Boxing scored another knockout in Atlantic City in 2012.
Two big fights at Boardwalk Hall highlighted a year in which there were 17 professional cards held in town for the second straight year. Prior to 2011, the resort had not hosted that many boxing shows since 1995, when it also had 17. And the 2012 total does not include a show that was held at New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville on Nov. 10, the first time that venue had featured boxing.
Mixed martial arts also enjoyed a strong year in Atlantic City, featuring 14 pro MMA events and a pro Muay Thai show at Bally's Atlantic City. The highlight was the return of the UFC to town. Its card at Revel on June 22 marked the organization's return to Atlantic City after a seven-year absence.
The early signs for both boxing and MMA this year are encouraging. In boxing, a Feb. 16 show at Boardwalk Hall will feature WBC lightweight champion Adrien Broner against Gavin Rees.
ne week later, Somers Point middleweight Patrick Majewski and Wildwood light-heavyweight Chuck Mussachio are slated to appear at Bally's Atlantic City. In MMA, Ring of Combat is slated to return to Tropicana Casino and Resort on Jan. 25.
Vineland-based Cage Fury Fighting Championships has four cards scheduled for Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa this year, starting on Feb. 2.
Before local boxing and MMA get rolling in 2013, let's recount some of the top fights and fighters from 2012.
Fight of the year: Farah Ennis-Dion Savage (March 17, Bally's Atlantic City). Ennis gained a 10-round unanimous decision over Savage in a thrilling, brutal brawl. The last two rounds were among the best in Atlantic City since the late Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward staged the last two segments of their trilogy in town in 2002-03. (Honorable mentions: Dorin Spivey-Victor Vasquez, Ronald Cruz-Allen Conyers, Patrick Majewski-Latif Mundy).
Fighter of the year: Broner (25-0, 21 KOs) gets the nod for his terrific performance at Boardwalk Hall on Nov. 21. The former super-featherweight champion added the WBC lightweight title with an eighth-round TKO over rugged former champ Antonio DeMarco. (Honorable mention: Johnathon Banks, Garrett Wilson)
Local fighter of the year: Majewski (20-1, 13 KOs) gets the award for the third time in four years. The Somers Point resident went 3-0 in 2012 while facing tough competition. The 33-year-old got two TKOs and then prevailed in a bloody slugfest against Mundy. No other local fighter had a 10- or 12-round bout in 2012, which is the criteria for consideration.
Prospect of the year: Lavarn Harvell (12-0, 7 KOs). Quite a few local fighters went unbeaten in 2012, but no one was as impressive as the 24-year-old Harvell. The Atlantic City light-heavyweight went 4-0 with four knockouts. Three of his victories came in the first round. (Honorable mention: Antowyan Aikins, Thomas LaManna, Isiah Seldon, Anthony Young.)
Knockout of the year: Harvell scored a devastating, one-punch KO over Anthony Pietrantonio on the Chad Dawson-Bernard Hopkins undercard at Boardwalk Hall on April 28. Harvell knocked Pietrantonio unconscious with a right cross that also broke his jaw.
Promoter of the year: (tie) Oscar De La Hoya and Gary Shaw. They combined to bring two big fights to Boardwalk Hall. De La Hoya, president of Golden Boy Promotions, handles Broner and Hopkins. Shaw, a New Jersey native, promotes DeMarco and Dawson. (Honorable mention: Diane Lee Fischer, John Lynch, Russell Peltz).
Trainer of the year: Ray McCline. The Pleasantville-based trainer guided Young to four victories in as many fights in 2012. McCline also used to work with former world champion Virgil Hill, a Smithville resident who was recently elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame. (Honorable mention: Hassan Hamid-El, Bill Johnson, Abdur Raheem Muhammad).
Best decision: Wildwood Crest welterweight Josh Mercado (6-1, 2 KOs) returned from a two-year layoff with a win over Korey Sloane on July 27 and then announced he was retiring again to resume his careers as a history teacher and coach at Cape May Tech High School. He also coaches football at Wildwood High School.
Strangest decision: The New Jersey Athletic Control Board, or NJACB, was forced to cancel a fight on Oct. 12 between professional poker player and former amateur boxing champion Christina Kwan and Kendra Lucas the night before the bout because Lucas didn't weigh enough. Kwan checked in at 99 pounds and Lucas weighed 90, 3 pounds too light. Because fighters are not permitted to gain or lose more than 1 percent of their body weight after the initial weigh-in, the bout was scratched.
(Fight, Fighter and Submission awards selected by Nicholas Lembo, who as New Jersey's deputy attorney general helps oversee MMA in the state. Local fighter of the year chosen by David Weinberg.)
Fight of the year: Marius Zaromskis-Nordine Taleb (Sept. 28, Caesars Atlantic City). Zaromskis won a three-round, unanimous decision as part of Bellator 74.
Fighter of the year: Aljamain Sterling. Sterling earned two victories on CFFC cards at Borgata. He got wins by submission against Sidemar Honorio and Casey Johnson.
Submission of the year: Lembo gave the nod to Uriah Hall's heel hook stoppage win over Daniel Akinyemi at Ring of Combat's Feb. 10 card at Tropicana.
Local fighter of the year: Jeff Lentz. The Lacey Township native won the Ring of Combat featherweight crown with a three-round, unanimous decision over Giovanni Moljo at Tropicana on Feb. 10. Fifteen days later, Lentz made his pro boxing debut with a first-round TKO at Bally's.
Contact David Weinberg: