Clearly boxing has begun to lose the attention of the mainstream fan that it once had for an assortment of the same old reasons: too few compelling matches, too many champions, dysfunction and disaster in the heavyweight division and a general inability for the sporting public to see the sport’s best fights without having to shell out an additional $50 or more at a time when the economy is tighter than Willie Pep’s defense.
Yet for all its warts, boxing remains the most compelling sport. It is a test of the will and the skill of two men stripped half naked and left to compete in the most primal way – with their wits and their two fists. No one else to blame (although they sometimes try) for failure and no one else to praise (although they sometimes try) for success.
While 2008 may have been a disappointment in boxing’s boardrooms it was not in the ring, where there were enough rising stars and compelling moments to make us yearn for what comes next while wanting to revisit what has already begun to fade into memory one last time before we move on.
FIGHTER OF THE YEAR: Manny Pacquiao
Some years there is a debate over this issue that can get as heated as a round between Israel Vasquez and Rafael Marquez but this is not one of those years.
This year there is Manny Pacquiao and then everyone else. Or, perhaps more accurately, there is Manny Pacquiao and nobody else.
That is no disrespect to fighters like Antonio Margarito, Chad Dawson, Victor Darchinyan, Joe Calzaghe, Juan Manuel Lopez, Paul Williams and the comebacking Vitali Klitschko. They all achieved major accomplishments in 2008. It is just that Pacquiao accomplished more than all of them in a year when he was quite often, and quite justifiably, compared to Henry Armstrong.
Sugar Ray Robinson is universally regarded as the greatest boxer who ever lived but Armstrong could not have been far behind. Among his many accomplishments was a 10-month stretch between October of 1937 and August of 1938 in which he won and held world titles at featherweight, welterweight and lightweight. That came at a time when boxing was a purer sport, one with only eight weight divisions instead of the current 17, and with only one champion rather than present pile of (depending on how many different organizations you can stomach) upwards of 100.
To have 100 champions is to have none, which is what makes Manny Pacquiao so remarkable. Whether he has a sanctioned belt or not, he is a champion in the eyes of the public, something he emphatically proved this year by winning a hard-fought split decision from Juan Manuel Marquez in March to win the WBC super featherweight title. He then moved up to 135 pounds and stopped WBC champion David Diaz to win the WBC lightweight championship with a spectacular ninth round knockout of a brave but beaten Diaz.
Then he completed his remarkable trilogy by stopping six-time world champion Oscar De La Hoya in eight rounds in December without losing a minute of the fight to lay claim not to a portion of the welterweight title but to claim he had been the man to retire boxing’s Golden Boy.
Unlike Armstrong’s situation, there was no welterweight title on the line when Pacquiao squared off with De La Hoya but he dominated the driving force of boxing, a 35-year-old De La Hoya who had not fought at the 147-pound limit in 7 1⁄2 years, while moving up three weight classes in less than a year.
De La Hoya was a better than 2-1 favorite in large part because he had lost a close split decision to then pound-for-pound champion Floyd Mayweather, Jr. 18 months earlier and so the consensus was that De La Hoya’s size advantage and his proven skills against Mayweather would prevail.
Not even close.
Pacquiao dominated the fight in the same way he had Diaz in his only fight at 135 pounds, winning every minute of every round until a disheartened De La Hoya finally quit on his stool after the eighth round.
Pacquiao was too fast, too slick, too powerful, too aggressive, too everything for De La Hoya to handle. Remarkable as that performance was that alone did not win him my nod as fighter of the year but when you combine it with capturing world titles in two other weight classes over a 10 month period and again dropping Marquez to gain a razor-think edge over his nemesis and doing it all while moving up over 20 pounds in the process, it is impossible to think of anyone who did more since the days when Henry Armstrong roamed the ring.
TRAINER OF THE YEAR: Freddie Roach
Roach is the man who prepared Pacquiao for all those victories and so you could stop right there and have a hard time coming up with another trainer to make this a debate.
Certainly Antonio Margarito’s trainer, Javier Capetillo, has done an admirable job as well this year but Roach was the first man to believe Pacquiao could defeat De La Hoya and he convinced first himself and then his fighter of it by showing him a plan Pacquiao could believe in and then training him perfectly.
While De La Hoya was drawn and at weight far too soon (more than three weeks before the fight he already weighed 145) and the strain to maintain it for so long proved to be more than he could handle, Roach had Pacquiao perfectly prepared at 142 1⁄2 pounds.
Roach made no mistakes in readying Pacquiao for any of his three title fights while also maintaining a jammed gym in Hollywood, CA. where he trains some of the world’s top fighters.
That now includes a reclamation project which has only begun to bear fruit. Roach has been asked to retool young Amir Khan, the British Olympic sensation in Athens, who was knocked cold in one round by a none descript fighter brought to England to serve as mere cannon fodder for the well protected Khan.
Now Roach has been asked to revive his career by teaching him how to protect a vulnerable chin and to date he’s 1-0 with him. But regardless of how successful he might be with Khan, in the end Freddie Roach will be remembered for what he did with Manny Pacquiao – which simply put was to help turn him into a legend.
PROSPECT OF THE YEAR: James Kirkland
This is a tough call because although Kirkland has the kind of power that makes not only champions but ticket sellers, he did not stand alone this year among rising stars.
There was also Victor Ortiz, who is not called Vicious for nothing; the Cuban sensation Yuriorkis Gamboa, who is an all-offense kind of guy who is 12-0 with 10 knockouts but who has already been down four times in his career and thus makes every fight a potential adventure; Devon Alexander, the best fighter in promoter Don King’s shrinking stable, who is 17-0 with 10 knockouts and this year was particularly impressive defeating former world champion DeMarcus “Chop Chop’’ Corley and ex-title contender Miguel Callist.
Alexander has probably been in with the more difficult competition, Ortiz probably has the most charismatic personality and Gamboa’s loose defense makes him the most intriguing fighter in the group yet in the end it is Kirkland who seems to have the greatest upside primarily because he tends to put people on their backside.
Kirkland (24-0, 21 KO) is trained by Ann Wolfe, a demanding and hard-nosed former women’s champion who seems to understand power punching is what sells tickets. Kirkland comes into the ring not only with bad intentions but with concussive ones and thus far he has left with his hand held high and his opponent’s head hung low most of the time.
He was 3-0 this year, all victories coming by knockout. Although his level of competition needs to be stepped up, thus far he seems to have as much upside as any young fighter in the world. What he does with it is up to him but he has already said “No 154 pounder can beat me,’’ and he intends to prove it in 2009.
FIGHT OF THE YEAR: Antonio Margarito TKO11 Miguel Cotto
It was a tough choice between Margarito’s stoppage of Cotto and Israel Vazquez’s split decision over Rafael Marquez in the third fight of their trilogy. That night Vazquez was down in the fourth round and wobbled in the seventh before rallying to the point where he hurt Marquez badly in the 11th round during a three minute assault. Vazquez then came out for the final round sensing he needed to do something spectacular to win and he did. He overwhelmed the tiring Marquez, finally dropping him late in the round for his margin of victory.
Yet as stirring as that fight was it was overshadowed by Margarito’s late rally to beat down Cotto and cement his position as the best welterweight in the world.
Early in the fight Cotto boxed slickly and effectively, landing solidly enough to control for a time Margarito’s relentless stalking of him. He also seemed at times to cause him problems with his speed and movement but as the rounds wore on and Margarito refused to take a backwards step Cotto, the smaller man by far, began to wear down and be hurt by Margarito’s body shots and nasty uppercuts on the inside.
Margarito, trailing on the scorecards in the late rounds, continued to stalk Cotto regardless of what he was being hit by before finally beginning to bust up Cotto’s bloody face late in the fight. Along with it he broke his spirit.
By the 11th round Cotto was weary, wary and in retreat, by now fully aware that despite having hit Margarito with flush shots that time and again snapped his head around as if he was a bobble head doll he could neither hurt him nor dissuade him from pursuing him and throwing howitzers back at him.
