Boxing 2006: Year End Awards, Boxing in 2007
04.01.07 - By Travis Marks: As a new year begins one must always reflect on the events of the passing year before moving on. Boxing was tremendous in 2006. There were many highlights, great fights, upsets, standout performances, lowlights and controversy in the sport. I, like most scribes out there am compelled to give out awards based on what went on last year in boxing.
Article posted on 04.01.2007
Fighter of the year: Floyd Mayweather Jr. - No one fighter did anything amazing this year in boxing. This award is debatable because everyone on this list can be criticized for one thing or another. The reason Mayweather wins this award is because he moved up and won the linear welterweight title from Carlos Baldomir and is still proving to be difficult to hit and hurt in the ring while continuing to box circles around his opponents. He does not have to fight tooth and nail with his opponents because he’s on such a different level..
Manny Pacquiao is the Fighter of the year on most lists but I don’t share that opinion. While Manny had a stellar year, he beat Erik Morales who was coming off of a loss and was hurt badly against Oscar Larios in his next bout. Many wanted Morales to retire after Pacquiao knocked him out because they saw that he was done as a fighter. While his second knock out of Pacquiao was sensational I didn’t think Morales should have been in there with him to begin with. Larios was coming off of a third round knockout loss against Israel Vazquez when he faced Pacquiao. Larios performed well and even managed to go the full twelve rounds despite moving up in weight against a power punching demon in Pacquiao.
Mayweather like Pacquiao was facing a fighter coming off a loss in Zab Judah. Judah unceremoniously had his undisputed welterweight championship ripped away from him by Carlos Baldomir. Mayweather still fought Judah and despite Judah looking great early in the fight was able to dominate. Floyd was also able to capture the welterweight title from Baldomir who was at the time the leading candidate for fighter of the year following his upset victory over Judah and his knockout on fan favorite Arturo “Thunder” Gatti. In Baldomir, Mayweather beat a fighter who had not lost a fight in 8 years, who was a bigger and stronger naturally. He did it with a broken hand and won every round easily.
Virtuoso Performance of the Year:
Joe Calzaghe vs. Jeff Lacy – Joe really schooled young Jeff Lacy in this one. He did what ever he wanted to do. He out boxed him, he pushed him around, he ruined his face, knocked him down, hurt his pride, ruined his career etc. That was one of the best performances in recent boxing history.
Fight of the Year:
Israel Vazquez vs. Jhonny Gonzalez – Blood, Guts, Skills, Knockdowns, Controversial ending, enough said. Israel Vazquez rose from being floored twice by classic left hooks from Gonzalez and showed championship heart by forcing Gonzalez’s corner to stopping the fight.
Break through Performer of the Year:
Carlos Baldomir – Even though he was thoroughly outclassed by Floyd Mayweather, Carlos Baldomir had a tremendous year. He rose to prominence by going in to Madison Square Garden to upset the undisputed welterweight champion and hometown hero, Zab “Super” Judah who at the time seemed to have matured and had solidified himself as one of boxing’s best. He followed that win up by beating the courage out of the tremendously gutsy ring warrior Arturo Gatti in front of his home fans as well. Baldomir had all the momentum in the world and was the feel good story of the year leading into his bout with Mayweather. Carlos came up short in his attempt to dethrone Floyd from Mayweather’s perch on top of boxing’s Mount Olympus. Nevertheless Baldomir did breakthrough in a big way this year.
Comeback fighter of the Year:
Kermit Cintron and Sugar Shane Mosely share this honor - Cintron embarrassed himself against Margarito when they fought in April 2005. Kermit seemed to be more tight than hurt when he lost to Margarito. Good to see he was able to come back strong with wins versus David Estrada and Mark Suarez. Mosely performed very well in disposing Fernando Vargas two times in a row. In the second bout we saw little glimpse of the old “Sugar” Shane.
Prospect of the Year:
Andre Berto – This young man combines a good blend or power and skill. He not only throws power punches but he also utilizes the jab. He needs to stop keeping his head so high because more experience fighters might be able to hurt him.
