Top five fights of 2013

  • By: Simon Crawford
  • Last Updated: December 31 2013, 11:01 GMT

Our boxing writer Simon Crawford brings you his five favourite fights from the past 12 months, including Carl Froch v George Groves.

  • Carl Froch controversially forced a stoppage win over George Groves
  • An emotional Darren Barker claims the IBF world middleweight title 
  • Floyd Mayweather dished out a boxing lesson to Saul Alvarez 
  • Tyson Fury celebrated his win over Steve Cunningham by bursting into song 
  • Timothy Bradley (grounded) threw 1,000 punches against Ruslan Provodnikov 

Carl Froch v George Groves (Manchester, November 23)

This was a genuine grudge match between two British fighters that you just knew was going to be a classic - and it certainly did not disappoint.

Nottingham's Froch went into the clash as a big favourite as he looked to defend his WBA and IBF super-middleweight titles against Groves who was unbeaten, but had never previously operated at world level.

Tickets were sold out in barely two hours - quicker than even Manchester's own boxing hero Ricky Hatton had managed to do - and the war of words that dominated the build-up only served to increase the interest.

Froch - taking part in his 11th consecutive world title fight - labelled the young pretender as a "chump", while Groves responded by claiming that 'The Cobra' was not genuinely world class.

The Londoner, 25, was roundly jeered as he entered the ring but stunned the capacity crowd when he floored Froch with a booming right hand in the first.

Groves boxed to a superb game plan, picking Froch off seemingly at will with fast combinations and shaking him several times.

A huge upset looked on the cards with Groves dictating much of the fight and well ahead on points.

However, in a dramatic ninth round the fight turned with Groves caught flush by a crunching right from the champion.

Unsteady on his feet and appearing to turn away from Froch who kept on throwing punches, referee Howard Foster decided the challenger had taken enough punishment.

The capacity crowd at the Manchester Arena were incensed at the premature ending, especially with Groves leading 78-73, 76-75 and 76-75 on points.

"He's is a very experienced referee. George had his head low and I had a free shot and the referee had a split-second decision to make, claimed Froch.

"It was dangerous and he had to put the safety of the fighter first."

Nevertheless, it was an unsatisfactory ending and denied all those watching what would have been a thrilling climax with the fight delicately poised.

There has been talk of a rematch ever since and there is no disputing that Groves - and the boxing public - deserves one.

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Darren Barker v Daniel Geale (Atlantic City, August 2013)

If ever there was a boxer who deserved to win a world title, then surely it must be Darren Barker.

The Barnet middleweight has had to overcome several injury setbacks in his career, plus the tragedy of losing younger brother Gary who died in a car accident, aged just 19, back in 2006.

Barker had failed in his first attempt to land a world title, stopped in the 11th round by the formidable Sergio Martinez back in 2011.

But a second chance arrived in August when he challenged Australian Daniel Geale for the IBF strap in Atlantic City.

The Briton started well, taking the fight to the champion with his unrelenting workrate and fast, accurate punches.

However, his brave challenge looked to be in tatters when he was dropped to the canvas by a body shot in the sixth round.

He surprised many by beating the count and, still obviously shaken, had to survive a furious onslaught from Geale who attempted to end the contest.

But survive he did and although there were more anxious moments before the final bell, it was Barker who was given the benefit of a tight split decision.

The Briton sank to his knees and wept openly when the decision was announced.

"Not many people know the journey I've been through," said an elated Barker after the fight. "It's been a real Rocky story.

"I dedicate this to my late brother. Everything I've done is for him. Gary, this is for you, mate."

Tears of sadness finally became tears of joy for Darren Barker.

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Tyson Fury v Steve Cunningham (New York, April 2013)

Tyson Fury had to survive a huge early scare before recording a seventh-round stoppage victory over Steve Cunningham as he almost made a mess of his US debut back in April.

While it lasted, this was a fight that had everything - the good, the bad and the ugly.

The unbeaten Mancunian looked in all sorts of trouble as former cruiserweight world champion Cunningham sent him sprawling to the canvas at the start of the second round, but regrouped well to eventually wear down his 36-year-old opponent.