Margarito finally dropped Cotto early in round 11 and when Cotto got up he was a beaten man in full retreat. Margarito followed him across the ring but before he could nail him another flush shot, Cotto simply took a knee without being hit, the universal sign of surrender. As he did, his cornermen rushed into the ring and stopped the fight, crowning Margarito as the king of the welterweight division.
ROUND OF THE YEAR: Holt-Torres II, Round 1
Although you could make a strong case for Round 4 of the Vasquez-Marquez II fight (and many others have) my vote goes to the 61 seconds that constituted the entirety of the rematch between Kendall Holt and Ricardo Torres.
Most 12-round title fights don’t pack in as much drama and action in 36 minutes as these two did in the 61 seconds their match lasted beginning with Torres dropping Holt barely 12 seconds into the fight with a massive overhand right. When Holt (25-2, 13 KO) arose he was clearly in trouble and Holt didn’t waste a lot of time trying to keep him there.
He swarmed Holt, finally dropping him a second time when after a flurry of punches both of Holt’s gloves touched the canvas. The fight was now 32 seconds old and Holt appeared to be getting old.
But as Torres charged him wildly to try and finish him off, the two collided heads accidentally and Torres came out the worst for wear. After their heads slammed together, Torres was both cut and dazed and when Holt realized it he rallied himself and went after Torres with vengeance in his heart.
This time he landed a flurry of punches himself that drove Torres to squat on the lowest rope, out on his feet before he slumped to the floor completely out of it. By the time he came to, he learned he’d been on the wrong end of the Round of the Year.
STORY OF THE YEAR: Sadly it is not about a fight or a fighter but rather about the continuing economic collapse of boxing, at least in the short term.
A year ago boxing seemed to be in a revival. Attendance and pay-per-view sales were up and the suits that run the business side of the sport finally seemed to understand that interest in boxing wasn’t dying, interest in the boxing matches these guys were putting on was dying.
But just as 2007 was a revelation, 2008 became a disappointment. Pay-per-view numbers were down significantly as the larger economy began to crumble and both ESPN2 and Telefutura cancelled their regularly televised boxing shows, a sign that the long-term health of prize fighting as a main stream sport is seriously being compromised.
ESPN2 moved to pull the plug on its summertime, Wednesday night series, retaining the Friday Night Fights with Teddy Atlas at ringside but still giving up a sizeable share of a shrinking market.
Then Telefutura, which was doing about 40 shows a year, stunned the boxing world when it announced it would no longer do live televised boxing either despite gaining a consistently high rating because the cost of those shows could not be justified in light of other debt taken on when the network was sold.
That meant the sport had lost two of its main venues for showcasing young talent and getting them some recognition and a much-needed spotlight among fans. Those opportunities are gone now and no one is stepping up to take their place, which is alarming long term.
Worse, it appears the public has grown weary of watching old stars in decline, even though HBO in particular continues to try and foist them off on the public.
That’s why Calzaghe vs. Jones, Jr. and Hopkins vs. Pavlik did so poorly on pay-per-view, barely cracking 200,000 household buys. The public wants new faces, new stars. They want to see guys like Andre Berto and Andre Ward and the Dirrell brothers and Amir Khan and many more, rather than old shadows of fighters who used to be great but the cable networks would rather try and capitalize on old reliable names believing that sells more than the sport itself.
This is nonsense but it’s been their formula for short term success for some time. Unfortunately, while they line their pockets the sport deteriorates because fans neither know who the champions are, nor who the young faces on the rise might be.
The December showdown between De la Hoya and Pacquiao did do near record box office and PPV numbers but even that success seemed a Trojan Horse, a reminder of what the fight game used to be and still could be with proper promotion and long-term thinking but which it is a far cry from at the moment. COMEBACK OF THE YEAR You have to hand it to Vitali Klitschko. Admittedly the heavyweight division is in a steep decline but he did come out of a 4 1⁄2 year layoff during which he ran for political office, performed charity work in Africa and paid little attention to boxing beyond watching his younger brother, Wladimir, win two of the four bogus world titles.
Then he decides it’s time to earn a paycheck again and, without a tuneup, comes back and batters Samuel Peter so badly it appeared Peter was the one coming off a long layoff.
Eventually Klitschko made Peter quit on his stool to lay claim to the WBC title belt and arguably the title of true heavyweight champion because, frankly, I’d like his chances against his brother if the two ever met. They won’t, they insist, and it’s probably true. Sadly, it’s also the only really compelling fight in the division unless young David Haye proves his chin is as strong as his punch… which we know it isn’t. DISASTER OF THE YEAR: Bernard Hopkins dec. Kelly Pavlik
As admirable a job as the 43-year-old former middleweight champion did in undressing and exposing Pavlik’s modest boxing skills, Hopkins did his sport no favors by knocking off one of the few boxing stars who had begun to get national recognition in magazines and on television while crossing over into the consciousness of the general sports fan after twice beating up Jermain Taylor.
Although the lopsided Hopkins victory keeps him alive in the sport, boxing suffered overall because what it needs right now is not the resurrection of another old face but the spawning of fresh new ones that young fans can relate to. Kelly Pavlik was one of those until Bernard Hopkins made that face all but unrecognizable by exposing his limited boxing skills.
No one knows where Pavlik will go from here but boxing goes back to the drawing board in 2009, a sport in search of a new identity and some new faces the public will latch on to. Until that happens there’s always Manny vs. Ricky Hatton and then, perhaps, the return from exile of Floyd Mayweather, Jr. to square off with Pacquiao by the end of the year in what would figure to be a blockbuster affair.
It is that kind of hope that keeps fight fans believing that next year, which soon will be this year, is going to be better than last year.
So, no, my Fighter of the Year is not Southern California assistant coach Ken Norton Jr., son of the former heavyweight who once broke Muhammad Ali’s jaw. Prospect of the Year is not USC free safety Taylor Mays, although, at 6’3” and 230 pounds, this physical freak of nature (no one that size should be able to run 40 yards in 4.29 seconds) certainly looks as much like the next Lennox Lewis as the next Ronnie Lott. Nor will my Knockout of the Year nod go to any one of the many savage hits USC linebacker Rey Maualuga laid on some poor schnook of a wide receiver coming across the middle.
If he would consent to shave his head, I could make a decent case for 82-year-old Penn State coaching legend Joe Paterno as the winner of an Angelo Dundee lookalike contest, although JoePa is leaner and a bit more irascible than the perpetually sweet-natured Ange. But if the Nits are losing a close one in the fourth quarter, it wouldn’t be that difficult for me to imagine Paterno, still a bit gimpy after undergoing recent hip-replacement surgery, calling down from the press box and telling quarterback Daryll Clark on the headset, “You’re blowing it, son.” And we all know of such utterances are miraculous rallies launched.
So without further adieu, here are my picks for boxing’s best of 2008, stained as they might be by thoughts of blitz pickups, bubble screens, seal blocks and fade patterns in the red zone.
FIGHTER OF THE YEAR: MANNY PACQUIAO As something of a contrarian, I hate to always go with the obvious choice. A little voice in my head kept telling me to give more consideration to the superb years turned in by Antonio Margarito and Paul Williams. And, well, it is true that, upon closer inspection, Margarito’s comeback stoppage of the favored Miguel Cotto probably is more impressive than Pac-Man’s start-to-finish domination of the empty vessel that was Oscar De La Hoya. Williams, meanwhile, won bouts in three separate weight classes and won titles in two of them. But Pacquiao is now the little big man of boxing, and his conquest of Oscar is only the cherry on top of the ice-cream sundae. He outgutted pound-for-pound rival Juan Manuel Marquez for a split decision and the WBC super featherweight title and then bludgeoned David Diaz for the WBC lightweight crown. With his ridiculously easy TKO of De La Hoya, Manny even had some enthusiasts comparing him to the legendary Henry Armstrong. Such comparisons might be overblown and premature, but for now homage must be paid to 2008’s ruler of the ring, King Manny of the Philippines.
