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The 2002 CBZ Year End AwardsCompiled by the CBZ Staff
Fighter of the year: Vernon Forrest
Fight of the Year: Ward-Gatti I
Round of the Year: Round 9 of Ward-Gatti I
Upset of the Year: Vernon Forrest W12 Shane Mosley I
Knockout of the Year: Roy Jones KO7 Glen Kelley
Comeback of the Year: Arturo Gatti
Who knows what we are to make of Vernon Forrest's two victories over "Sugar" Shane Mosley? Going into their first match a year ago, Mosley was considered by many to be the best fighter in the world pound-for-pound and with good rationale. Not only was he unbeaten in 10 years as a professional, he had more or less dominated the lightweight division, moved up two weight classes and defeated Oscar De La Hoya (legitimately) and had continued to remain supreme at 147 pounds. There were those who felt Mosley, not Trinidad or De La Hoya, could have been the better fighter at that weight all along. Whether they felt this way or not, to most pundits Mosley could do no wrong.
So what does that make Vernon Forrest, who beat the daylights out of Mosley in the year's biggest upset and defeated him the second time around six months later? Is he now the people's choice as the pound-for-pound best? That is not likely. There are a couple of certainties we have learned. We know the fact that Forrest owns Mosley's number is something to behold even if he should move up in weight and not have a successful campaign as a jr. middleweight. We know that Vernon Forrest is a special fighter and boxers such as De La Hoya and Trinidad were wise to not face him during their long stretches at welterweight. At the very least, Forrest's accomplishments last year have earned him the Fighter of the Year award by the CBZ staff.
When compiling this poll, it was possible that everyone forgot about Forrest because of what overshadowed everything this year in the boxing world. But for once it was something positive. It had nothing to do with someone biting someone's ear off, a paraglider or a controversial decision. It wasn't the Lewis-Tyson circus. It was something that made you proud and happy to be a boxing fan. And if you weren't already a fan of boxing at the time Micky Ward and Arturo Gatti fought each other last May, then you were certainly more of one after, especially if you appreciate Rocky films.
Most fans have to sit through a number of dull fights and witness a spider's worth of black eyes before they see a classic like the one Arturo and Micky waged. A boxing fan is frequently asked why they could follow such a disappointing sport that hasn't had the noblest of reputations. Micky and Arturo gave us something to remember and a quick answer to those who questioned our passion. Gatti and Ward or Arturo and Micky, however you'd like to refer to them as is a good reason why we support our "guilty pleasure," as Jack Newfield likes to call it.
Most knew that pitting two of the sport's most heralded blood & guts fighters together would be something to look forward to. But what we got was something much more. We got to see the fight of the century. More specifically, we got to see the "9th round," three minutes of excitement that could put to shame just about any other sporting memory. That round, which incredibly, was nearly rivaled in the third round of their November rematch is what stood out most in 2002. Looking back, there will be a very good reason why a superfight such as De La Hoya-Vargas, a rivalry that could have compared to any in previous memory was not the defining fight of 2002.
As we look forward to 2003, we await to see what will happen when a former middleweight champion, one that has been measured as the most talented boxer that has ever lived, will attempt to slay WBA heavyweight champion, John Ruiz. But should Roy Jones Jr. not accomplish this unnecessary and dangerous feat, he will be remembered for some of his other defining moments. So far they include his virtual shut outs over James Toney and Bernard Hopkins, both of whom were in their respective primes. There was his knockout of Virgil Hill, one of the most dominant light heavyweights of any era, who was exited by a single body shot. There was the occasion when we went an entire round without his opponent landing a punch. Or the time when he played a professional basketball game the morning of one of his title fights. But this past year, in defense of his undisputed light heavyweight championship he knocked out contender Glen Kelley while throwing a punch with his hands behind his back. He was pretending to fight like a rooster. Who doesn't when they're in the middle of a world title fight?
Though Kelley isn't to be confused with a contender like Yvonne Durelle or Yaqui Lopez, you can't deny Jones' knockout of the Aussie contender as something to embellish. Boxers train for years to harness their skills and build mental and physical toughness. They are not supposed to be beaten with such ease and arrogance. I guess that's what makes them boxers and Roy Jones, Jr. a demigod. Whether he can improve that status and finally acclaim the undeniable greatness that is upon him we'll have to sit back and wait another month. But who cares about the wait? We waited a lifetime for Gatti & Ward.
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