If there was ever a controversial year in the sport of boxing 2005 would have to be it. Granted our beloved art form has been riddled in years past with scandal, intrigue and disbelief, but this year really took the cake for some of the poorest decision making and worst deals ever made in the history of pugilism. To say that things have changed and the sport is looking up would be almost too dishonest. The positive aspects of boxing and its participants appear to be not enough these days to overshadow all the seedy elements which have such a gigantic impact and influence on the sport. Sanctioning still hasn’t passed legislature and while several have rallied around the cause not much is being done to protect boxers and their health in the process. Many of the bouts shown this year ended in such pitiful decisions that it’s a wonder we still have any fans left. This may sound a bit too dismal or even negative to some and that may be the case. But recall the year’s fights and I guarantee you there isn’t a soul out there that could count all the reckless robberies and mismatches on all ten of their fingers. I’d even let you use your toes and it still wouldn’t be enough. Here are some of the things that occurred in the world of professional boxing and what they revealed to us.
1) Shifting of the Junior Welterweight Division
The Junior Welterweight Division is as exciting a division as there is out there in boxing right now. All the big names hang their hats there. You have Ricky Hatton, who rough-housed an older and more complacent Kostya Tszyu to become ‘the man’ so to speak. And there’s Floyd Mayweather who dismantled Arturo Gatti in a fight that became a brutal boxing clinic that no one really wanted to see but everyone knew was going to happen. Miguel Cotto sits patiently at the crest of the horizon, steadily chipping away on-comers and looking to solidify his position in the division while learning and growing as a fighter. Carlos Maussa awaits his turn in the ever rotating line up as well.
So where does this leave us? Arturo Gatti fights in January and we will see whats left in the tank for ‘The Human Highlight Film’. Fighters tend to get really old overnight, let’s hope this doesn’t happen to ‘Thunder’ and that he can leave his battles in the ring where they belong. Mayweather’s searching for Zab Judah in the Welterweight division, which would be the fight of all fights but who knows if they’ll grace us with such a duel or not? Money is the name of the game and that’s why Wright vs. Mayweather fell through. It’s true that even boxing likes to play ‘The Price is Right’.
Cotto’s far more mature than his years and seems to only get better. Several out there question his chin seeing as he has been rocked in the last couple fights he’s been in. Time will be a good measure of where he stands at such an accelerated pace. And Carlos Maussa will just have to dwell in the background until he can spring forward and jockey for position. Anything might happen people, it is boxing. Sad thing is what the fans and fighters (more importantly) want and what we get are two totally different things.
2) Bernard Hopkins vs. Jermain Taylor
Perhaps the biggest story of 2005 was this legendary match up between the young rising star in Jermain Taylor and the reigning crafty lion Bernard Hopkins who ruled the Middleweight division with an iron fist for 10 years straight. The speculation of this bout was immense but what played out was more of a disappointing melodrama than a Championship face off. For one it was clear that after Hopkins lost the first fight that his rule was over. Everyone knows that B-Hop does things his way in and out of the ring and many people resent him for it. If anything this was their final and only chance to wipe away his memory and start with a clean slate. They had a younger more amiable fighter that could be marketed to a younger generation through sleek advertising and proper media buildup. You can say that Bernard is imaging things but when you play it out in your head things make perfect sense. Out with the old and in with the new. The other guy won’t budge but this new guy wants to cooperate. Politics can sometimes ruin a good thing.
Many of you out there argued incessantly that this changing of the guard was the right thing to do and that it is needed for boxing to thrive. That the look of apprehension and even bewilderment on Taylor’s face when he was announced the winner of the first fight was just a fluke, that he was exhausted and disoriented. This may very well be the case, yet faces and expressions tell a lot, especially about a boxer. Remember how Tyson used to look before a fight when he was in his prime and ready to explode? Confident and able even more so in victory. Taylor showed none of this in his first fight against Hopkins and didn’t change all that much in his second. Congratulations are of course in full order to the new and still undisputed Middleweight Champion but I would be remiss if I didn’t slightly disagree with the whole scenario and put my vote in for Hopkins. True he may be much older than Taylor, but the first fight should have been a draw and the second fight should have been Bernard’s. If anything judges and the manipulators behind the scenes usually give the defending Champion the benefit of the doubt and we have all seen countless bouts where the Champion clearly did not win but still did. But like I stated earlier Bernard Hopkins is his own man and they cannot play him like a puppet like they wanted to for so long. Call it like you see it I did.
3) Mike Tyson will Retire
I am one those self proclaimed ‘biggest’ Tyson fans out there. I own his career box set on DVD and watch it religiously when I want to relive a greater time in boxing’s Heavyweight Division. Like most of us I can quote Cus D’Amato off the top and read everything I can about Tyson in an attempt to further understand the man who I consider to be the best fighter of our generation hands down. Some would dispute this claim, which is their right. Thing is, while everyone else is looking for a pound of flesh from Mike or another slam story to push him further in the mud I’m just a fan of his. Everybody says, ‘Enough already! We’re tired of hearing about the car crash that is Mike Tyson.’ Then don’t read anything about him. He is an integral part of boxing’s history and will remain that way until he is inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame and validated.
So ‘Iron’ Mike will retire. He’ll move on to other venues and maybe even embrace the celebrity status that has eluded him for so long. He will still have his detractors and haters who will continue to drag him down and look for whatever dirt they can find on him to add to their piles, but for the rest of us we’ll just remember him for what counts most and that’s being a fighter who was one of the best there ever was. Period.
4) Reality Shows Suck
Ok, as much as I enjoyed all the boxing reality drama this past year I have to admit that reality shows suck and do nothing but push the sport even further back. Yeah the story lines were good and heartfelt and genuine and they had real fighters doing what they loved to do. But that’s where the good idea started and ended. The corporate idiots at these networks whose only true concern is ratings and not proper representation only screwed things up when they took real fighters and did them an injustice by placing them in a fake situation. What was fake was how these fights were handled and how losses were added to legitimate boxer’s records for the sake of ‘entertainment’. While NBC and any of the other jokers out there don’t seem to care that actual fighters gave their all in real fights so that they could claim a chunk of metal that isn’t even recognized by anyone except maybe NBC and Rocky Balboa, the rest of us realize their contributions and know that it takes more than a necklace and some banged out metal to make a fighter. Getting a Championship is a dream of all contenders but there are so many out there that who can keep track anymore? Everybody has their hands in the cookie jar and this is just one more example of someone else stealing a cookie. Only this time it crumbled.
5) They Will Let Anyone Fight
For the sake of desperation promoters, managers and states with no commissions (and some with them) will still let anyone fight for the chance to turn a buck. Being a boxer is an honor that everyone should be proud of, yet if you go to any of these fights or see them telecast on TV you’ll find yourself scratching your heads in wonder. A dog might have to eat but if he doesn’t have any fight in him keep him in the kennel. People should be allowed to experience the beauty and pain that is boxing but there are examples where it just isn’t there. When is someone going to step in and stop those out there from hurting themselves or others? Time and time again we hear of tragic deaths and injuries that never would have occurred if someone had just taken the time to step in and say wait or stop. Things that you can’t predict and foresee are givens, but no one’s life is worth the price of ticket sales. Especially when the boxer gets the least off the top.
All in all though it was an okay year for boxing. We saw Zahir Raheem beat Erik Morales so easily it left all of us with our jaws agape. Mayweather stepped up and proved to everyone that he is a threat and that all of his dedication and hard work has paid off in more ways than one. He may not be a people’s favorite yet but there is no denying his talent and abilities. He’ll be around for a long time, you can count on that. The Heavyweight Division suffered its ups and downs while we sat waiting for the next big thing to never show up. Tyson got beaten by someone who shouldn’t have even been in the same ring with him even in his lessened state, and we saw Rocky Juarez’s rise to the stop sharply interrupted by someone far hungrier than himself. The rest of the world experienced needless war, famine, natural disasters and catastrophe unlike any the world has ever seen. Gas prices shot through the roof and unemployment was at an all time high. Christmas came and went and continues to become more of a lesson in capitalism and less of a time for family. Maybe 2006 will offer boxing and the rest of the world outside of the sport some new hope and answers for an uncertain future.
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