View Full Version : THE YEAR IN BOXING by CHUCK JOHNSON. USA TODAY
12-27-2005, 03:06 PM
An array of the finest '05 fisticuff's offerings
By Chuck Johnson, USA TODAY
USA TODAY's Fight of the Year and Fighter of the Year recognizes two game lightweights who waged an all-time great bout and a rising middleweight star who dethroned an all-time great champion. Boxing writer Chuck Johnson looks back at the year in the ring:
Fight of the Year
The May 7 title unification fight between Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo drew an abundance of media attention. It was contested on the same weekend the Boxing Writers' Association of America held its annual awards banquet in Las Vegas for the first time, and the non-stop action left a lasting impression. The suspense kept building, and the dramatic ending exceeded all expectations even though the fight didn't go the 12-round distance. In the climactic 10th, Corrales twice got up from knockdowns to stop Castillo on a TKO, culminating a toe-to-toe, ebb-and-flow rumble that stands atop boxing's memorable moments from 2005.
Fighter of the Year
Jermain "Bad Intentions" Taylor, 27, the 2000 Olympic bronze medalist from Little Rock, is no longer the heir apparent but the middleweight champion after ending Bernard Hopkins' streak of 20 successful title defenses July 16. Taylor followed up his controversial split-decision victory by winning a unanimous decision in the Dec. 3 rematch. Though both fights were close, and Taylor admittedly has flaws he hopes to correct with experience, the pride of Arkansas took a big leap to stardom with his two big wins against a Hall of Fame-bound Philadelphia fighter who hadn't tasted defeat in 12 years.
The middleweight division also was the domain of a rare flawless fight. Ronald "Winky" Wright was the easy winner May 14 with his dominating 12-round shutout against Felix "Tito" Trinidad. The former junior middleweight champion used a stiff right jab to set up combinations and surprisingly was able to score at will. The St. Petersburg, Fla., southpaw compounded Trinidad's frustration with masterful defense, using his long arms and elbows to completely shield his head and torso. Trinidad slipped back into retirement after the fight, and Wright's plight is that top opponents still don't want any part of him. But he's now the No. 1 middleweight contender, and a mandatory date with Taylor is one of the anticipated highlights in 2006.
The best, pound-for-pound
Floyd Mayweather Jr. solidified his status as the mythical No. 1 pound-for-pound champ with his June 25 demolishing of Arturo Gatti for the WBC super lightweight title. Unleashing lightning-quick shots from every angle and leaving the ring unscathed, "Pretty Boy" Floyd gave the best demonstration yet that he's one of the most skillful fighters to ever lace up gloves. Gatti, who built his reputation on toughness and never backing down, was reduced to mincemeat and couldn't get off his stool to answer the bell for the seventh round. Mayweather (35-0, 24 KOs) has since made his welterweight debut, scoring a sixth-round TKO on Nov. 19 against former 140-pound champ Sharmba Mitchell. The question facing Mayweather is will he stay at 147 pounds or move back to 140, where there's potential lucrative fights with IBF champion Ricky Hatton and/or WBO champion Miguel Cotto, who, like Mayweather, are unbeaten.
Biggest hometown win
On June 4, native son Ricky "The Hitman" Hatton (40-0, 30 KOs) rode the emotion of 22,000 fans crammed inside the MEN Arena in Manchester, England, to upset Kostya Tszyu for the IBF light welterweight title. Hatton, 26, dominated the fight on the inside. Tszyu (31-2), the Russian-born Australian, didn't answer the bell for the 12th round. Hatton has since added another belt with a TKO of WBA champ Vivian Harris in a 140-pound unification bout and is in line for bigger bouts on this side of the Atlantic.
Biggest hometown bust
By Charlie Neibergall, AP
Cory Spinks was embarassed in front his hometown fans in St. Louis when he was knocked out by Zab "Super" Judah.
To the dismay of more than 20,000 supporters at St. Louis' Savvis Center, hometown hero Cory Spinks was knocked down twice and stopped at 2:49 of the ninth round Feb. 5 as New York native Zab "Super" Judah walked off with the undisputed welterweight title. The rapper Nelly accompanied Spinks into the ring and indulged the crowd in a singalong, but it quickly became Too Hot in Herre for the son of former heavyweight champion Leon Spinks. Judah (34-2) was the aggressor from the start after losing a unanimous decision in 2004 in their first fight. If Kostya Tszyu decides to fight again, Judah would love a chance to avenge his only other loss after getting KO'd in the second round by Tszyu.
You better recognize
On Oct. 1, No. 1 light heavyweight in the world Antonio Tarver declared it's time to give credit where credit is due after he closed the book on his trilogy with Roy Jones Jr. with a victory by unanimous decision. Tarver (24-3, 18 KOs) finally escaped the sizable shadow of Jones when he won the rubber match between the longtime Florida rivals in front of a sellout crowd in Tampa. Tarver scored a stunning second-round knockout of Jones in their second fight after losing a split decision many thought he won in their first meeting. The "Magic Man" these days is a movie man. Tarver will co-star as heavyweight champion Mason "The Line" Dixon in the film Rocky Balboa, aka Rocky 6. The film is in production and again stars Sylvester Stallone in the title role.
The lower weight classes continue to provide the excitement and intriguing matchups that have been absent for too long in the heavyweight division. The March 19 superfeatherweight fight between Erik Morales and Manny Pacquiao was courage personified by both warriors before Morales pulled out a unanimous decision. The highly anticipated rematch is Jan. 21 and finds Morales looking to rebound. He was upset Sept. 10 by former U.S. Olympian Zahir Raheem, who dominated what was supposed to be a Morales tuneup and won a unanimous decision. Likewise, Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo are set for a third fight Feb. 4. Their second fight ended in controversy when Castillo won by a fourth-round KO. Because Castillo failed to make weight, the Oct. 8 fight was reduced to a non-title bout, and Corrales was awarded part of Castillo's purse.
Four beltholders still lay claim to the heavyweight title. Two belts changed waists as a knee injury forced Vitali Klitschko to retire and relinquish his WBC belt to former heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman. John Ruiz lost his WBA belt for the second time this year on a controversial split decision Dec. 17 against Nikolay Valuev, the first Russian to win a heavyweight title. Ruiz dropped a unanimous decision April 30 to James Toney, who was later stripped of the title after testing positive for steroids, handing the belt back to Ruiz. IBF champion Chris Byrd defended his title Oct. 1 with a unanimous decision against DaVarryl Williamson. WBO champion Lamon Brewster defended his title twice, a ninth-round TKO of Luan Krasniqi on Sept. 28 and a first-round TKO of Andrew Golota on May 21. The year also brought an end to the career of Mike Tyson at age 38. The former undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, who dominated the division from 1986-90, didn't answer the bell for the seventh round June 11 in losing to journeyman Kevin McBride.
The year's most compelling heavyweight bout was Sept. 24 in Atlantic City and was won by Wladimir Klitschko. Vitali's younger brother survived three knockdowns to gain a unanimous decision against Samuel "The Nigerian Nightmare" Peter in a slugfest that gave fans a taste of big-man punching they've been missing.
12-27-2005, 06:16 PM
Benn Schulberg: THE YEAR THAT WAS
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
It’s time to say goodbye to 2005, but not without remembering a year that showed us all what makes boxing such a brutally glorious sport. We witnessed maybe the greatest fight in history. (My father, 91, calls it THE greatest fight because of its dramatic pendulum sway in the final round. He’s been attending fights for 70-plus years so that tells me that I was one lucky journalist to be in the arena on that May night when Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo squared off for the lightweight championship.)
Round 10, the round of 2005, and one of the greatest rounds in history, again called by my father as THE greatest, saw Corrales go down twice and get up, his eye swollen shut and seemingly finished, but with one punch and the blink of an eye he went from the vanquished to the attacker. He then moved Castillo back to the ropes with vicious shots and forced the referee to stop the fight with his opponent out on his feet. Just like that it was all over. The impossible actually happened. (After the two knockdowns, my father had started writing out what he was going to say to his friend Diego in the locker-room after the fight. It went something like this…”You’re still our champion, Chico. You’ll get him next time.” Needless to say, my father never had to make that speech.
This fight had it all, even adding controversy of the year to its award tally. Corrales was given precious seconds to recover after each knockdown because his mouthpiece came out. He was penalized for it, but in the end it was surely worth the point deduction. The
Castillo camp cried foul, arguing that Corrales should have been disqualified for such desperate tactics of spitting out his mouthpiece. Castillo got his revenge though in October with a crushing knockout of Corrales, but not without more controversy. Unable to make the lightweight limit, Castillo attempted to cheat his way to 135 pounds by having a mysterious adviser stuff a towel under the scale. One big problem, the Nevada State Athletic Commission was watching. In the end, Castillo paid his fine, apologized to his fans, and then went out and dominated Corrales. Yet, he walked away without the belts. So now we brace ourselves for February 4 in El Paso, Texas, eagerly anticipating how the score will be settled.
There were many bright spots in 2005, but no fighter deserved the spotlight more than Floyd Mayweather, Jr. Dominating the likes of Arturo Gatti and Sharmba Mitchell, he demonstrated why he’s the best fighter in the world today with his blinding speed and pinpoint accuracy. It’s hard to imagine anyone beating “Pretty Boy” as long as he stays focused. It looks like Zab Judah will give it a try in ‘06, we’ll have to wait and see.
Now let’s not forget the erstwhile Iron Mike. How could we review 2005 without including the most talked about fighter of our time? We knew he was a shell of his former self, but who could have predicted his pathetic performance against the lightly touted Kevin McBride? At one point near the end of a round, Tyson slumped down against the ropes and then reached his gloves up in the air, looking to his opponent to help him up. McBride didn’t help poor Mike up and the rest is history. This was my upset of the year just because I couldn’t imagine Tyson’s worst losing to McBride’s best. I was sadly wrong. Goodbye Mike. Happy travels.
Speaking of happy travels. How about we say goodbye to the entire heavyweight division? The once heavyweight mystique has become a mistake and an embarrassment to the sport. Starting with James Toney testing positive for steroids and giving the title back to the consistently boring John Ruiz, followed by the retirement of Vitali Klitschko after setting the postponement record against Hasim Rahman, and of course, ending the year with a fiasco in Germany in which a Russian giant clubbed his way to a controversial decision, happily ending the Ruiz reign for all of us except for stormin’ Norman Stone, Ruiz’s trainer, who figured he’d go out swinging against Valuev’s corner. A perfectly sad ending to the saddest division in boxing today. Byrd, Brewster, Rahman, and now Valuev would even be a disgrace to Joe Louis’ bum-of-month club. Being the heavyweight champion used to mean something to the world, today it means nothing.
