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The So-Fars: 2004’s Mid Year Awards
By Brent Hedtke (May 28, 2004) 
Photo © German Villasenor
I know, I know, 2004 is not even half way done. But with so much action already in the books and even more surely on it’s way, it’s time to give the fighters their mid year assessment. This has absolutely no bearing on where these names will end up come December because as we all know, in boxing things can change faster than you can say “pound for pound.” This is simply to give just due to the fighters who have made the last five months some of the most exciting we’ve seen in years. It’s also a sure fire way to spark heated, profanity filled debates from the safety of our computer screens. So sit back, flip through your lexicon of four letter words and get ready to send them my way because these are my picks for the best of 2004, so far.

Fighter of the Year

Antonio Tarver- Love him or hate him, The Magic Man did what 49 other fighters were not able to and you could make a case arguing that he did it twice. With his TKO of Roy Jones, JR., Tarver gave the former pound for pound king the first legitimate loss of his career. Beating Jones, a feat that most felt was impossible, puts Tarver ahead of the pack for Fighter of the Year honors.

Winky Wright- With his new title of Undisputed Champion, Winky proved to us all what he’s been saying for years; he is the best junior middleweight in the world. With his decisive 12 round victory over Sugar Shane Mosley, Wright puts himself in a position to finally get all the fights he was never able to secure, but always clamored for. To most, Winky Wright getting crowned as Undisputed, is the boxing equivalent of the nice guy finally getting the girl. Let’s hope it also gets him the cash.

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Vitali Klitschko- Lennox Lewis’ retirement in February was a win-win situation for Klitschko. First, many speculate that Lewis’ retirement was partly due to him not looking forward to stepping into the ring with the Ukrainian giant again. Second, Klitschko is now recognized by most as the Lewis’ successor as the “real” heavyweight champ. Regardless of all that, Vitali continues to take care of business in the ring and with his one sided TKO victory over Corrie Sanders he proves that he is the man to beat in the heavyweight division.

Fight of the Year

Scott Pemberton TKO10 Omar Sheika II- How could these two warriors possibly top their seesaw battle of last year that earned them ESPN’s Fight of the Year honors? Simple, add a fistful of drama, a pound of excitement and more action than a Bruce Willis flick and you’re getting close. The back and forth battle that saw Pemberton and Sheika trade knockdowns and enough blood to start their own bank, was more than anybody could’ve hoped for. Pemberton finally put an end to the action in the tenth round, but not before he proved himself to be the most exciting super middleweight out there. Somebody give this guy a paycheck.
Juan Manuel Marquez D12 Manny Pacquiao- When these two fireplugs got together earlier this month to determine who is the best featherweight in the world, it appeared that it was going to be over just as quickly as it began. Pacman put Marquez on the canvas three times in the opening round. Marquez amazingly rose to his feet every time and eventually seized control of the fight in the middle rounds. Between Pac’s left hand bombs and Marquez’s pinpoint counters this one went right down to the wire. After a somewhat rudimentary scoring error by one of the judges, the bout was ruled draw. Bummer for Pacquiao, but great news for fight fans, as they will most likely do it again this fall.

Erik Morales W12 Jesus Chavez- When Erik Morales decided to take a shot at his third title in as many divisions, he did so against the most rugged, shopworn fighter in the 130 lb. class. Jesus Chavez knew he would have to be aggressive against Morales and he did just that. Chavez rocked Morales just seconds into the fight and had El Terrible hanging on for dear life. Morales turned the tide in the second and floored Chavez twice. At some point in or around the third Chavez injured his right arm, rendering him single limbed for the duration of the fight. Without Chavez’s right, the fight became a technical mismatch. Nonetheless, it was a war of heart versus skill as Chavez proved his valor in going the distance. Morales took Chavez’s WBC title, but his pride was thoroughly intact. Hopefully, he gets a shot at redemption, this time with both fists.

Knockout of the Year

Antonio Tarver KO2 Roy Jones, JR.- Before May 15th, if you asked anyone to name the best left hook ever thrown they’d more than likely site either Joe Frazier’s jawbreaker against Muhammad Ali or Sugar Ray Robinson’s bomb against Gene Fullmer. Well, add Antonio Tarver’s one punch shellacking of Roy Jones to the list. It may not have been as hard as Frazier’s or as aesthetically pleasing as Robinson’s, but for sheer excitement, nothing comes close.

