For the 12 men entering December with the IBO-sanctioned world title, it’s already been a very good year. From the mammoth Wladimir Klitschko to the (comparatively) miniature Hekkie Budler, the group combined for six wins in fights in which championships changed hands in 2012, along with 14 successful defenses of either those belts or ones already held as of last Jan. 1.
Klitschko and super middleweight incumbent Thomas Oosthuizen were the busiest of a busy lot, each risking – and ultimately keeping – their championships three times over the year’s initial 11 months.
Middleweight Gennady Golovkin was next with a pair of defenses, while welterweight Chris Van Heerden made one successfully and has another on the docket against one-time title challenger Matthew Hatton in February 2013. Strawweight Hekkie Budler also made one defense in September against Florante Condes after winning his title 12 months earlier against Michael Landero.
Junior welterweight Khabib Allakhverdiev, super featherweight Will Tomlinson and featherweight Daud Cino Yourdan pulled unique double duty as both candidate and incumbent in 2012, each initially capturing their crowns early in the year and then coming back to successfully hold onto them later. Allakhverdiev was the most recent of that trio, defeating previously unbeaten Joan Guzman – a former world title claimant at 122 and 130 pounds – by a split technical decision on Nov. 30 after Guzman was unable to continue with a knee injury in the eighth round.
Lastly among the high-achievers in 2012 were cruiserweight Danny Green, light heavyweight Andrzej Fonfara, super bantamweight Alexander Bakhtin and super flyweight Gideon Buthelezi, who recently won championships and are preparing for their initial defenses.
Buthelezi’s win over Edrin Dapudong in November gave him his third divisional title after previous IBO reigns at both strawweight and light flyweight, while Fonfara and Bakhtin – with a combined record of 53-2 – are first-time world champions of any sanctioning organization.
But perhaps the most compelling story is Australia’s Green, who began his second cruiserweight reign on Nov. 21 with a unanimous 12-round decision over New Zealand rival Shane Cameron that earned him a belt vacated when former champ Antonio Tarver failed a drug test earlier this year.
Green was recognized as WBA light heavyweight champion in 2007 before retiring for two years and reemerging in 2009 to capture the vacant IBO cruiserweight belt with a fifth-round TKO of Julio Cesar Dominguez in Biloxi, Miss. He defended the belt four times – including a career-defining first-round TKO of Roy Jones Jr. – before dropping it via surprise ninth-round stoppage to Tarver in July 2011. He challenged for the WBC belt four months later and was ahead on all scorecards before an 11th round TKO loss, which prompted him to announce his retirement after the fight.
“This is it for me, guys,” he said. “”I’ve had an amazing career. I don’t know what I’m going to do yet. I came back from a devastating defeat and came out against the best cruiserweight in the world and was four-and-a-half minutes away from a fairytale, but that’s the sport of boxing.”
Green’s absence lasted just less than eight months before he returned in July to stop former light heavyweight title challenger Danny Santiago, and subsequently began preparation to face Cameron, a 35-year-old who’d spent the majority of his career at heavyweight – including a KO of veteran top contender Monte Barrett in July – before agreeing to a 195-pound catch weight to meet Green.
As it turned out, Green, who’ll turn 40 in March, controlled the fight nearly from start to finish, winning 11-1 in rounds on one judge’s scorecard, 8-4 on a second and 7-4-1 on the third to improve to 33-5 in a pro career that he began as a 28-year-old in 2001. Amazingly, Green claimed he fought most of the fight with a rib injury that he’d initially suffered in training a month before and aggravated when Cameron landed a body shot in the opening round.
Following the win, boxing columnist Grantlee Kieza of Australia’s Courier-Mail newspaper lauded the new champion for a career’s worth of rebounding from adversity. “Green has made a career out of being the quintessential Aussie bloke and whenever I think of him fighting I always picture a man in a slouch hat racing across a beach under shell fire never quite sure if he’ll make it or not, but willing to give it his all trying.”
And IBO President Ed Levine, who’s seen Green win six of seven title fights, agrees.
“He’s the type of fighter people think of when they think of boxing,” Levine said. “He has all the characteristics of a memorable fighter – heart, guts, talent and the dedication to give the fans their money’s worth every time he goes out there. We’re proud to call him our champion.”