FIGHT OF THE YEAR: ISRAEL VAZQUEZ-RAFAEL MARQUEZ III In boxing, first impressions are not always the ones that count the most. For many fans, the greatest fight in any given years is always the most recent really good one, which is why there is so much late support in this category for the Dec. 11 pairing of Steve “USS” Cunningham and Poland’s Tomasz Adamek, in which Adamek wrested the IBF cruiserweight championship from the ex-sailor on a rousing split decision. Another strong contender is the welterweight showdown in which Antonio Margarito, trailing on two of the three official scorecards entering the 11th and what proved to be final round, finally wore down WBA 147-pound champ Miguel Cotto en route to win on an absolute pip of technical knockout. But, for me, the third pairing of Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez has to be No. 1. These guys don’t know how to do anything except to draw the best out of each other, and the round-by-round, punch-for-punch action in each instance is about as good as boxing ever gets. Vazquez retained his WBC junior featherweight title on a razor-thin split decision, but, really, both of these gallant warriors walked away winners in my book.
KNOCKOUT OF THE YEAR: KENDALL HOLT KO1 RICARDO TORRES From my experience, individual knockout preferences tend to be separated by categories. Are you more impressed by, say, the emphatic, one-punch variety? A stoppage that occurs when a fighter who has gone down himself and seemingly is in trouble somehow regains the upper hand before delivering the takeout blow? Or an ending that is the result of a sustained combination of punches, each landed shot adding to the accumulation of damage? My vote as 2008’s king of KOs goes to Kendall Holt’s one-round, roller-coaster ride in which he regained the WBO junior welterweight title from Ricardo Torres. Torres twice put Holt down in the first half-minute, but he left himself open moving in for the big finish and wound up catching a huge right hand that rendered him unconscious along the ropes. Elapsed time: 61 seconds. The list of potential runners-up is long, but I’ll go with David “The Hayemaker” Haye’s second-round wipeout of Enzo Maccarinelli and Edison Miranda’s turn-out-the-lights third-round knockout of David Banks. Really, would Haye now be considered such a threat to the Klitschko-dominated heavyweight division had he not knocked the snot out of Maccarinelli in their cruiserweight unification bout? Miranda clipped Banks with the sort of bomb that leads to everything fading to black for the clipee, at least for the next 10 seconds.
ROUND OF THE YEAR: KENDALL HOLT KO1 RICARDO TORRES For my money, this was a nearly dead heat between the minute’s worth of spills and thrills in Round 1 of Holt-Torres II and the sustained fury in Round 4 of Vazquez-Marquez III. Can I call it a draw, Mr. Woods? No? OK, I’ll throw my support to Holt-Torres, if only because so many rounds of Vazquez-Marquez III could be included in this category. It’s like three actors from the same film being nominated for an Oscar; they tend to split each other’s vote. Not much chance of that happening when you cast your ballot for boxing’s top round to a fight in which all the action was compressed into 61 seconds of ups, downs and hairpin turns.
UPSET OF THE YEAR: BERNARD HOPKINS UD12 KELLY PAVLIK There is a movie now in theaters, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” in which star Brad Pitt is born into this world as a prematurely aged infant who, miraculously, gets younger as he gets older. A fantastic tale, no? Except that Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins seems to be actually living the life of Benjamin Button. B-Hop, who turns 44 on Jan. 15, was a 5-to-1 underdog in his 170-pound catchweight bout with undefeated middleweight titlist Kelly Pavlik, the guy who once and for all was going to demonstrate that the Philadelphian is as susceptible to the natural laws of diminishing returns as all normal human beings. If this keeps up, Bernard “The Baby” Hopkins will need to be burped and changed when he’s, oh, about 95. For now, though, he is boxing’s ageless wonder, the sipper of a Fountain of Youth that apparently runs beneath his Delaware estate. There are no runners-up in this category. Hey, Hopkins would have pulled the upset of the year had he eked past Pavlik, but he toyed with the hotshot kid as a cat might play with a mouse.
PROSPECT OF THE YEAR: VICTOR ORTIZ The smooth southpaw is 21 years old, 23-1-1 with 18 victories inside the distance. Sure, there are other up-and-comers who are similarly young and bearers of shiny records, but this junior welterweight looks like the real deal. And for all of you who haven’t seen him yet, consider this a heads-up to monitor the progress of welterweight Danny Garcia, who’s 10-0 with seven knockouts. He’s my early projection to win top prospect designation for 2009.
BAD DECISION OF THE YEAR: NIKOLAY VALUEV MD12 EVANDER HOLYFIELD Yeah, Commander Vander needs to be sitting in a rocking chair on the porch of his suburban Atlanta mansion and sipping an ice-cold beverage while enjoying his retirement from the ring. At 46, he’s merely a shadow of his once-magnificent self. That said, however much is left of him was more than enough to expose WBA heavyweight titlist Valuev as the pituitary-gland fraud that he so obviously is. Shouldn’t a 7-foot, 310-pounder be scarier than this? Guy looks like Frankenstein’s monster, but moves slower and hits like Mr. Softee. “No one roots for Goliath,” the late Wilt Chamberlain once observed, but apparently three non-neutral judges in Switzerland were more inclined to reward a robotic Russian giant for doing nothing than to hand a fifth version of the heavyweight title to a more active American who, if only fighting by memory, deserved better than this heist by pencil.
TRAINER OF THE YEAR: FREDDIE ROACH A disciple of the late, great Eddie Futch, Roach told us exactly how Pacquiao-De La Hoya would unfold, and he prepared Manny to follow the script to utter perfection. Then again, Roach is no stranger to getting his fighters ready to deliver bravura performances. He was voted the Boxing Writers Association of America’s Futch-Condon Trainer of the Year for 2003 and 2006, and the exit polls should soon have him being projected for a third such honor for 2008. Runner-up nods go to Javier Capetillo (Antonio Margarito), Rudy Perez (Israel Vazquez) and Naazim Richardson (Bernard Hopkins).
EVENT OF THE YEAR: END OF SOLO B0XEO ON TELEFUTURA Coming on the heels earlier in the year of the cancellation of ESPN2’s Wednesday Night Fights, the termination of this eight-year series, which gave needed exposure to fighters on the rise, is a dark day for boxing, maybe as dark or darker than the day when the USA Network pulled the plug on its Tuesday Night Fights in 1998. Runner-up is Pacquiao-De La Hoya, which had 1.25 million pay-per-view buys and generated $70 million in PPV revenue despite a weak economy, again demonstrating that a good fight, or the prospect of one, always resonates with the public. Unfortunately, even those numbers have a downside. Although all available tickets were snapped up just 17 minutes after they went on sale, mainly of the costly ducats went to speculators who hoped to resell them at a profit. Some scalpers got scalped, proving, at least, that there is at least occasionally justice in the world.
INSPIRATION OF THE YEAR: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF SHAUN NEGLER Bernard Hopkins’ most devoted fan, 18-year-old Shaun Negler, was given no more than a couple of weeks to live as cancer ravaged the body of the Philadelphia teenager, a former amateur boxer. But Shaun refused to yield to the inevitability of his death for over three months, or just long enough to see his hero, B-Hop, dominate Kelly Pavlik, on TV. He slipped into a coma the next morning and passed away five days later.
Many said that Armstrong’s feat would never be repeated, but Pacquiao came very close to the feat, though not in the same weight divisions. All that was missing was a world title in the welterweight bout.
The super charged Pacquiao last fought as a featherweight in 2004 and had been residing in the junior lightweight division for the last several years. Earlier this year he beat Mexico’s Juan Manuel Marquez in a fierce battle for the WBC junior lightweight title that ended in a split decision win. He then dominated David Diaz for the WBC lightweight title in June and finally capped the year with another dominating win over a former Pound for Pound champion Oscar De La Hoya several weeks ago.
It may be another 70 years before you see someone duplicate Pacquiao’s feat.
