2007: A Look Back and a Look Ahead
By Geno Vicario (Jan 4, 2008) Doghouse Boxing  
It was a year of surprises, a year of star match-ups, a year we needed.  And, yet, with the state of boxing the past decade, let's hope it was just a good beginning... a Renaissance, if you will... an amazing undercard to the main events to come.
We had some great cards come out of ESPN's Wednesday and Friday Night Fights this year, and a slew of others on HBO and Showtime.  The newborn Versus network attempted to dip their big toe into the whirlpool of this ever-dizzying sport, only to pull it out, dip it back in, and then jump into the year's trendier body of water... the
MMA.  And while one big toe still lingers atop boxing for Versus, I think they could have submerged themselves a little deeper then they did.  And while the champagne pops in the Mixed Martial Arts hot tub, much like the boy band craze of the late '90's, it will simmer down, and music with heart, aka, boxing will once again prevail.  Though there's a lot more work to get it where it needs to be, let's focus on how good this year proved to be, and pop OUR champagne to the new year ahead.
We saw promoters finally come to their senses, albeit just a little, and start to give us the match-ups we, as fans, deserve.  Star fights like Miguel Cotto and Zab Judah, Wright vs. Hopkins, and of course, "the fight to save boxing", Mayweather/De la Hoya, which in one night alone grossed almost as much money as every UFC event this year.  We saw Miguel Cotto continue his welterweight domination later in the year again, this time against Shane Mosley, as well as the power of continuing rising star Kelly Pavlik and his amazing knockout of the undefeated Jermain Taylor.  Most recently, the much anticipated super-middleweight Calzaghe/Kessler bout, in which the Pride of Wales proved why he's been undefeated for over a decade.   HBO's masterpiece of a show "24/7" gave both Mayweather fights the hype they needed this year, exciting fans weeks in advance of the actual bout and establishing the Pretty Boy as a star this sport
needs, like him or not.  Mayweather's impressive performance over undefeated Ricky Hatton was a great fight to end the year, but perhaps the best fight of the year, or in recent years, came to us courtesy of the good folks at The Contender.  The season three finale showed what the Sweet Science is all about... Two men giving every single drop of everything they have inside them to prove who wants it more.  Sakio Bika and Jaidon Codrington left it all in the ring in November and brought the entire Boston crowd at the TD Bank North Garden to their feet, as well as many of the millions watching at home, I'm sure.  And while we're on the subject, the reality show that some dismissed as Hollywood is, in my opinion, largely responsible for this new revival in pugilism.  Jeff Wald, Sugar Ray Leonard, Mark Burnett and the whole team should be commended on their vision.  Give props where props are due... Larry Merchant.  We saw the bronze winner from season one, Alfonso Gomez, retire the legend Arturo Gatti in what seems to be a very strategic and well handled career for Gomez.  Peter Manfredo was the first of the series to fight for a world championship against Joe Calzaghe, before losing to a premature stoppage after a barrage of Calzaghe's "amateur, pitty-pat punches"  in the 3rd round. 
So, what will 2008 bring?  Will Mayweather cross over to "the darkside" and take a bout in the MMA?  Lord, I hope not.  What message does that send, if boxing's biggest name right now feels the need to get in their hot tub?  And how is he going to handle a flying knee to the chest, a grappling session on the ground, and an attempt to choke him out?  I don't think his block/counter-punch style is going to save him when a muay thai master and jiu jitsu champion is on top of him elbowing him in the face.  Wouldn't that be a lovely first loss for him to have? 39-1, thanks to the mighty, mighty MMA.  At least make it 39-1 after fighting Miguel Cotto. Speaking of welterweights, what will 147-pound slugger Andre Berto do for us in 2008?  Will he rise up like the Mike Tyson of the late '80's, knocking everyone out in his path, on his journey to facing Miguel Cotto?  He's definitely one to watch for.  Will ‘Baby’ Joe Mesi once again be allowed to fight in New York state, and even if he doesn't, let's see how he shakes up the lackluster heavyweight division.  And how about Pavlik/Taylor II? That promises to be a showdown 24/7 worthy. 
While I'm thinking about 24/7... I really hope HBO decides to cover other fighters for that show to build up the hype of some of these fights.  People need to see them train, need to see their personalities, families, hatred and respect for their opponent.  People don't realize how key that is in this day and age, especially, where reality TV dominates and no one outside our little loop would have a clue who 98% of the names I've mentioned in this article are.  That's what 2008 needs.  A new star to revive the ex-boxing fan.  Not the current fan... the EX-fans, and the would-be fans. And believe you me, there are enough ex-boxing fans out there to get Dennis Kucinich into the White House if they all voted in his favor.  I run into them everyday of my life.  If they each donated $1 dollar a day, they could stop world hunger.  Let it be a heavyweight or a welterweight, let it be someone from The Contender, an everyman, or someone with an amazing left hook and spiky blue hair.  Let's send one of our best to fight Machmed ‘The Terrorist’ Hakflem from Afghanistan, a la Rocky vs. Drago... maybe that cultural sign of the times could do something.  But for the love of God, do something!  If I hear one more person say the sport "is dead", "I used to be fan", or "the UFC is where it's at", I swear I'm gonna snap.  But that's not their fault; it's boxing and its un-organization, corruption, greed and all around dumbass-ness.  But once again, that's for another conversation.  I'm still getting ready to sing "Auld Lang Syne" and say "job well done" this year, so forgive the rant. It HAS been a great year.  I just wish more realized it.  I can't wait to see what's in store in 2008.  Raise your glasses,  I'm still popping that champagne.  Keep your heads up, be safe, and fight on.

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