The Year So Far
By Joseph Barrett: As we enter the summer months of the sweet science, a time where the sport usually takes a back seat for a while, it gives us an opportunity to reflect on what has happened during the first period of the year and a chance to speculate on what we can expect for the remainder. For the period already passed we have witnessed super fights lacking super action, "regular" fights offering us fights of the year candidates, moments of history created and plenty of upsets along the way. Here is a recap of the year so far.
Article posted on 08.08.2011
Where else to start but the Pound For Pound Champion of the sport, Manny Pacquiao. Pac-Man took his career back to the bright lights of Vegas for the first time in 18 months but unfortunately for the sell-out crowd and the 1.3 million PPV buyers the fight failed to shine. Sugar Shane Mosley talked a big game leading up to the fight but as it has become custom, when he tasted the power from Pacquiao in the 3rd round survival became the only realistic goal. For the first time since his meteoric rise to the top, yet through no fault of his own, the crowd where booing at the Filipino's fight. This fight shows us that even though Pacquiao's name carries a lot of weight in the sport as evidenced by his highest number of PPV buys, competitive fights instead of name fighters might serve him better in the future. One major positive to come out of the event was Bob Arums switch over to Showtime from HBO and the use of CBS to bring boxing back into the eye of the mainstream. One of HBO's responses was to bring Heavyweight boxing back into the fold, yet the fight was just a remainder as to why they had no interest in the division to start with. A genuine super fight, especially over in Europe, David Haye vs Wladimir Klitschko was not only a unification fight in boxing's top division, but it was also meant to be the fight to regenerate excitement in it. What the 45,000+ in attendance where left with though was yet another Wladimir master class, a cautious yet effective jab lead fight to win a wide decision. Most blame has been passed to the Hayemaker, who talked and insulted his way into the match-up, yet failed to deliver and was ridiculed further when blaming the loss on a broken pinky toe.
As is the case in boxing though it is not the "Super Fights" or "Events" that keep the sport ticking along but the Hardcore Fights that keep us talking all year round and up to now we have already witnessed plenty. A possible new star has been born in regular WBA Lightweight Champion Brandon Rios who has already given 2 great fights in 2011, first by taking the title away from Venezuelan Miguel Acosta back in February, coming from behind and being rocked several times in the early rounds to overwhelm his foe with constant pressure and finally forcing a stoppage in the 10th round. Next up in his first title defence, Bam Bam took on teak tough Mexican Urbano Antillon and instead of coming on later in the fight, this time both came out swinging heavy bombs in equal measure until Rios caught and dropped him hard in the 3rd and finished him of later in the round. Rios is quickly becoming TV's favourite fighter. ESPN Friday Night Fights gave us a reminder that a network does not need a huge budget to put on a great fight as witnessed by the epic battle between Junior Middleweight contenders Pawel Wolak and Delvin Rodriguez. Both fighters knew that a win, and especially one in exciting fashion, could put them on the cusp of a big money title shot and although neither left with the result they were looking for, both left with their stock shooting through the roof. Referee Steve Smoger had nothing to do but watch from the best seat in the house as the two warriors fought through ten grueling rounds, with Wolak fighting the last few rounds with a hugely swollen eye that later traveled to the side of his head, to a draw. It was not only hardcore fights that provided us with great action though, as two of the sports highly regarded Pound For Pound talents treated us to entertaining battles. Nonito Donaire solidified his place near the top of the list and also as his countries second favourite fighter when he devastated Fernando Montiel with a left hook in the 2nd round of their Bantamweight Title fight that is the early runner for KO of the year. Sergio "Maravilla" Martinez gave a marvellous performance in dismantling slick, previous undefeated southpaw Serhiy Dzinziruk, dropping him 5 times along the way and keeping alive his chances of getting the mega fights he craves in the future.
After 2 long years and several bumps and bruises along the way, Showtimes Super Six Tournament finally has a winner waiting in the wings as Carl Froch will face of against Andre Ward for Supremacy of the Super Middleweight Division after dispatching Glen Johnson and Arthur Abraham respectively in their semi final bouts. Both men won their fights fairly comfortable and both have been looked at as the finalists for a while now and should provide an entertaining fight for the fans and will walk away as deserved winner.
2011 could be known as the year of the upset as up to this point as we have had several fights where the underdog had shook of the proverbial tag and came away with the win. Juan Manuel Lopez was on a collision course with fellow undefeated Featherweight Titlist Yuriorkis Gamboa when he ran into Orlando Salido, who traveled to the Puerto Ricans backyard and took away his title and inflicted the first defeat on the exciting champion and for the time being halted the super fight in order to get a few paydays of his own. Another Mexican who was perceived to be on the down slope of his career and was being used as a name to go on an up and comers record shocked the world on the biggest stage, when Jorge Arce recovered from an early round knockdown to rally down the stretch and stop the unbeaten Wilfredo Vazquez Jr on the undercard of the Pacquiao - Mosley contest. While both of these results went against the tide, both winners where previous belt holders and had the support of a boxing crazy nation going in, where as the next man mentioned had neither of these experiences entering his bout with power punching Fernando Guerrero. Grady Brewer entered the fight as a journey man with a decent name from his time on the Contender series, and even though more experienced he was merely looked at as a statistic on Guerrero's blossoming record, yet as he showed when winning the Contender, Grady does not always follow the script and came away as the victor. Several special mentions go to feather-fisted Nobuhiro Ishida for his 1st round destruction of iron-fisted James Kirkland and Kevin Mitchell's return to the ring after 14 months since being knocked out by Michael Katsidis to stun unbeaten European Champ John Murray in a classic domestic battle.
A special mention must go out to one man who after being denied history, went back to the sight of his robbery and finally created it, while also making it even harder to break in the future. Bernard Hopkins became the oldest man in the history of the sport to hold a title when he traveled to Lineal/WBC Champion Jean Pascal's adopted home town of Quebec, Canada to wrestle the title away from 28 year old champion at the ripe old age of 46. The win goes along way to putting B-Hop back in the upper echelons of the sport and enhances his reputation as one of the modern era's greatest fighters.
Other than what has been mentioned, we have seen the positive return of some past greats such as Erik Morales and Antonio Tarver while we have seen some future hall of fame fighters hang around far to long and take un-needed punishment like Roy Jones Jnr and Evander Holyfield. We have some stars in the making just waiting to explode into the big time like Timothy Bradley, Victor Ortiz and Lucian Bute and we have the stars already made who continue to thrill us fans like Miguel Cotto, Juan Manuel Marquez and Amir Khan. Lets not forget we also have the pending return of Floyd Mayweather.
While we have Networks Competing with each other to raise the competition, feuding promotional firms putting aside their differences to work together and great fighters stepping into the ring to do battle then we can expect the remainder of the year to be every bit as exciting as the beginning.
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