A few other candidates should be mentioned in this category. Welshman Joe Calzaghe had the best year of his career when he beat Bernard Hopkins in a close battle last April. He followed that win with a one-sided beating of Roy Jones Jr. last November in Madison Square Garden. Though Jones is not nearly the fighter he was before 2004, you can’t say Calzaghe had youth on his side. He’s 36 and Jones is 39.
Mexico’s Antonio Margarito also had a pretty good 12 months. The Tijuana Tornado collided with Kermit Cintron again and stopped the power puncher a second time and won the IBF welterweight belt. Proving he wasn’t concerned with keeping a belt, he lit after Miguel Cotto, the WBA welterweight titleholder, and beat him up in 11 rounds. Fans could never call Margarito’s style pretty, “brutal” might be a more appropriate word.
And finally there was Australia’s Vic “The Destroyer” Darchinyan. After getting knocked loopy a year ago, the Armenian slugger returned with knockout wins over Russia’s Dimitri Kirilov and Mexico’s Cristian Mijares. He also showed he could box very well in dominating Mijares in his last fight. A very impressive showing for Darchinyan.
All of the aforementioned fighters had a great year, but Pacquiao’s year will go down in history as one of the all-time great 12 months.
Fight of the Year
Without a doubt Israel Vazquez-Rafael Marquez III is the Fight of the Year. Their third encounter proved to be the best of the trilogy that began in March 2007 and ended in March 2008. In my eyes the only trilogy that matches it would be Tony Zale-Rocky Graziano’s three middleweight encounters in the 1940s for sheer mayhem.
The Mexico City warriors lit up the Home Depot Center with 12 rounds of fury that held the crowd in awe and ended in a split decision. A left hook from Vazquez that sent Marquez reeling into the corner (and correctly ruled a knockdown) in the final 10 seconds of the last round, proved the deciding factor and the coup de grace for the three epic battles. Boxing fans will be talking about these three collisions for decades. It was pure and scientific violence at its best and exemplified why boxing is called the “Sweet Science.”
Other candidates for Fight of the Year were Pacquiao’s return match with Mexico’s Juan Manuel Marquez last March. A fifth round knockdown of Marquez proved to be the deciding factor in this nip and tuck battle between two remarkable fighters.
In third is Antonio Margarito’s bludgeoning win over Puerto Rico’s Miguel Cotto. When they entered the ring Cotto was the 3-1 favorite and undefeated. It was a classic Mexico vs. Puerto Rico war and it did not fail to incite the fans present at the Las Vegas fight this past summer. In the end, Margarito proved he would walk through fire to win the fight and did in bludgeoning fashion.
Round of the Year
The rematch between Kendall Holt and Ricardo Torres for the WBO world title was held in Las Vegas in front of a small number of journalists at the Planet Hollywood Hotel and Casino. Many fight reporters were busy attending a mixed martial arts fight card across the street and missed one of the most electrifying matches in years. The two junior welterweights tore into each other with homicidal punches and no jabs. Holt was dropped twice but recovered and ultimately knocked out Colombia’s Torres with a right hand and a simultaneous accidental head butt. All this took place in a mere 61 seconds. It was one of those fights that if you blinked too much, you missed the fight.
In second place was Riverside’s Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola and Florida’s Travis “Freight Train” Walker heavyweight clash. In most heavyweight bouts you can count the number of blows fired on one hand. You can sleep through most of their bouts, but not this one. Walker dropped Arreola in the second round with a perfect right hand to the chin. Then, 30 seconds later, Arreola returned fire and landed a crunching left hook. The crowd went crazy. Arreola proved he could take a punch and come off the deck to win a fight. He’s poised to fight Wladimir Klitschko in April or May.
Knockout of the Year
Venezuela’s Jorge Linares has been impressing boxing fans with his fighting prowess and immense physical talent. Against Mexico’s iron chinned Gamaliel Diaz he proved he can punch with the best. In the eighth round, after missing with a left, Linares pivoted on his left foot and beat Diaz with a right hand to floor the Mexican fighter in crunching fashion. Diaz legs were short circuited by the punch and down he went. It was a decisive victory for Linares who is not as well known as his fellow countryman Edwin Valero. But that knockout woke up the eyes of boxing fans that saw the fight on pay-per-view.
Coming in a second was Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero’s right uppercut, left cross combination to turn out the circuits on Jason Litzau in another featherweight contest last February for the IBF title. Guerrero is slated to fight in January 24, at the Staples Center.
Ironically, both Linares and Guerrero are moving up to the junior lightweight division. Will they be fighting each other in 2009? Wow.
Upset of the Year
Palm Spring’s Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley’s victory in London against the feared Junior Witter for the WBC junior welterweight title grabs him the honor of being the best of the area for 2008. While other junior welterweights avoided Witter, Bradley traveled to London where he was given a room with no air conditioning, no bed and stalled at the airport, then proceeded to out-box and knock down the feared Witter. It was a fairy tale come-to-life for a boxer who never had fought outside of California. Bradley is set to meet Kendall Holt in a junior welterweight unification bout.
Worst result of the Year
Canada’s Lucian Bute retained the IBF super middleweight world title but it really should be in the hands of California’s Librado Andrade. If not for a horrible, if not purposeful, mishandling by the Canadian referee, the title should have changed hands by knockout. When Andrade knocked down Bute he looked done. But the referee wasted 17 seconds telling Andrade to go to the neutral corner, though he was in the corner. Bute won by decision, but only because the referee interfered on his behalf.
Trainer of the Year
It’s difficult to surmise the best trainer of the year because it really depends on the fighter to win or lose a fight. The trainer can’t fight the fight for their charge, but he can prepare someone and give strategy for a fight.
Freddie Roach has to win this year for his guidance of Manny Pacquiao. It was Roach who spotted the weaknesses in Oscar De La Hoya and surmised that Pacquiao could beat the East L.A. boxer. Last summer Roach debated with me the reasons and every point he made came true. Even his strategies worked perfectly.
In second place is Floyd Mayweather. The trainer was perfect in big fights. First he guided De La Hoya to victory over Steve Forbes in May, then, he guided Ricky Hatton to victory in November. Both fighters looked their best in years. Could Mayweather have made a difference for De La Hoya in his fight? Hard to tell.
Promoter of the Year
I’ve got to go with Goossen-Tutor Promotions. The California-based promotion company worked hard in 2008 to find new ways to work for its fighters that include venturing to the Cayman Islands last June to stage a boxing show. They also put on a fight card featuring Paul Williams and Chris Arreola in a brand new venue, the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California. Maybe 2009 could be the year for Goossen-Tutor as both Williams and Arreola are primed for major fights. They also signed Olympian Shawn Estrada and lightweight prospect John Molina.
California’s Pat Russell is this year’s best referee. He did a masterful job in the Israel Vazquez-Rafael Marquez III fight last March and is always in top form for any fight. He rarely makes bad decisions in the ring and is one of the more respected referees in the world. Those gray hairs don’t mean he’s losing a step, they’re signs of wisdom.
In close second is Nevada’s Tony Weeks. In the past three years he’s climbed to the top of the ladder with his great handling of prizefights. The only thing Weeks does that can be corrected is his staying in one position too long. But his calls in the ring are right on and always on time.
Third place is a tie between California’s Jack Reiss and Nevada’s Kenny Bayless. Both are very fair and stay out of the action unless necessary.
Jerry Roth of Nevada has to be on the top of any list of boxing judges. He has a way of scoring fights that is consistent. He likes boxers who throw a lot of punches and make a fight happen. In the past five years he’s been the top judge out of Nevada and is a welcome sight for any big fight.
Max DeLuca is another consistent and sharp-eyed judge. In most fights it’s easy to judge the winner. But when you have two elite fighters who are good defensively, then you want DeLuca scoring the fight. The California judge can spot who is landing and who is blocking with the best of the judges. There wasn’t a fight he scored that could be called a bad decision.
Tom Kaczmarek wrote a book on how to score a fight. It shows. He’s very consistent and has that ability to surmise when a boxer is actually landing blows, not just hitting his opponent’s gloves and arms. Kaczmarek has been very good for a long time. He’s the best of the East Coast judges in my opinion.
