Marcos Maidana’s unanimous decision over Adrien Broner was not the biggest upset of 2013.
Jhonny Gonzalez’s first-round stoppage of Abner Mares was far more shocking. Adonis Stevenson’s one-punch demolition of Chad Dawson was the most eye-catching, career-altering statement made by an underdog this year.
The boxing clinic Guillermo Rigondeaux put on against Nonito Donaire was a sound outclassing of a more proven “elite” boxer than Broner. Danny Garcia’s brilliant combination of boxing and fighting against formidable Lucas Matthysse made Twitter Nation eat its words.
And Shawn Porter, a lesser accomplished welterweight than Maidana, defeated a more accomplished welterweight than Broner, when he upset the defending IBF beltholder Devon Alexander to instantly advance from prospect to contender.
However, fans voted Maidana’s punishing victory over Broner as the Upset of the Year because it was the most pleasant surprise of 2103.
The often cynical boxing media and skeptical fans have come to expect humble fighters to come in second to better-talented and better-connected jerks, but that didn’t happen with Maidana-Broner, which garnered 45.3 percent of more than 1,700 votes on RingTV’s year-end award poll. Gonzalez’s opening-round blitzing of Marez came in second with 23.7 percent of the votes, and Rigondeaux’s schooling of Donaire received the third most votes with 13.5 percent.
But Maidana’s punishing victory definitely resonated within the boxing community, which is still apparently celebrating the upset.
Many fans and boxing writers who were fed up with Broner’s often disrespectful and sometimes vulgar antics hoped that Maidana’s heavy hands would be “the answer” to the combination of athletic ability, talent and tricky style that gave the undefeated Cincinnati native his nickname “The Problem.”
But most couldn’t pull the trigger on an “upset special” prediction for the Dec. 14 showdown in San Antonio. Maidana had come up short when he had faced other athletically gifted boxers, such as Amir Khan and Alexander, and superior technicians, such as Andreas Kotelnik. Even a thoroughly faded, one-eyed version of Erik Morales gave Maidana fits en route to a majority decision loss in 2011.
Beyond Maidana’s limitations, and perhaps thanks to Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s immeasurable success, most boxing folks simply can’t help but believe that an obnoxious boxing talent will always outclass a hardnosed fighter of modest ability – or at the very least get the benefit of the doubt from the official judges (see Mayweather-Jose Luis Castillo I for an example).
Broner had his way on the scorecards in the two most difficult bouts of his career – decision victories over Daniel Ponce DeLeon and Paul Malignaggi. He got his way when he failed to make weight for his WBO junior lightweight title defense against Vicente Escobedo and then blew off the second-day weigh-in that was set up to salvage the HBO-televised bout. (Broner, who was unapologetic throughout the debacle, even went so far as to mock his failure to meet contractual obligations by Tweeting pics of Twinkies and Twix ice cream bars.)
So even those who thought Broner was not the same physical force at welterweight as he was at 130 and 135 pounds – where he won major belts – were hesitant to pick Maidana to beat The Problem simply because they couldn’t envision the straight-forward slugger getting a fair shake from the officials (especially in Texas, the unofficial home of boxing controversy in the United States).
Maidana didn’t receive the fairest treatment from referee Laurence Cole, who repeatedly warned Broner for elbowing and shoving tactics but never penalized the defending beltholder a point. Maidana was docked a point after headbutting Broner following his eighth-round knockdown, but Broner didn’t lose a point after he blatantly nailed Maidana with a hook after the bell ending the 11th round.
In Cole’s defense, it was not an easy 12 rounds to officiate as both fighters employed constant roughhouse tactics. But between all of the pushing, elbows, low blows and grappling, Maidana managed to significantly outwork and outland Broner in every round. And after the final punch was landed, the official judges gave boxing fans an early Christmas gift – they got it right.
Maidana finally won a big fight that was rightfully his, and boxing fans have acknowledged triumph by voting it the Upset of the Year.
Next year-end award poll: KO of the Year
Photos / Naoki Fukuda, Nicole Sparks