year has come and gone in the world of boxing and it's time to look back at the
best, worst and most sublime that have taken place in this business. As usual,
a lot took place in -and out of- the ring. Like I've said before, there's
nothing quite like this sport. I'm glad I got a press row seat to the circus...
OF THE YEAR
1- Andre Ward: What was a long journey in the “Super Six” finally came to an end as Ward
conclusively outpointed Carl Froch to capture Showtime's super middleweight
tourney, establishing himself as the best 168-pounder on the planet. He's not
particularly exciting but he is incredibly effective.
2- Brian Viloria: Some believed that there was no more juice with “The Hawaiian Punch” but this
past year saw him capture his third major world title as he outpointed Julio
Cesar Miranda. He then blasted out Giovani Segura with an exhibition of power
punching and boxing. But can Viloria hold onto this title for longer than he
has in the past?
3- Lamont Peterson: He
and Barry Hunter rolled the dice by eschewing an opportunity to face Amir Khan
last year in the UK by then taking Victor Cayo for pennies on the dollar in an
IBF eliminator. He stopped Cayo late and then upset the applecart by defeating
Khan in a spirited tussled late in the year.
4- Hernan Marquez: “Tyson” went three-for-three but it will be his bookend victories over Luis
Concepcion in which he will be remembered. Their first encounter (where Marquez
stopped the Panamanian in 11 heats) is one of the great slugfests of recent
ilk. In the rematch, Concepcion didn't get out of the first.
5- Brandon Rios: “Bam Bam” had a breakout year by winning the WBA lightweight title in thrilling
fashion against Miguel Acosta and then hammering Urbano Antillon in a short but
exciting affair. He finished off 2011 by banging out John Murray while weight
drained. Rios has set the stage to becoming one of the marquee fighters in
OF THE YEAR
1- James Kirkland-Alfredo Angulo, round
one: The round begins with Kirkland having flashbacks of his KO loss in April to
Nobu Ishida and it looked like he would get blown out by “Perro.” Perhaps the
desperation of the moment carried him as he weathered the early storm of
Angulo, who seemed to exert an inordinate amount of energy in what was a failed
attempt at a quick finish. Eventually, Angulo was drilled to the floor late. A
whole fight’s worth of action was waged in these three minutes.
2- Akira Yaegashi-Pornsawan Porpramook,
round nine: I'll just put it like this; remember the
ninth stanza of the first encounter between Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward? This
was a lot like it.
3- Victor Ortiz-Andre Berto, round six: After early success, Ortiz was knocked down by Berto early in this stanza.
Would he fold his tent the way he did versus Marcos Maidana? No. Instead, he
scored his own knockdown of Berto and permanently changed the tide of the fight
in his direction. Emanuel Steward's reaction to Berto getting sent to the
canvas: “OH, MY GAAAWWD!”
4- Marquez-Concepcion I, round three: Let's be clear; any of the first three frames of this fight could've been up
for consideration here. The first round saw them both hit the deck (setting the
tone for this battle). The third saw Concepcion get floored, then gamely fight
his way back against Marquez and hurt him.
5- Delvin Rodriguez-Pawel Wolak, round 10: A
perfect way to end what was a pitched battle on ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights.”
The fight finished as it began with both men letting it fly.
6- Makoto Fuchigami-Koji Sato, round
eight: Simply put, this was a bar fight between two guys who
may have lacked technique but certainly not courage. This is the type of action
you see in really bad boxing movies. Japanese middleweights have a way of
putting on good scraps despite their limited tools.
7- Rios-Acosta, round nine: After controlling the early action, Acosta now has to stave off Rios, who has
built momentum. As he's on the ropes, Acosta faces Rios’ heavy hands but still
throws his own leather as the crowd at the Palms comes to its feet. It would be
Acosta's last stand.
8 - Liam Walsh-Paul Appleby, round 10: First, Walsh gets stunned and then turns the tables later in the inning and
sets up a dramatic TKO.
9- Orlando Salido-Juan Manuel Lopez,
round six: “JuanMa” is sent crashing to the canvas the previous
round but he does his best to hold off the hard-charging Salido in the
following round. Great back-and-forth action, Salido looks like a man on a
mission while Lopez was a man desperately trying to hold on to his title in
front of his Puerto Rican partisans.
10- Luis Franco-Leonilo Miranda, round
five: Hard-hitting Mexican southpaw keeps banging away on the
skilled Cuban with a two-fisted body attack as Franco fires back his own volley
of shots. The competitive nature of this round mirrored this fight, which was
ten-round split verdict for Franco.
