Boxing


2008's Fighter Of The Year - Who Else Can It Possibly Be But Manny Pacquiao?

boxingby James Slater, Photo by Naoki Fukuda - Whatever happens between the ropes in the remainder of the year, it's a cinch predicting who the fighter is who is going to be collecting 2008's fighter of the year award. Indeed, this year the votes are likely to be overwhelming. A 29-year-old southpaw from Manila in the Philippines is far more deserving of the award than any other pugilist this year, and if Manny "Pac-Man" Pacquiao does not win it, it will be an even bigger upset than the one we saw in Las Vegas on Saturday night; when the one-time flyweight world champion destroyed a one-time middleweight belt holder in Oscar De La Hoya.

In pulling off something truly remarkable with the 8th round retirement win over the former "Golden Boy," Pacquiao topped a great year of fighting. As such he is sure to win fighter of the year award, his achievements in the past twelve months having been so fine. Beginning his year with a close points win over fellow all-time great Juan Manuel Marquez in March, Pacquiao claimed not only a decision win in a great fight that elevated both men, but also the WBC super-featherweight title - his third alphabet world title.. And while some fans claim the verdict was a poor one, and that the Mexican future Hall of Famer deserved the nod, the bout was too close for argument and "Pac-Man" put on a special performance.

His boxing year started in fine style, having given his adoring fans a classic fight, Manny fought again in June. Putting on a punch-perfect display up at lightweight, against defending WBC champ David Diaz, Pacquiao was nothing short of awesome. Finally destroying the game Diaz via brutal KO in the 9th round, the ferocious Filipino looked better than ever. Had Manny stopped where he was and engaged in one more fight at 135-pounds and won, as he surely would have, his year would have been good enough to perhaps have won him fighter of the year distinction. But no, Pacquiao and his trainer Freddie Roach (himself a good candidate for 2008's trainer of the year) had a grand idea - one that would cause much debate amongst fans of the sport of boxing.

Announcing, shortly after the KO over Diaz, that he wanted a fight at welterweight against another all-time great in Oscar De La Hoya, Pacquiao was looked at as though he might be crazy. The fight grew in the minds of the fans, however, and finally was announced officially. And despite the amount of negativity the match-up received in some quarters - "De La Hoya should pick on someone his own size," the fans said, and "This is a joke, Pacquiao started his pro career down at 106 pounds, how can he possibly live with someone as big as De La Hoya?" - the fight sold out in less than an hour at the live gate.

Proving to be an enormous curiosity of a "Dream Match," De La Hoya-Pacquiao was on. This didn't mean too many experts were giving the much smaller Pacquaio a chance, though. Indeed, in a poll conducted by Ring magazine, in which twenty experts were asked for their pick, only two chose Pacquaio as December 6th's winner (WBC light-welterweight champ Timothy Bradley was one of the two proven to be spot on).

Now we know, of course, that a tremendous upset was awaiting the boxing world the first week in 2008's final month. In annihilating a great fighter no-one else has ever annihilated, Pacquaio cemented not only his position as the world's current pound-for-pound king, but also his place among the true greats in his sport's long history. Without going overboard, as fellow writer Ted "The Bull" Sares says, Pacquiao is this era's Henry Armstrong.

Not only is Manny deserving of that lofty accolade, he is also clearly deserving of the one that says he is the finest fighter of the past twelve months.

It really is an easy choice to make this year!

Article posted on 08.12.2008



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