Who needs the heavies?
Boxing rode the punches thrown by its critics and scored valuable points throughout the year to finish 2012 in reasonably good shape.
Opinions vary but the answer to one slightly frivolous question puts the sport’s status and future in perspective:
Who needs heavyweights when boxers in the lighter divisions captivate audiences all over the world and keep the sport in better health than doomsayers want to acknowledge?
Even Floyd Mayweather’s inactivity and the start of Manny Pacquiao’s slide towards retirement did not spoil the general standard of boxing below the heavyweight class.
The Klitschko brothers, Vitali and Wladimir, still dominate among the big boys but their reign may not last much longer. They are healthy, wealthy and intelligent enough to retire gracefully before a squad of younger, talented and hungry heavyweights force them to abdicate.
There is no sign yet of a Mike Tyson, whose every move and every grunt made news around the world. But the sport gets by without a really exciting heavyweight.
Boxing is particularly healthy in Mexico, Eastern Europe and some Asian countries and islands. Britain and the United States remain two of the strongest pillars on which the sport is built and many of the best tournaments are held in Germany, where fighters from many other countries have found a boxing heimat.
Experts agree that one of the most exciting boxers to watch in 2013 is Adrien Broner, a lightweight who fights in the style of Mayweather. Broner produced a brilliant performance when he stopped Antonio DeMarco in the eighth round to win the WBC lightweight title.
TITLE FIGHTS GALORE
About 120 “world” title fights were presented during 2012 by the main organisations, the WBA, WBC, WBO and IBF.
The competition in some divisions was particularly hot. There were 11 title fights in the junior featherweight division and a full dozen among the junior bantamweights.
There was less activity among the junior welterweights, with only two title fights, and the welterweights, who provided with only four.
The standout fighters in the super-middleweight division were former Olympic gold medallist Andre Ward and Britain’s Carl Froch.
Ward retained his WBA, WBC and The Ring belts when he stopped WBC light-heavyweight champion Chad Dawson.
Froch upset the form book when he dominated previously unbeaten Lucien Bute before winning on a fifth-round technical knockout to take the IBF title. He retained it with another dominating performance against Yusuf Mack.
Argentina’s Sergio Martinez was the outstanding middleweight. He won an action-packed fight against Matthew Macklin and dominated Julio Cesar Chavez Jr for eleven rounds before taking a count in a dramatic twelfth round before winning on points.
Mayweather maintained his debatable position as the No 1 fighter, pound-for-pound, in the world and remained undefeated when he won his ninth title by beating Miguel Cotto on points to take over the WBA light-middleweight belt.
Vitali Klitschko retained his WBC heavyweight title, making only once defence. Wladimir won five defences to hang on to all the other belts offered by the leading organisations.
Pacquiao earned millions of dollars in losing two of the biggest fights of the year. He lost his WBO welterweight title to Timothy Bradley in June and was knocked stone cold by Juan Manuel Marquez in December in an exhilarating fight that ended in the sixth round.
The Filipino earned more than $40 million from the two bouts, proving that fighters in the lighter divisions are cashing in on the dearth of heavyweight stars.
As always, boxing produced its share of the year’s sports scandals and tragedies. Critics and commentators spread gloom-and-doom stories after woeful fights and poor decisions.
But it was by no means a catastrophic year for boxing. The Olympic Games in London provided excellent and mostly positive publicity. Women, competing at the Olympics for the first time, contributed much to the excitement and enabled the sport to get its fair share of the limelight.
Among the former boxers who died during the year were South African heavyweight Corrie Sanders, Johnny Tapia, Terry Spinks and Dave Charnley.
Legendary trainers Angelo Dundee and Emanual Steward also passed away, as did Carmen Basilio, Jimmy Bivins, Teofilio Stevens, Michael Dokes, Hector Camacho, Eddie Perkins and the artist LeRoy Nieman who was famous for his paintings of heavyweight fights.