- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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As the dog days of summer kick into gear, we reach the midyear mark of the 2013 boxing calendar. So what have we learned from this small sample size of the sweet science? In a fun, taking-stock exercise to cure the summertime blues, this week we unveil our midyear awards for the categories of best boxer, fight, knockout and round through the year's midpoint.
There are a lot of fights still to come in 2013, but through the first six months of the year, who has been the standout fighter in boxing?
Ultimately, the boxer of the year award will be decided in the second six months, but the best fighter of the half-year has to be Gennady Golovkin, the middleweight titlist who has been destroying opponents in ruthless fashion.
Besides the knockouts, GGG gets big-time points for activity. So far, he has fought three times this year -- a lot for an elite fighter in only six months -- with all three of his defenses coming by (what else?) knockout. In fact, Golovkin (27-0, 24 KOs) has the highest knockout percentage (88.9) of any active titleholder in boxing.
Golovkin opened the year Jan. 19 at the Madison Square Garden Theater by rendering hard-nosed Gabriel Rosado a bloody mess and stopping him in the seventh round. Although Golovkin didn't look as sensational as he has in other fights, keep in mind that he was bedridden with the flu in the days leading up to the fight and nearly pulled out the day before it.
On March 30, Golovkin faced Nobuhiro Ishida in Monaco. Granted, Ishida isn't a top contender, but the former interim junior middleweight titlist had never been stopped and had faced some quality opponents. All Golovkin did was annihilate him in a devastating third-round knockout. It was freakin' scary.
Golovkin returned June 29 for the most notable victory of his career when he blasted through quality contender Matthew Macklin, whom many assumed would give Golovkin his toughest test as a pro. Instead, Golovkin cut him down with a single, rib-crunching left hook in the third round that left Macklin in agony on the canvas and many talking about Golovkin as the greatest thing since sliced bread.
That's three wins and three dominant knockouts against three solid opponents for boxing's bogeyman.
Canelo Alvarez: There were many who thought that Alvarez, Mexico's most popular active fighter, had made the entirely wrong decision to face fellow junior middleweight titlist Austin Trout in an April 20 unification fight. Even members of his own team didn't like the fight, thinking that Trout's skills and movement would be too much for Alvarez. But Alvarez (42-0-1, 30 KOs) insisted on the fight and shut up the skeptics who viewed him as more style than substance. Not only did he show off his box-office muscle, selling out an Alamodome in San Antonio that was configured for about 40,000, but he also showed that he can really fight. He dropped Trout in the seventh round and went on to win a competitive but clear unanimous decision in the most significant fight of his career so far. The win paved the way for the biggest fight of the year, when Alvarez meets fellow champ Floyd Mayweather Jr. on Sept. 14.
Lucas Matthysse: The slugger from Argentina more than lived up to his nickname of The Machine by crushing both of his opponents so far this year, doing so in scary fashion and probably giving every 140-pound fighter on Earth nightmares about the prospect of having to face him. On Jan. 26, Matthysse (34-2, 32 KOs) met poor Michael Dallas Jr., who probably still doesn't know what hit him after Matthysse knocked him unconscious in the first round to retain his interim belt. On May 18, Matthysse looked sensational in stopping Lamont Peterson in the third round of an unexpectedly easy fight -- especially when you consider that Matthysse didn't even arrive in the United States until three days before the bout due to a passport problem. Matthysse dropped Peterson with a hard left hook in the second round and then blew him away with two more knockdowns in the third round. Showtime analyst Paulie Malignaggi sized up Matthysse best during the fight broadcast: "It is literally like a bomb exploding every time he lands a punch."
Adonis Stevenson: Those who have watched Quebec's Stevenson for the past few years know one thing: He's one of the biggest punchers we've seen in ages. He's a true knockout artist. As 2013 opened, Stevenson (21-1, 18 KOs) was the mandatory for super middleweight titlist Carl Froch. But Froch was making plans to face Mikkel Kessler in a unification bout, so Stevenson agreed to step aside to allow that rematch, given the promise that the winner would vacate one of the belts so that he could fight for it in June. In preparation for that opportunity, Stevenson fought March 22 at his home base, the Bell Centre in Montreal, where he took on journeyman Darnell Boone. OK, so this was just a tuneup fight, but it had meaning to Stevenson because Boone shockingly handed Stevenson his only career loss by upset second-round KO in 2010. Stevenson got revenge with a dominant sixth-round knockout. But the reason Stevenson makes this list is because of what came next. Rather than hang around at super middleweight for the vacant title bout, he went to light heavyweight and challenged Chad Dawson, the division's real champ. Although Dawson was coming off a knockout loss to super middleweight champ Andre Ward in September, that fight was at 168 pounds for Ward's title and Dawson's claims of being weight-drained were believable. Stevenson met Dawson at 175 pounds, where he was supposed to be at his best. But Stevenson needed only 76 seconds to author a nasty one-punch knockout to win the title and set off one of the greatest in-ring celebrations a fight fan will ever see.
As the dog days of summer kick into gear, we reach the midyear mark of the 2013 boxing calendar. So what have we learned from this small sample size of the sweet science?