Since we’re talking heavyweights, let’s finally send Evander Holyfield home for the last time. Please don’t fight again Evander. It’s not fair to those select few who still find a way to admire you even after you destroyed your Hall-of-Fame legacy by chasing past glory and a doomed battle with father time. 2005 is a good year to retire. There are others whose time has come and gone. Kostya Tszyu quit on his stool against Rickey Hatton and it’s likely we may never see him in the ring again. Roy Jones, Jr. has been beaten three times in a row and suddenly looks quite old after being a dominant force for so many years. I guess that’s why a fight with Bernard Hopkins is now so appealing since The Executioner has finally lost his hold on the middleweight division. For both fighters, this is the final farewell on their farewell tour.
Regardless of who wins, I hope both never fight again.
The sport of boxing can give us so much joy and excitement, but its brutal nature can also cause us terrible heartache. We can live with our fighters losing their titles, but when they sacrifice their lives as well, it’s a tough burden to bear. Leavander Johnson, lightweight champion, succumbed to his injuries suffered in his title fight earlier this year. Critics tell us that boxing is too rough and that the sport sends a bad message of violence to our youth. Sometimes it’s hard not to question why I’m so enthralled with a sport in which people die. But then I remember what boxing did for Leavander Johnson and why he was so grateful to do what he did. He died doing what he loved most, and he wouldn’t have had it any other way. Nobody wants to ever see such tragedy happen, but the gladiators that we love willingly go into battle knowing and embracing what their ultimate fate could be.
As we welcome 2006, and look forward to another exciting year in the sport of boxing, we must not forget our fallen soldiers, Leavander Johnson and all those fighters around the world who didn’t make it through 2005. To the families of these brave men and women, I’m deeply sorry for your loss. On behalf of The Sweet Science and the entire boxing fraternity, please know that you are all in our thoughts and prayers. Happy New Year to all the boxers and their families that make this great sport what it is…and to all the extended members of Pugilistica, may you have a healthy and prosperous year ahead.
12-27-2005, 06:20 PM
In Boxing News: Fight of the Year, Judah, Mayweather, Mesi, Hatton & More from Sweet Science
The Boxing Year That Was
Benn Schulberg reveals that his father, Budd Schulberg, considers the first Corrales-Castillo bout the best fight he has ever seen, due to the dramatic pendulum sway in the final round. I was amazed to read this, given that Budd has been watching fights for 70-plus years.
It should be no surprise, then, that Dan Rafael of ESPN picks Corrales-Castillo I as his fight of the year. Could there have been any other choice? Rafael lists a number of other slugfests which get honorable mention - including Arce vs. Hussein, one that I particularly enjoyed myself. Hopefully we will see more of Jorge Arce during 2006. Showtime, HBO … are you listening?
The USA Today offers its 2005 picks of the year and picks as its fight of the year - you guessed it - the May 7 title unification fight between Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo. Amongst other awards, USA Today selects Jermain Taylor as its fighter of the year and Floyd Mayweather Jr. as number 1 in the pound for pound rankings.
Interesting take by the Australian Daily Telegraph which reports Zab Judah is dodging Kostya Tszyu. According to the headline at the Daily Telegraph, Judah does not want to face Tszyu again so he is fighting Floyd Mayweather instead. Obviously the editor resonsible for writing the headlines at the Daily Telegaph isn’t a fight fan. Below the Judah-Tszyu lead in the same column at the Daily Telegraph is the tragic tale of former Tszyu sparring partner Leonard Townsend, who has been sentenced to 85 years in prison in Indiana. Townsend was found guilty of murder and attempted murder in October in a gun battle that started during a haircut. During a haircut?
If Joe Mesi is able to get licensed and he is willing, Vassiliy Jirov says he would fight Mesi again. “He has warning enough. He is ignoring this. If he wants to hurt himself, it’s strange,” said Jirov.
Not really boxing news per se, but on Christmas day we linked to a Jack Johnson restrospective on the TheSweetScience.com boxing news links page. Part 1 and Part 2 on Jack Johnson’s visit to Vancouver, Canada are well worth the read.
Finally, Ricky Hatton has been given the all-clear for a quick return to the ring after making a remarkable recovery. Hatton’s father and manager, Ray Hatton, says the unbeaten Mancunian will fight again in the United States in the spring.
12-27-2005, 07:46 PM
What 2005 Really Taught Us?
By Jason Petock from Dog House Boxing
If there was ever a controversial year in the sport of boxing 2005 would have to be it. Granted our beloved art form has been riddled in years past with scandal, intrigue and disbelief, but this year really took the cake for some of the poorest decision making and worst deals ever made in the history of pugilism. To say that things have changed and the sport is looking up would be almost too dishonest. The positive aspects of boxing and its participants appear to be not enough these days to overshadow all the seedy elements which have such a gigantic impact and influence on the sport. Sanctioning still hasn’t passed legislature and while several have rallied around the cause not much is being done to protect boxers and their health in the process. Many of the bouts shown this year ended in such pitiful decisions that it’s a wonder we still have any fans left. This may sound a bit too dismal or even negative to some and that may be the case. But recall the year’s fights and I guarantee you there isn’t a soul out there that could count all the reckless robberies and mismatches on all ten of their fingers. I’d even let you use your toes and it still wouldn’t be enough. Here are some of the things that occurred in the world of professional boxing and what they revealed to us.
1) Shifting of the Junior Welterweight Division
The Junior Welterweight Division is as exciting a division as there is out there in boxing right now. All the big names hang their hats there. You have Ricky Hatton, who rough-housed an older and more complacent Kostya Tszyu to become ‘the man’ so to speak. And there’s Floyd Mayweather who dismantled Arturo Gatti in a fight that became a brutal boxing clinic that no one really wanted to see but everyone knew was going to happen. Miguel Cotto sits patiently at the crest of the horizon, steadily chipping away on-comers and looking to solidify his position in the division while learning and growing as a fighter. Carlos Maussa awaits his turn in the ever rotating line up as well.
So where does this leave us? Arturo Gatti fights in January and we will see whats left in the tank for ‘The Human Highlight Film’. Fighters tend to get really old overnight, let’s hope this doesn’t happen to ‘Thunder’ and that he can leave his battles in the ring where they belong. Mayweather’s searching for Zab Judah in the Welterweight division, which would be the fight of all fights but who knows if they’ll grace us with such a duel or not? Money is the name of the game and that’s why Wright vs. Mayweather fell through. It’s true that even boxing likes to play ‘The Price is Right’.
Cotto’s far more mature than his years and seems to only get better. Several out there question his chin seeing as he has been rocked in the last couple fights he’s been in. Time will be a good measure of where he stands at such an accelerated pace. And Carlos Maussa will just have to dwell in the background until he can spring forward and jockey for position. Anything might happen people, it is boxing. Sad thing is what the fans and fighters (more importantly) want and what we get are two totally different things.
2) Bernard Hopkins vs. Jermain Taylor
Perhaps the biggest story of 2005 was this legendary match up between the young rising star in Jermain Taylor and the reigning crafty lion Bernard Hopkins who ruled the Middleweight division with an iron fist for 10 years straight. The speculation of this bout was immense but what played out was more of a disappointing melodrama than a Championship face off. For one it was clear that after Hopkins lost the first fight that his rule was over. Everyone knows that B-Hop does things his way in and out of the ring and many people resent him for it. If anything this was their final and only chance to wipe away his memory and start with a clean slate. They had a younger more amiable fighter that could be marketed to a younger generation through sleek advertising and proper media buildup. You can say that Bernard is imaging things but when you play it out in your head things make perfect sense. Out with the old and in with the new. The other guy won’t budge but this new guy wants to cooperate. Politics can sometimes ruin a good thing.
Many of you out there argued incessantly that this changing of the guard was the right thing to do and that it is needed for boxing to thrive. That the look of apprehension and even bewilderment on Taylor’s face when he was announced the winner of the first fight was just a fluke, that he was exhausted and disoriented. This may very well be the case, yet faces and expressions tell a lot, especially about a boxer. Remember how Tyson used to look before a fight when he was in his prime and ready to explode? Confident and able even more so in victory. Taylor showed none of this in his first fight against Hopkins and didn’t change all that much in his second. Congratulations are of course in full order to the new and still undisputed Middleweight Champion but I would be remiss if I didn’t slightly disagree with the whole scenario and put my vote in for Hopkins. True he may be much older than Taylor, but the first fight should have been a draw and the second fight should have been Bernard’s. If anything judges and the manipulators behind the scenes usually give the defending Champion the benefit of the doubt and we have all seen countless bouts where the Champion clearly did not win but still did. But like I stated earlier Bernard Hopkins is his own man and they cannot play him like a puppet like they wanted to for so long. Call it like you see it I did.
3) Mike Tyson will Retire
I am one those self proclaimed ‘biggest’ Tyson fans out there. I own his career box set on DVD and watch it religiously when I want to relive a greater time in boxing’s Heavyweight Division. Like most of us I can quote Cus D’Amato off the top and read everything I can about Tyson in an attempt to further understand the man who I consider to be the best fighter of our generation hands down. Some would dispute this claim, which is their right. Thing is, while everyone else is looking for a pound of flesh from Mike or another slam story to push him further in the mud I’m just a fan of his. Everybody says, ‘Enough already! We’re tired of hearing about the car crash that is Mike Tyson.’ Then don’t read anything about him. He is an integral part of boxing’s history and will remain that way until he is inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame and validated.
So ‘Iron’ Mike will retire. He’ll move on to other venues and maybe even embrace the celebrity status that has eluded him for so long. He will still have his detractors and haters who will continue to drag him down and look for whatever dirt they can find on him to add to their piles, but for the rest of us we’ll just remember him for what counts most and that’s being a fighter who was one of the best there ever was. Period.
4) Reality Shows Suck
Ok, as much as I enjoyed all the boxing reality drama this past year I have to admit that reality shows suck and do nothing but push the sport even further back. Yeah the story lines were good and heartfelt and genuine and they had real fighters doing what they loved to do. But that’s where the good idea started and ended. The corporate idiots at these networks whose only true concern is ratings and not proper representation only screwed things up when they took real fighters and did them an injustice by placing them in a fake situation. What was fake was how these fights were handled and how losses were added to legitimate boxer’s records for the sake of ‘entertainment’. While NBC and any of the other jokers out there don’t seem to care that actual fighters gave their all in real fights so that they could claim a chunk of metal that isn’t even recognized by anyone except maybe NBC and Rocky Balboa, the rest of us realize their contributions and know that it takes more than a necklace and some banged out metal to make a fighter. Getting a Championship is a dream of all contenders but there are so many out there that who can keep track anymore? Everybody has their hands in the cookie jar and this is just one more example of someone else stealing a cookie. Only this time it crumbled.
