by Paul Magno
2008 was a solid year for the sport, sprinkled with a handful of surprising upsets and exciting battles. We saw some of the biggest names in the sport have their flames extinguished and we saw the lighting and passing of the torch to a number of younger names.
In retrospect, 2008 will go down as a year of transition; A year in which we saw David Haye emerge as a factor in a stagnant Heavyweight division, Antonio Margarito battle his way to the top of a stacked Welterweight division; We saw young talents like Juan Manuel Lopez, Paul Williams and Chad Dawson become world-class players and an old war horse like Bernard Hopkins fight the odds to stay a Pound for Pound legend. Established stars like Manny Pacquiao, Joe Calzaghe and Juan Manuel Marquez moved up in weight and made a mark in their new divisions and Vitali Klitschko came back strong after a 4 year retirement to embarrass the reigning WBC World Champ. 2008 will be a year to remember if ony for the fact that it sets the table nicely for a very combustible 2009!
Without further ado, here are the Best of the Best in 2008:
Fighter of the Year: Manny Pacquiao
Even before his shockingly dominant win over Oscar De la Hoya, Manny was a solid candidate for this award with a disputed win over Juan Manuel Marquez and a brutal beat down of Lightweight title holder, David Diaz. The win against Oscar made him a clear and obvious choice and with an impressive list of potential opponents in ’09, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him back in this category again next year.
Runners Up: Antonio Margarito, Paul Williams
Fight of the Year: Israel Vazquez vs. Rafael Marquez 3
With 13 rounds and 2 fights between them, there was no loss in passion when these two warriors met for the tie-breaker in their series. The fight itself was classic, Rocky-style action with both fighters changing advantages over the course of the 12 round bout. Both warriors fought deserately to prove their superiority and, quite probably, left a bit of themselves in the ring that night. Whatever they made for that war, they should’ve been paid double.
Runners Up: Antonio Margarito vs. Miguel Cotto, Joel Casamayor vs. Michael Katsidis, Rogers Mtagwa vs. Tomas Villa
Event of the Year: The Dream Match
No other event captured as much attention as this showdown between the sport’s biggest draw in De la Hoya and the sport’s Pound for Pound best in Pacquiao. The mainstream press covered the bout and even the hardcore Boxing press reported on every detail leading up to the fight, often reporting with the fervor of gossip columnists instead of sports journalists. The 1.25 million buys close to Christmas and in a struggling economy proved just how much this event captured the public’s imagination.
Runner Up: The Margarito/Cotto PPV
Knockout of the Year: Edison Miranda KO 3 David Banks
With potential opponent, Jean Pascal in the crowd, Miranda cracked Banks with an overhand right that left Banks dangling on the second rope, halfway in the ring and halfway out. The actual sound of the punch was like a rifle or a small grenade going off…and it effectively stalled talks with Pascal for a future fight.
Runners Up: Paul Williams KO 1 Andy Kolle, Breidis Prescott KO 1 Amir Khan
Round of the Year: Kandall Holt vs. Ricardo Torres (Round 1)
3 total knockdowns, a controversial headbutt and a brutal KO…all in a little over than a minute! ‘Nuff said.
Runners Up: Israel Vazquez vs. Rafael Marquez 3 (Rd. 12), Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. vs. Matt Vanda 1 ( Rd. 10)
The Pernell Whitaker Virtuoso Award: Bernard Hopkins
An absolutely masterful performance by a fighter who was supposed to finally get retired by a younger, hungrier Kelly Pavlik. Hopkins proved his critics wrong and the 43 year old virtuoso went on to win almost every minute of every round, even offering helpful advice to Pavlik after the thrashing. School was in session and B-Hop is still Boxing’s head professor.
Runners Up: Nate Campbell (vs Juan Diaz), Juan Manuel Marquez (vs. Joel Casamayor), Carlos Quintana (vs. Paul Williams 1)
The Oliver McCall Puzzling Non-Performance in a Prime Time Drama Award: Samuel Peter
“The Nigerian Nightmare” slept his way through 8 listless rounds before passivley quiting on his stool. This, after being mocked and belittled during the entire publicity push for his fight with Vitali Klitschko. Did I mention that Peter was the defending world champ in this one?
