Mikey Garcia (left) celebrates with his older brother and trainer Robert Garcia after knocking out Juan Manuel Lopez in the fourth round of their vacant WBO featherweight title bout on June 15 in Dallas, Texas.
Like most of the year-end award categories for 2013, Trainer of the Year featured a crowded field.
There were many decorated veterans and a few new-comer candidates for the honor. Joel Diaz, who guided undefeated welterweight titleholder Tim Bradley to Fighter-of-the-Year worthy accomplishments in 2013, was among the stronger candidates.
Bradley won a narrow unanimous decision over Ruslan Provodnikov in a Fight of the Year candidate in March and then resolidified his pound-for-pound status by outboxing future hall of famer Juan Manuel Marquez to a split decision in October.
Diaz’s stable of fighters, which include lightweight contender Omar Figueroa, former junior lightweight title challenger Diego Magdaleno, hot prospect Jesse Magdaleno and Mexican amateur standout Diego De La Hoya, were unbeaten with the former lightweight contender in their corners.
Abel Sanchez continued his success with undefeated WBA middleweight titleholder Gennady Golovkin, who fought four times in 2013, while adding notable fighters, such as cruiserweight contender Ola Afolabi and heavyweight hopeful Mike Perez, to his Big Bear, Calif.-based stable.
Javan “Sugar” Hill continued the work that his uncle, the late great Emanuel Steward, began with Adonis Stevenson and guided the super middleweight puncher to a one-punch light heavyweight championship victory over Chad Dawson and two impressive TKO title defenses against Tavoris Cloud and Tony Bellew.
Angel Garcia devised a brilliant strategy that enabled his gutsy and talented son, junior welterweight champ Danny Garcia, to defend his RING, WBC and WBA titles against the feared and heavily favored Lucas Matthysse.
However, the top vote getters in RingTV.com’s year-end award poll were the best known and most accomplished trainers in recent years, Robert Garcia and Freddie Roach. The two rival trainers – both of whom have won Trainer of the Year numerous times – combined for almost 70 percent of the votes.
Garcia edged Roach out by 1.3 percent (35.3 to 34 percent). Floyd Mayweather Sr., who was reunited with his son, Floyd Mayweather Jr., and arguably returned the pound-for-pound king to his best boxing form since the mid-2000s, was the third highest vote getter with 12.1 percent of the vote.
But it is Garcia and Roach who have the largest stables of high-profile fighters, so, understandably, they receive more attention than other world-class trainers. Roach did well under the spotlight in 2013. The star of his stable, Manny Pacquiao, boxed a near-perfect game plan against one of Garcia’s top dogs, Brandon Rios. Miguel Cotto, who was perceived to be a fast-fading veteran by the end of 2012, looked sensational dismantling Delvin Rodriguez with Roach in his corner. Roach also trained one of boxing’s bright new faces, Provodnikov, to a thrilling near-upset over Bradley and an equally exciting 140-pound title victory over Mike Alvarado.
Garcia’s win-loss record was not as good as Roach’s due to Rios going 0-2 and Nonito Donaire going 1-1 in 2013. Rios was outboxed by Alvarado in March; Donaire was outclassed by Guillermo Rigondeaux in April. However, the other stars of his Oxnard, Calif., stable did so well that their accomplishments outshined all the setbacks.
Evgeny Gradovich went from being an unknown Russian featherweight prospect to the reigning IBF titleholder under Garcia.
His younger brother, Miguel Angel Garcia, won THE RING and WBO featherweight titles with a dominant technical decision over Orlando Salido in January. He lost the WBO belt on the scales before his first title defense against two-division titleholder JuanMa Lopez in June, but he looked like a killer stopping the Puerto Rican veteran in four rounds. In November, “Mikey” won his second major title (the WBO junior lightweight belt) by knocking Roman Martinez in the eighth round.
However, it was Garcia’s work with Marcos Maidana that probably put him over the top in the RingTV.com poll. Maidana, a raw power slugger who always gives top fighters fits but hasn’t always won the big fights, drastically improved his balance, footwork and punching technique since joining forces with Garcia last year. In 2013, Maidana stepped up the level of his conditioning and punch output to become a true force at welterweight. The former 140-pound contender stopped Josesito Lopez in the sixth round of their June shootout before shocking the boxing world by upsetting undefeated WBA 147-pound beltholder Adrien Broner via clear cut unanimous decision in December.
Maidana out-jabbed and soundly outworked the supposedly superior boxer over 12 entertaining and dramatic rounds, dropping the polarizing odds favorite in rounds two and eight.
Maidana’s victory over Broner is an Upset and Fight of the Year candidate that made him a candidate for Comeback of the Year. It was also enough to help his trainer gain year-end honors in this particular fan poll.
Next poll: Comeback of the Year.
Photo / Tom Pennington-Getty Images, Ronald Martinez-Getty Images, Stephen Dunn-Getty Images, Harry How-Getty Images