Humberto Soto – Everyone calls Margarito the most avoided fighter but Soto really is the man who holds this title. He manhandled Rocky Juarez who consequently was able to get two big fights with Barrera. Pacquiao never mentions his name, Juan Manuel Marquez never mentions him, Morales doesn’t, and neither does Barrera. But somebody is going have to give him a chance and when they do, Watch Out!
Humble Pie Award:
Antonio Tarver – Someone was actually able to shut Mr. Tarver’s mouth up. Ever since he dropped Eric Harding with a classic straight left hand in a fight he was clearly losing, we’ve been hearing Antonio Tarver’s mouth. He became louder when he was able to upset all time great Roy Jones Jr. by knocking him senseless in two rounds in their rematch. The rematch happened of course because Roy struggled mightily to win a close fight against Tarver in their first encounter. Roy claimed that the weight he had to lose to move from Heavyweight to Light Heavyweight had so drained him that he had no energy to perform at the level we had grown accustomed.
Tarver never bought that story, dismissing it as a mere excuse. Tarver asked the now famous question “You Have Any Excuses Tonight Roy?” in the center of the ring as referee Jay Nady gave the final pre-fight instructions. It’s funny how Karma works. Tarver added legitimate muscle weight to star alongside Sylvester Stallone recently released boxing drama “Rocky Balboa”, the sixth installment of Rocky. To defend his title against Bernard Hopkins (who was moving up in weight from 160lbs to 175 lbs), Tarver had to lose muscle weight. What transpired was a real boxing clinic put on Tarver by the great Bernard Hopkins. Say what you want to about Antonio Tarver, he is always competitive in his fights. Tarver looked old, drained and lifeless against Hopkins. Unfortunately for Tarver he could not make any excuses because if he did, then he would be legitimizing Jones’s reason for why he looked so bad in their first fight. Tarver essentially has finally shut up.
Most Disappointing Performance:
Joshua Clottey – Joshua Clottey who for many years has been a tough welterweight was never really thought of as championship material. When he was finally given the opportunity to fight for the WBO championship against the tough but overrated Antonio Margarito, not many gave the Ghanaian a chance to win. In the first five rounds against Margarito, Clottey easily out boxed his opponent and built a solid lead on the scorecards. Unfortunately at the first sign of adversity Clottey stop trying to win the fight. He suffered what turned out to be a broken index finger on his left hand. Clottey made sure that everyone in the building and on television was aware of his injury. Maybe it’s his lack of experience at the championship level, but under those circumstances you are to be a lot more composed and try to handle the task at hand. To his credit he did not quit and he continued in the bout however he stopped doing what made him successful very early in the bout and blew his chance at winning a world championship. He may live to regret that night. Hopefully he gets another opportunity.
I did a middle of the year pound for pound list in June of 2006, six months later the list is somewhat different. My criteria is maintained in this latest installment of my list of top boxers today. I still value professional won/loss record. While the record does not say everything about a fighter, it goes along way in telling the story. Level of performance is also very import because I want to know, was the fighter able to distinguish himself from his opponent and was it clear who the better man was after the fight. The competition level (the quality of fighters faced) is another key, championships won and years spent at a world class level round out the basis for my rankings. With all that said my new pound for pound list is as follows:
My year end pound for pound list is as follows:
Floyd “Pretty Boy” Mayweather Jr. (37-0 24 KO’S) – Quite simply the crème de le crème of the sport. Floyd Mayweather has no equal in the ring at this present time. Unfortunately Mayweather has now become a victim of his greatness. He had a tremendous year by defeating Zabdiel “Super” Judah and capturing the welterweight (147 lbs) title from Carlos “Tata” Baldomir). For some odd reason, Floyd has found himself in a defensive posture trying to survive the onslaught from his detractors. Pretty Boy shouldn’t have to defend anything. He beat two world class fighters rather handily. In Judah he fought a motivated ultra talent who was surprisingly faster than the pound for pound Picasso, Mayweather. Floyd then went on to win every round against the then leading fighter of the year candidate Baldomir. Floyd was only a four to one favorite at fight time. But instead of a celebration, Floyd was criticized by many as not being entertaining enough as well as not trying to knockout Baldomir despite the fact that he suffered an injury to his hand. It’s very interesting that those same detractors gave Bernard Hopkins his due for beating Tarver (who was ready to be knocked out) but in the same breath took shots at Floyd for not knocking out Baldomir. Next up for Floyd is the biggest fight of his career against Oscar De La Hoya. Look for Floyd to win and win impressively. Mayweather plans to retire after the fight and that seems premature. Can the ultra confident Floyd Mayweather Jr. be waning in confidence? Why leave when you are set to become bigger than ever? Maybe he wants to protect his undefeated record or maybe the hand injuries are being to take their toll on him.
Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao (43-3-2 34 KO’S) – Strong, fast, powerful, relentless, fearless are all words that exemplify Pacquiao’s prowess in the ring. He overwhelms his victims with not only his talent but also by his sheer determination and will. He is willing to take his opponent’s best punch just so that he can land his. Pacman had a tremendous year by knocking out Erik Morales for the first time in his illustrious career after ten action packed rounds. Pacquiao was able to repeat this tremendous feat in only three rounds when the two pugilists rematched ten months later. Sandwiched between his knockout wins over Morales was Manny’s domination over twelve rounds of world class fighter Oscar Larios. While being only 130 lbs he packs the punch of a much bigger man. Manny has many options out there and he’s still only 28 years old.
Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins (47-4-1 32 KO’S) – I’m not really convinced that he’s retired. It takes a year of inactivity to fall off of my list. His performance against Tarver was tremendous. He showed mastery of the game by dominating the bigger man who was the best light heavyweight in the business. Hopkins is amazing in that he still performs at a high level past forty years of age.
Ronald “Winky” Wright (51-3-1 25 KO’S) – Wright had a very strange year. He was engaged in one of the very best fights in the past calendar year when he challenged middleweight king Jermain Taylor for the title. Winky was able to take to control the fight with his jab was able to pressure the bigger man into fighting in retreat mode. Taylor threw the harder punches but Winky was more effective due to his accuracy. Winky for some odd reason refused to engage Taylor in the final round and for that reason only earned a draw in a fight that he might have won. His only other fight in 2006 saw him matched against veteran Ike “Bazooka” Quartey at middleweight (160 lbs). Quartey, whose natural weight is 147 lbs seemed a bit too small at 160 lbs. He was able to land effective punches at times but was in over his head. Winky on the other hand fought one of the worst fights he’s had recently. His signature jab was non existent as he landed only 68 out of the 487 he threw. That’s a connect percentage of 13.9 % and average of 5.7 per round. Winky is also getting hit a little more often than he used. We might be seeing a declining of a great fight.
Joe “Pride of Wales” Calzaghe (42-0 31 KO’S) – Had by far the best performance of the year by out boxing, out muscling, embarrassing and stripping all confidence from young bull Jeff “Left Hook” Lacy in a match up of the two best super middleweights (168lbs). His physical skills are superior and he is undefeated fifteen years into his career. A fight against young Jermain Taylor, Bernard Hopkins, Winky Wright or the avoided Mikkel Kessler would go a far way in seeing what Calzaghe is made of. He is poised to fight Peter Manfredo in what should be a exciting fight that will showcase all of Joe’s skills because Manfredo is not experienced enough.
Miguel “Angel” Cotto (28-0 23 KO’S) – Fast rising star in boxing. He is as strong a fighter as there is boxing today. He is a merciless, punishing puncher who really puts a hurting on his opponents. He is the best welterweight out there bar none and would stop almost anyone who gets into the ring with him. He’s a flawed fighter because he can be hurt but he is resilient, he has a lot of a heart and he responds well to adversity. In 2006, he beat up on the very tough Paulie Malignaggi in the June and then went on to destroy fellow countryman Carlos Quintana in five rounds in early December. 2007 should be a banner year for this great fighter as it seems he might finally get to face the very tough Antonio Margarito.