Runners Up: Cory Spinks (vs. Verno Phillips), Cristian Mijares (vs. Vic Darchinyan, Nikolay Valuev (vs. Evander Holyfield)
Breakthrough Fighter of the Year: Juan Manuel Lopez
In 2008, Juanma beat a fellow prosect (Jonathan Oquendo), a reigning world champ (Daniel Ponce de Leon) and two tough fringe contenders in high-profile bouts (Cesar Figueroa, Sergio Medina)…and he did all this while fighting a total of 6 rounds. Lopez has blasted his way into the hearts of Puerto Rican fans and has made his presence known to all Boxing fans, everywhere.
Runners Up: Alfredo Angulo, Carl Froch
Upset of the Year: Manny Pacquiao RTD 8 Oscar De la Hoya
Few gave the much smaller Pacquiao a chance against the naturally larger De la Hoya. Those who tuned in, saw a masterful performance by Manny against an Oscar who may or may not have been weight-drained. Whatever the case, the end result was shocking and the biggest upset of the year.
Runners Up: Vic Darchinyan KO 9 Cristian Mijares, Breidis Prescott KO 1 Amir Khan
Robbery of the Year: Nikolay Valuev MD Evander Holyfield
This could go both ways, a robbery on two fronts. The judges’ decision was horrible and they literally stole the fight from Holyfield and The fight itself was so dreadful and dreary that the PPV asking price of 25 bucks and the price of the arena seat could be considered theft in and of itself…
Runner Up: The Dream Match PPV, Boxing Fans Losing ESPN Wednesday Night Fights and Solo Boxeo
The George A. Romero Gore Award: Jorge Barrios
Barrios’ lips was literally shredded by Rocky Juarez in their bout. The end result looked like something from the Director’s Cut of Night of the Living Dead. Truly Gruesome.
Runner Up: Miguel Cotto’s Battered Face After the Margarito Fight.
Much Ado About Nothing: Andy Lee
After much hype, Emanuel Steward’s kid was outfought by journeyman Brian Vera on national TV. Not good.
Runners Up: John Duddy, Yan Barthelemy, Rey Bautista
Moment of the Year: A Victorious Hopkins Staring Down the Press
2008’s moment of the year came when Hopkins went over to the side of the ring after his win against Pavlik and stared down his critics and doubters. Poignant, defiant, angered…whatever you want to call it, it was B-Hop taking something back from his critics and summing up an entire career with one emotional glare.
Runners Up: Oscar De la Hoya Slumped in his Corner, Miguel Cotto Taking a Knee vs. Margarito
The Instant Karma Award: Oscar De la Hoya
In what was a cynical attempt at closing out his career with an “easy” win against a respected and combustible, but smaller Pacquiao, Oscar was surprised and soon found himself over his head. He was battered and embarrassed by his hand-picked foe and forced to humbly retire.
Runners Up: Cristian Mijares Taking Vic Darchinyan as a Joke, The Calzaghe/Jones PPV Buy Rate.
The Piss or Get Off The Pot Award: The Heavyweight Division
Quite literally, the once-proud Heavyweight Division now consists of a bunch of big guys just waiting around for their money fights to materialize. The contenders aren’t fighting each other and the champions are hand-picking their foes..or simply not fighting at all.
Runners Up: Ronald Hearns, Allan Green
Trainer of The Year: Freddie Roach
For his work with Pacquiao as well as a handful of other solid fighters, Freddie deserves this honor. Kudos to a class guy who understands that its his job to enhance a fighter’s natural abilities and not implant his own ideas and aesthetic into their head.
Runner Up: Floyd Mayweather Sr.
The George W. Bush “What Were They Thinking” Award: Paulie Malignaggi and his Dreadlocks
Ugly, stupid and In the Way…Otherwise, a brilliant hairstyle idea for Malignaggi’s UK debut in the build up to his fight with Ricky Hatton.