NEWTON AWARD (for “Prospect of the Year”)
1- Gary Russell Jr: We've seen that he has all the physical tools but does this quicksilver
southpaw have the intangibles for greatness? That's what we hope to find out in
2012 for the best natural talent out of D.C. since Hall-of-Famer Mark
2- Kell Brook: “Special K” is right on the brink of making his mark at the world-class
3- Leo Santa Cruz: This young bantamweight is a workhorse and a crowd-pleasing grinder. Just kept
getting better each subsequent fight this past year.
4- Diego Magdaleno: Yeah, I know some will consider him a young contender. Regardless, this southpaw
has made major strides in the last year or so. He seems poised for a title shot
in the upcoming year and with the dearth of blue-chippers right now at 130,
it's not out of the question that Magdaleno picks up a belt.
5- Tomoki Kameda: Now
22-0 with 14 stoppages as a 122-pounder, he's the next Kameda that will make
waves in Japan.
6- Thomas Dulorme: Is
this rawboned, hard-hitting welterweight the next great fighter from the island
of Puerto Rico? He certainly looks the part.
7- Javier Fortuna: This featherweight from the Dominican Republic brings an exciting and flashy
style, recently stepping up and defeating Miguel Roman.
8- Mikael Zewski: Lots of tools here and he could be the next great gate attraction in the Quebec
region. Zewski has a lot of speed and is beginning to refine his professional
style. Was kept active recently and that will continue going into the New Year.
9- Antonio Orozco: Now
based in San Diego, Orozco, like Rios and Ortiz before him, hails from Garden
City, Kansas. He has a fan-friendly style and really works the body well on the
inside for a young fighter. Now 12-0 (with eight stoppages), Orozco’s
competition will be stepped up in 2012.
10- Michael Perez: This fledgling lightweight scored four KOs in his four outings the past year.
He looks like a fighter who will be involved in some fun fights down the line.
“The Artist” faces Omar Figueroa on the January 6th edition of
“ShoBox” in a match-up of two undefeated lightweights.
MENTION: Randy Caballero, Dannie Williams, Luis Ramos, Demetrius Andrade, Sadam
Ali, Darley Perez, Yaundale Evans, Jayson Velez, Pierre Cote
CHAPPIE BLACKBURN AWARD (for “Trainer of the Year”)
Tie: Ann Wolfe/Virgil Hunter: Hey, who says I can't have two winners? Both trainers may be known for having
only one signature boxer but they have to be given credit for playing such an
integral part in their careers from the very inception. Hunter has molded Ward
into one of the most unsolvable riddles in all of boxing. As for Wolfe, well,
it's this simple: you think he beats Angulo the way he did without her
preparing him the way she does or guiding him in the corner?
two don't have the most fighters in their stables but it's hard to argue that
they don't have the greatest impact on their prized pupils.
3. Robert Garcia: Got
off to a strong start in 2011 and his fighters scored some strong victories
throughout the year. What's troublesome is Rios’ inability to consistently make
weight- which, in many respects, falls on the trainer. But with Garcia’s strong
stable, you could see him picking up this award in the upcoming years.
RICKARD AWARD (for “Promoter of the Year”)
1- Top Rank: In
an era full of TV packagers that do nothing more than live off television
licensing fees and casino subsidies, this company better than anyone else knows
how to create attractions and stage big events. Their last two big cards (Manny
Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez III and Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito II) were
complete sell-outs and did strong pay-per-view numbers. Top Rank remains on the
cutting edge as it relates to the new technology and social media.
2- Golden Boy Promotions: GBP
had another productive year, staging some of the year’s best fights of under
its banner (Marcos Maidana-Erik Morales and Lamont Peterson-Amir Khan), continued
the development of Saul Alvarez and bolstered its relationship with Floyd
3- Frank Warren/Eddie Hearn (Tie): These two British rivals will ensure this market will be strong for years to
come. On a routine basis, they stage cards that are full of energy, atmosphere
and, most importantly, fans.
IOWA STATE-OKLAHOMA STATE AWARD (for biggest upset)
1- Nobu Ishida TKO 1 James Kirkland: Ishida was thought to have absolutely no hope versus “Mandingo” but he put him
down three times in the first round in stunning fashion, handing Kirkland his
first pro loss.
2- Salido TKO 8 Lopez: “JuanMa” paid the price for being a tad unfocused against this hardnosed
Mexican who kept banging away at him with solid right hands.
3- Marco Antonio Rubio TKO 7 David
Lemieux: Before this fight, Lemieux was on his way to stardom, it
seemed. Nobody told Rubio to follow the script.
4- Grady Brewer TKO 4 Fernando Guerrero: Brewer adds another scalp to his collection of upset specials.
