HBO Boxing Insiders Year End Picks: Fight of the Year

Photo Credit: Will Hart

With the end of the year approaching and Boxing's Best airing, it's as good a time as any to take a look back at a stacked year of fights on HBO. HBO Boxing Insiders made their selections for the top everything from this year's HBO fights. Next up, Fight of the Year.

Previously: Fighter of the YearBreakthrough HBO FighterBest BlowBest HBO Boxing MomentsTrainer of the YearRound of the Year, KO of the Year

Kieran Mulvaney: Timothy Bradley W12 Ruslan Provodnikov

In a terrific 12 months of boxing, March produced the two best fights of all. In pretty much any other year, the Mike Alvarado-Brandon Rios rematch would likely have taken this prize (just as the first clash between the pair would have won the same award in 2012 were it not for Juan Manuel Marquez knocking out Manny Pacquiao), but the gold medal goes to Bradley's desperately hard-fought win over Provodnikov, in which the Amercian survived being nearly knocked out by the Russian at the very beginning and the very end, but did enough in between to eke out a thrilling win.

Eric Raskin: Timothy Bradley W 12 Ruslan Provodnikov

If I'm going purely on sustained action, Alvarado-Rios II edges this out. But there was something special about the drama of Bradley-Provodnikov, an edge-of-your-seat factor that Alvarado-Rios II lacked. Bradley showed bigger stones than any other fighter had to in 2013, fighting the last 11 rounds in a fog and surviving a 12th-round onslaught from the animalistic Provodnikov that called to mind the thrills of 2012's incredible finish to Sergio Martinez vs. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.

Nat Gottlieb: Timothy Bradley W 12 Ruslan Provodnikov

This was a thriller from start to finish, a crowd-pleasing slugfest with dramatic moments galore. Provodnikov came forward all night, and Bradley didn't back down.  Provodnikov added extra drama in the 12th round by knocking Bradley to the canvas, but the Russian couldn't finish him off. Bradley got the close UD win.

Tim Smith: James Kirkland TKO 6 Glen Tapia

You knew Kirkland-Tapia was going to be fireworks from start to finish and it wasn't going to go the distance. Tapia, a New Jersey resident, was seeking to become the new Arturo Gatti -- the all-action king of Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. Kirkland is the embodiment of Gatti's blood and guts spirit. It was one of the few times that a match more than lived up to its billing.

Hamilton Nolan: Guillermo Rigondeaux W12 Nonito Donaire

This certainly won't be a popular pick. It didn't feature a great deal of bloodshed, or staggering fighters winging blows while barely clinging to life. What it did feature was a highly respected but (professionally) untested challenger, Rigondeaux, absolutely dominating every aspect of the fight against Donaire, who had been touted as one of the three best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Rigondeaux proved that master boxing skills can beat athleticism and punching power. Rigondeaux, in fact, is the one who is among the best pound for pound fighters in the world. Anyone who finds his style "boring" is not a fan of boxing.

Michael Gluckstadt: Timothy Bradley W 12 Ruslan Provodnikov

You want backstory? Tim Bradley was coming off one of the most depressing "victories" in the sport; Ruslan Provodnikov, "The Siberian Rocky," has one of the most remarkable backgrounds of any athlete. You want action? From the opening bell Bradley decided to engage and Provodnikov was only too happy to oblige. You want drama? The results of the fight were in doubt until the very last second, with Provodnikov gunning for the KO. This was a fight that had it all.

HBO Boxing Insiders Year End Picks: HBO Round of the Year

Photo Credit: Will Hart

With the end of the year approaching and Boxing's Best airing, it's as good a time as any to take a look back at a stacked year of fights on HBO. HBO Boxing Insiders made their selections for the top everything from this year's HBO fights. Next up, HBO Round of the Year.

Previously: Fighter of the Year, Breakthrough HBO Fighter, Best Blow, Best HBO Boxing Moments, Trainer of the Year

Kieran Mulvaney: Darren Barker vs. Daniel Geale, Round 6

When a fighter crumples to the canvas from a body shot, he normally stays there. It isn't a question of having his senses scrambled; it's more that every last molecule of oxygen and vestige of energy has escaped through his pores, to be replaced by a paralyzing agent that renders movement impossible. Yet somehow, when Barker dropped to the floor against Geale, he found a way to will himself to his feet; amazingly, after withstanding Geale's efforts to finish him, he actually turned the tide and by the end of the round was the one battering his opponent.