5) They Will Let Anyone Fight
For the sake of desperation promoters, managers and states with no commissions (and some with them) will still let anyone fight for the chance to turn a buck. Being a boxer is an honor that everyone should be proud of, yet if you go to any of these fights or see them telecast on TV you’ll find yourself scratching your heads in wonder. A dog might have to eat but if he doesn’t have any fight in him keep him in the kennel. People should be allowed to experience the beauty and pain that is boxing but there are examples where it just isn’t there. When is someone going to step in and stop those out there from hurting themselves or others? Time and time again we hear of tragic deaths and injuries that never would have occurred if someone had just taken the time to step in and say wait or stop. Things that you can’t predict and foresee are givens, but no one’s life is worth the price of ticket sales. Especially when the boxer gets the least off the top.
All in all though it was an okay year for boxing. We saw Zahir Raheem beat Erik Morales so easily it left all of us with our jaws agape. Mayweather stepped up and proved to everyone that he is a threat and that all of his dedication and hard work has paid off in more ways than one. He may not be a people’s favorite yet but there is no denying his talent and abilities. He’ll be around for a long time, you can count on that. The Heavyweight Division suffered its ups and downs while we sat waiting for the next big thing to never show up. Tyson got beaten by someone who shouldn’t have even been in the same ring with him even in his lessened state, and we saw Rocky Juarez’s rise to the stop sharply interrupted by someone far hungrier than himself. The rest of the world experienced needless war, famine, natural disasters and catastrophe unlike any the world has ever seen. Gas prices shot through the roof and unemployment was at an all time high. Christmas came and went and continues to become more of a lesson in capitalism and less of a time for family. Maybe 2006 will offer boxing and the rest of the world outside of the sport some new hope and answers for an uncertain future.
12-27-2005, 08:38 PM
First Corrales-Castillo fight best of year
By Dan Rafael
Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo will fight for the third time in nine months when they meet Feb. 4, but their first battle May 7 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas is the one people will remember most.
Corrales' dramatic -- to put it mildly -- 10th-round TKO of Castillo to unify lightweight world titles was not only the hands-down choice as 2005 ESPN.com's fight of the year, but if you check back with us in a few years, expect to see it honored as the fight of the decade.
It was simply one of the greatest fights ever, an unforgettable masterpiece that will stand the test of time. Corrales-Castillo I is right there in the pantheon of all-time ring wars alongside Ali-Frazier III, Pryor-Arguello I, Hagler-Hearns, Leonard-Hearns I and the Zale-Graziano, Bowe-Holyfield, Gatti-Ward and Barrera-Morales trilogies.
"I think the whole sports world knows that this fight was something legendary, and Castillo and Corrales put on a performance that great athletes do, and people that go into legendary status in their careers do," said Todd duBoef of Top Rank, Castillo's promoter. "They put on a beautiful performance and made people think how great boxing is."
It had all the ingredients for a great fight. Nonstop, savage action. Blood. Courage. Momentum swings. High stakes. Knockdowns. Controversy. And an ending so stunning, so sublime, that you could hardly believe what you were seeing.
From round one through the incredible conclusion, Corrales and Castillo went at it in blistering, video-game-like fashion, which they had predicted in the days leading up to the bout.
"This fight will be like two buffaloes colliding," Castillo promised.
Rafael's Fights of the Year
2005        Diego Corrales TKO10 Jose Luis Castillo (I)
2004        Marco Antonio Barrera W12 Erik Morales (III)
2003        Arturo Gatti W10 Micky Ward (III)
2002        Micky Ward W10 Arturo Gatti (I)
2001        Micky Ward W10 Emanuel Burton
2000        Felix Trinidad TKO12 Fernando Vargas
"On paper, this has the potential to be as exciting a fight as you will see," Corrales said. "I definitely feel that at some point, it will be bombs away. … I really do not see how it can go the distance with each of us dropping bombs on each other in the middle of the ring. I love these kinds of fights."
After nine rounds of grueling, frenetic action, Corrales, with a badly swollen left eye, got knocked down twice in the 10th round. Hard. This fight was over, right?
Not quite yet.
On each knockdown -- and this is where the controversy comes in -- Corrales lost his mouthpiece, giving him valuable recovery time while it was replaced by referee Tony Weeks.
Perhaps it was those precious extra seconds that did the trick, but whatever it was, Corrales made a magical comeback. Moments later, he stopped Castillo with a flurry of shots along the ropes.
The fight was over, but the memories will last a lifetime.
Erik Morales W12 Manny Pacquiao (March 19 at Las Vegas)
Erik Morales brought his WBC belt into the ring after beating Manny Pacquiao.
How often does a fight of the year candidate on paper turn out to be the real thing? Not too often, but this was one of those times as junior lightweight stars Morales and Pacquiao, two of the sport's most exciting warriors, waged a toe-to-toe slugfest that would have been the fight of the year in any year that didn't include Corrales-Castillo I. Did it matter that this was a non-title bout? Not to any of the almost 15,000 who packed the MGM Grand. All they were concerned with was watching Morales and Pacquiao trade violent power shots for 12 rounds, seemingly in an attempt to decapitate one another.
Barely a minute into the fight they were brawling, and the intensity only grew from there. From the fifth round on, Pacquiao fought with blood streaming down his face from a cut over his right eye. And Morales, even though he was fully in control by the 12th round, took some chances and got rocked in the final 90 seconds to add to the drama.
"There's nowhere else in sport where you will find greater passion, greater intensity, greater courage, greater commitment, greater sheer guts than what these two guys are showing," HBO's Jim Lampley exclaimed as the final few seconds ticked off the clock. "This is boxing at its best." Indeed. And lucky for us, the rematch is set for Jan. 21.
Miguel Cotto KO7 Ricardo Torres (Sept. 24 at Atlantic City, N.J.)
Cotto (left) knocked Torres down four times, but Torres also staggered the champ.
Big punches, huge swings in momentum and knockdowns galore punctuated this spectacular battle as Cotto barely escaped with his junior welterweight title. So good was the fight that HBO's Larry Merchant exuberantly dubbed Cotto the "Puerto Rican Arturo Gatti." Cotto -- and Torres for that matter -- became must-see fighters courtesy of a scrap in which Cotto scored four knockdowns but also went down for the first time in his pro or amateur career in the second round.
There were other times when Torres, a clubbing slugger from Colombia who took the fight on only three weeks' notice, had Cotto staggering all over the ring and on the verge of going down. But Cotto's heart carried him through, not to mention that massive left uppercut that ended matters in the seventh.
Jorge Arce TKO10 Hussein Hussein I (March 19 at Las Vegas)
Jorge Arce (left) and Hussein Hussein traded blows all night.
These little guys provided mammoth action in this flyweight title eliminator, a toe-to-toe battle that an hour after its conclusion had been largely overshadowed by the intense Morales-Pacquiao main event. But this fight can stand on its own as a terrific all-action affair.
Arce showed tremendous courage fighting through a deep gash on the bridge of his nose that left him a bloody mess for much of the fight. Hussein also showed heart, never backing down. Even before what turned out to be the final round, HBO's Lampley blurted out exactly what we were thinking: "This has turned out to be a memorable and brilliant battle." An October rematch turned out quite differently, with Arce blitzing Hussein for a second-round TKO.
Tomasz Adamek W12 Paul Briggs (May 21 at Chicago)
Tomasz Adamek won a true slugfest.
What a shame that this brutal slugfest for a vacant light heavyweight title was not televised in the United States. If you call yourself a true boxing fan, you'll hunt down a tape or DVD from one of the many countries around the world that did televise the co-featured fight on the card headlined by Lamon Brewster's heavyweight title defense against Andrew Golota.
This fight stole the show. Adamek, from Poland, and Briggs, from Australia, dug deep inside to will themselves to the final bell of a bloody brawl that Adamek won via majority decision. How tough is Adamek? He came into the fight with his nose already broken. You can only imagine what it looked like after the fight. Briggs, too, showed immense heart as he also bled and absorbed massive shots round after round.
How both of these guys made it to the final bell remains one of the great unanswered questions of boxing in 2005. A rematch is likely and we simply can't wait.
Jesus Chavez W12 Carlos Hernandez (May 28 at Los Angeles)
Although the bout was on the undercard of Julio Cesar Chavez's supposed "Adios" fight against Ivan Robinson, hardcore fight fans shelled out their pay-per-view money for this match, and it was worth every cent. Look up the word grueling in the dictionary and there should be a photograph from this one next to it.
Going in, you knew it would be a blood-and-guts battle of attrition. You know what? It was exactly that. For 12 razor-close rounds, the former junior lightweight champs hammered each other at close range with another title shot on the line. Virtually every round was loaded with hard, clean combinations in the center of the ring. Most rounds could have gone either way, but in the end it was Chavez pulling out the split-decision victory while fans were treated to a fabulous fight.
Vicente Mosquera W12 Yodsanan Nanthachai (April 30 at New York)
AP Photo/Ed Betz
Vincente Mosquera and Yodsanan Nanthachai fought an action-packed third round.
Although they fought in near-obscurity on the undercard of the John Ruiz-James Toney heavyweight title fight, Mosquera of Panama and Nanthachai of Thailand supplied more drama than the rest of the eight bouts on the card combined. Mosquera, the mandatory challenger fighting outside of his homeland for the first time in his career, claimed a junior lightweight world title in this sizzling affair. He scored knockdowns in the first, third and 11th rounds and survived his own trip to the deck in the wild third round.
There was no television coverage of this bout in the United States, but for those who were there, they won't soon forget it.
Vinny Maddalone TKO5 Shannon Miller (Aug. 19 at Saratoga Springs)
Vinny Maddalone won on heart and desire..
Maddalone is no stranger to exciting brawls. ESPN2 viewers are unlikely to forget his 2004 10th-round TKO loss to Brian Minto, one of that year's best fights. In 2005, Maddalone, a native of Queens, was at it again, but this time winning ESPN2's most dramatic fight and the best heavyweight bout of the year.
Neither Maddalone nor Miller is particularly skilled, but what they lack in that department they more than make up for in heart and desire. They went at it at a frantic pace from the opening bell, and although Maddalone would score three knockdowns en route to his win, it wasn't easy getting there. Miller had several big moments before succumbing. Although Miller was down twice in the opening round, he rocked Maddalone in between trips to the canvas and then cut him over the left eye in the second round of the roller coaster slugfest.
Maddalone summed it up afterward: "You get anyone to stand in front of me like that and it's going to be like that every day. It's going to be a war." So true.