KEITH HUGHES AWARD (for guttiest referee)
Joe Cooper: Yeah, Golden Boy and Khan can complain all they want about “home cooking” but
the bottom line is that, unlike most third men, Cooper actually had the courage
to follow the rulebook and dock Khan for tactics clearly deemed illegal. Folks,
this is boxing, not the MMA. Do you want good fights or just mauling? More
referees like Cooper will facilitate better action. Now, will other referees
follow suit or will they take the easy way out like they have for years, ignoring
repeated fouls and pandering to the house fighters?
MARIANO RIVERA AWARD (for coming out of the bullpen)
William Joppy: After Jurgen Brahmer skipped out on his light heavyweight unification tilt
against Beibut Shumenov, Joppy (who was scheduled to be on that undercard in
Kazakhstan) was called into duty late and given WBA approval. Hey, the show
must go on, right? Joppy was stopped in six.
AT&T-VERIZON AWARD (for most heated rivalry)
Top Rank-Golden Boy: So
please tell me that a fight between Yuriorkis Gamboa and Daniel Ponce de Leon
won’t be the last time these two promotional giants work together for the
foreseeable future. There are simply too many good fights (for instance, a
Rios-Maidana clash) that can be made but not even discussed because of this
ongoing “Cold War.”
call Henry Kissinger!
TITANIC AWARD (for biggest disaster)
The Silverdome: Or
as Bob Arum described it, the “decrepit barn.” Seriously, you had to be there
to really appreciate just how broken down the old home of Billy Sims and Eric
Hipple had become. As my friend, Matt Swider, said to me as the media shuttle
approached this building, “Geez, they didn't even put lipstick on the pig.”
This whole event and its staging really highlighted the need for real promoters
and it was another nail in the coffin of the failed regime of Ross Greenburg at
I actually covered a fight at the Silverdome in 2011? What in the name of Bennie
Blades was going on here?!
KEITH OLBERMANN LEAVING CNBC AWARD (for biggest departure)
Manny Pacquiao leaves HBO for Showtime: In
the beginning part of 2011, this was THE big story in boxing, signaling a shift
in the business.
KYRIE IRVING (for being one-and-done)
Pacquiao and Top Rank go back to HBO: Well, that didn't last long- but Arum got the desired effect from Time Warner
RICK PERRY AWARD (for putting foot in mouth)
Gary Shaw: In
reference to the lagging attendance figures for the Timothy Bradley-Devon
Alexander bout (and he was being serious), Shaw said, "I don't care if 500 people
buy tickets for this fight." Funny thing is, some media members actually bought
into this, delivering a self-fulfilling prophecy as the only way they could've
attracted a crowd to this building was to give away the new Jordans.
JAKE LAMOTTA AWARD (for toughness in a losing effort)
Manuel Vargas: Not
many guys can go the distance with Roman Gonzalez but that's what he did,
taking the best that “Chocolatito” had to offer for all 12 rounds and never
JOE NAMATH AS A RAM AWARD (for it being over)
James Toney, Roy Jones Jr., Shane Mosley
(Tie): Guys, you were great and will be in Canastota one day
for your efforts- but the time has come to call it a day.
LEON SPINKS AWARD (for winning a world title early on)
Kazuto Ioka: Defeated
Oleydong Sithsamerchai in his seventh fight to capture the WBC minimumweight
BARNUM AWARD (for a sucker being born every minute)
Anyone who bought the Pacquiao-Mosley
pay-per-view: Well over a million bought this waltz. But
based on Mosley's “fight” versus Sergio Mora, what did they expect? They should've
FED EX AWARD (for worst delivery)
ROBERTO ALOMAR AWARD (for spitting)
Matt Godfrey spitting at Lateef Kayode: During their fight, it was about the only thing Godfrey landed all night.
EUGENIA WILLIAMS AWARD (for worst scorecards)
Al Bennett and Hilton Whitaker give Paul
Williams round 11 in his fight with Erislandy Lara (Whitaker scored the 12th even): It was just part of perhaps the most bizarre scoring we
saw in the States this past year where Lara was on the short end of a dubious
JIM TRESSEL AWARD (for resigning under pressure)
Ross Greenburg: His
tenth year as the president of HBO Sports comes to end, mercifully for the
sport of boxing and its subscribers.
RODDY PIPER AWARD (for best heel)
Antonio Margarito: Margarito
played up his part as the bad guy in the lead-up to his rematch with Miguel Cotto.
The haircut and the sunglasses were a great touch.