Eric Raskin: Timothy Bradley vs. Ruslan Provodnikov, Round 12

Rounds two and six of this fight were also in contention, as were half the rounds in Alvarado-Rios 2, but the "will he or won't we?" intrigue over Provodnikov's pursuit of a needed knockout in the frenetic final round separates these three minutes from the other candidates.

Nat Gottlieb: James Kirkland vs. Glen Tapia, Round 2

Not having fought in 20 months, Kirkland took on the undefeated but unproven Tapia and changed the course of a brutal fight when he landed a ferocious straight left with about 1:10 to go in the round that clearly hurt Tapia. From then on, Tapia fought purely on courage, but after that round, the end was inevitable.

Tim Smith: James Kirkland vs. Glen Tapia, Round 1

The first round of Kirkland-Tapia was the kind of opening salvo you would have expected in a match of this type. Neither gave an inch and they traded punches like kids swapping baseball cards. It set the stage for a back and forth battle of attrition that you know would leave only one man standing.

Hamilton Nolan: Timothy Bradley vs. Ruslan Provodnikov, Round 12

The fact that Tim Bradley stayed awake and on his feet for 12 rounds with Provodnikov is the year's best survival story. The fact that he won is icing on a most delicious cake. Here's to you, Tim Bradley. Never try to slug like that again, you psycho.

Michael Gluckstadt: Darren Barker vs. Daniel Geale, Round 6

A good measure for picking round of the year is how closely it resembles Round 9 of the first Gatti-Ward fight. When Barker mashed his face against the canvas in anguish after being felled by a left to his liver, it did not look like he was getting up. And when he did get up and couldn't throw a punch for 30 seconds, it didn't look like he would get out of the round. But Barker willed himself back into the fight and finished the round strongly en route to a split decision victory.

HBO Boxing Insiders Year End Picks: Best Blow

Photo Credit: Ed Mulholland

With the end of the year approaching and Boxing's Best airing, it's as good a time as any to take a look back at a stacked year of fights on HBO. HBO Boxing Insiders made their selections for the top everything from this year's HBO fights. Next up, Best Blow -- not necessarily a KO, but a punch that because of its degree of difficulty, precision, improbability, impact or whatever else, made you go "whoa."

Previously: Fighter of the Year, Breakthrough HBO Fighter

Kieran Mulvaney: Adonis Stevenson's first round left hand versus Chad Dawson

It's a rare and impressive thing, the ability of a fighter to announce his arrival on the world stage with a solitary punch, but Stevenson -- long touted by the late Emanuel Steward as a knockout artist with huge potential -- did just that. His left hand exploded on Dawson's jaw before the light-heavyweight champion had even had a chance to get warmed up, and although Dawson made it to his feet, his senses had already jumped out of the ring and run toward the locker room, prompting the fight to be stopped and launching Stevenson's HBO career.

Eric Raskin: James Kirkland's final punch versus Glen Tapia

I could just as easily call this my "Worst Blow," since it was a dirty punch from Kirkland and the result of a poor refereeing performance by Steve Smoger. The punch never should have happened. But it did, and it made me cringe more than any other shot delivered in 2013. For sheer viciousness and violence, nothing topped that last left hand from Kirkland that left us all fearing for Tapia's well-being.

Nat Gottlieb: Wladimir Klitschko's second round jab against Alexander Povetkin

This is a tough one. I remember saying "whoa" when Wladimir Klitschko knocked Povetkin down to all fours with a just a jab in the second round. It was a big surprise to see a durable guy like Povetkin go down like that early in a big fight. Povetkin had never been knocked down before, either as an amateur or a pro.

Tim Smith: Gennady Golvokin's second round left hook against Curtis Stevens

The left hook that Gennady Golovkin landed on the jaw of Curtis Stevens in the second round that sent Stevens falling backwards to the canvas. It was the first significant shot that Golovkin landed in the fight. The wide-eyed expression on Stevens's face as he sat on the canvas staring up at Golovkin told the story of the fight. It was a combination of fear and surprise. It's the same look you get when you take the first drop on a steep, fast falling rollercoaster.

Hamilton Nolan: Golovkin's third round body shot versus Matthew Macklin

Golovkin's body shot that dropped Matthew Macklin for good. Never will you see a more pure example of a devastating left hook to the body, an art that only a select few in boxing still practice well.

