(Tomasz Adamek celebrates his win over a dejected Steve Cunningham)
There was a moment toward the end of 2012, at the close of a boxing broadcast that aired on NBC -- the first time that network had aired a live boxing event since 2005 -- that almost perfectly encapsulated the year that the sport had.
The headline fight itself, a heavyweight rematch of a classic cruiserweight bout between Tomasz Adamek and Steve Cunningham, had started somewhat tactically but had become a tense back-and-forth drama by the end of the bout, one that underdog Cunningham surprisingly demonstrated that he deserved to win. A lot of people were watching, too, what turned into a good show: the audience peaked at 3.2 million viewers, and averaged 1.6 million, the latter figure roughly equivalent to a really highly watched HBO card.
So, naturally, all those people watching quality professional pugilism on honest-to-God network television also watched the judges stick it to Cunningham and give the decision instead to the "house" fighter, Adamek... at which point NBC analyst Freddie Roach offered this commentary: "That's boxing."
He's been criticized for the remark since, offered up a sign of complacency in the face of boxing's frequent outrages. But he was, in a sense, right. What happened on NBC Dec. 22 was oh so very much boxing for that year: capable of delivering tremendous enterainment in the ring, making progress on the business side of the product, and still infested by unsightly blemishes.
Rather than review what was good and what was bad about boxing in 2012, as we did for 2011, we'll instead review things in two categories: 1. the fights and the fighters; and 2. the business side. They are, of course, related, so understand that the split will feature elements of both in the individual parts.