Juan Manuel Marquez
Juan Manuel Marquez lands the perfect punch on the chin of Manny Pacquiao. One of the images of 2012. [Reuters]

When we look back on 2012, one of the lasting images will be Manny Pacquiao splayed out on the canvas as Juan Manuel Marquez floats away almost unable to believe that one punch had rendered the great champion motionless.

It was the first time Pacman had been stopped since 1999 and proved once again this sport can be brutally, brilliantly unpredictable. It is also why this list is so difficult, as we attempt to pick out our favourite moments from an action-packed 365 days that saw doping scandals, huge upsets and a succession of heavyweights lose to the Klitschkos brothers - for them, at least, boxing is predictable.

Fighter of the Year

To be considered for this category, a fighter must have been busy and competed at the very highest level. Floyd Mayweather may be one of the best in the world but he has only fought on one occasion. The same can be said of Andre Ward, while rising star Saul Alvarez [three fights] was not really tested.

That is why we have chosen Nonito Donaire. 'The Filipino Flash' has fought on four occasions in 2012, earning points decisions against Wilfredo Vasquez Jr, to win the WBO super bantamweight title, and Jeffrey Mathebula to add the IBF strap to his collection. A devastating display against Japan's Toshiaki Nishioka followed in November before Donaire knocked down Mexican legend Jorge Acre three times in just three rounds to add the WBC diamond title to his name. The heir apparent to Manny Pacquiao?

British Fighter of the Year

No place on this list for the usual suspects of David Haye or Amir Khan. It was another impressive 12 months for Ricky Burns and Nathan Cleverly but the standout performances have been from the three-time world champion Carl Froch.

After the disappointment and heartbreak of being outclassed by Andre Ward, Froch put in an inspiring display of power, aggression and ability to inflict a first-ever defeat on Lucian Bute. That performance alone was enough to earn him this award, but his destruction of Yusuf Mack inside three rounds just proved why 'the Cobra' is one of Britain's greatest-ever fighters.

Knockout of the Year 

Special mention in this category for Deontay Wilder who has won all six fights this year with stoppages and has one of the biggest right hands in boxing. Also deserving of a mention is the left hook of Danny Garcia which floored Amir Khan and sent Erik Morales through a 180° spin. But the winner, of course, is that straight right hand of Juan Manuel Marquez which left Manny Pacquiao virtually unconscious before he'd even hit the floor. Devastating.


KO of the Year [UK fighters only]

The most brutal knockouts are the ones where a fighter is out before his body slumps to the canvas and that is what happened when David Price exploded a right hand onto the vulnerable chin of Audley Harrison. Sitting ringside, the effect of the punch was immediate and it took plenty of oxygen to bring the former Olympian back to reality. Brutal.


Rising Star of 2012

It has clearly been a big year for the rather eccentric and hugely talented Adrien Broner, but it was no surprise to see him excel. Gary Russell Jr is another who has continued to impress as his two bouts produced two third round stoppages. However, it is a 30-year-old who has only just begun to be recognised for his talent that has been selected in Gennady Golovkin.

The middleweight from Kazakhstan stopped Makoto Fuchigami in three rounds before dismantling Grzegorz Proksa in just five. In a stacked division that features the likes of Daniel Geale, Felix Sturn, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, Peter Quillin and Sergio Martinez, 2013 could be one hell of a year for Golovkin.

Britain's Rising Star

There are numerous candidates for this category after a host of impressive performances from the likes of Bradley Skeete, Frank Buglioni and John Ryder. Slightly ahead in their careers it has been a great year for Billy Joe Saunders, Carl Frampton and Tyson Fury, but perhaps the most exciting prospect is Kal Yafai.

The 23-year-old only made his debut in July but has already clocked up six wins and has stopped five inside the distance. With a powerful frame, slick boxing skills and some seriously crushing body shots in his repertoire he will be quickly progressing through the rankings. Eddie Hearn has a star on his hands.

Summary 

We must also mention some cracking fights from 2012 which kept us thoroughly entertained, such as Robert Guerrero's gruelling victory over Andre Berto and Brandon Rios' superb performance against Mike Alvarado. Of course we cannot forget the amateur stars who lit up our summer and British fight fans will hope the likes of Anthony Joshua, Luke Campbell and Anthony Ogogo can all continue to excel if they decide to turn professional. Let's hope for another cracking year in 2013.