Jhonny Gonzalez KO3 William Gonzalez (Sept. 1 at Tucson)
Jhonny Gonzalez was all smiles before his slugfest with William Gonzalez.
These bantamweights have the same last name, but they are not family. After watching them tee off on each other for three rounds, that was obvious.
The fight, in which William Gonzalez was a late replacement for the injured Mark Johnson, was short but sensational, containing more action than many 10-rounders. If you like knockdowns, this HBO Latino main event was absolutely for you.
How about five in less than three full rounds?
First William hit the deck in the opening round. Jhonny went down in the second. Then things got really out of hand in the third, as William got knocked down, then Jhonny visited the mat for the second time, and moments later he starched William with a thudding right hand.
Jason Litzau W10 John Nolasco (July 15 at Temecula, Calif.)
Jason Litzau is an up-and-coming star.
Litzau, just 22, showed early traces of Arturo Gatti-like potential in the first real test of his career in this ESPN2 main event. Although it was an excellent, fast-paced featherweight fight, it didn't truly heat up until the second half, when there was plenty of drama. Litzau survived a hard knockdown with 30 seconds left in the seventh round and was so dazed that he walked back to the wrong corner after the round. He rebounded strongly to hurt Nolasco at the end of the ninth in this battle of wills that Litzau ultimately pulled out by split decision. This fight put him on the map as an exciting young fighter to watch. After the fight, Litzau summed it up perfectly: "It was a beautiful fight. I like this. This is what people come to see."
Michael Hunter W12 Esham Pickering (Oct. 28 at Hartlepool, England)
Michael Hunter and Esham Pickering (red shorts) put on a good show in England.
The best British bout of the year was simply a dog fight featuring voluminous contact from start to finish, the sort of back-and-forth action that had the crowd roaring throughout.
Hunter thrilled his hometown fans by surviving knockdowns in the first and second rounds to pull out a majority decision and win the British, Commonwealth and European junior featherweight titles against his countryman.
He and Pickering also each won something else: Fans for life.
Oscar Larios W12 Wayne McCullough I (Feb. 10 at Lemoore, Calif.)
More often than not, McCullough -- the "Pocket Rocket" -- is involved in all-action fights. His first encounter with the then-junior featherweight champ was no exception. McCullough spent 12 rounds charging right to Larios, throwing punch after punch after punch. Larios, like most proud Mexican champions, never took a backward step despite suffering a right biceps injury in the sixth round.
It made for one terrific battle. It was so good that they faced each other again in July. However, they could not recreate the magic as Larios stopped McCullough in the 10th round of their July 16 rematch.
12-27-2005, 08:41 PM
Every round was special; 10th was extraordinary
By Dan Rafael
You could watch boxing for another 50 years and never see a round as extraordinary as the 10th frame of the now-legendary first fight between Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo.
Before the round had even started, the lightweight unification match on May 7 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas was etching a place on the list of all-time great fights.
The 10th round, with two knockdowns and Corrales' stunning comeback, put the fight into the stratosphere of legendary fights.
Corrales and Castillo had already spent nine rounds slugging it out in a violent toe-to-toe collision. Each man was bleeding. Each man had been hurt. Each man was obviously exhausted.
Then came the 10th, the obvious choice for ESPN.com round of the year. It might just be one of the top 10 rounds of all-time.
Thirty seconds in, Castillo landed a tremendous left hook that stopped Corrales dead in his tracks and sent him to the canvas as his mouthpiece flew out. He rolled over on all fours and was in obvious distress, but shakily rose at the count of eight.
Referee Tony Weeks called timeout and replaced the mouthpiece. When the action resumed a few seconds later, Corrales again went down under heavy fire. While struggling to right himself, he pulled out his mouthpiece to aid him in catching his breath, as he said afterward.
It didn't seem like it would matter because the fight appeared to be over. Corrales was in a haze and he barely beat Weeks' count.
To hear Corrales' version, he had Castillo right where he wanted him. "I had all the heart and the desire and the knowledge I was going to win the fight," he said a few days later. "I had to stay in it."
Weeks called timeout again, deducted a point from Corrales for excessively spitting his mouthpiece, and had Corrales trainer Joe Goossen replace it.
Corrales was happy to trade the point for the roughly 30 seconds of recovery time he received while the bit was replaced. Refreshed as he could be at that stage of the fight, Corrales went back on the attack and, as they were trading, he finally hurt Castillo with a left hook.
Rafael's Rounds of the Year
2005        Diego Corrales-Jose Luis Castillo I (10th)
2004        Marco Antonio Barrera-Erik Morales III (11th)
2003        Acelino "Popo" Freitas-Jorge Barrios (11th)
2002        Micky Ward-Arturo Gatti I (9th)
2001        Micky Ward-Emanuel Burton (9th)
2000        Erik Morales-Marco Antonio Barrera I (5th)
"Unbelievable ebb and flow," exclaimed Showtime broadcaster Steve Albert.
For the next minute, they threw everything they had at each other, and Corrales somehow found the energy to get off a seven-punch flurry. He connected with several of them, leaving a vulnerable Castillo out on his feet against the ropes with his hands dangling at his side, forcing Weeks to stop the fight and give Corrales one of the most incredible comebacks you will ever see in any sport.
"The fight is over! Corrales with a remarkable, dramatic turnaround to win this fight," Albert bellowed. "Unbelievable!"