Michael Gluckstadt:  Golovkin's third round body shot versus Matthew Macklin

Matthew Macklin is a tough fighter who's shown he can take a punch. But he was no match for a well-placed left hook to the body from Golovkin. It was as if Golovkin flipped the "off" switch that had kept Macklin on his feet. If I hadn't seen him fight in Atlantic City recently, I'd assumed Macklin was still lying on the canvas at Foxwoods.

In Win Over Agbeko, Rigondeaux Puts on a Clinic

by Michael Gluckstadt

Photo: Ed Mulholland

Guillermo Rigondeaux put on a masterclass against Joseph Agbeko at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. He darted in and out, dancing circles around his befuddled opponent, landing uppercuts Agbeko never saw coming. Rigondeaux didn't lose a round on any of the judges' cards in keeping his 122-pound title-- and he didn't lose a second of the fight.

When he fought for Cuba in the Olympics, Rigondeaux was regarded by some as the greatest amateur to ever fight. He brought all those skills to bear tonight, outthinking his Ghanian opponent at every turn. Like a great chess player, Rigondeaux (13-0, 8 KOs) set up several moves ahead of time. In the early rounds, "Rigo" kept Agbeko's right hand at bay with a probing jab, punished him with lightning-quick counters every time he came in, and artfully set up a punishing left uppercut to land just as Agbeko leaned into a crouch.

Figured out, Agbeko (29-5, 22 KOs) simply gave up. According to CompuBox figures, Agbeko landed 48 punches in the entire fight, four per round. "It was an easy fight for me," Rigondeaux said afterwards, "because Agbeko didn't come to fight." The crowd agreed with the sentiment, serenading the fighters with a smattering of boos, and one man simply shouting, "Boring!"

This isn't the first time Rigondeaux has a made a world class athlete look like he just came off the street, and he's been criticized in the past for not pressing the action more in his fights. If the aim is simply to win, there's no doubting Rigondeaux is one of the top talents in the sport. But as an entertainer, he left the Atlantic City crowd wanting more.

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Resolute Rigo Ready to Defend His Title

Guillermo Rigondeaux (left), Joseph Agbeko (right) - Photo: Ed Mulholland

When Guillermo Rigondeaux, the champion at 122-pounds, stared across at his opponent, Joseph Agbeko, he didn't betray any emotion. Seconds passed, maybe minutes, and it could have been seasons before Rigondeaux would have flinched from his cold-eyed posture.

When the standoff at the weigh-in at Caesar's Atlantic City was finally broken up, Rigondeaux remained just as resolute. "Enough talk," he said. "Training camp is over. I'm ready to take care of business."

Rigondeaux is headlining Saturday's HBO Boxing After Dark  tripleheader, airing at 9:45 PM ET/PT from Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. The broadcast kicks off when middleweights Matthew Macklin and Lamar Russ square off in a 10-round contest.

Undefeated contender Glen Tapia will then meet seasoned veteran James Kirkland in a 10-round bout at a catchweight of 156 pounds.

Then, the feature event showcases Rigondeaux as he defends his titles against Agbeko in a match scheduled for 12 rounds.


Official Weights from Atlantic City:

Guillermo Rigondeaux: 121 lbs.

Joseph Agbeko: 121.6 lbs.


Glen Tapia: 156 lbs.

James Kirkland: 155.1 lbs.


Matthew Macklin: 159 lbs.

Lamar Russ: 159 lbs.


Join the conversation on Twitter: #RigoAgbeko

CompuBox Analysis: James Kirkland vs. Glen Tapia

by CompuBox

Will three times be the charm for James Kirkland? He certainly hopes so.

Twice before the “Mandingo Warrior” has emerged from layoffs of more than two years. Following a one-round KO of Russell Jordan in November 2003, Kirkland returned in April 2006 with a three-round stoppage of 13-11-2 Manny Castillo. Exactly two years after stopping Joel Julio in six, Kirkland blasted out the 10-2 Jhon Berrio in two rounds. On Saturday, 21 months after a controversial DQ win over now-IBF junior middleweight king Carlos Molina, Kirkland begins again – this time against the 20-0 Glen Tapia. A tall order indeed.

With a victory, Tapia vaults himself into the 154-pound title conversation while for Kirkland, perhaps a rematch with Molina is on the horizon, a fight that fans hope will answer the questions the first match should have provided.

Statistical factors that may provide insights into the result include:

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Garcia’s Energy Overtakes Morales

Kieran Mulvaney

Danny Garcia, Erik Morales - Photo Credit: Will Hart

Once, Erik Morales possessed a combination of skill, power and fighting spirit that enabled him to break down and defeat one opponent after another. Now, at age 35 and after 60 professional fights, that combination is no longer enough for him to defeat the one opponent who ultimately prevails over all fighters.

