'And The Winner Is': ESB's Vivek Wallace Awards Boxings Best of 2007
17.12.07 - By Vivek Wallace: Today we find ourselves only weeks away from wrapping up what turned out to be one helluva year for the sport of boxing. Not too long ago we heard all the rumblings about how UFC/MMA was gonna faze the sport out, and how there wasn't enough talent in the sport. Well, for those who stuck around long enough to read this, you'd probably be elated to know that this was easily one of the most successful years in the sports history and next year seems to be shaping up as an equal or better.
Article posted on 18.12.2007
Before we bring the 2007 year to a complete halt, there's a few awards I'd personally like to give to those in the world of boxing who emphatically put every other professional sports around the world on notice that they're not the only 'big dance' in town.
With no further ado, here's my take on the sports elite.
Pound For Pound: (Based on: Overall Skills, Ability To Put Butts-In-Seats, Consistent Quality Opposition, Ring Smarts, and Heart)
1.) Floyd Mayweather Jr. (5 of 5): When looking at each of the 5 categories listed, there isn't one that I didn't see on display in his fight against the 'Manchester Madman' Ricky Hatton. Skeptics will say Hatton was smaller and unworthy as an opponent, but my response, try telling that to the other 43 guys who felt his power. Categorically, Mayweather is not only 'the man', but easily wins this one all day long in my book.
2.) Joe Calzaghe (4.5 of 5): Few in the U.S. wanted to give Calzaghe his props but there's no way in hell you can deny a man with this much activity, ring smarts, and sheer ability. Watching him effectively handle the very strong Mikkel Kessler only solidified for me what I felt all along. This guy is a helluva fighter who can take a punch and give a punch. Skeptics call him a slapper, but the granite-bearded Kessler and many others would beg to differ, strongly. Consistent quality of opposition is the only category he fails to measure up in to me. After fighting Kessler and eyeing Hopkins, that could soon be changing.
3.) Bernard Hopkins (4 of 5): Aside from occasionally failing to 'fill the house', B-Hop scores easily in each of the other categories to me. Call him old, call him slow, call him boring, I'll call him a 'spoiler'. This guy has routinely done what everyone says he can't. Everything from destroy Trinidad, to taming the self-proclaimed 'legend killer' Antonio Tarver, to dismantling the puzzle known to us as Winky Wright. Even at the ripe age of 42 B-Hop is in a class of his own. The only reason he's listed below Calzaghe in my pound to pound ranking is because he doesn't quite have the fan following but after making an ignorant racial remark - which was a stroke of genius to promote a possible showdown might I add - that may all change.
4.) Manny Pacquiao (4 of 5): There's no denying Pac-Man's status in this ranking system of mine. Known as more of a slugger than a skills fighter, Pacquiao has been 'fire' from day one and his star continues to rise. All the epic battles, all the rumors about him not taking the sport serious anymore, and all the other hoopla, yet in the end, all the same results....meaning more great performances and more great victories. For Pacquiao, things in '08 could get alot more interesting but for now, he's a lock.
5.) Miguel Cotto (3.5 of 5): Of the 5 fighters I listed in this pound for pound category, Cotto is the only one who hasn't been traditionally added as a regular but in my book you can't leave him out. In speaking to fight fans around the country - mainly on the west coast - as well as internationally, the perception is that Cotto is somewhat a 'regional' phenom due to the fact that unlike most other greats in the sport, his greatest moments in the ring have not come under the bright lights of Vegas, but rather in front of the heavily partisan crowd of New-Yoricans at Madison Square Garden. It'll be interesting to see him take his 'show' on the road in '08, because if he does win the 'Money' Mayweather sweepstakes, it'll likely happen in Floyd's backyard. Then again, he can opt to go for the 'gold' - as in the Goldenboy - where he would gladly be given the clearance to play host once again on the weekend of the famed Boricua parade. Cotto's done all you can ask of him and the scary part is that I don't think we've seen him peak yet. If he doesn't slip up in '08, you can definitely pencil him in the top 3 by the end of next year.
'Fighter of the Year': Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Love him or hate him, there's no way to take away the monumental year the 'Prettyboy' had. After taking part in two of the biggest fights in the history of the sport, and actually winning them, it's quite easy to see why Floyd suddenly opts to be called 'Money'. Not since Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali has the sport seen anything remotely close to the braggadocio, the antics, and to a varied degree, the pure showmanship displayed by the young Mayweather. After using every trick in the book to get viewers to tune in, Mayweather successfully performed his end of the bargain by delivering two solid performances that solidified his status not only among todays mythical Pound for Pound greats, but to some, the greats of all time. His rare ability in the ring leaves even his harshest critic room to marvel his skills. In the words of the legendary 'Sugar' Ray Leonard: "He's an amazing fighter and it's all in his eyes. Floyd is one of the few fighters I've ever seen, like Muhammad Ali that watches every move his opponent makes, then capitalizes on his mistakes. That's a gift that you can't teach". Leonard's comments were solidified by former pound for pound king Bernard Hopkins who added: "The best fighter of our era, my era, is "Prettyboy" Floyd. There's no doubt about that". With both legendary fighters obviously agreeing, I guess my thoughts would make it an official trifecta. It's unanimous!
Honorable Mention: Kelly Pavlik and Miguel Cotto
'Fight of the Year' Award: Marquez vs Vasquez I
The first fight between these two guys was any and everything you'd ever wanna see from two boxers in a ring. I don't care who you are; A teacher, an athlete, a pizza man or the preacher man, there's no one in this universe that wouldn't appreciate the way these two fellas laid it all on the line. Few fights in the history of the sport put forth this type of raw emotion where both men let 'em fly every second of every round. For those out there that were too busy to catch this one, or simply opted not to tune in because the names weren't 'big' enough, shame on you. There may never be a gutsier performance in the history of the sport. Some may rival, but clearly there will NEVER be a more decisive fight. This was a true G.E.W.T.W. moment if I've ever seen one in the sport. (G.E.W.T.W. - pronounced JUDO - meaning: Giving 'Em What They Want).
Honorable Mention: Paul Williams/Antonio Margarito
'Fist of Steel' Award: Kelly Pavlik
Considering that just as recent as earlier this year Pavlik was a guy that flew totally under the radar, there are few around the sport who don't know his name now. There are many fighters that have the ability to 'bang', but I can't think of one who has the raw ability to chop an opponent down like trees with every shot. Literally every punch this guy throws does significant damage and it's typically very visible in the eyes of his opponent after he connects for the first time. Jermain Taylor stood toe to toe with Bernard Hopkins twice, yet failed to make it past 7 rounds at the hands of this guy. Pavlik has in effect given new light to the term KTFO. Knocking out Edison Miranda and Jermain Taylor to me makes this one a no-brainer. I'm inclined to say that Pavlik wins this award 'Hands Down', but that's an awfully vulnerable position to leave yourself in the presence of a KO artist like this! No pun intended.
Honorable Mention: Cruiserweight David Haye
'Rise and Shine' Award: Miguel Cotto
No one in the sport has come on as strong or made his presence felt as much lately as Miguel Cotto. Long known as a classic 'stalk-until-they-can't-walk' type fighter, his dominating performance over 'Sugar' Shane Mosley in my book propelled him to heights unimaginable to most. Many previously viewed him as a fighter who had been somewhat sheltered by promoter Bob Arum, but after going toe to toe with Zab Judah, that mentality slowly changed, replaced with a new found respect. As great as that ring moment was, it was his next act after that left most of us in total awe, as the sport saw the 'birth' of a new star as he effectively engaged and de-scrambled the quick and talented Shane Mosley, putting the rest of the welterweight division on notice that this he is indeed for real. With Floyd Mayweather Jr. citing physical durability as a reason to step aside, there's few other fighters in a very deep division that could come close to touching this guy. It's easy to be fooled by the quiet demeanor, but don't be, for inside this man there's a helluva storm brewing and when the smoke clears, I expect that he may be the one making the most noise.
Honorable Mention: Paul Williams. His performance over the man no one wanted to fight - Antonio Margarito - put him in immediate contention.
'Dark Horse' Award: Paul Williams
In an era where awards and accolades typically go to the highly notables, I've learned that the identifying the not so obvious is the best way to whet a true fight fans appetite because it's the guys who fly under the radar that can often do the most damage. Kelly Pavlik taught us that there's nothing like the element of surprise, and as everyone yells the names of the Cotto's, the Berto's, and the whomever elses of the fight game, I'm gonna start the chant for another guy I see running things when he finally gets his chance to dance. That guy being Paul Williams. Paul's God given attributes make it almost unfair for any fighter to even consider a victory. His reach, his stamina, his ability to take power shots, you name it. From A to Z, this guy has it all, and until someone shows me a chink in his armor, there's no way I bet against him. At all! Remember this name folks. As an individual, I'm gonna start the "Paul Williams" chant. By the end of next year, you could all be singing with me.
'Promoter Of The Year': Golden Boy Promotions
With all of the mega-fights this year falling under the same umbrella, this wasn't a hard one to pick. Despite what appears to be at times a very rude staff, the end results in the ring itself have been first class every step of the way. Oscar Dela Hoya was a great fighter, but the team he's assembled in his daily operations have helped him effectively monopolize the industry as few others have been able to market and put on a fight card with such success. The promotions, the fan buzz, the whole blueprint, couldn't be any better and fight after fight, the results remain the same.
Honorable Mention: Don King Promotions...The fight cards at times leave a lot to be desired but if GBP had the same cooperative and relaxed staff, it would be a wrap!
This was a basic look at how I view some of the biggest names in the sport. Next year seems to be slowly molding into the same type of year. One can only hope so.
(Got Feedback? Write ESB's Vivek Wallace at firstname.lastname@example.org or show some love at www.myspace.com/anonymouslyinvolved).
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