Boxing review of 2012
A look back at how the boxing year of 2012 unfolded, with Ricky Hatton back in the big time - albeit briefly.
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Not for the first time, the sport of boxing made the back pages for the right reasons as well as the wrong reasons in 2012.
Ricky Burns and Nathan Cleverly began the year as world champions and they remain WBO title holders, while Carl Froch regained that status by claiming the IBF super-middleweight title on a thrilling night in Nottingham.
Ricky Hatton made a surprise return to the ring after a three-year absence but although it was short-lived he can finally retire for good with a sense of closure.
Several Britons moved to the brink of championship level, headed by Sheffield's Brook who earned himself a title shot in the New Year against IBF welterweight champ Devon Alexander.
Jamie McDonnell, Scott Quigg, Carl Frampton, Tony Bellew, Martin Murray and Tyson Fury all moved into contention for top honours with impressive victories, while David Haye's victory over Dereck Chisora kept him in the title picture.
It was their unseemly clash at a press conference following Chisora's loss to Vitali Klitschko that dragged the sport into the gutter, with boxing's image not being helped by the duo then defying the British Board of Control (who had banned Chisora) to fight in front of a huge crowd at Upton Park.
The world's best pugilist Floyd Mayweather Jr found himself serving time for battery - but not before he was given special dispensation to fight - and beat - Miguel Cotto over 12 rounds. Mayweather's oft-talked about fight with Manny Pacquiao was farther away than ever - especially after the Filipino's shocking losses (for different reasons) to Timothy Bradley and latterly Juan Manuel Marquez.
The sport did itself few favours by handing Bradley a controversial points victory despite the vast majority scoring it in favour of Pacquiao.
Andre Ward, fresh from a dominant win over Carl Froch, had just one fight against Chad Dawson, who boiled down from light-heavyweight only to be dropped three times on the way to a 10th-round stoppage.
In contrast, Nonito Donaire finally started to gain the recognition he deserved by becoming a four-weight champion, fighting a total of four times and sending two of his opponents into retirement.
The Klitschkos continued to dominate a dormant heavyweight division, older brother Vitali following up his win over Chisora by stopping Manuel Charr on cuts, while Wladimir remained unparalleled as he enjoyed three easy wins.
However, there is hope on the horizon with both Tyson Fury and David Price working their way into mandatory positions - although the chances of the two domestic giants meeting in the ring anytime soon remain as remote as ever.
The unpaid game has never been in a healthier state following the most successful Olympic Games ever for Team GB, with Anthony Joshua, Luke Campbell and Nicola Adams all coming away from London with gold.
FIGHTERS OF THE YEAR
The Filipino Flash had the standout year as he became a four-weight champion and then defended the WBO super-bantamweight title three times. Donaire has now won belts from 112 to 122 and can justifiably be named heir to the throne currently held by countryman Manny Pacquiao. Just eight weeks after sending WBC champ Toshiaki Nishioka into retirement Donaire rounded off 2012 by icing Jorge Arce inside three sessions - the Mexican subsequently calling time on his own career. Donaire is open to fighting anyone, including the unbeaten Abner Mares, at 122lbs but don't be surprised if he steps up again to take on the best featherweights around.
Far from becoming a fading force the 35-year-old took a step towards greatness by winning a super-middleweight world title for a third time. The 'Cobra' said retirement was on the cards if he had lost to the hitherto unbeaten Lucian Bute in May - that he won so convincingly means we can expect more of the same in 2013. Bute went into that fight in Froch's home town the bookies' favourite but they got it very wrong as the Nottingham hero put behind him the worst defeat of his career to Andre Ward in emphatic style. It took fewer than five rounds for Froch to become IBF champion, a belt he defended back at the Capital FM Arena with another demolition job against the over-matched American Yusuf Mack. Froch can look forward to re-matches with Bute, Mikkel Kessler and Ward as well as the birth of a second child next year, but for now he can sit back and reflect on a job well done in 2012.
FIGHT OF THE YEAR
Brandon Rios v Mike Alvarado
Little surprise here as one of the most talked-about brawls of recent times gets top billing. It may not have lasted seven rounds, but those present in Carson, California, got their money's worth alright. Both men came into it with their '0' intact, and one was as determined as the other to remain that way. It was the proverbial 'phone booth' brawl as they slugged away at each other for more than 18 minutes, neither taking a single backward step. But something had to give that October night and it was 'Bam Bam' Rios, in his first light-welterweight fight, who landed the real telling blows midway through the sixth - a series of spiteful right hooks leaving Alvarado reeling on the ropes and spared only by a timely intervention from referee Pat Russell. Hopes are high they will clash again in 2013.
KNOCKOUT OF THE YEAR
Juan Manuel Marquez v Manny Pacquiao
There may have better KOs in a visual sense in 2012 but the nature of Pacquiao's demise at the hands of his old enemy was as shocking as it was surprising. Nobody foresaw an outcome to the duo's fourth fight ending with Pacquiao - a controversial winner of two and fortunate to earn a draw in the other previous clash - face down on the canvas. But that is exactly what happened when the Filipino walked onto a perfectly-timed straight right hand from the 39-year-old from Mexico. It was a rare OMG moment.
SHOCK OF THE YEAR
Khan's career was firmly back on track and he had made five defences of the WBA strap before Lamont Peterson controversially de-railed any talk of a fight with Floyd Mayweather. But the Brit was still talking himself up ahead of the July clash with WBC champ Garcia, who was considered to be talented yet raw and very much the underdog. However, the American set Khan's plans back to square one with a wild left hook that landed under the ear and turned his legs to jelly. There was no way back for Amir after that, while Garcia is now top dog at 140lbs.