Comeback Fighter of the Year: Susi "Killer Queen" Kentikian
Julaton, who BLH communicates with frequently to discuss women's boxing at large, had a rough patch in her own career following a 19 second knockout of Abigail Ramos in 2012. It took over a year for her to get another fight and she decisively lost to someone that wasn't supposed to be a threat (Celina Salazar, a run-of-the-mill prospect prior to beating Julaton). The former world champion looked like a fighter on her way out. Then she turned it around and picked up a win only a few months later against Perla Hernandez (unbeaten since 2009 and riding a 4 fight winning streak). Was it impressive enough to win an award? No. But you wouldn't even be reading some of these awards if it wasn't for Ana.
Anne Sophie Mathis
Mathis came back from a disappointing 2012, where she lost to the 2 best female boxers on the planet, to establish herself atop a new weight class (junior middleweight). She only fought once and the opponent was hardly anyone to get excited about, but she picked up a 5th round knockout and a vacant world title. A showdown with Hanna Gabriel would have been extremely attractive (and ultimately would have won Sophie the "Comeback" award) had Gabriel not been upset earlier in the year.
Although Prazak only fought once in 2013 it was a massive upset and a sensational performance. Unfortunately it was marred by tragedy as Frida Wallberg, Prazak's opponent, may never fight again. See the "Fight of the Year" section for more information on that fight. Prazak was previously best known for upsetting Lindsay Garbatt in 2011 and getting shutout by Holly Holm in 2012.
This comeback was years in the making as Menzer pretty much fell off the radar following a 2010 upset defeat to Jeannine Garside. She didn't fight top opposition again until her first and only fight of 2013, where she outboxed and outfought Goda Dailydaite and became world champion once more. Menzer announced her retirement following the victory. So far she's the most successful female featherweight champion of all time.
Mrdjenovich re-established herself as one of the best female fighters in the world in 2013 by avenging a decisive loss to Melissa Hernandez the year before. She followed that up by finishing the year with 2 early knockouts against journeywomen.
Juarez, after a rough 2012 and a rocky start to 2013, came back strong in the second half of the year. In 2012 she barely squeaked by Arely Mucino and Shindo Go before losing to Ava Knight. Then she was stopped in 1 round in her first fight of 2013 (more on that later). Juarez finished the year by avenging that loss and picking up another win (against Riyo Togo and Buakaew OnesongchaiGym respectively).
After going 0-2 in 2012 the previously unbeaten, triple world champion Kentikian had a lot to prove in 2013. Was she simply an exposed hype job or was she legitimately a top pound for pound fighter? The jury is still out on how truly elite she is, but she certainly had a great 2013. She went 3-0, avenged one of her defeats (against Carina Moreno), regained one of her world titles, and defended it (against Simona Galassi). Galassi and Moreno were top level world champions in their heyday. Kentikian's other victory was less impressive (against Sanae Jah) but her total body of work was enough to crown her the BLH 2013 CFOTY.
The jury may deliver a verdict on Kentikian in 2014 when she finally squares off against "Tuti" Bopp. The fighters have agreed to face each other on twitter.
Breakout Fighter of the Year: Ibeth "La Roca" Zamora
Ibeth Zamora Silva
Zamora emerged victorious as the BLH 2013 BFOTY mostly based on the strength of her upset of the BLH 2012 FighterOTY Ava Knight. Knight, previously rated just behind Cecilia Braekhus on pound for pound lists, was rightfully a big favorite but was ultimately outboxed by Zamora. Ibeth finished the year 4-0 (3 of which were world title fights) after previously besting Maricela Quintero, Naoko Shibata, and Fredee Gonzalez. After losing the vacant WBC female light flyweight title fight with Zamora, Shibata went on to capture the vacant IBF female light flyweight title. Ironically the previous IBF champion was Jessica Chavez (another strong candidate for this award). Chavez lost to Zamora back in 2008 when both were prospects.
