Some might not like to admit it but 2004 was actually fast paced and action filled for much of the twelve months. We saw great fighters continuing their quests towards supremacy, many champions being dethroned, several prospects rising to the moment, and upsets were abound all over the year. From the top of my head, these are the fighters, moments, and memories that stick out.
Both Glen Johnson and Diego Corrales had breakout years, and should be considered for ‘Fighter of The Year’ honors. Corrales bested Joel Casamayor in their rematch in March and followed that up with a thrilling late round knockout over fellow champion Acelino ‘Popo’ Freitas. Johnson defeated Clinton Woods in February to claim the IBF Light Heavyweight belt, knocked out Roy Jones with a chilling right hand in Memphis, and was seen last night out hustling Antonio Tarver down the stretch at the Staples Center to score a split decision victory in his finest year as a pro.
We saw young prospects Kassim Ouma, Miguel Cotto, and Jeff Lacy all merge into the lane of champions and can look forward to bigger and better things from all three men. Ouma figures to be a big factor at 154 lbs. with his swarming, crowd pleasing style. Cotto had an excellent year with wins over Victoriano Sosa, Lovemore N’dou, Kelson Pinto, and Randall Bailey and has sent notice that he is ready to tackle the world’s best Jr. Welterweights.
I had picked Lacy to lose against Syd Vanderpool back in October but the 2000 Olympian stopped Vanderpool in the 8th round, served me up a fresh plate of crow, and seized the IBF Super Middleweight belt in the process. Whatever fight Lacy finds himself in during 2005 will most likely be a good one.
Two of the previous decades’ best were iced off as Oscar de la Hoya and Roy Jones both tasted the canvas in different fashion. De la Hoya was on his hands and knees after a well placed liver shot from Bernard Hopkins while Jones was twice sent on his back, first from Antonio Tarver and then again four months later from Glen Johnson. De la Hoya has said he will fight again while Jones, despite what many will say, still appears to be on the fence as to whether or not his fighting days are over.
Both Felix Trinidad and Kostya Tszyu rebounded from extremely long layoffs to deliver electrifying knockout performances. Trinidad would return to Madison Square Garden and rock the house with a bruising stoppage over very game and brash Ricardo Mayorga. Trinidad was in full effect, digging in viscous body shots and pinpoint left hooks all night. Tszyu was picked by many to lose to Sharmba Mitchell in their highly anticipated rematch. Tszyu was coming off a 21-month layoff, Mitchell had been reeling up solid wins, and the outcome seemed to be in doubt. Tszyu showed no signs of rust or age as he put up one of his best outings yet, dropping Mitchell four times on his way towards a telling 3rd round TKO.
Unified Welterweight Champion Cory Spinks continues to be an underrated commodity in the fight game. Spinks had surprised many at the end of 2003 with a big upset of Ricardo Mayorga but still can’t seem to get enough respect despite staying unbeaten in 2004. Spinks edged out Zab Judah in April and would decision former champion Miguel Angel Gonzalez in September. With rumors of Oscar de la Hoya and Shane Mosley wanting to come back down to Welterweight and other dangerous guys like Kermit Cintron and Antonio Margarito floating around, hopefully Spinks will have a chance to showcase his underrated skills yet again. First he must get by Judah, who he is re-matching this February in his hometown of St. Louis. Judah appears to be as gifted as any fighter in the game and the sequel will probably be as nip and tuck as was the original.
Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez participated in one of the year’s biggest fights in May and are set to do it again this coming February. Pacquiao dropped Marquez three times in the first round and appeared to be on his way to an easy knockout win. Marquez’ back was to the wall and the Mexico City native showed his resilience, surviving the early storm and turning the fight around during the second half of the fight. The judges saw it a draw in what was one of the year’s finer contests. Gut feeling here is that Pacquiao will be a bit too much in the rematch for Marquez, despite his educated offensive arsenal and proven heart.
Vitali Klitschko appears to be the man to beat at Heavyweight after a solid year that saw him get revenge for his brother over Corrie Sanders and brutally dispose of Danny Williams just nights ago. Klitschko, John Ruiz, Chris Byrd, and Lamon Brewster all hold a piece of the heavyweight pie but Klitschko has set himself apart with his size and offensive tools. The Heavyweight division might not be that glamorous but for the moment all roads lead through Dr. Klitschko.
Down the stretch…
James Toney still seems to be the games’ best trash talker and is looked to by some as the man to dethrone Klitschko…Bernard Hopkins, Floyd Mayweather, Winky Wright, Oscar Larios, Jose Luis Castillo, and Vivian Harris didn’t have ‘Fighter of the Year’ campaigns but they all remained solid and can look forward to bigger fights in the new year….Fights worth seeing? Trinidad-Wright, Mosley-Mayorga, Larios-Joan Guzman, Corrales-Castillo, Lacy-Calzaghe, Mayweather-Cotto, Vivian Harris-Kostya Tszyu, and Cintron-Margarito, just to name a few…I think an in shape and motivated Hasim Rahman gives any of the big boys trouble…I personally think Floyd Mayweather remains the game’s most talented fighter. Who knows what 2005 has in store for ‘Pretty Boy’…Joel Casamayor is still a big player at 130 or 135 and all of his losses have been close and some even say controversial…
Hope everyone had a great 2004 and here’s hoping that boxing keeps fighting the good fight in 2005.
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