The Pugilist

Seconds Out, Round 2013

The first fortnight of 2013 felt like an eternity.

2012, in addition to being one of the most enjoyable sporting years in history, was an eventful one for boxing. There were thrilling wars, stunning KOs, out-of-ring brawls, arena riots, Olympic firsts and some very impressive collections of talent on one solitary card.

If you want to catch up with all of that, check out The Pugilist’s Year in Review here, including the British Eurosport 2012 boxing awards. In addition, we’ve got the US Yahoo Sports awards courtesy of Kevin Iole here, here and here.

Many of last year’s fights and fighters led to promoters worldwide promising an even bigger 2013 for the sweet science. And then it happened.

The sport, as with most years, took a semi-hibernation over the festive period with little happening outside of behind-closed-doors discussions for potential future bouts .

The Pugilist tracked down a stream of Japan’s traditional New Year’s Eve supercards, packed with world title bouts across Osaka and Tokyo, and cherished every round as if it were his last. Well, it was for a few weeks at least.

However, things finally picked up this week with a number of press conferences and contract signings as some of the big cards of the first half of the New Year begin to take shape.

At the top of the list, of course, is the rematch between Carl Froch and Mikkel Kessler.

Kessler introduced Froch to defeat for the first time in his career in The Cobra’s 27th professional bout in Herning, Denmark almost three years ago, ending his first world title reign of three.

After stunning Lucian Bute to earn the IBF strap last May, Froch has told of his desire to avenge his two career losses against Kessler and Andre Ward – as well as giving Bute a rematch, if he took the option in the contract.

This appeared to cause friction with the IBF as they installed Adonis Stevenson as Froch’s mandatory challenger. But with Bute appearing to have second thoughts about another crack at Carl, Ward forced under the knife and Stevenson apparently persuaded to wait for the winner of Froch-Kessler II, an unfavourable situation has been avoided and two mouth-watering super-middle bouts should go down this year.

Another delay to talks between Matchroom and Team Sauerland may have been a reluctance by Kessler to fight in Nottingham specifically. Britain, yes. But a complete home-town advantage…

Several sources tip London’s 02 Arena to be the named venue for the card, reportedly pencilled in for May 25. Not only is it a big-time venue for a big-time bout, but there would be perfect symmetry between both fights. Each man will have had home-nation advantage outside of their actual town, and favouritism will hopefully not creep up as an excuse.

The Pugilist’s week actually began with a lunchtime saunter to Marylebone, where Frank Warren formally announced his ‘Rule Britannia’ card on March 16th.

With Ricky Burns, Nathan Cleverly, George Groves and possibly even Dereck Chisora fighting on the Wembley Arena show, Warren certainly has stacked the name value up for this one.

There is, however, a lot riding on this event for the entire stable. Burns, Cleverly and Groves did not have bad years in 2012 by any means. And yet, things seldom went to plan for any of them.

Chisora, of course, after four losses in five and the entire Klitschko weekend insanity is in desperate need of some sort of momentum, in any way. If he can get his British licence back in time, he will have his chance at Wembley against presumably a modest opponent ahead of a well-matched slugfest with Manuel Charr later in the year.

Burns has been accused by some of ‘ducking’ Adrien Broner. The WBO lightweight champion’s rebuttal that seven weeks is inadequate preparation time for such a big fight is fair enough, but of course time will tell whether or not he really does want to try his luck against the undefeated ‘Problem’ when the time is right.

Until then, the Scot has a decent path to a Broner superfight with a title v title match-up against Miguel Vazquez, the 33-3 IBF champ. Having only ever lost to Canelo Alvarez (twice) and Timothy Bradley, the Mexican followed by WBC kingpin Broner means Burns, like Froch, has a tough yet lucrative year ahead.

And after shaking hands and taking notes in homely hotel meeting rooms, The Pugilist’s thirst for some live action was at an even bigger level than the preceding quiet fortnight had already set.

This was quenched at ‘the home of British boxing’ – Bethnal Green’s York Hall.

There, the British Lionhearts remained undefeated at home in the World Series of Boxing semi-pro tournament by whitewashing the USA Knockouts 5-0 [Report].

Though weird to see Britain and the US represented by Irishmen, Frenchmen, Croatians and Estonians, it’s not as if football hasn’t prepared us for the multi-cultural nature of team sports where money talks loudest.

Lionhearts new boy Kaupo Arro was a late replacement for an ill Fred Evans, but the Estonian didn’t have to worry too much about debut nerves when opponent Jeffrey Camp took a heavy accidental cut early on.

But the highlight of the one-sided victory was the Olympic rematch between Andrew Selby and Michael Conlan, which proved as physical and rousing as their ExCeL bout, which Selby also won.

After travelling to Italy for their next bout against reigning champs Milano Thunder (whom Britain also beat at home this season), their next home bout also takes place at York Hall, against Kazakhstan’s Astana Arlans.

The Arlans shocked the Lionhearts in Kazakhstan earlier in the season. And you should try to head down to the return fixture on February 7.

And while bigger fights such as Kell Brook’s first world title shot, Audley Harrison’s Prizefighter return and Broner v Gavin Rees are not until February, this weekend has a few opportunities to get in the mood for boxing’s attempt to top 2012.

Frankie Gavin headlines a Walsall Town Hall card on Friday when he defends his British welterweight strap against Jason Welborn, while the 147lb division hosts the next Prizefighter tournament in Wolverhampton on Saturday with The Pugilist’s co-One To Watch in 2013, Khalid Yafai, also fighting elsewhere on the show.

And if you’re not in for an early start on Sunday, keep an eye on the big card at Madison Square Garden where Orlando Salido and Mikey Garcia do battle for the former’s WBO featherweight title. Also on the card are two other world title fights with Gennady Golovkin v Gabriel Rosado for the WBA middleweight belt and Roman Martinez defending the WBO junior-lightweight belt against Juan Carlos Burgos.

Strap yourselves in for 2013 as the gloves go back on and the sport strives for an unforgettable 12 months. The Pugilist will be there, with more online coverage than ever before. Who's up for the ride?