The Best Of 2008: Vivek Wallace's Year End Awards and Accolades
By Vivek Wallace: After a long year of stellar action in the world of boxing, we've now reached the end of the road. The year of 2008 was filled with many thrillers; some predictable, many that weren't, but all in all it was a year that saw many unprecedented moments that will go down in the history books forever. Along the journey there were many individuals that made the quest a highly entertaining one. Today, we take a reflective look back and honor those individuals:
Article posted on 27.12.2008
Fighter of the Year: I'll prefix this section by stating that this choice was no easy pick, but when comparing his efforts to those of his contemporaries, I think a few things set him apart. Manny Pacquiao did what some felt to be impossible, but when the year-to-date chapter was sealed, his 'legend killing' status equaled only one. For Joe Calzaghe, he came into this year with a ton of questions surrounding him, but by years end, it's safe to say he found a way to answer them all. Not only did he defeat two of the biggest icons in the history of the sport, but he did it on their turf, which has to be commended. Calzaghe capped off a perfect year, and possibly a perfect career with two very solid victories and a strong argument for pound-for-pound supremacy despite the fact that Mr. Pacquiao holds that billet.
JOE CALZAGHE - (Honorable Mention: Manny Pacquiao and Bernard Hopkins)
Fight of the Year: There were many fights that categorically come close, but for me, this was an easy pick - when viewing things on what I would look for in a fight. For the longest time this fight was busy brewing in the background and under the radar. Both of these guys' every move was watched, speculated, and anticipated, until things finally came into fruition. These two men are warriors, and when they did collide, it was no bait and switch. Fight fans got what they paid for, more! The major appeal and intriguing factor of this fight was the fact that prior to it happening, none of us could conceive a storyline where Cotto would ever be stopped, but then again, we knew nothing would stop Margarito until he did just that. This was an absolute war of attrition, and there's no way I see any other fight in this calender year taking the 'gold' in this category.
ANTONIO MARGARITO VS MIGUEL COTTO - (Honorable Mention: Manny Pacquiao vs Juan Manuel Marquez - Great ebb and flow, great action, and two great men who were able to rise to the occasion for 12 rounds).
Performance of the Year:
After losing to Joe Calzaghe, despite the fact that he didn't necessarily look bad in the fight, everyone felt it was time for 'the Executioner' to hang up the gloves. After listening to the negative spin on various websites and chat platforms, B-Hop went back to the lab, honed his craft, and went hunting for the most dangerous opponent he could find. That man was the undefeated and very dangerous Kelly Pavlik. NO ONE - I repeat, NO ONE - in the media saw Hopkins lasting in this fight. Some even went as far as predicting an early KO. It all looked good on paper until Hopkins reminded us that paper burns! I've watched many memorable moments in the sport over the last few decades but none that paralleled the classic aftermath when Hopkins stood on a ring post - high like the pedestal his performance had just placed him on - and glanced at each member of the media covering the fight one by one, by one, and let his silence speak volumes. It was one of the most dominating, unexpected performances ever put on by a 40+ year old athlete in any sport, and definitely one of the best EVER in this sport.
BERNARD HOPKINS - (Honorable Mention: Manny Pacquaio - brilliant performance against Oscar De La Hoya, despite the huge weight gain required. Only difference here was that Pacquiao was the man in his prime, while the aging Hopkins SOUNDLY beat an opponent who was in his. Another honorably mentioned name here would be Nate Campbell, whose victory over Juan Diaz was poetry-in-motion...an absolute brilliant performance).
'Dark Horse' Award:
Every year I give this award out to the fighter who we can see evolving into something great. Basically a fighter defined by that whole 'diamond-in-the-rough' appeal. One thing I think that makes this award special is the fact that this person tends to be so gifted that few choose to cross paths with them, categorically placing them in that proverbial 'high-risk-low-reward' basket. Last year it was Paul Williams and in what was a very prophetic moment, his weight class hopping (from 147 - 160) this year has shown that the pick was spot on because that feat is unprecedented in today's era of money yes, action maybe type fighters. This years choice comes down to a man that I think is slowly coming into his own and by the end of 2009 will have the world of boxing saying his name.
TIMOTHY BRADLEY - (Honorable Mention - Nate Campbell....A fighter who remains under the radar but is clearly above the rim to anyone who knows the role of a spoiler with skills. There's a prime reason why Marquez and a few others with status haven't exactly called him out, and by the end of next year, despite his age (36), I think he may change the expected route of a few marquee fighters...That's if they dare take him on).
This is another personal award that I present, but this one is solely for the hardcore fight aficionado's around the world. The name of the award itself (pronounced like - JUDO) is appealing because it was coined to mean someone who kicks butt and takes names, while the acronym itself means Giving Em What They Want - referring to the fight fans. When I look at the various fighters around the sport there are several who bring it every night in the ring, but there's only one that I can think of who will fight anyone, anywhere, anytime. Many fighters have said this, but this is the only guy who has taken it upon himself to separate from the rest of the pack by doing something unprecedented - which is take up space between three different weight divisions at the same time, literally head hunting. Not Mayweather, not Pacquiao, not Calzaghe, or anyone else has done this, which is why I think he needs to be commended. This honor goes to....
PAUL WILLIAMS - (Honorable Mention: Manny Pacquiao...Despite his new found grand-level fame, this guy is clearly ready to take on all comers and actually does it at a very high level.
Promoter of the Year:
This is an easy one to call. 'Goldenboy' promotions has given us the biggest spectacles of the year, King has continued to give us something to talk about and many others have followed that path; That being said, it's the house that 'Bob' built which remains the brick castle among wooden boxes. Top Rank/Bob Arum has been the man this year, literally having a stable so strong that nearly all major fights of the '08 calendar year have had his stamp on them. After establishing the rights to everyone from Pavlik, to Cotto, to Margarito, and Pacquiao, what else could a promoter possibly ask for? Arum easily takes this cake and can eat it too!
BOB ARUM - (Honorable Mention: Goldenboy Promotions - despite the pathetic undercards, Oscar and his henchmen over at GBP have consistently given us main events that made us want to tune in. This wasn't exactly the case in the Pacquaio/Oscar fight, but with names like that headlining I guess we should understand why the undercards are that weak. How can anyone afford to pay the 'little guys' when the big boys are consistently starring at $10M+ just to show up?...It is what it is)!
With another year down, I'd like to personally thank each and every one of the fighters mentioned - as well as those not - for making this a memorable year.
(Got questions or feedback?: Contact ESB's Vivek Wallace at firstname.lastname@example.org and 954-292-7346, or show some love at www.myspace.com/anonymouslyinvolved)
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