Most Entertaining Fighter
It’s always very close but this year it goes to Ricardo “El Matador” Mayorga. The Nicaraguan prizefighter is a massive personality though he doesn’t speak English. When he’s on the main event there is nobody who can light up a press conference like this former two-division world champion. Crowds, journalists and macho Latinos love his persona. Win or lose he’s a gracious fighter once the party is over. I’m going to miss Mayorga when his career is over. Another thing, is this guy can fight. He never takes the easy way out. People forget he beat Fernando Vargas and Vernon Forrest twice. And he gave Shane Mosley all he could handle. Don’t sleep on Mayorga.
Runner up has to be Emanuel Augustus. When he gets in a groove and starts shaking and baking he’s fun to watch and probably perplexing to fight. Too bad he never won a world title. He’s now residing in Las Vegas. It’s a perfect spot for him.
This is a difficult choice. Most prizefighters have guts to spare, but I got to pick Verno Phillips for this category. When nobody wanted to fight Paul Williams it was Phillips who took up the challenge without hesitation. This guy has been fighting for a long time. Heck, I remember seeing him fight at the Inglewood Forum back in 1994. In November, against Williams, the much smaller Phillips took blow after blow and never quit. Man, I was in awe of the kid. I’m glad the fight was stopped because Phillips was not going to surrender. He was intent to go out on his shield. Luckily, he was able to walk out of the ring. And it was his birthday that night.
Ready for world titles
Abner Mares, 23, from Mexico, has a lethal combination of speed, power and boxing skills. The former Mexican Olympian should be fighting for a world title in 2009. In the past 16 months he decisively beat several good fighters in Chino Garcia, Diosdado Gabi and Jonathan Arias. He’s ready for anybody holding a bantamweight belt.
Urbano Antillon from Maywood, California has blown through the competition in the last two years. Most people think he’s the same young teen who was teetered against Ivan Valles at the Olympic Auditorium. Folks, wake up, you’re asleep in class, that was six years ago when he was 19. Now he’s 26 and seems to have rocks in his gloves. A lightweight title should be his as soon as he gets an opportunity.
Andre Dirrell from Flint, Michigan has height, speed, and boxing ability. He seldom gets hit so it’s difficult to surmise if he has a world caliber chin. But otherwise, Dirrell should have a super middleweight belt wrapped around his waist in the next 12 months.
Prospects to watch
John Molina continues his trek toward becoming a contender in the talented lightweight division. The hard-hitting Covina fighter remains undefeated and recently signed a promotion contract with Goossen-Tutor.
Philadelphia’s Danny Garcia a junior welterweight seems to have a lot going on. He’s got all the tools. The only thing left to see is if he can take a big punch.
But most of us “experts” didn’t handicap the fight correctly, as we underestimated the size advantage Pacquiao enjoyed in the heart department.
That’s no slight to De La Hoya, who has always fought gamely and sought out the stiffest challengers. But Manny Pacquiao’s impersonation of David, as he slayed boxing’s Goliath of earning power and iconic status, De La Hoya, earns him the nod as TSS Boxer of the Year for 2008.
There were some other worthy contestants for the prize. A vote for Wales’ Joe Calzaghe, who took down two future Hall of Famers, in Bernard Hopkins (April) and Roy Jones (November), would not be scoffed at. And anyone at the arena on the October night Bernard Hopkins showed 43 ain’t nothing but a number as he dismantled the favored flavor-of-the-month Kelly Pavlik had to think B-Hop wrapped up Boxer of the Year honors. What about Mexican-American Antonio Margarito, who took a piece of Miguel Cotto’s heart in July and rudely thrust loss number one at the Puerto Rican welterweight?
A March win over Juan Manuel Marquez, for the WBC super featherweight crown, was a narrow triumph, but Pacquiao clicked into higher gear when he destroyed David Diaz, the WBC lightweight champ, in June. Those triumphs served as a modest launching pad for his December performance.
One criteria for Boxer of the Year, in our eyes, is the impact that fighter’s presence in the game causes. Pacquiao’s win certainly did transcend the sport. No, not so much here in the States. My periodic quizzes of non boxing sports fans still show that the name “Manny Pacquiao” has yet to penetrate the consciousness of the non-hardcore fight fans that swarm TSS. But in his native Philippines, where the nation ground to a halt when he stepped into the ring against De La Hoya, that win was probably the athletic event of the century. And that win wasn’t just a win.
It was a lesson in perseverance, in defiance against odds and legions of naysayers. It was an affirmation of what any Pinoy man or woman gifted with a bit of talent and even more heart and guts can do.
Pacquiao’s win was a rousing reminder of why boxing matters, because more than any other sport, it mirrors the experience that is adult life. We toil, often for nothing more than the promise of better days ahead. We labor, and with the aid and encouragement of a select group of friends and family, soldier on through illness, and setbacks in the emotional realm. We take on a substantial challenge, perhaps a Sisyphean one, and find ourselves failing, once, twice…can we will ourselves to get off the canvas, and keep fighting? Ideally, we do plod forward, in the fashion of Pacquiao, even if the majority of people view our chance of succeeding as negligible. Along the way, when met with misfortune, we search for role models to emulate, or occurrences that validate our quest. Fight fans saw that role model, Manny Pacquiao, on December 6, and will always be able to draw on that special occasion when David made Goliath quit on his stool in a Las Vegas ring. And his graciousness in victory, as he took time to applaud his foe, and help lessen the sting of defeat by reminding De La Hoya of the breadth of his accomplishments, only cemented the superlative status of Pacquiao’s win.
Manny responded to being named TSS top fighter for 2008. "I always try to do my best when I go into the ring,” he said. “Oscar was always one of my favorite champions and he still is today. It was an honor to go into the ring and face him. I am very happy to be recognized as the Fighter of the Year by TheSweetScience.com."
Team TSS wishes to thank Pacquiao for his service to the sport and for acting as a superior ambassador for the sweet science.
It seems that with every passing year, the state of boxing’s big men gets worse and worse. Just when the fight world thinks they’ve found a ray of heavyweight hope – be it in the form of champion clarity or an exciting prospect – something bizarre happens to put out the light.
In 2008, we saw any chance of Wladimir Klitschko, arguably the world’s best heavyweight, unifying the division go out the window when his brother Vitali came out of a four-year retirement to batter Sam Peter and take the 28 year old’s WBC belt in the process.
In the past twelve months, we saw the world’s most fascinating heavyweight, seven-foot Nikolay Valuev, struggle to beat – and even get off against – a 46-year-old Evander Holyfield.
In the past year, we saw perhaps America’s most exciting heavyweight prospect, Chris Arreola, admit in his post-fight interview that he hadn’t been in optimal shape after a life-and-death battle with Travis Walker.
Yes, today’s heavyweights are awful, and it wouldn’t be crazy to say that the state of the division is the worst it’s ever been. Despite the emergence of David Haye, the hard-hitting former cruiserweight champion who burst onto the scene this September with a fifth-round thrashing of Monte Barrett, the future of the division looks bleak, as there are few prospects with any legitimate chance of making noise in 2009.
But we as fight fans hope for the best, and thinking optimally means praising the big men who throw bones for our entertainment. So to kick of 2009, I’ve compiled a top-ten list of today’s heavyweights. Consider it the “best-of-the-worst” rankings (cough, cough, I mean, “best of the best”).
1. Wladimir Klitschko (52-3, 46 KOs): Watching him fight is as boring as sitting through an episode of TLC’s “John and Kate Plus Eight,” but after ten straight wins and six straight title defenses, there is no doubt that Wladimir Klitschko is the world’s top heavyweight. In 2008, Klitschko went 3-0, unifying part of the division against Sultan Ibragimov in February, and then demolishing two of America’s top heavyweights in Tony Thompson and Hasim Rahman in the latter half of the year. Hopefully Klitschko will swap leather with David Haye in 2008.
