The Dirty Dozen: The Top Twelve Fights of 2008

Israel VazquezBy Nefarious Nick Fremont:

12. Ricardo Torres v. Kendall Holt (Showtime), July 5th, Las Vegas

In a spectacular sixty-one seconds, Torres had Holt down twice before an accidental headbutt sent the Colombian reeling into the ropes and his jaw directly into the arc of a vicious Holt right hand. Torres was unconscious upon impact and Jay Nady did not bother to finish his count before waving the fight off.

11. Lucian Bute v. Librado Andrade (Showtime), October 24th, Montreal

Bute was far ahead on the cards when he ran out of gas and finally succumbed to Andrade's relentless pressure, collapsing to the canvas in absolute exhaustion with less than twenty seconds left in the fight. Referee Marlon B. Wright administered a prolonged count that enabled Bute to survive the round (and retain his belt).

10. Chad Dawson v. Glen Johnson (Showtime), April 12th, Tampa

For the majority of the encounter, Dawson was able to keep it a boxing match. But in the moments when it would become a fight, Johnson was the superior man. Dawson was hurt several times and showed his mettle in his toughest test as a pro.

9. Carl Froch v. Jean Pascal (ITV-UK), December 6th, Nottingham

Froch picked up the super middleweight belt vacated by Calzaghe, but he had to walk through hell to get it. In a give-and-take brawl, Froch proved his chin and patience, taking the time necessary to break down a game and talented opponent who had come to win.

8. Juan Diaz v. Nate Campbell (HBO), March 8th, Cancun

For twelve rounds, Diaz and Campbell engaged in a grueling phone-booth fight, both men laying on each other's shoulder and delivering hard shots to the body and head while almost never clinching. Campbell slowly but surely asserted his physical dominance as the fight progressed, seizing control in the moment when he opened a cut over Diaz's right eye and never relinquishing it thereafter. In the words of his trainer John David Jackson, Campbell took Diaz to deep water and then drowned him.

7. Steven Luevano v. Mario Santiago (HBO), June 28th, Las Vegas, NV

One of my personal favorites, this fight had it all, including a round in which both fighters suffered knockdowns. Luevano had the edge early but Santiago was landing the more telling shots and by the middle of the fight, the Puerto Rican had the American champion hurt on several occasions. Luevano was able to survive into the later rounds, where his experience took over down the stretch. The official result (draw) left all observers salivating at the thought of a rematch.

6. Tomas Villa v. Rogers Mtagwa (TeleFutura), November 7th, Tucson, AZ

Probably the most obscure of the fights in the Dirty Dozen, this Solo Boxeo undercard produced the most dramatic ending to any fight this year (apologies to Bute-Andrade and Vasquez-Marquez III). The Tanzanian Mtagwa was able to recover from a vicious ninth-round knockdown and in a hectic final stanza, floored Villa three times before the referee was forced to wave it off. Both fighters took an immense amount of brutal punishment, and I wouldn't be surprised if we don't see either of these guys in the ring for some time.

5. Juan Manuel Marquez v. Manny Pacquiao II (HBO), March 15th, Las Vegas, NV

In the last bout for both fighters at super featherweight (130 lbs.), Marquez and Pacquiao engaged in a thrilling clash that was both tactical and violent. Over the course of twelve close rounds, Pacquiao proved he was the physical superior of Marquez, despite the Mexican's advantage in technical skill. An early knockdown proved to be the difference in the fight, with Pacquiao edging Marquez in the closest of split decisions.

4. Joel Casmayor v. Michael Katsidis (HBO), March 22nd, Cabazon, CA

In the wild first round of what would prove to be a hugely entertaining affair between the highly decorated Cuban vet and the all-action Australian, Katsidis ran into Casmayor's straight left twice and found himself on the canvas both times, leading many to believe that the fight was a complete mismatch. But as the rounds progressed, Katsidis proved he belonged in the ring with the great El Cepillo, hurting Casmayor and making him hang on, and eventually depositing him outside the ring ropes in the 6th round. In the tenth round, Katsidis had reversed the advantage on the scorecards and was headed to victory when he lunged in and was flattened by a left hand yet again. This time, he could not recover and as Casmayor battered him along the ropes, referee John Stewart had no choice but to step in and save the game Australian.

3. Steven Cunningham v. Tomasz Adamek (Versus), December 11th, Newark, NJ

With the exception of the two lowest weight classes, the cruiserweight division has historically been the most overlooked class in boxing, but Cunningham and Adamek put the division on the map for 2008 with a thrilling battle between two strong prime athletes who came to fight. In a back-and-forth brawl, Adamek's three early knockdowns of the American proved to be the difference in a split decision victory for the Pole.

2. Miguel Cotto v. Antonio Margarito (HBO), July 26th, Las Vegas, NV

This was the best fight of the year in terms of class, pitting the undefeated Puerto Rican Cotto against the indomitable Mexican Margarito, the winner to fill the welterweight throne vacated by Floyd Mayweather upon his retirement. Early on, Cotto was able to move and outbox Margarito with relative ease, landing at will on the Mexican's face. Inexorably though, Margarito wore Cotto down with his relentless pressure and the demoralizing fact that his iron chin did not seem to be affected at all by Cotto's hard shots. At the end of the fight, the brutal punishment he had endured finally took its toll on the brave Puerto Rican, and he took a knee under Margarito's onslaught, his face and body bloody, battered, and broken. As his corner appeared on the ring apron to save their fighter, we were all left wondering whether Cotto would ever be the same again.

1. Israel Vasquez v. Rafael Marquez III (Showtime), March 1st, Carson, CA

In a year of great fights, Vasquez-Marquez III was unquestionably the Fight of the Year. There are a number of legendary trilogies in the history of boxing, but very few have had the best fight as the last fight. Marquez built up an early lead, including a knockdown of Vasquez, but his lead eroded as the fight progressed, and in the dramatic twelfth round, Vasquez chased a hurt Marquez around the ring and was finally able to floor him with just a few ticks left on the clock. That knockdown proved to be the crucial, providing the winning margin for Vasquez in a split decision victory.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Mijares-Darchinyan (Showtime), Guerrero-Litzau (Showtime), Hatton-Lazcano (Versus), Cintron-Margarito II (HBO), Mosley-Mayorga (HBO), Rubio-Ornelas (HBO), Andrade-Steiglitz (HBO), Pavlik-Taylor II (HBO), Pavlik-Hopkins (HBO), Haye-Barrett (Setanta-UK), Arreola-Walker (HBO)

Questions and comments?

Article posted on 19.12.2008

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