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|Nonito Donaire, right, delivered two knockouts among his four victories in a busy 2012 campaign.|
|Juan Manuel Marquez's one-punch knockout of Manny Pacquiao to chalk up the first definitive result in their rivalry was enough on its own to put Marquez in the running for boxer of the year.|
Juan Manuel Marquez: The Mexican star is here for one reason and one reason only: For landing the shot heard 'round the world -- the sick right hand to Manny Pacquiao's face that knocked him out cold and face-first to the canvas with one second left in the sixth round on Dec. 8. In the most stunning scene of the year, Marquez (55-6-1, 40 KOs) earned the first definitive result in his epic four-fight series with Pacquiao. Marquez, 39, may trail the all-time series 2-1-1, but the knockout in their welterweight fight is the most memorable moment from the four fights, and one of the most significant moments in boxing in recent years. For good measure, Marquez also pitched a near-shutout of Sergey Fedchenko in April to win a vacant interim junior welterweight belt. Marquez was later elevated to a full titleholder, giving him world titles in four divisions.
Danny Garcia: In 2012, Garcia (25-0, 16 KOs) rose from good contender to serious world champion with a 3-0 campaign in three world title fights, including two impressive knockouts. The 24-year-old from Philadelphia began in March when he pounded his way to a unanimous decision against Mexican legend Erik Morales, whom he dropped in the 11th round to win a vacant junior welterweight title. In July, Garcia unified titles in upset fashion when he rallied to knock down Amir Khan in the third round and then stop him in the fourth for the biggest win his career. And in October, he gave Morales the rematch he contractually owed him and thrashed him en route to a savage knockout on one of the cleanest, prettiest left hooks of the year.
Robert Guerrero: "The Ghost" had won titles at featherweight, junior lightweight and the interim variety at lightweight, but he really wanted a big fight and began calling out Floyd Mayweather Jr. There were snickers, but no one is laughing after Guerrero's 2012 results. Guerrero (31-1-1, 18 KOs), 29, came off a 15-month layoff prompted by serious rotator cuff surgery, moved up two divisions to welterweight and looked strong in taking apart two quality opponents, making him the likely candidate to land a Mayweather fight in 2013. In July, Guerrero won a hard-fought decision against powerful and dangerous Selcuk Aydin to claim a vacant interim belt and make believers out of those who didn't think he could compete at 147 pounds. In November, he delivered again, dropping former two-time titlist Andre Berto twice en route to a clear decision in an outstanding fight.
Leo Santa Cruz: Throwing tons of punches in fight after fight, Santa Cruz (23-0-1, 13 KOs), 24, ripped off five wins in 2012 and emerged as one of the most exciting young titleholders in boxing. In his second fight of the year, he outpunched Vusi Malinga to win a vacant bantamweight title, which he defended three times in knockouts of Eric Morel in September and Victor Zaleta in November, followed by a clear decision against Alberto Guevara on Dec. 15 in the fight that marked the return of live boxing to CBS for the first time in 15 years.
|Andre Ward fought just once in 2012, but the results were impressive: a knockout of light heavyweight champ Chad Dawson in a meeting at 168 pounds.|
Andre Ward: Super middleweight champion Ward, the 2011 fighter of the year, fought only once in 2012, partly because of injuries -- but what a win it was. Ward (26-0, 14 KOs), 28, followed up last year's coronation to conclude the Super Six World Boxing Classic by meeting light heavyweight champ Chad Dawson in September. Dawson dropped down in weight but was no match as Ward dropped him three times en route to a dominant 10th-round knockout.
Brian Viloria: "The Hawaiian Punch" scored knockouts against quality opponents in both of his 2012 fights. In May, Viloria (32-3, 19 KOs), 32, retained his flyweight title by stopping Omar Nino in the ninth round to exact revenge from a previous loss and no-contest. In November, in an exceptional fight, Viloria stopped Hernan "Tyson" Marquez to unify 112-pound titles.
Carl Froch: England's Froch (30-2, 22 KOs), 35, ended 2011 by losing a decision to Andre Ward in the Super Six final, but he rebounded big-time in 2012. As an underdog in his hometown, Froch wrecked Lucian Bute, knocking him out in the fifth round of a stellar performance to win a super middleweight title for the third time. For an encore, he drilled fringe contender Yusaf Mack in the third round in November.