2. Vitali Klitschko (36-2, 35 KOs): He’s only fought once in the past four years, but Vitali earns this spot based on his dominant win over Sam Peter in October.
In 2003, Klitschko gave then champion Lennox Lewis all he could handle over a six-round bout that was stopped due to a nasty punch-induced cut on Klitschko’s head. Klitschko, who was winning the fight before it was stopped, begged Lewis for a rematch, but never got a chance to exact revenge. He did, however, get an open division to wipe out when Lewis retired.
After capitalizing with several wins in 2003 and 2004, Klitschko struggled with injuries that led to on-and-off training camps and an eventual retirement. But in 2007, he announced his return to the ring, and because the WBC had dubbed him “Champion Emeritus,” or champion in recess, he was granted a shot at Peter, who held then held the belt.
Klitschko looked great against Peter, but until he gets active again, Vitali’s brother Wladimir will remain in the top spot.
3. David Haye (22-1, 21 KOs): What has Haye, who has only fought twice on a world-class level as a heavyweight, done to earn this position? He’s yet to mess his career up with an embarrassing performance like so many of the other “top” heavyweights of today.
Haye was an electric cruiserweight, and if his first-round beat down of Barrett is any indication, he may be just as good at heavyweight. But he’ll have to do more than beat Barrett to prove that. Hopefully, he’ll get a shot at one of the Klitschko brothers in 2009.
4. Alexander Povetkin (16-0, 12 KOs): Povetkin, much like Haye, only gets this spot based on his lack of failure. Although he’s fought decent competition, Povetkin has yet to show that he in some way stands out amongst the current crop of big men. If he can continue to beat top-ten contenders, he’ll eventually land a title shot; that’s when we’ll see what he’s really made of.
5. Ruslan Chagaev (24-0-1, 17 KOs): Injuries have kept Chagaev, one of the two WBA heavyweight champions, from fighting since his decision win against Matt Skelton in January. That lack of activity is what is preventing Chagaev from taking the next step in becoming the world’s top heavyweight.
Chagaev will defend his belt against the unknown Carl Davis Drumond in February. And after that, he’s scheduled to take on Valuev in a rematch which will solidify the real WBA champion. Looks like it will be a while before Chagaev gets his shot at the men above him on this list -- and at his chance to prove he’s the best.
6. Sam Peter (30-2, 23 KOs): Peter’s loss to Klitschko was one-sided and embarrassing, but the Nigeria native has done enough as a heavyweight to warrant a top-six rating. He did, after all, beat heavyweight vets Oleg Maskaev and James Toney (twice).
In 2009, Peter will hope to land either of the Klitschko brothers – the two men responsible for his losses. But if he doesn’t, which is likely considering the one-sidedness of the Vitali loss, let’s hope that the “Nigerian Nightmare” fights on against other top heavyweights. If nothing else, Peter’s head-first style sometimes makes for exciting fights.
7. Chris Arreola (26-0, 23 KOs): Arreola can crack, but if he shows up out of shape against anyone on this list like he did against Travis Walker in November, heavy hands won’t be enough for him to emerge victorious. Let’s hope that an in-shape Arreola stays active against good competition in 2009. A bout against fellow prospect Jason Estrada would be very interesting.
8. Juan Carlos Gomez (44-1, 35 KOs): Gomez, one of the best cruiserweights to ever lace up in the gloves in the division’s short history, has slowly but surely made his mark as a heavyweight over the past six-and-a-half years. Most recently, the slick southpaw won a comfortable decision in a title eliminator against Vladimir Virchis, which puts Gomez in position to challenge Vitali Klitschko sometime in 2009.
9. Eddie Chambers (33-1, 18 KOs): Chambers’ most notable bout is a decision loss to Povetkin in January of this year, but Chambers, who made some serious noise in the heavyweight division prior to the Povetkin fight, has rebounded nicely from the defeat with three straight wins. Although the Philadelphia resident blew his first big chance, he will undoubtedly get more opportunities down the road. A Chambers-Arreola bout would be great for HBO’s “Boxing After Dark.”
10. James Toney (71-6-3, 43 KOs): The charismatic and skilled heavyweight proved he’s far past his prime, both as a slick counter puncher and as a talker, when he struggled to edge Fres Oquendo on December 13 and then afterwards called Oquendo “a scary dude.” That said, Toney, now 40, can still fight thanks to years and years of ring wisdom and decent hand speed. Toney would be best-served to walk away from boxing before he further damages his legacy, but he will likely fight on because of his immense passion for the sport. Let’s hope 2009 will be the last year Toney laces up the gloves.
Rashad “Sugar” Evans does indeed have some useful fists, we saw on Saturday at UFC 92, and he put them to good use in the main event at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Evans, who is in the top ten in all MMA in the boxing department, launched a vicious load of rights and lefts at Forrest Griffin, and emerged victorious with a third round KO ground ‘n pound climax in a battle of The Ultimate Fighter winners.
The end came at 2:46 of the third, and with the win, Evans owns the UFC light heavyweight belt, which Griffin snagged from Rampage Jackson at UFC 86. I'm guessing he can keep the nickname for awhile, as his jab is nothing to sneeze at, and his right hands get where they need to go with speed and pop.
Griffin (16-4 entering; age 29; Las Vegas resident) weighed 205, while 17-0-1 Evans (age 29; New Mexico resident) weighed 203 for the bout. Steve Mazzagatti refereed the contest. Griffin was the champion among light heavys on the first season of The Ultimate Fighter, while Griffin won the heavyweight draw in the second season, FYI.
In the first, the two men sized each other up for a long spell. Griffin started working his leg kicks, but Evans wound up with a hellacious one of his own, just to send a message, “Hey, I got one of those too.” Evans switched to lefty to give his front leg a rest three quarters of the way through the round. Both men were patient technicians.
In the second, Griffin sensed an advantage and pressed, and got in Evans’ grill. Rashad grinned and waved him on. Two minutes in, Evans again went lefty. He didn’t care for the outside leg kicks, or the inside variety. Griffin’s reach helped him keep Evans at bay, and posing more than punching. Evans flinched at even the thought of leg kicks, and Griffin’s game plan was unfolding to perfection.
In the third, Evans caught Griffin with a flurry and hopped on him, and rained down hammerfists. Griffin dodged blows, and got his wits about him, but it was touch and go for a few seconds. Griffin fended Evans off, and looked to gain wrist control, and maybe go for an armbar. But Evans kept plugging away, waiting, and he landed five crunching rights that basically discombobulated Griffin. The ref gave Griffin some time to answer, but Evans switched to his left, as he stood over Griffin, on his back, covering his face, to no avail. The ref stopped it as Griffin was unable to fire back, or cover up.
Antonio “Minotauro” Noguiera took on Frank Mir in a heavyweight scrap. The two men acted as coaches on the latest installment of The Ultimate Fighter. Nog came in with the interim heavyweight belt. Both men are BJJ black belts.
Mir (12-3) dictated the pace with his boxing in the first. The lefty used a basic one-two to run away with the opening round, and he knocked Nog to the mat twice. Would Mir flame out, we wondered? In the second, Mir sent Nog (31-5) to the mat for the third and final time, with two lefts. Down went Nog, and Mir hopped on to flurry to the finish, with nine unanswered hammers. The ref stepped in to stop it, at 1:54, and Mir went to Brock Lesnar, in the front row watching, and talked a little trash. This was the first time, by the way, that Nog had been stopped as a pro. After the cerebral Mir gained a ton of new fans with his raw talk. “I faced my mythological monster. I’ve never been more afraid in my life as I was when I walked in the ring tonight,” he said.
