Boxing fans saw three consecutive classic prizefights in back-to-back-to-back weekends contend for fight of the year including this past week as ageing Bernard Hopkins proved he’s among the best of all time.
Every year it seems the last three months provide the most riveting action for the sport of professional boxing. This year especially as elite boxers showed what they can do in a number of bouts.
Here is a list of the best performers and performances that took place in 2010:
Fighter of the Year
Sergio Martinez, the middleweight champion of the year, arrived from Spain several years ago to compete “with the best fighters in the world” after beating most everyone outside of the United States. He was looking to prove his ability and eagerly agreed to meet hard-hitting Kelly Pavlik for the middleweight world championship. In that fight he decisively beat the Ohio slugger. Then without hesitation he accepted a rematch against the much feared Paul Williams. In less than two rounds the Argentine knocked out Williams with a left cross. Nobody had ever stopped Williams.
“I came here to prove I belong with the very best boxers in the world,” said Argentina’s Martinez.
Martinez, 35, knows he doesn’t have much time remaining in his career and is going for broke to meet and hopefully beat those considered the best in the sport of boxing. He arrived at just the right time.
Others who deserve mention are Indio’s Timothy Bradley, Manny Pacquiao, Andre Ward and Robert Guerrero.
Best Fight of the Year
Of all the exciting fights we saw this past month the Amir Khan and Marcos Maidana junior welterweight clash had the most drama. It was one of those beginnings where it looked like Khan was going to cruise to victory then slowly it reversed. Maidana clubbed his way back into the fight and fans were on the edge of their seat wondering if Khan could hold off the savage assault of the Argentine. It was a great fight on Dec. 11.
A close second was Humberto Soto’s 12-round title defense against Urbano Antillon in a lightweight rumble that was like watching two rams going full speed against each other. The match took place in Anaheim on Dec. 4.
In third place was this past weekend as the old wizard of boxing Bernard Hopkins fought to a majority draw against Canada’s Jean Pascal who holds the WBC light heavyweight title. Most felt Hopkins won easily though the judges in Canada scored it a draw. Once again Hopkins proves a master boxer in the ring. He’s 45.
Best Round of the Year
Round 10 between WBC lightweight champ Humberto Soto and challenger Urbano Antillon on Dec. 4 at the Honda Center exemplified boxing at its best. Both 135-pounders refused to wilt under a barrage of punches that would have made other fighters seek shelter. It made fans squeamish yet it was amazing to watch. It was a great example of how two technically proficient fighters can make brutality almost look like art.
Best Knockout of the Year
With a single left hand Sergio Martinez proved superiority over Paul Williams with finality. Williams was short-circuited and could not get up for 30 seconds after that blow. Martinez had predicted before the fight that he would knock out Williams who had never been stopped before. The replay of the knockout showed Martinez putting his whole body behind that overhand left and Williams doing the same thing. Martinez reached him first.
Upset of the Year
Jason Litzau beating Celestino Caballero has to rate the biggest upset of the year. Litzau was a decided underdog against Panama’s Caballero, who was unable to obtain a fight with the other featherweight champions. Minnesota’s Litzau took the Nov. 27 fight and showed that with heart and self-confidence an athlete can do wonders. The junior lightweight from St. Paul was ecstatic following the fight. Rightly so.
Most exciting fighter
Alfredo “Perro” Angulo
Every time the Mexicali boxer steps in the ring fans can expect Angulo to look for a decisive win. Angulo’s wins against Joel Julio and Joachim Alcine were brutal affairs that saw the Mexican fighter trace his opponent’s movements like a heat-seeking missile. Both ended in impressive knockout wins. Angulo is having legal problems right now but that doesn’t take away from his accomplishments in 2010.
Michael Katsidis, Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez also deserve mention in this category.
Every time Katsidis steps in the ring you can bet the Aussie is going to go hard. He doesn’t have a reverse gear and fights to win no matter who it is. He doesn’t believe in survival mode. It seems every time Katsidis is in the ring you can expect to get your money’s worth.
Pacquiao could have hit and moved when he fought Antonio Margarito but preferred to give the fans a treat and attacked the taller and stronger Mexican. Pacman took some unnecessary lumps in doing so and should be truly commended for his willingness to trade blows. His speed is exciting alone but his heart is amazing too. One of the greats.
Marquez used to have a safety-first style in his younger days, but you can throw that out the window. Now he takes many more chances and has proven that his technical prowess along with his fighting spirit has not weakened one iota.
Best Technical fighter
It’s close between Hopkins, Marquez and Floyd Mayweather Jr. But with Hopkins going on 46 years of age next month I’ll defer to experience. Hopkins not only fought Pascal to a disputed draw this past weekend, but he also beat old nemesis Roy Jones Jr. decisively to avenge an earlier defeat of 16 years ago. The Philadelphia boxer does so many little things in the ring that go unnoticed. Look at the fight of this past weekend and watch how he slips Pascal’s left hook by moving into the blow instead of away from it. Most boxers would try to duck under it or block it. The Canadian boxer was baffled.
Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero’s ability to halt all training to assist his wife battle leukemia and then go back into training to fight the best prizefighters in the world successfully is legendary stuff. He’s a great fighter and an even greater person.
Honorable mention goes Yonnhy Perez of Colombia who spends most of the year here in Southern California pursuing his dream. He has a large family back in his country and uses boxing to feed and house all of them.
Contender of the Year
Miguel Angel Garcia quietly moved into the Riverside area and just as quietly moved into the number one spot as a featherweight contender. His boxing skills are no longer remaining a secret as he eliminates fellow contenders one by one. Garcia had five big wins including four by knockout in 2010. Top Rank’s Bob Arum has Garcia pegged for a title bout in 2011 possibly against Cuba’s Yuri Gamboa. That should be a great fight.
The young featherweight is knocking on the door of a world championship. It just might be the year of Garcia in 2011.
Best six-round fight
Usually I don’t consider fights of less than 10 rounds for special recognition. But a fight that took place at the Doubletree Hotel in Ontario between Colton’s Artemio Reyes Jr. and Alan Sanchez of Northern California was one of the most memorable in years. The crowd was mesmerized by the two boxers who battled like their life depended on it. It was great stuff on June 18. Reyes showed more defensive skills and won a razor close split decision.
Best four-round fight
Since I’m mentioning six rounds, might as well take a look at the four-round fights too. Ramon Valadez, a hard-charging junior welterweight slugger from East L.A. and Oscar Andrade, a southpaw slinger from L.A., both met at Club Nokia with identical 1-0 records. After four brutal rounds Andrade emerged the winner but the two fought ferociously like two alley cats for four rounds. Fans went delirious from the action.