"Kika" Chavez had the BFOTY award on lock up until her November disappointment against Arely Mucino where she was fortunate to escape with a draw. BLH scored the fight 97-93 for Mucino. Chavez just didn't seem like she wanted to fight. If she did she probably would have won this decision. On the other hand she also could have been stopped. "Machine Gun" Mucino was packing heat. Midway through the year Chavez got a career best victory in a rematch with "Tuti" Bopp. Earlier she won a rematch with Irma Sanchez and later she defeated Tenkai Tsunami. All opponents were/are world champions. Chavez arguably fought the most challenging opposition of any female fighter in 2013.
Gonzalez doesn't have the resume of her "Breakout" counterparts but she did come out of nowhere and pulled off 2 upsets (against world champions Irma Garcia and Yazmin Rivas). Subsequently Gonzalez jumped from prospect to major contender. Bantamweight is currently a hot division in women's boxing and Gonzalez is right in the mix with the best of them.
Castillo was a virtual unknown before she upset Hanna Gabriel early in 2013. Despite being outclassed in her next fight she's well deserving of a mention here. Read more on Castillo in remaining awards.
Fighter of the Year: Marcela "Tigresa" Acuna
Braekhus should always be in the FighterOTY discussion as long as she's the queen of women's boxing. But her resume was a bit lacking in 2013. She fought twice and notched stoppage wins against Mia St John and Oxandia Castillo. St John was too old (so old that it was probably the mismatch of the year) and Castillo was too young (but actually acquitted herself respectably).
Erica Anabella Farias
Farias went 3-0 this year against Liliana Palmera, Chika Mizutani, and Mary McGee. None of those opponents stand out but McGee was probably the best, and that fight was not pretty. Nonetheless Farias remains the best female lightweight in the world and she should pick up a notable victory next year against Delfine Persoon, the #1 threat to her crown.
Marcela Eliana Acuna
Acuna officially went 3-0-1 for 2013 but for those of us with eyes we all know it was 4-0. She effectively beat 3 world champions (two of which were top pound for pound fighters) and then she ironically won a world title against her least impressive opponent. Acuna began the year with a draw against reigning champion Yesica Patricia Marcos then followed up with a wins over future champ Edith Soledad Matthysse, recent champ Melissa Hernandez, and finally Halanna Dos Santos (for the vacant WBO female super bantamweight title). Through those 40 total rounds Acuna arguably only lost a small few. And that's why she's the BLH 2013 FighterOTY.
Event of the Year: Marcos vs Acuna
2013-01-25 Yesica Patricia Marcos vs Marcela Eliana Acuna
This one was really a no-brainer. It was one of the year's very largest witnessed boxing events (headlined by women or men) and it matched Argentina's 2 biggest super bantamweight attractions. 40-45 thousand people attended. A few female fights came near the significance of this bout, but none drew the same kind of audience. Thus it was without a doubt the event of the year.
Fight of the Year: Juarez vs Togo II
2013-02-02 Yazmin Rivas SD10 Maria Elena Villalobos
Fox Deportes did this fight absolutely no justice. They might as well have replaced the "Live" in "Golden Boy Live" with "Dead." Rivas-Villalobos was action packed from start to finish but the commentary team seemed half asleep. Its best round is included in the RoundOTY video you'll see further down the page. You'll probably find it more enjoyable with no commentary whatsoever. Play a song in the background or something. The Televisa broadcast team probably did a much better job, as they generally do, but BLH was unable to secure a copy. Deal with it. Also, BLH had the fight 96-94 for Villalobos. Hopefully there's a rematch (with people actually interested in calling the action).
2013-05-31 Jelena Mrdjenovich TUD6 Melissa Hernandez III
This brutal blood bath, which could have gone the other way with different judges, was a must-see fight. BLH had the fight for Hernandez but rounds were difficult and controversial to score. Hopefully the two do it again,for a fourth time, in 2014. It's potentially the closest thing to Pacquiao-Marquez in women's boxing. Hernandez is Marquez in this situation (official scoring aside).