Some sweet science fans don’t even want any MMA coverage on TSS, and I concede their point. But I think MMA has a place on TSS, if only to illustrate the stylistic differences in the presentation of the respective products. Illustration A: the second fight on the PPV pitted Rampage Jackson against Wanderlei Silva. This could’ve headlined a PPV, or at least, served as a rock-solid co-feature, but I repeat, it was the second bout of the night on UFC 92. Silva held a 2-0 edge against Rampage, so of course an element of drama was lost coming in to this third tussle. But MMA fight fans were eager to see how Jackson fared, considering that we’ve been following his exploits and travails outside the cage, after he was busted for hit and run on July 18. In the first, Silva aimed leg kicks at Rampage’s lead leg. But Jackson shrugged that off, and dropped a bomb of a left hand at 3:21 of the first which dropped Silva in a flash. The finishing flourish was a left hook counter, tight and strong, and no followup was even needed. After, Rampage (28-7) said that moving to England to train was helpful in keeping his mind on fighting, and not his legal woes. This win was most meaningful for Jackson, considering he lost in his last outing, in July, to Forrest Griffin, and dropped his light heavyweight crown. For Silva, this is his third KO loss in two years, and he will have to figure out if his chin-wiring is permanently compromised. He may simply be an “old” 32.
Brock Lesnar got some facetime, chatting with Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg before the Noguiera-Mir scrap. Gotta like Lesnar for his honesty. He admitted he wanted Mir to prevail, so he could avenge his loss to Mir.
Quinonez needs a job badly to put food on his table and to keep the utilities in his Indio household running. Like so many other professional boxers, he needs to work outside of the ring to sustain him in normal times. But these are not normal times.
Things are so bad for the prizefighter that a truck purchased earlier in the year was repossessed. The guy sent to grab the truck didn’t want to embarrass Quinonez so he called him on his cell phone and asked for the keys instead of dragging it from the driveway in front of neighbors.
“I was out jogging and asked him to wait a few minutes,” said Quinonez (31-13-1), an amiable family man with a wife named Diana and several kids. “It was really cool of him.”
That phone call was the most positive event of the year for Quinonez.
Times are bad for the fighter known as the Mongoose. The sport of professional boxing surprisingly remains his only economical recourse.
“It’s very hard right now,” said Quinonez, 37. “There’s no work at all in construction.”
In the worst economic drought since the Depression of the 1930s, boxing is one entertainment venue that remains recession-proof and a lifesaver to those who can fight in the prize ring.
“Boxing has always been able to survive,” said Bob Arum, Top Rank’s boss and boxing promoter since the 1960s. “People always need entertainment.”
Approximately 4,600 professional boxers are active in this country today, but less than one percent is able to live on their fight earnings alone. However, it can be a recession-proof supplement.
But there are adjustments to be made, Arum adds.
A recent fight card featuring Manny Pacquiao against Oscar De La Hoya drew 1.25 million people on pay-per-view television. Both fighters made more than $12 million each for their match last Dec. 6, at Las Vegas.
That may be the last time any pro fighter will make that kind of money again until the economy bounces back. You don’t see fighters like De La Hoya every day who are able to attract more than 1 million pay-per-views on television. It’s a very rare fighter who can accomplish that feat on his own.
“We have to look for new ways to make boxing affordable to the public,” said Richard Schaefer, CEO for Golden Boy Promotions. “We are partnering with various companies that understand they also need to adjust the way they do things.”
Until the economy rebounds, the entire industry will have to make changes such as limiting its pay-per-view fight cards, paying less money to elite prizefighters and actually doing some nose to the grindstone grassroots promoting.
“They have to do it the old fashion way,” said Bennie Georgino, who still promotes fights in the state of Washington.
The small-time boxing shows remain the same as they’ve been for the last 100 years. It’s a lost art to be able to put on a boxing card and continually fill the seats.
In the Inland area, Thompson Boxing Promotions has been selling out fight cards repeatedly at the Doubletree Hotel in Ontario and at Omega Products International in Corona.
“You can’t re-invent the wheel,” said Alex Camponovo, coordinator for Thompson Boxing Promotions. “It takes a while to establish yourself and get known in the area.”
Other club shows, such as All Star Boxing in Montebello and Roy Englebrecht Events in Irvine continually sell out their venues.
Last Saturday, a fairly new entry to boxing club shows occurred with Art of Boxing Promotions and Steve Bash Entertainment co-promoting a fight card in Inglewood. The fight card drew more than 800. The promoters hope to stage a dozen fight cards in 2009.
“We hope they succeed,” said Dean Lohuis, chief inspector for California State Athletic Commission. “It means more work for all of us.”
The loss of Telefutura as a venue to televise boxing is a severe blow. But recently Versus has picked up the gauntlet. One source says Azteca television may also begin a regular boxing show.
“Boxing has a good following,” said Ricardo Celis, one of the commentators for Telefutura that televised its last show a week ago. “Somebody will do it again.”
Quinonez remembers fighting on one of the Telefutura cards and wonders if boxing will be hurt. He’s been training for six months under Joel Diaz, who also trains WBC junior welterweight titleholder Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley, Dominic Salcido, Julio Diaz, Antonio Diaz and a few others.
Back in June, Quinonez trained with Manny Pacquiao and was invited to spar with the boxing great. Later, he was put on the under card of the Pacquiao-David Diaz fight but suffered a bad ankle injury during a knockdown against Dennis Laurente and was forced to retire in the fourth round.
“My ankle swelled up like a baseball,” said Quinonez, who has beaten foes such as Lovemore N’Dou, Jose Luis Juarez and suffered close defeats to Alex De Jesus, Stevie Forbes and Jose Luis Castillo.
On a Sunday afternoon, Quinonez is preparing his family to attend a church play. He’s also praying a promoter calls him up to offer a fight.
“I don’t have that many years left,” says Quinonez. “It’s a hard life. But being able to box gives me hope.”
1) When walking into a dressing room, under no circumstances shall a boxer choose a locker adjacent to a locker already being used, unless, of course, it’s the very last locker available.
2) After you got the better of your sparring partner, it is imperative that you even it out a bit by telling him he landed a really great shot and you were momentarily stunned.
3) No boxer shall spend more than two minutes in front of the mirror. If more time is required, a three-minute waiting-time period must be allowed before returning to the mirror.
4) When a female boxer asks you to spar, you may do so, but you must toy with her.
5) No boxer shall wear tassels on his boxing shoes, or trunks. (No Exceptions!)
6) A boxer is allowed to scratch his nuts whenever he wants. But he is not allowed to pick out a wedgie from his butt. (In private, it’s okay.)
7) A boxer can get a tattoo, but butterflies, dolphins and moonbeams are NEVER allowed.
8) When a boxer agrees to spar another boxer the next day, he must be punctual. Anything more than one-half hour late, without calling, means you are a wretch and the guilty boxer shall acknowledge being called a wretch for one week. (The compensation for running late is a six-pack of beer.)
9) No boxer shall ever watch any of the following TV programs:
a) Figure skating.
b) Men’s gymnastics.
c) Any sport involving women (unless viewed for purposes of appreciation of form and figure)
10) If you accidentally touch or brush against any part of another man below the waist, it is an understood accident, and NO apologies or any reference to the occurrence is necessary.
11) If your opponent accidentally, on purpose, hits you below the belt, it is understood that you wait until the next round and accidentally, on purpose, punch him back—only HARDER. (You must IMMEDIATELY apologize and seem contrite.)
12) If a hot girl shall happen to pass by and give you the eye while you are training, it is understood that, upon mutual agreement, it is perfectly fine to terminate training for that day.
13) No boxer shall ever allow anyone to speak ill of any Rocky movie. (Exception: Rocky 5).
14) A boxer has not made a mistake if he finds himself always getting hit in the face with the double-end bag while punching it. It is an odd invention and whoever invented it should be shot.
15) Unless you are a boxer under the age of 11, DON’T wear a bathing suit to the boxing gym.
16) On a long car ride to the fight, the strongest bladder determines pit stops, not the weakest.
17) When walking in on other boxers watching a boxing match on TV, you may ask who’s winning, but you may never ask who’s fighting.
18) A boxer, while sitting in a bar, may exaggerate the amount of fights he’s had by 50 percent without recrimination; beyond that, anyone within earshot is allowed to call out “BULL^*@*!”
19) Under no circumstances may two boxers share an umbrella.
