hurt, and he no longer seems to have the problems with spells of lackadaisical ring demeanor or training that used to bedevil him. If I'm Gonzalez, I don't look for that fight until Viloria looks like he's past his peak. And I hate saying that, because I think it would be a crackerjack fight.
- Odds and ends. Carl Froch just keeps Carl Froching. But I'm still not interested in a Ward rematch. I suppose it's possible that there comes a time when they're again the ideal opponent for each other, but that time is not now and probably not anytime soon, for me… Demetrius Hopkins told me he's feeling very comfortable at junior middleweight, and it did indeed have something to do with his increased activity in his win Saturday. But he also said a title bid is probably another year away, which makes some level of sense as he gets more comfortable at the weight… Gabriel Rosado was at the fights in Atlantic City, and he spoke to our old friend Gautham Nagesh, and Gautham shared the tape with me. People have been talking about him fighting Gennady Golovkin, but it doesn't sound like his preference: "Right now i'm the #1 ranked fighter for the IBF against K9 (Cornelius Bundrage) so I'm hoping I get that fight. They're buzzing about my name against Triple-G, but you know I'm not really a middleweight, I'm a junior middleweight. But you never know. I'm definitely a fighter, so it's tempting."