Runners Up: Kelly Pavlik deciding to Fight Bernard Hopkins, Steve Molitor Signing to Fight Celestino Caballero
King Trash Talk: Vic Darchinyan
“I can’t get enough of Mexican fighters. They bounce real good off the canvas when I hit them…Defeating Arce won’t take much training. It won’t even be a fight for me –more like pest control. I’m going to swat that Spanish Fly. How do you take a guy like Arce seriously? He sucks on lollipops and wears a cowboy hat from a toy store. I can picture him running around his house on a broom pretending he’s riding a horse. He’s a regular Schlepalong Cassidy. Arce is going to be my human piñata. Our fight will be like a Chihuahua against a bull…a raging bull!”
Runner Up: Nate Campbell
The Dr. Evil Laughable Villain Award: Referee Marlon B. Wright
Not only was the Canadian Wright trying his best to handcuff Librado Andrade all night in his bout with Canada’s own Lucian Bute, he tried to seal the deal with an inept attempt to save the out-on-his feet Bute’s behind by spending nearly 30 seconds chasing Andrade back to his corner following a knockdown. The pisser? It was unnecessary since Bute was already up and saved by the bell in the last and final round. Wright just looked like an idiot, too slow to even cheat properly.
Runner Up: The WBO for instantly rating Marco Antonio Barrera #1 contender when he signed with Don King.
Mismatch of the Year: Miguel Cotto vs. Alfonso Gomez
This was a mismatch from the time it was signed and it culminated with a dominant performance from Cotto which saw him sigh, roll his eyes and practically yawn his way through 5 one-sided rounds. If he had been wearing a watch, he would’ve been checking the time while beating on the hapless Gomez. Proving that the fans aren’t stupid, this HBO show became the lowest rated Boxing event in the network’s history.
Runner Up: Juan Manuel Lopez vs. Cesar Fuguroa
The Judge Judy Inept Judge Award: Doug Tucker (120-108 Jose Navarro over Cristian Mijares)
In a bout that the other two judges (and the rest of the world) saw Mijares winning solidly, Tucker found a way to give every round to Jose Navarro. Maybe he was facing the wrong direction?
Runner Up: All 3 Judges in the Holyfield/Valuev Fight
The “Hey, That Guy Drives My Bus!” Award: Chad Van Sickle (vs. Odlanier Solis)
Boxing’s own Ralph Kramden briefly saw the spotlight before being beaten to a pulp by Solis.
The Big Bully Award: Pongsaklek Wonjongkam
This former WBC Flyweight Champ decided to take the path of least resistance after losing his title and then drawing with the new champ in a rematch. This 70 fight veteran fought 0-2 Akbar Mohammadpour in his next fight. He then fought back to back bouts against Danny Sutton and Amir Jordan, two fighters making their ring debut against the former world champ. Needless to say, Wonjongkam is 3-0 in his comeback campaign.
Will Shine in ’09: Chad Dawson, Timothy Bradley, Juan Manuel Lopez, Yuriorkis Gamboa, Jorge Linares, Alfredo Angulo, James Kirkland, Mike Alvarado, Victor Ortiz, Urbano Antillon, Abner Mares, Odlanier Solis, Cris Arreola
Stick a Fork in ’em, They’re Done: Roy Jones, Oscar De la Hoya, Felix Trinidad, Chris Byrd, Evander Holyfield, Marco Antonio Barrera, Yori Boy Campas, Kevin Kelley, Stevie Jonhston
Future Champ, 2031: Julian “Lights Out” Escobedo:
Ok, indulge me…This is my nephew, Julian, in his Halloween costume…But he does indeed throw a wicked left hook and he’s been known to do his share of biting in clinches.All he needs is to perfect his Uncle Paul’s Shoulder Roll and he’ll be defeating all comers…Watch out world… The New “Lights Out” is on his way!!!
To all the Friends and Fans of The Blue Corner (The BTBC): 2008 has been a blast and we can’t wait to see what happens in ’09…Take Care and have a Happy New Year!
For Video of some of our Award Winners, check out our YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/BTBlueCorner
To Debate or Discuss anything written here, feel free to drop by Boxing’s Pound 4 Pound Best Boxing Forum, The BTBC: http://www.btbc.proboards.com/index.cgi