2013-06-14 Diana Prazak TKO8 Frida Wallberg
As promised, it's finally time to discuss Wallberg-Prazak in more detail. Through 6 rounds Wallberg had better timing, accuracy, and defense. She threw the straighter, shorter, and faster punches. But round after round Wallberg weakened while the relentless Prazak got stronger. Wallberg's body looked a little soft and Prazak was instructed to destroy it. Wallberg became more and more of a stationary target as her gas tank emptied out. The fight became difficult for Frida from about the 4th round onward.
Nonetheless, Wallberg acquitted herself nicely up until round 7, where she was noticeably hurt (by an overhand right) for the first time. From there on she was basically fighting for her life, with a bad habit of throwing her punches from low angles. Eventually Prazak countered one of Wallberg's straight right hands with a left hook (turning southpaw to do it). Wallberg went down hard and never recovered. She was dropped again moments later and the bout was immediately waved off.
Unfortunately medical attention arrived slowly. Wallberg walked back to her corner on her own terms but whined in agony and collapsed after she got there. Even Prazak and her trainer Lucia Rijker were calling for someone to come help Frida. Apparently there was a delay locating a stretcher that would fit in the ring.
Once taken to the hospital Wallberg was diagnosed with cerebral hemorrhage. Fortunately surgery was done the following morning and proved very successful. Wallberg woke up from her medically induced coma and began recovery within 1-2 days. It's uncertain if she'll ever fight again, but she's in good spirits based on her twitter feed. According to her bio the "brain bleed" (hemorrhage) occurred in round 5. No one could have spotted that from watching the fight. Frida showed the heart of a champion and Sweden showed why its health care system is ranked well above what Americans have. But that's a rant for another day...
2013-07-13 Mariana Juarez UD10 Riyo Togo II
Through 7 rounds this was essentially the female version of Omar Figueroa vs Nihito Arakawa, a mostly 1 sided thriller with Juarez in clear control. Then things got dicey for Juarez in round 8 and a career defining finish unfolded. It was far and away the BLH 2013 FightOTY. Details follow in the "Round of the Year" section.
2013-10-26 Ibeth Zamora Silva UD10 Ava Knight
This grueling and competitive 10 rounder took a lot out of both fighters, previously detailed on BLH.
2013-11-07 Tori Nelson UD10 Kali Reis
This heavy hitting battle, also previously reported, was easily the best welterweight contest of the year and should eventually land Nelson a title shot against Cecilia Braekhus.
2013-12-14 Myriam Dellal UD10 Anita Torti
The final female thriller of the year may have lacked the skill of the other listed fights but it was a fun, closely contested, back-and-forth affair. Further details were previously disclosed.
Knockout of the Year: Castillo TKO2 Gabriel
2013-02-28 Oxandia Castillo TKO2 Hanna Gabriel
All you need to do is to watch the embedded video above. But if you must read commentary, a written description can be found here. True knockouts are fairly rare in women's boxing; but this was one of them. Gabriel still beat the count; but I'm not sure she knew where she was. It was clearly the female knockout of the year.
2013-04-27 Riyo Togo TKO1 Mariana Juarez
Since a detailed post-fight report was already submitted, this time we'll go behind the scenes. Well, we won't actually go behind the scenes of this fight, but we'll look at the rematch instead. During a pre-fight inspection of Togo's gloves the padding was found to be removed from the knuckle area, allowing the hand wraps (which were legal) to press directly against the leather of the glove. Juarez claims her team only checked Togo's hand wraps in the original meeting, not the gloves. So it's possible that Togo's gloves were doctored before both fights, but we'll never know for sure. What we do know that a woman who hadn't been stopped since 2005 was kaput in 1 round by far less accomplished fighter. And we do know that the rematch went quite differently after Togo was forced to change gloves. Read more on that rematch in the "Fight of the Year" and "Round of the Year" sections.