Morales deployed experience and guile against Danny Garcia in Houston on Saturday night, and in doing so was able to keep the fight close against a younger, faster opponent. But he was fighting Father Time as well as Garcia, and the tandem proved too much, as Morales fell to 52-8 and the undefeated Garcia lifted the WBC super lightweight title.

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Erik Morales Poses a Forbidding Challenge for Young Danny Garcia

By Hamilton Nolan

Erik Morales vs. Danny Garcia - Photo Credits: Will Hart, GoldenboyErik “El Terrible” Morales is timeless. Seems that way, at least. Though he’s not the oldest prize fighter in boxing – at 35, he’s the same age as Floyd Mayweather, and three years younger than Juan Manuel Marquez – Morales’ permanent look of grim resolve and unbreakable chin give him the air of a grand old man, one who ceased to be surprised a long time ago. But in boxing, the old men always break sooner or later. And the young men are the ones that do the breaking.

Danny Garcia is a young man, a fighter on the cusp. At 23 years old, he’s got more than 100 amateur fights to his name, and he’s already been a pro for more than four years. He is the most dangerous sort of young boxer: the polished sort. After running his record to 20-0 against relatively light competition, Garcia dominated the declining but savvy veteran Nate Campbell last year and then followed that up with a split decision win against the knifelike puncher Kendall Holt last fall.

Garcia himself is a calm boxer-puncher with a high guard and above average power, especially in his right. He covers up and patiently waits for the chance to kill. He is fully capable of hurting his opponents. And he’s earned his ticket to prime time. For Danny Garcia, a win over a legend like Erik Morales would mean everything – it would pay his admission to boxing’s upper echelon and open the door to a long and lucrative career. That’s enough to make any fighter hungry


CompuBox Analysis: James Kirkland vs. Carlos Molina

By CompuBox

Kirkland is an ask-no-quarters bomber fresh off a sensational sixth-round TKO over Alfredo Angulo while Molina has strung together an impressive 11-0-1 record after going 0-3-1 between December 2005 and February 2007. Which man's career will continue on its upward path? Their recent CompuBox histories yield these clues:

> Read more CompuBox analysis of James Kirkland vs. Carlos Molina on

Carlos Molina Is Comfortable in His Role as Underdog

By Kieran Mulvaney

Carlos Molina - Photo Credit: Chris CozzoneWhen Carlos Molina enters the ring against power-punching James Kirkland in Houston on March 24, he will do so as the underdog.  That’s unlikely to bother him; the junior middleweight has been there plenty of times before.

He was the underdog last May against Erislandy Lara, the undefeated and highly-touted Cuban southpaw. That didn’t prevent Molina from taking the fight to the favored prospect, appearing to outwork and outland the Cuban over ten rounds, but ultimately having to share the spoils in a majority draw.

He was the underdog two months later when he faced former welterweight titlist Kermit Cintron. But he dominated from first bell to last, Cintron’s body language betraying awareness of the inevitability of defeat early in the contest, and Molina this time rewarded with the victory he had earned.

And yet, after both performances, a frustrated Molina was obliged to watch: first as Lara was rewarded with a bout against Paul Williams – one which Lara appeared to win comfortably but in which he wound up on the wrong end of one of the most jaw-droppingly dreadful decisions of recent times; and then as Cintron was granted a title shot against Mexico’s Saul Alvarez, only to be blown out inside of five rounds.

Much of the reason for being looked at as an underdog, and then looked over entirely, is Molina’s record: at 19-4-2, it does not scream greatness in the way of, say, Floyd Mayweather’s mark of 42-0 or even Kirkland’s 30-1. But three of those four defeats came in the space of 12 months from February 2006 to 2007, in successive setbacks against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, Wayland Willingham, and Mike Alvarado; all three of those opponents were undefeated at the time, and Chavez and Alvarado remain so.

Since then, Molina has gone 11-0-1, and now he is getting another opportunity to upset the applecart of a more celebrated foe. The Houston fans will surely be cheering for fellow Texan Kirkland, and the majority of HBO viewers will almost certainly be watching in anticipation of the kind of exciting, heavy-hitting performance that the man from Austin displayed last time out, against Alfredo Angulo.

Molina won’t care. He'll block out the crowd, ignore Kirkland’s favored status, put down his head, get to work, and look to secure another unexpected victory.

After all, that’s what he’s done plenty of times before.