Ultimately Fury's three-stone weight advantage told as he walked down and began to overpower his rival and, when it came, the end was brutal as he delivered a shuddering right hook from which Cunningham never looked like getting up.

While hugely entertaining, Fury's performance was still ragged and ungainly for long spells and in the early stages he appeared almost too fired up for his own good.

Having been caught by a sharp left hook in the first, he went on to push Cunningham on the way back to his corner as the bell sounded for the end of the round and was then caught cold at the start of the second.

Carrying his hands low, Fury was caught a glancing blow by a huge overhand right from Cunningham and sent crashing down although, after initially holding on for survival, he responded well to the knockdown and had recovered his composure by the round's end.

Having been warned earlier on, Fury was then deducted a point for use of the head in the fifth, but a fine body shot hurt Cunningham towards the end of a round which finished with both men exchanging on the ropes.

The Briton dominated the seventh and ultimately Cunningham was not to hear the bell; clearly hurt by a body shot, the American was further staggered by an upper cut and then Fury found a savage short-range right to the jaw to end the contest.

He then celebrated wildly as his man was counted out and then rather bizarrely serenaded the crowd at Madison Square Garden as he introduced himself to America in memorable style.

"It's one of those things - you can't go swimming and not get wet ... he put on a good fight," Fury said.

"I got caught with a big swinging right. You have to get up, this is a learning experience. But it was only a matter of time until I got hold of him and when I caught him it was curtains."

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Floyd Mayweather v Saul Alvarez (Las Vegas, September 2013)

There is no disputing the fact that Floyd Mayweather Jr is the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet - and arguably the best the sport has ever seen.

But at the age of 36 fights don't get any easier, no matter how gifted and supremely fit you may be.

So when it was announced that Mayweather would take on unbeaten Mexican Saul Alvarez, 13 years his junior, many felt his unblemished record was under serious threat.

But 'Money' showed his class to win the WBC light middleweight and WBA super world light middleweight titles, producing a dominant display and taking the young pretender (42-0-1 30KOs going into the fight) to school.

Mayweather always looked in control, his fast hands doing enough to edge most rounds however much Alvarez tried to stride forward.

It was clear from the early stages that the action would not live up to the hype as Mayweather, who reportedly earned a purse of US dollars 41.5million (£26.1m), made Alvarez dance to his tune throughout.

It was not his best display, but what a statement it sent out to those who had the audacity to doubt him.

The only surprising aspect was the fact that one of the three judges somehow managed to score the contest a draw, with the other two rightly giving it to Mayweather by margins of 117-111 and 116-112.

"It is about skills," said five-weight world champion Mayweather. "I came out and showed my skills.

"I just listened to my corner, listened to my dad [Floyd Sr, who is also his trainer]. My dad had a brilliant game-plan and I went out there and got the job done.''

If this was the best of the rest, then there is no sign of Mayweather relinquishing his crown any time soon.

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Timothy Bradley v Ruslan Provodnikov (Carson, California, March 2013

This was meant to be an easy night's work for the gifted Timothy Bradley against rugged Russian Ruslan Provodnikov.

However, Bradley inexplicably opted to stand and trade from the first bell and as a result we were treated to something extraordinary.

Bradley was hurt in the first round, appeared to be out on his feet in the second, and finally, officially went down in the final 10 seconds of the fight.

He was hurt so badly by Provodnikov, who landed powerful shots with good timing and deceptively quick hands, that many observers thought the 8/1 underdog was going to pull off a stunning early KO.

But the resilient champion kept standing in front of Provodnikov and delivered blow after blow in a remarkable contest.

In the end, the judges gave Bradley the unanimous decision against the little-known but hard-punching Provodnikov to keep his WBO welterweight title at the Home Depot Center.

Two judges scored it 114-113 and the third scored it 115-112 for Bradley.

He ultimately threw 1,000 punches to Provodnikov's 676 and out-jabbed his opponent 129-32 (throwing 489 jabs to Provodnikov's 162).

"I fought a guy none of the top guys would fight," Bradley said of Provodnikov, whose nickname is "The Siberian Rocky".

"This guy will be a world champion."

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