20) When boxing, a boxer may not say “Ouch”.
With every set of laws, there are appropriate punishments. If any boxer shall happen to break any one of these laws, he will be found guilty, and will, for 24 hours from that time of the violation, be considered NOT A BOXER. During this time he will not be referred to in any masculine or athletic way, and he shall bear the name “Princess”.
LOS ANGELES, December 22 - In 2008, Mexican icon Juan Manuel Marquez solidified his place among boxing's elite and became Mexico's number one fighter by knocking out Joel Casamayor and winning a championship in a third weight class. As 2009 opens, Marquez will not be resting on his laurels, as he accepted the challenge to face former three-time lightweight champion Juan "The Baby Bull" Diaz on Saturday, February 28th in what promises to be an early Fight of The Year candidate.
"This fight between Marquez and Diaz will shake the lightweight division to its core and truly determine the best 135-pounder in the world," said Oscar de la Hoya, President of Golden Boy Promotions. "As a fan, I can't wait to see this fight."
Marquez vs. Diaz, a 12 round bout for the Ring Magazine World Lightweight Championship, is presented by Golden Boy Promotions and will be televised live on HBO's World Championship Boxing beginning at 10 pm ET / 7 pm PT.
Mexico's premier fighter and a future Hall of Famer, Juan Manuel "Dinamita" Marquez (49-4-1, 36 KO's) has signified excellence for over 15 years and in three weight classes. A world champion at featherweight and junior lightweight, the 35-year-old Mexico City native made an immediate impact at 135 pounds when he won the Ring Magazine World Lightweight Championship by becoming the first man to stop Cuban great Joel Casamayor on September 13, 2008.
"Juan Diaz is a talented young fighter with a bright future," said Marquez. "But this is still my time and I am not about to let Diaz take my belt away from me."
Just nine years old when Marquez made his pro debut, 25-year old Juan Diaz (34-1, 17 KO's) has roared through the pro ranks during his eight-year career and built a stellar reputation as one of the fight game's most exciting young stars. The Former Three-Time World Lightweight Champion defended his crown seven times, beating the likes of fellow World Champions Acelino Freitas and Julio Diaz along the way. In his last bout in September of 2008, "The Baby Bull" thrilled his hometown fans at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas with a dominant 12 round decision win over Australian warrior Michael Katsidis.
"Juan Manuel is one of the greats in the game and it's an honor to fight him, but I will be victorious on February 28th," said Diaz.
A site for Marquez vs. Diaz will be announced shortly. For more information please visit www.goldenboypromotions.com.
Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao remains at the top of the list and Israel Vasquez remains at number two after beating a fellow Pound for Pound fighter. Three new additions to the list occurred including Antonio Margarito, Chad Dawson and Paul Williams.
Ever since Pacquiao hit America I was able to successfully predict every fight he was in. The wins over Marco Antonio Barrera, the loss to Erik Morales, the two wins over Morales and the draw and win over Juan Manuel Marquez I predicted correctly. But the win over Oscar De La Hoya was a shocker to me. Pacman has proven to be able to fight almost anyone. I think I’d take him over either Klitschko brother by points. I’m not kidding.
A few other shockers occurred this year including the easy win by Fernando Montiel over Martin Castillo in the junior bantamweight division last February; Vernon Forrest’s win over Sergio Mora after losing the first fight; Vic Darchinyan’s easy handling of former Pound for Pound fighter Cristian Mijares; and Ricky Hatton breezing through Paul Malignaggi. All these fights had bearing on the Pound for Pound list.
Here’s the last list for 2008:
1.) Manny Pacquiao (48-3-2, 36 KOs) – The lightning fast Pacquiao wasn’t supposed to be able to beat Oscar De La Hoya. When it first was announced many skeptics, including myself, scoffed at the match up. It was a shocking victory for Pacquiao and puts him amongst the all-time greats in boxing history. He remains at the number one spot. Heck, even if he had lost he would have remained at the top simply for taking the risk.
2.) Israel Vazquez (43-4, 31 KOs) – The fighter known as “el Magnifico” had only one fight in 2008 but it was a doozy. Vazquez, 30, beat fellow Pound for Pound fighter Rafael Marquez last March and that is a feat in itself.
3.) Joe Calzaghe (46-0, 32 KOs) – The Welshman battered Roy Jones Jr. senseless last November. Too bad this fight didn’t happen five years ago when both were in their prime. Still, it was a great victory for Super Joe Calzaghe. He also had a close win over Bernard Hopkins in April and is contemplating retirement. What a great year he had. If not for Pacquiao, people would be talking a lot more about Calzaghe.
4.) Bernard Hopkins (49-5-1, 32 KOs) – Just when people begin doubting the Philadelphia warrior he roars back with a big win. This time it came at the expense of slugger Kelly Pavlik who was given a classic boxing lesson. Hopkins is 43 years old! What kind of man is this? Hopkins is turning 44 in January. Could Chad Dawson be in his future?
5.) Juan Manuel Marquez (49-4-1, 36 KOs) – After losing an extremely close decision to Pacquiao last March, the Mexico City fighter shocked the world with a knockout over Cuba’s Joel Casamayor who had never been stopped. At 35, Marquez still remains among the top boxers today. Funny note: when it was announced that Pacman was going to fight De La Hoya, Vernon Forrest jokingly asked for a fight with Marquez. After Pacman’s victory I think Forrest should reconsider.
6.) Winky Wright (51-4-1, 25 KOs) – The southpaw Floridian just may be the most dangerous boxer on the planet. If not, why won’t anybody fight this guy? A fight against Kelly Pavlik was nipped in the bud. Wright will fight just about anybody, even a Klitschko and I’m not joking. He came close to fighting Paul Williams but HBO decided against it. That would be an interesting match.
7.) Rafael Marquez (37-5, 33 KOs) – There’s no shame in losing a close decision to fellow Pound for Pound fighter Israel Vazquez. That’s why the younger brother of Juan Manuel Marquez remains on this list. He’s a great boxer-puncher who is finally getting recognition. Hopefully, he still has something left after three brutal affairs with Vazquez.
8.) Antonio Margarito (37-5, 27 KOs) – Poised to face Sugar Shane Mosley on Jan. 24 in Los Angeles, the Tijuana-based prizefighter slugged his way onto this list with a decisive victory over Puerto Rico’s Miguel Cotto last summer. Now Margarito is the toast of Mexico. Should he beat Mosley, a rematch with Paul Williams seems a natural match up. Or maybe a fight with Pacman?
9.) Kelly Pavlik (34-1, 30 KOs) – Despite losing his last fight to boxing wizard Hopkins, Pavlik remains one of the top prizefighters in the world. He’s a ferocious slugger who refuses to quit. It’s a dangerous combination for any opponent to face. Next is Marco Antonio Rubio in February.
10.) Paul Williams (36-1, 27 KOs) – It’s been an eye-opening year for Williams who seems to be able to fight anywhere from welterweight to super middleweight. Three successive knockout victories have contenders trembling at the mention of his name. He’s hitting his stride now. Hopefully the tall welterweight gets a rematch with Antonio Margarito. It’s a natural.
11.) Chad Dawson (27-0, 17 KOs) – His dominating victory over Antonio Tarver turned heads in the boxing world. It wasn’t supposed to be that easy. Now the two are tentatively scheduled to meet again in March. With his long arms and great hand-speed Dawson could move up quickly on this list in 2009. He’s the youngest fighter on this list at 26. He’s three months younger than Pavlik.
12.) Ricky Hatton (45-1, 32 KOs) – The British mugger looked bad against Juan Lazcano back in June, but looked great against good boxer Paulie Malignaggi. Which is the real Hatton? If he keeps Floyd Mayweather as his trainer he could pose a threat to Pacquiao if they fight on May 2, 2009 in Las Vegas. But he’s in for an uphill battle against the speedy Pacquiao.
Honorable mention: Nonito Donaire, Nate Campbell, Vic Darchinyan, Juan Diaz, Robert Guerrero and Miguel Cotto.