Robbie Peden KO5 Nate Campbell- Nate Campbell forgot what condom companies have been reminding us for years; protect yourself at all times. In an act of bravado against a fighter he was undoubtedly beating, Campbell dropped his hands, stuck out his chin and did his best Jay Leno impersonation. Peden seized the moment and sent Campbell reeling across the ring and down for the count. It was a silly mistake by a very talented fighter, but it was oh-so-fun to watch from a spectator standpoint. To his credit, Campbell has handled himself like a man and taken the proper steps to rectify his very promising career.

Upset of the Year

Lamon Brewster KO5 Wladimir Klitschko- I know what you’re thinking. How can Wlad getting KO’d again be considered an upset? It wasn’t that he lost; it was more who he lost to. Lamon Brewster has always been a solid heavyweight against C and C+ level opponents. But against B level fighters like Charles Shufford and Cliff Etienne, he has not shown the talent or skill to compete at the highest level of heavyweight boxing. Wlad, on the other hand had reportedly recovered fully from his March 2003 trouncing at the hands of Corrie Sanders. So when Brewster clocked Klitschko and had him virtually out on his feet, it came as much as a shock to the viewing public as it did to older brother Vitali who was working Wlad’s corner. Referee Robert Byrd waved off the fight at the end of the fifth round as Klitschko clung to him as tight as he now clings to what is left of his career.

Antonio Tarver KO2 Roy Jones, JR.- Again, this wasn’t really an upset in the fact that Tarver won. He proved he could fight on Jones’ level last November. The upset here came in the case of how it happened. Tarver’s beating of Jones along the ropes in their first bout last year conditioned all of us to the fact that Roy Jones can be hit and even made us face the possibility Roy might one day even lose. A decision maybe, but Roy could not be knocked out. Impossible. Well, it turns out that he is human and that Antonio Tarver ain’t just talking to hear his own voice.

Monte Barrett W10 Dominick Guinn- Barrett, Guinn and Joe Mesi seem to be linked at the hip. Each one used as litmus test for the other and a measuring stick to tell what “should be” as opposed to “what is.” Before April, Guinn and Mesi were the two most touted prospects in the heavyweight division. Mesi was the star and Guinn was the talent and that’s the way everyone liked it. Against Barrett though, Mesi struggled and was lucky to make it out alive let alone with a majority decision. When Guinn stepped in with Barrett it was to prove not just that he was a legitimate heavyweight contender, but to show once and for all that he was better than Mesi. Barrett though, had other plans. In front of Guinn’s hometown Arkansas crowd he beat him to the punch and outworked him over 10 rounds. He was awarded a split decision victory and Guinn is now forced to go back the drawing board.

Round of the Year

Scott Pemberton TKO10 Omar Sheika ROUND 6- Picking a best round out of this fight was like picking your favorite Olsen Twin. It was difficult to choose, but either one is probably an acceptable answer. Round six though was the one in which I said to myself, “This is it, they’re gonna stop it,” the most times. Sheika had Pemberton nearly out on his feet, but The Sandman rallied back and nearly closed the show at the end of the round. Every round of this fight was dynamite, but this seemed to epitomize the heart of these two fighters the best. Hats off boys!

Cory Spinks W12 Zab Judah ROUND 12- Did you ever think you’d see Cory Spinks’ name in anything, but the “So, what else is going on tonight”-fight of the year category? All it took was a little jawing from Zab Judah to bring out the fight in both men. In round eleven Spinks put an off balance Judah down and seemed to have clinched what was up until then a neck and neck fight. In round 12 though, Judah came out to prove that he belonged in with the best of the 147 pounders and put Spinks down with a short left hook. Unfortunately for Judah, time ran out and Spinks took the decision. The 12th round though, provided more excitement than ever thought possible by two seemingly “slick” fighters.

Ok Doghouse readers, sharpen your tongues and bring on the verbal onslaught.
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