LEAF AWARD (for being a bust)
DEATH ROW-BAD BOY AWARD (for most heated rivalry)
Vernon Paris and Tim Coleman: You
know two guys don't like each other when they get into it at the hotel lobby
like Paris and Coleman did prior to their fight.
TUPAC AWARD (for making a dollar out of 15 cents)
Doug Loughrey of ESPN: Loughrey
consistently made entertaining fights like Rodriguez-Wolak while operating on a
shoestring budget, compared to the likes of HBO and Showtime. He is moving on
to other things at “The Worldwide Leader” in March and will be missed.
BRUCE SELDON AWARD (for most dubious knockout)
Juan Manuel Marquez-Likar Ramos: OK,
has anyone seen the punch that Marquez landed against Ramos in the summer? I
CARMAGEDDON AWARD (for overhyped event)
Tim Bradley-Devon Alexander: The
bout between Bradley and Alexander had some scribes comparing it to Sugar Ray Leonard-Thomas
Hearns (I know, I know). Some breathlessly wrote just how “important” this
fight was and how it was supposed to create a new American star. Well, the
fight was a commercial and critical bomb in every way, taking up a large
portion of HBO's 2011 budget to boot.
ADDITION BY SUBTRACTION AWARD (for not being missed)
Rico Ramos-Guillermo Rigondeaux: As
the bout between Ramos and Rigondeaux was pulled from the Cotto-Margarito II
pay-per-view show on December 3rd at the Garden for various reasons,
it led the way for the rematch between Rodriguez and Wolak. No one complained
ANTI-MONTY HALL AWARD (for not making a deal)
Dan Goossen: After
making such a fuss about what the aforementioned fight was worth to his client,
Goossen didn't even bother to make a bid for the purse held by the WBA.
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS AWARD (for coming from behind)
Antonio DeMarco: DeMarco
was far behind on the scorecards against Jorge Linares but the game southpaw
from Tijuana rallied back furiously in the 11th to stop Linares and
win the vacant WBC title (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwmIdg_sp4k).
SENIOR CIRCUIT AWARD (for beating up old guys)
Denis Lebedev: After
defeating the likes of Roy Jones and James Toney, the word is that Denis
Lebedev will face Matthew Saad Muhammad, Eddie Mustafa Muhammad and S.T. Gordon
MITT ROMNEY-RICK PERRY AWARD (for biggest debate)
Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez III: To
some, the third chapter of Pacquiao-Marquez III was either a blatant robbery of
Marquez or a close Pacquiao victory, where Marquez simply didn't press the
action enough to defeat the Filipino icon.
CINDERELLA MAN AWARD (for best story)
Lamont Peterson: Peterson
went from homelessness, tough losses on the big stage and getting dropped by
two promotional companies to beating Khan as a 10-1 'dog. It's stuff like this
that keeps us coming back for more.
DODGER ATTENDANCE AWARD (for declining turnout)
Six” semifinals and finals: The “Super
Six” started out with plenty of buzz back in 2009 and did well at the gate in
Europe but the semifinals and finals in 2011, well…let's just say plenty of
seats were available for all three fights (Carl Froch-Glen Johnson, Andre Ward-Arthur
Abraham and Ward-Froch). I'm guessing they weren't that “important”?
THE PLAYBOY CLUB AWARD (for low ratings)
Six” finals: Less
than 500,000 live viewers tuned into the “Super Six” finals on December 17th between Ward and Froch.
THE BENNY HINN AWARD (for miraculous
Dirrell: Last year, Andre Dirrell
had “lingering neurological issues,” forcing him to cancel his bout with Ward
and subsequent pullout from the “Super Six.” Well, this “Dr. Shaw High” must've
done some Benny Hinn-style stuff (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5lvU-DislkI )
because now, Dirrell's fully recovered and back on Showtime to end the year-
just as the “Super Six” came to its conclusion.
THE MITT ROMNEY AWARD (for flip-flopping)
WBC: Last week, the WBC said its
WBC middleweight beltholder Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. had to absolutely face
Sergio Martinez in his next bout. Well, already the organization is waffling on
that decree by saying that perhaps it could meet after each man’s respective
bouts on February 4th and March 17th. Regardless, Chavez
is facing Marco Antonio Rubio, his mandatory challenger.
THE GUNG HO AWARD (for falling apart)
Cook: Anyone remember that line
from Michael Keaton’s character, Hunt Stevenson in “Gung Ho” (a personal
favorite of mine), as one of the last cars rushed through the assembly line fell
apart after he drove for about two seconds? “Hey, outside of that, I thought it
Well, that was Nicky Cook as his back gave
out in the first minute of his challenge for the WBO 130-pound title versus