By consolidating power in the super middleweight division by winning Showtime's Super Six tournament, the 27-year-old Ward emerged as one of boxing's elite pound-for-pound fighters. The scariest part? The unbeaten Oakland native insists he's nowhere near his prime.
2 of 9Frank Franklin II/AP
Fight of the Year
ESPN got its money's worth in this one, didn't it? Wolak, a full time construction worker, took his lunch pail approach into the ring against Rodriguez, a former world title challenger making his 154-pound debut. Over ten action packed rounds the two exchanged bombs, in a fight that looked on the verge of being stopped countless times. Fittingly, with Rodriguez's face battered and a softball sized knot bulging around Wolak's right eye, the fight was ruled a draw.
3 of 9Julie Jacobson/AP
Knockout of the Year
Yes, Montiel got up from the crushing overhand left that nearly caved in half his face. But he only lasted a few more seconds before the referee stepped in to save him. Couple that with the significance of the matchup -- both Donaire and Montiel were pound-for-pound guys going at it in a highly anticipated super bantamweight fight -- and Donaire's savage knockout becomes that much more impressive.
4 of 9Jeremy Piper/AP
Comeback Fighter of the Year
Tarver's career appeared to be over after he followed up back-to-back losses to Chad Dawson with an ill-advised move to heavyweight, where he won an uninspired decision over Nagy Aguilera. But Tarver dropped down to cruiserweight and in July, at 42, knocked out Danny Green in Australia. The win jump started Tarver's career and positioned him as a factor in the 200-pound division.
5 of 9Scott Heavey/Getty Images
Prospect of the Year
Blessed with blinding hand speed and biting power, Russell has quickly emerged as a potential superstar in the sport. He fought six times in 2011, capping a banner year with an HBO-televised first round knockout of Heriberto Ruiz in November. The 23-year old former U.S. Olympian is already polished and should be ready for a world title shot sometime next year.
6 of 9Isaac Brekken/AP
Upset of the Year
The light hitting Ishida was imported as cannon fodder for the fresh out of jail Kirkland, who was being groomed for bigger things. But Kirkland came into the fight woefully out of shape and was dropped three times before the referee waved the fight off. Kirkland reestablished himself towards the end of the year but this shocking upset is impossible to forget.
7 of 9Victor Ruiz Garcia/Reuters
Round of the Year
Many expected Kirkland-Angulo to be a slugfest and from the opening bell, and it was. A short right hand from Angulo dropped Kirkland 30 seconds into the round and it appeared a swarming Angulo was poised to finish the job. But Kirkland rallied, putting a punched out Angulo down with 12 seconds left in the round. The two combined to throw 187 punches, landing 55.
8 of 9Steve Marcus/Reuters
Trainer of the Year
Garcia's aggressive coaching style has produced some of the most entertaining fighters in the sport. Two of Garcia's charges -- super bantamweight Nonito Donaire and lightweight Brandon Rios (right) -- claimed world titles this this year, both with emphatic knockouts. Garcia also trains his brother, Mikey, an unbeaten featherweight prospect and has been tapped to revive the career of former middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik.
9 of 9Nick Wass/AP
OK, so Peterson got an assist from referee Joe Cooper, who inexplicably docked Khan two points for shoving during the fight. But Peterson, 27, fought a tough, disciplined fight against a heavily favored opponent. He dug at Khan's body and refused to give the skilled Brit any room to work with. Earlier this year Peterson passed on an opportunity to face Khan because of what he deemed was a bad deal. Instead, Peterson knocked out Victor Cayo to become Khan's mandatory and after 12 grueling rounds went home a unified junior welterweight champion. A loaded 140-pound division just got a little more crowded.
You May Like
Sign Up for our Newsletter
Don't get stuck on the sidelines! Sign up to get exclusives, daily highlights, analysis and more—delivered right to your inbox!