Whichever way you look at it, 2013 will be a pivotal year for the cruelest sport.
2012 has been a strange one, awash with returns, robberies, retirements, and reservations regarding whom will take the mantle passed by a group of superstars who are very evidently on the decline. Despite his contentious loss to Bradley (more on him later), Pacman faces a foe for the fourth time with many questions being asked over and above the now obligatory PED talk. Will his legs hold out? Will Marquez FINALLY pull his card? Does he simply have the fire anymore to compete in these kind of match ups? There are sceptical voices across the press and blogosphere as to Pacquiao's desire to delve into the trenches that were once custom in his match ups. Also, should Marquez finally get the win, what then? His time has been and gone. There will be no Mayweather match up after being severely outclassed by him last time out, new physique or not. If we are brutally honest, 2013 will most likely be the last year for an easily distracted and highly questioned Pacman. It seems we will NEVER see the Mayweather fight, and unless he can rematch and obliterate Bradley, you feel that the naysayers may just win out against the likeable Philippine.
Then we move on to Mayweather himself, recently announcing two scheduled fights for 2013, with talk of Canelo and Guerrero being in the mix. Say what you like about Canelo, the boy has a following, and is the closest thing we have to an up and coming Mayweather / Pacquiao type figure in the sport. I've thought about this Money vs Canelo match up a lot in recent weeks, and the more I think, the more I feel that Mayweather really wants no part of a young, fiery, heavy handed natural 154 pound champion whom still feels he has something to prove. Personally, alarm bells rang out during the Ortiz match up. Yes Money had the first three rounds, but those huge flush punches just weren't stopping Ortiz, and looking back at the now notorious 4th, I'm convinced that Ortiz had wobbled Mayweather in the lead up to that head butt. IF Ortiz would have kept his head (unlikely, we all know), we would have perhaps seen a clearly slower Money age in the ring that night. The way in which Canelo switches attack between head and body will cause Mayweather all kinds of problems in my opinion, particularly with Money now relying more on body movement than footwork in recent fights. With Money in the twilight of his career, I would wager toward him taking the dollar route over the risk.
Of course, Money last fought the renaissance man Cotto, whom just fell to an able but far from exceptional Austin Trout. For me, that signalled something of a realisation that not only had Cotto reached a tipping point, but also that Money isn't quite the champion we think him to be. Cotto, another huge draw and undeniable superstar most likely has one farewell match up left in him, and that will be the end of a career that I personally adored. It had the fire, the controversy, the revenge and appeared to be headed the way of ultimate redemption until Trout dimmed the last embers of a fire brand Puerto Rican. Will Trout discover an ascension in light of this? It is difficult to tell. Sadly, the boxing world does not work like the good old game of British conkers, whereby a million+ viewed boxer fights a 300,000 viewed boxer, and the winner comes out as a 1.3 million boxer. The sad truth is there is no cut and dry method of creating and maintaining superstardom.
Guerrero's name has been mentioned as a possible up start. IF he should get the Mayweather fight, and IF he can take his precious 0, then maybe, just maybe, we could have another superstar on our hands. He is an action fighter, he does the ugly things well whilst being able to more than hold his own on the outside. His trash talk game has upped in recent times, his association with the new Money, Broner, certainly hasn't done him any harm. But does he have the time, the ability and general star qualities to truly hit the PPV heights? Maybe a much muted Bradley match up will help. Bradley has done himself little favour post-Pacquiao. Sitting out in order to maintain a perceived increase in popularity when he has been unable to sell out his hometown in the past seemed naive at best, churlish at worst. He has become somewhat of a pantomime villain. Whomever may be able to take the belt from him could end up with much more than WBO sanctioning fees, and be heralded as the man whom beat the man who was seen to have beaten.
So we have asked plenty of questions regarding the current top men in the popular 140-154 bracket. Who can we see taking the torch and running with it? Another name at 147, arguably untested but whom will see his first American headline slot in January is Kell Brook. Post Hatton, with Froch organising his retirement tour and the enigma that is an obviously gifted but easily hated Amir Khan, you feel there is a space for a great British hope in the sport. Brook's match up with Devon Alexander strikes you as a genuine 'coming of age' fight. Already popular enough to fill 10,000 seater stadiums in England, a win against a man whom was arguably gifted decisions and whose style gives very little to being a genuine star would see his stock sky rocket. He is likeable, if in need of a speech coach, and has the kind of spite and accuracy that excites the non-hardcore fan. Add to this a huge match up potential with the very gifted also-rans of the division... Your Matthysse's, Rios's, Garcia's and aforementioned Khan. You feel there is a young man whom has a certain quality and yet quite a gauntlet to run.
Outside of this weight bracket though, things are sparse. Ward, as gifted as he is just doesn't excite. The great heavyweight hope Mayhem Mitchell has just been destroyed by someone who can at best be described as a part time fighter and full time trainer (perhaps we will see an investment in Banks from the Klitschko camp post retirement?). Broner, as brash and exciting as he is, perhaps doesn't quite have the frame required to get up into the big fights at 140-154. Haye is more concerned with chasing a Klitshcko than creating his own legacy, despite his obvious popularity. Perhaps one fight that could make for a possible 2013 star is that of Golovkin and Rosado. As ugly as Rosado's record is, he comes to fight, he swings, he has a media friendly look and aptitude and is stepping up against arguably the most avoided man at 160lbs. With Martinez in the last throws of an illustrious but somewhat low key career in the super star stakes, the Chavez jr bubble seemingly burst and the likes of Quillin on the up, you feel there could be an exciting path laid out in front of the Golovkin vs Rosado victor in 2013.
As much as next year will be a transitional one for boxing, as a hardcore fan I cannot help but be excited. We obviously haven't exhausted every up and coming option here (The super-middle to cruiser league for example heralds some truly exciting fights, if not blockbusters, with a handful of fantastic rematches possible in the new year albeit between aged contenders). But there will be a lot of questions asked of those at the very pinnacle of the sport, and a scramble to see who can produce your next superstar. I guess only Father Time will tell. I personally, cannot wait.