Rafael Marquez (36-3 32 KO’S) – It’s been a couple of years since he had his career best wins against former great Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson and “The Cincinnati Kid” Tim Austin. Rafael Marquez needs better dance partners because he is a good as every power puncher in boxing. Hopefully he can get in the ring with Israel Vazquez or Jorge Arce. Stopping Silence Mabuza in nine rounds as the only body of work in one calendar year is not saying much for this pound for pound fighter.
Marco Antonio Barrera (63-4 42 KO’S) – Master boxer who is at the end of his career. Marco Antonio has had a stellar career and will go down as one of the greatest lower weight fighters in the history of boxing. Was beaten up badly when he earned a controversial decision against Rocky Juarez. Barrera used his experience and guile to win in the rematch against Juarez. Barrera should step away from the boxing because he has lost a step. A fight against Pacquiao would be suicide.
Jermain “Bad Intentions” Taylor (26-0-1 17 KO’S) – So he stepped in competition and went 3-0-1 (0 KO’s) but something seems wrong with Jermain Taylor. In his last fight he was backing up all night against a weak punching Kassim Ouma. Taylor seems so be either stuck or regressing. While he is not knocking out his opponents his power is still evident but he is not imposing his will with his power. He no longer jabs with authority and he just looks raw. Jermain Taylor has a lot of potential but he needs to start realizing that sooner than later because he might end up getting knocked out instead of solidifying himself on top of the boxing game.
Israel “Magnifico” Vazquez (41-3 30 KO’S) – While he is no household name, Israel Vazquez has becoming one of boxing’s best. He is one of the sports’ best kept secrets. Vazquez is a strong punching, gutsy, skillful fighter. He is also very vulnerable to the big punch as witnessed in his classic bout against Jhonny Gonzalez. Gonzalez beat up on Vazquez evenly flooring him twice. But a gamed Vazquez knocked out Gonzalez in the 10th round while trailing on all scorecards. A fight Marquez would be ideal for boxing fans.
Ten Fights I would like to see in 2007
Jermain Taylor vs Edison Miranda – Jermain Taylor is a young bull who can bang, Edison Miranda is also a young bull who can bang. They are both fearless and Taylor needs a fight like this to wake him up from the doldrums.
Joe Calzaghe vs. Mikkel Kessler – Calzaghe has proven himself to be the best at super middleweight (168lbs) and one of the best pound for pound. Mikkel Kessler is also one of the best at 168lbs and is as avoided as Humberto Soto. This would be a tremendous fight.
Israel Vazquez vs. Rafael Marquez – These guys are hungry, strong and powerful. This would be a war and I would love to see it.
Bernard Hopkins vs Winky Wright – Both very skilled, they are close in weight this would be interesting not because it would be exciting but just because we can see who is the more tactical boxer between the two men.
Marco Antonio Barrera vs. Juan Manuel Marquez – Two excellent craftsmen in the ring like Hopkins and Wright it would be interesting to see how their styles match.
Humberto Soto vs Manny Pacquiao – This bout puts the best at 130 lbs against the most avoided in the division. Soto is a tall and strong fighter and Pacquiao is a monster. I would love to see how this plays out.
Miguel Cotto vs. Ricky Hatton – Hatton is afraid of the welterweight division and Cotto looks comfortable in the division, so this fight might not happen. It would be intriguing because they are both murderous body punchers and they fight hard.
Jorge Arce vs. Vic Darchinyan – Jorge Arce is a tough customer and Vic Darchinyan is a powerful puncher. It seems as if Arce is avoiding the fight but I would give him a great shot at winning. Darchinyan doesn’t have the best defense but neither does Arce. This would be an explosion
Paul Williams vs. Kermit Cintron – Both men are tall for the welterweight division. Williams stands 6’1 and Cintron is 5’11. They are both young, both exciting and both are hungry. Put them together and see what happens.
Zab Judah vs Antonio Margarito – Judah is very talented, Margarito is jaded. Zab may well be a gatekeeper but if Margarito beats Judah it would be the biggest name on his resume and if Judah beats Margarito he will be invited back to the welterweight conversation. It’s a weird match up but I would love to see it.
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