2013-06-14 Diana Prazak TKO8 Frida Wallberg
See the "Fight of the Year" section for commentary.
Round of the Year: Juarez vs Togo II - Round 10
*2013-02-02 Teresa Perozzi vs Tori Nelson II - Round 3
*2013-02-02 Yazmin Rivas vs Maria Elena Villalobos - Round 8
*2013-02-15 Joselyn Arroyo Ruiz vs Momoko Kanda - Round 4
*2013-05-31 Jelena Mrdjenovich vs Melissa Hernandez III - Round 5
*2013-07-13 Mariana Juarez vs Riyo Togo II - Round 10
Although several rounds in this fight were outstanding, round 10 stood out for a few reasons. For one it had the two most vicious exchanges in the fight. For another the momentum of the fight was previously with Togo. Juarez was still clearly well ahead going into the final round, yet, Togo's relentless pressure was getting to her. Overall Juarez was boxing a lot smarter than she did in their original meeting a few months earlier but it all started to fall apart in round 8. Juarez was hurt, running, and holding on for dear life. Juarez recovered some in round 9 but was reduced to toe-to-toe warfare, which favored Togo.
All Juarez needed to do in the final round was stay on her feet and the victory was hers. Why take a risk against someone that stopped her in 1 round the first time they fought? Why go to war with someone that was also winning the toe-to-toe battle in the rematch? Damn the logic; Juarez fought like her name was Arturo Gatti. And Togo took a beating and kept coming like her name was Micky Ward. It was an epic round, well deserving of "Round of the Year" honors.
2013-10-26 Ibeth Zamora Silva vs Ava Knight - Round 7
2013-11-07 Tori Nelson vs Kali Reis - Round 4
*Rounds included in compilation video.
All other listed rounds can be viewed by clicking on them.
Upset of the Year: Castillo TKO2 Gabriel
2013-01-25 Marcela Eliana Acuna D10 Yesica Patricia Marcos
Although officially a draw, this was an upset because it was essentially billed as "Past vs Future" and the past proved that she's still the present. The then 36 year old Acuna had been pro since the 1990s and looked vulnerable in her previous outing (where she lost with controversy). Marcos, on the other hand, was a decade younger, undefeated, and a unified world champion. Let's just say the torch was not passed...
2013-02-28 Oxandia Castillo TKO2 Hanna Gabriel
Castillo was a +1300 underdog!!! The upset was so stunning that it immediately launched the previously obscure Castillo into a match with pound for pound queen Cecilia Braekhus. Enough said. It was THE upset of the ear, male or female, period.
2013-04-27 Riyo Togo TKO1 Mariana Juarez
Togo, a +1000 underdog, may have won the award if not for the glove controversy (see "Knockout of the Year" section or watch this video). Juarez was a proven durable commodity. Great female fighters wouldn't be favored to stop her. Yet Togo, 9-4-1 with no previous wins near Juarez's level, pulled it off in 1 round.
On the other hand Hanna Gabriel was relatively unproven when you compare her resume to that of "Barbie" Juarez. But the Gabriel hype was strong...
2013-05-31 Jelena Mrdjenovich TUD6 Melissa Hernandez
This wasn't a major upset in terms of betting odds but it was very surprising nonetheless. Hernandez was ahead 2-0 in the series prior to this trilogy. A clash of heads opened a cut on Mrdjenovich in round 2 that would eventually end things prematurely but not before lighting a fire inside Jelena's belly. In turn she persuaded the smaller Hernandez, a natural counter puncher, to exchange more often. Suddenly the fight became more difficult to score, but extremely fun to watch. And the fight was already pretty good before the cut...
2013-06-01 Jessica Chavez UD10 Yesica Yolanda Bopp
Chavez was a +300 underdog as the unbeaten Bopp had already clearly bested her years earlier. Although both were inexperienced as pros back then Bopp had a far better amateur pedigree. Since then Chavez has learned on the job. The bout was difficult to score and consequently semi-controversial but BLH agreed that Chavez deserved the nod. Nacho Beristain taught her well; timing beats speed.
2013-06-14 Diana Prazak TKO8 Frida Wallberg
Prazak was a +650 underdog. See the "Fight of the Year" section for further details on the bout.
2013-08-17 Celina Salazar UD10 Ana Julaton
Betting odds were not made for the bout but it was obviously a major upset based on the vast experience gap. Check out the BLH post-fight report here.
2013-10-26 Ibeth Zamora Silva UD10 Ava Knight
Zamora was a +325 underdog against Knight. The recap is here.
All betting odds courtesy of @Fight_Ghost
Robbery of the Year: Perez SD10 Ivanova
2013-01-25 Marcela Eliana Acuna D10 Yesica Patricia Marcos (94-96, 97-93, 95-95)
For all intents and purposes Acuna took Marcos to school but got robbed blind. Marcos may have thrown more punches, although it hardly seemed like Acuna was being outworked, but Marcos didn't come close to Acuna's connect percentage, although no "official" punch stats were recorded. Marcos was a sucker for the left hook all night. But she also "came forward" all night, which apparently was enough to call the fight even, even if she mostly followed Acuna around without effectively cutting off the ring. On the rare occasion that Marcos actually did trap Acuna, Acuna just punched her in the face and turned her around.
2013-11-30 Janeth Perez SD10 Galina Koleva Ivanova (98-82, 92-98, 98-93)
If you thought the judging in Marcos-Acuna was bad, you should see this fight. Ivanova easily deserved to win the fight utilizing her superior range, timing, and footwork. But apparently she used her footwork in the wrong direction. Perez's ineffective aggression won her the fight by 6 and 5 point margins according to 2 blind judges. Meanwhile the judge that was actually paying attention had Ivanova by 6, and he's from Texas! Fox Deportes and BLH had Ivanova by 5. The first 4 rounds were difficult to score but afterward it was a counter-punching master-class by Ivanova. Thus Ivanova, 35 years old and without a world title since 2009, was denied the vacant IBF female bantamweight title and perhaps her final chance to regain prominence in the sport. Hopefully she can find a little solace in this "award," the BLH 2013 RobberyOTY.
Most Dominant Fighter of the Year: Christina Hammer
Cecilia's the Floyd Mayweather of women's boxing, so obviously she gets a mention.
BLH needed some way to acknowledge Hammer's dominance, thus this award was made up. Hammer does not appear in the BLH pound for pound rankings because she hasn't really fought anyone, but that's hardly her fault. There's honestly no one else to fight at or above middleweight (her division). Since the heavyweights in women's boxing are TRULY AWFUL AND NOT WORTHY OF ACKNOWLEDGEMENT, Hammer might as well be considered the female version of Wladimir Klitschko. It's hard to gauge how good they really are because there's no one out there to challenge them...yet. Wladimir should eventually succumb to father time while Claressa Shields should eventually turn pro...
In any event Hammer went 3-0 in 2013 against a combined record of 44-4-1. She made 2 defenses of her middleweight throne and took 1 fight at super middleweight to beat the top fighter there as well. Hammer barely lost a few rounds along the way and finished the year on a 1 round annihilation. And that's why BLH crowns her the 2013 MDFOTY.
Derailed Fighter of the Year: Ivonne "Pantera" Cordoba
Ivonne Anahi Cordoba
A few years back "La Pantera" was an unbeaten prospect with a win over Carolina Duer and a draw with Yesica Marcos. Now she's coming off two straight losses that didn't even make television against far lesser opposition. The latest defeat came at the hands of Anahi Yolanda Salles (3-11-2, 1 KO). Cordoba became Yolanda's 2nd KO. This derailment was years in the making...
