The Pugilist

Year in Review: Filipino Flash eclipses Pac-Man

We are asking all of our experts to give us their picks of 2012. Here Liam Happe reviews the year in boxing.

Fighter of the Year: Nonito Donaire Jr

Competing four times in the calendar year, winning two world titles and linear status in the super-bantamweight division in the process, the 30-year-old Filipino-American defeated challengers from three different continents with two stoppages along the way (not to mention retiring Jorge Arce this month). He finished 2012 in the world pound-for-pound top five.

Contrast his year to that of compatriot Manny Pacquiao (more on him later) and it's evident that 'Filipino Flash' is the new national boxing figurehead.

Fight of the Year: Brandon Rios d. Mike Alvarado, October 13

This category had a pretty sizeable shortlist: Carl Froch v Lucian Bute in May, Kazuto Ioka v Akira Yaegashi in June, Sergio Martinez v Julio Chavez Jr in September and of course Pacquiao-Marquez IV earlier this month were all riveting scraps to name a few.

However, Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado came from out of nowhere to steal the show from Donaire and Toshiaki Nishioka in Carson, CA. An ultra-physical war between two undefeated boxers ended with 'Bam Bam' stopping 'Mile High' in brutal fashion seven rounds in.

Knockout of the Year: Juan Manuel Marquez d. Manny Pacquiao, December 8

The duo's inconclusive and often-controversial trilogy finally delivered a decisive finish at the fourth attempt in Las Vegas - and what a finish it was.

With a slight edge over the first five rounds according to the three judges and what looked to be a 10-9 advantage in round six, Pac-Man made an ill-advised advance with seconds to go before the halfway point and was caught, cold and hard, by the Mexican's crunching counter-right.

Pacquiao's motionless body after the bout was waved off made for a chilling contrast of what Manny did to Ricky Hatton three years prior and reportedly led to photographers being attacked by his cornermen.

Best moment: Olympic boxing rocks the ExCeL

Some of the admittedly-questionable judges' decisions threatened to mar tournaments across several Olympic weight classes, but even they could not dilute the London buzz which made the ExCeL in Docklands one of the best atmospheres and proud owner of the loudest decibel level during the entire Games (113db while Ireland's Katie Taylor fought).

Taylor, Nicola Adams and Anthony Joshua winning gold were obvious highlights of a festival of pugilism which took the female genre to new heights in its maiden Olympic appearance.

Worst moment: Luis Lazarte gets life ban as defeat sparks riot, February 10

When David Haye and Dereck Chisora began the road to an eventual stadium grudge fight in notoriously unsavoury fashion in Munich, it looked to some as though this category was already wrapped up in February. But while the worst moment of the year did happen in its second month, it actually occurred days prior to the aftermath of Chisora v Vitali Klitschko when Luis Lazarte lost a fight for the vacant IBF light-flyweight title to Johnriel Casimero in his native Buenos Aires.

With both boxers committing foul after foul in front of the very pro-Luis crowd, Lazarte at one point threatened the referee and when he was stopped in round 10, members of the crowd sparked a full-scale riot with some even attacking the 22-year-old Filipino. The whole affair led to Lazarte, 40, being banned for life by the boxing body. At least Haye-Chisora's saga ended on a positive note when they channelled their drama into a gripping in-ring conclusion at Upton Park.

Funniest moment: Adrien Broner, hopeless romantic

While the hair-combing, pink-wearing, daddy-calling Broner takes this category, an honourable mention goes to Justin Bieber of all people for the Photoshopping which may well earn him a ban from the Philippines:

Unsung Hero: Ricky Hatton, promoter

When Hatton announced he was returning to the ring nearly four years after being destroyed at the MGM in 2009 and spiraling out of control since, then picked a very difficult opponent for his return and eventually lost the fight by stoppage, boxing cynics could not have felt more enabled, more satisfied.

But beneath the surface of the Hatton-bashing and the taunting of his unsuccessful comeback attempt lies a man who completed a remarkable return in 2012, even without his hand being raised. Hatton Promotions survived a mindless cull from Sky and went from strength to strength with Scott Quigg, Martin Murray and co leading the way. 'The Hitman' is jetting from Hong Kong to Buenos Aires and back to promote his charges to the best of his abilities and now, it would seem, he finally has inner closure by going out on his terms, not in a Las Vegas burial.

Biggest flop: Manny Pacquiao

The man who inflicted that destructive defeat on Hatton, meanwhile, finished a year he began joint-top of the pound-for-pound list resembling the Briton's prone frame, ironically enough, after finally losing to Marquez in their fourth fight.

Along the way, Pac-Man lost his world title to Tim Bradley in a fight where only two people on the planet thought the American was the better man - and that duo were in power on the night to give Bradley a split decision win.

Rather than get his confidence back by lining up and tearing through a inferior opponent - as shortlister for this category, Amir Khan, did against Carlos Molina - Pacquiao continued to backpedal in his never-ending impasse with Floyd Mayweather over that dream fight before setting up a fourth clash with Marquez, a guy even Freddie Roach did not want to see him battle again.

After that knockout of the year winner, Pacquiao now seemingly has no chance of a Mayweather fight and has fallen down the rankings, surrounded by internet meme mockery, (allegedly) bitter actions by his (allegedly) hypocritical cornermen and talk of possible retirement.

Biggest surprise: Carl Froch destroys Lucian Bute, May 26

Don't get me wrong: while Froch was the underdog on the night against the undefeated Le Tombeur, the exciting Englishman winning was far from the biggest possible shock on paper.

But what gave this fight of the year contender the edge in sheer unexpectedness over Sonny Boy Jaro's amazing WBC flyweight title win over Pongsaklek Wonjongkam was the dynamically-decisive way The Cobra ended the Romanian-Canadian's unbeaten ways.

In a performance which might have won Sports Personality of the Year on a non-Olympic calendar, Froch had Bute on the back foot from the get-go to the delight of the partisan Nottingham crowd before being pulled off the then-IBF super middleweight champion in the fifth.

The Brit was at great risk of being forever labelled a 'B' student who sat one level below the truly world-class 168-pounders, but in the space of 15 stunning minutes he leapt out of the shadow of Joe Calzaghe and went from a guy who was willing to fight the best to a guy who could actually beat the best.

Who to look out for in 2013:

Two men on the FOTY shortlist could well be possible super-bantamweight unification opponents for Donaire in 2013.  WBA champ Guillermo Rigondeaux and WBC kingpin Abner Mares have also enjoyed productive years and will raise their stock even further if they can unseat Donaire, or each other, in the next 12 months.

Saul Alvarez continues to dominate at such a young age, and could well be the central focus of the next Cinco de Mayo supershow. There's even a chance of a huge collision with Mayweather on that money-spinning weekend - something The Pugilist would be a smash hit some time ago.

And for domestic prodigies, look no further than Frank Buglioni and Khalid Yafai. Buglioni is a 23-year-old super middle from London with the looks, the fighting style and the diehard following to be a future household name.

Undefeated Brits Khalid Yafai and Frank Buglioni could have breakthrough years in '13

The same can be said for Birmingham bantamweight Yafai, also 23, who was on Team GB at the 2008 Beijing Games but has since looked polished beyond his years as a pro, methodically tearing his way through the lower fields on his way up the rankings.

What were your highlights of 2012 and how will you remember the boxing year? Post your thoughts and comments below...