Moreno, previously the #2 female light flyweight in the world, was inactive a year only to return and draw in an 8 rounder against a mediocre prospect (Karina Hernandez).
The "Golden Girl" went from one of the biggest stars in the sport to someone that may never fight again. She however does appear to be trying to make a comeback. Year later she may prove to have deserved this award in hindsight.
The "Black Amazon" was the victim of the upset and knockout of the year; how could she not deserve a mention here?
Susie wasn't derailed in the ring, but instead by politics. She was a hot commodity in 2012 with thrilling wins against Alesia Graf and Usanakorn Kokietgym. Unfortunately negotiations for fights in 2013 didn't go so well, to say the least. Apparently 4 title fights fell through as did an exhibition match with Shannon O'Connell. Fortunately "Susie Q" should be back in the ring in 2014.
Prospect of the Year: Heather "The Heat" Hardy
Celina Salazar / Jessica Gonzalez / Oxandia Castillo
There's basically a "Catch 22" when it comes to prospect awards. When prospects do something too amazing they're not really prospects anymore, they're contenders or world champions. Thus Salazar and Castillo are ineligible to win. It's doubtful that they care...
Prospects don't generally exist beyond 10 fights in women's boxing. There are no Gary Russell Juniors out there. Yet, with less than a third of Gary's pro fights, Hardy has arguably done more with her career. The way she's progressing contender status is imminent. Meanwhile Russell will probably attempt to jump straight to world champion, whenever he gets around to it, but that's neither here nor there. We're here to discuss the merits of "The Heat."
After winning the BLH 2012 RoundOTY award in her fight with Mikayla Nebel, Hardy wins the 2013 "Prospect" award. Heather's fights weren't as exciting in 2013 but that's only because the opponents were too overwhelmed by her refined technique, punching volume and power. Heather notched 4 victories for the year with the final 2 coming by way of TKO. She's now the proud owner of the first Universal Boxing Federation (UBF) International female super bantamweight title (presented to her by UBF World female featherweight champion Amanda Serrano). Perhaps the UBF plans for them to fight each other someday. Serrano, one of the top female fighters in the sport, walks around as a lightweight at the very least, so that may not be the best idea for Hardy, but that's a can't-miss fight either way.
Then again, Serrano and Hardy are/were sparring partners...
Joselyn Arroyo Ruiz
Ruiz went 4-0 in 2013 and defended her NABF female flyweight title in a bout that nearly earned her "Round of the Year" honors.
Enriquez went 4-0 with her final bout being televised on Azteca America. She's not bad...
Linda Laura Lecca
So you think Triple G is nice? Please. Let me tell you about Triple L. She was 4-0 in 2013 and stopped her last 3 opponents inside 3 rounds. She's scheduled to fight for a world title...today (January 4, 2014). It might have been better to await the outcome of that fight before doing these awards, but to hell with hindsight...
Yamada went 3-0 in and is scheduled to fight for a world title in February.
You don't often see 37 year old prospects, but Smirnova is one of them. She debuted early in 2013 and amassed a 7-0 record, culminating with 3 intercontinental / international lightweight title wins. Perhaps she deserves "Rookie of the Year" honors.
Domini debuted in January and was 6-0 with the EBU female welterweight title by November.
"Shelito" is probably the slickest prospect in women's boxing right now. And she's equally versatile offensively. CES Boxing puts several of her fights on YouTube so you can check for yourself. She posted 4 total wins in 2013 and picked up the vacant WIBA International super bantamweight title. She's also called out Heather Hardy and, quite frankly, that's a very logical fight to make. Each fighter is in need of a signature win and their styles should mesh well. It just makes sense all around. Unfortunately the back-and-forth between the two fighters suggests that the dollars and cents involved must make the most sense. Will we see it eventually? Well, we can hope...
Ryan Bivins is a staff writer for Bad Left Hook. You can contact him on twitter (@sweetboxing) or through email (firstname.lastname@example.org).