Corrales-Castillo I (8th)
The reality is that virtually any round from the fight is a candidate for round of the year. The 10th is obviously the winner because of Corrales' amazing comeback, but for sheer action it's hard to top this one.
Corrales and Castillo had already spent seven rounds tearing into each other, so you figured fatigue would eventually become an issue, but it never did. In fact, they seemed to turn it up a notch in the eighth. Corrales, his left eye nothing more than a slit because of such massive swelling, came out with a sense of urgency. Castillo, too, was bleeding from a cut over his left eye.
No matter. They simply met in the center of the ring, winging punches at a breakneck pace.
With each punch, the crowd went nuts, and with 75 seconds to go, Showtime's Albert couldn't believe what he was seeing: "The action just never lets up!" Corrales and Castillo rocked each other with left hands in the final minute, one blow even sending Corrales' mouthpiece flying out, a mere portent of things to come.
Miguel Cotto-Ricardo Torres (2nd)
Both men had already been rocked in the first round of this junior welterweight title bout, and Torres had been down. It only served as an appetizer for this blazing round.
For the first 95 seconds, it was all Torres. He had his back to the ropes when he surprised Cotto with a big left hand that badly hurt him. He knew it and tried to capitalize, bludgeoning Cotto with an assortment of clubbing shots. Cotto was staggering around the ring in cartoonish fashion and finally went down for the first time in his pro or amateur career under a hail of power shots.
But Cotto showed tremendous heart and regained his footing to take charge in the final minute. He finally rocked Torres with 30 seconds to go, leading HBO's Jim Lampley to compare it to a legendary fight of yesteryear. "It's Foreman-Lyle at 140-pounds," Lampley exclaimed, comparing it to the epic brawl waged by heavyweights George Foreman and Ron Lyle in 1976.
"A gunfight in Atlantic City! Trading shots, Miguel Cotto and Ricardo Torres!"
Tomasz Adamek-Paul Briggs (8th)
This light heavyweight title bout was a grueling, brutal, stomach-churning fight, and the eighth round made us a little queasy, to tell you the truth. There was blood everywhere and classic back-and-forth action.
Briggs, with an ocean of blood pouring from a cut by his left eye, badly hurt Adamek with a right hand that sent him reeling into the ropes, his legs buckling. But Adamek, his face swelling like a balloon and blood flowing from his broken nose, rallied to hurt Briggs. Then Briggs rocked Adamek yet again as blood sprayed from both of their faces.
This round was not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach.
Sechew Powell-Cornelius Bundrage (1st)
Simply amazing. The junior middleweight prospects, headlining Showtime's "ShoBox: The New Generation" series, met in the center of the ring and knocked each other down with the first punches they threw in an ultra-rare double knockdown. Although the referee absurdly ruled that they had slipped, there was no doubt that they were knockdowns.
Each man sprang back up immediately and Powell's next shot -- a massive left hand -- crumpled Bundrage. He got up quickly, staggered across the ring and fell again. Then he got up again, but his legs were gone and he fell down again like a drunk as the referee called off the fight after just 22 explosive seconds.
"I've never seen anything like it, " exclaimed Showtime's Nick Charles. Neither had we.
Jesus Chavez-Carlos Hernandez (12th)
This was simply an exhausting fight to watch as the former junior lightweight champs tore into each other at close quarters. The 12th round was a fitting conclusion to one of the year's most physical brawls.
It began with the combatants dispensing with the traditional tapping of gloves before the final round, hugging each other instead in a sign of respect. Then it was down to business as they immediately began trading in the center of the ring with the fight still up for grabs. They did that for virtually the entire three minutes as the Staples Center crowd went wild.
Erik Morales-Manny Pacquiao (5th)
You could really pick just about any round from this fabulous fight to be on this list, but we'll go with the action-packed fifth in which the junior lightweight stars hammered each other nonstop.
Pacquiao did the damage early on, and Morales responded with several stinging left hooks and a good right uppercut. The only lull was a brief timeout while Pacquiao was examined by the ringside physician after Morales busted open a cut above his right eye. Pacquiao, undeterred by the blood streaming down his face, continued to march forward while Morales did the same, resulting in tremendous action.
Jhonny Gonzalez-William Gonzalez (3rd)
The bantamweights had already exchanged knockdowns in the first and second rounds to set the stage for this wild frame.
The first half of the round was pedestrian by the standards they had set in the first two rounds, but then things heated up big-time. A left-right combination dumped William to his backside, but he got up immediately and charged back into battle. He launched a right hand that buckled Jhonny and sent him down, although he popped right back up.
Ten seconds later, Jhonny landed a crushing right hand that splattered William flat on his back and out for the count to end a riveting round and a memorable fight.
Vicente Mosquera-Yodsanan Nanthachai (3rd)
Nanthachai, who had already been down in the opening round, was adamant about retaining his junior lightweight title. Mosquera was intent on seizing it. The result was a frenetic round with a wild swing of fortunes.
Nanthachai struck first, scoring a knockdown with a hard left hand, and appeared on the verge of a stoppage. But Mosquera recovered and responded seconds later, unleashing a flurry punctuated by a right hand that put the champion on the mat in a sudden reversal that made for the best round of a terrific bout.
Jorge Arce-Hussein Hussein I (6th)
These big-hearted flyweights spent most of the fight trading at close range, including in this remarkable round. They simply lowered their heads and swung away for most of the three minutes.
Arce, with blood streaming down his face from a horrible gash on the bridge of his nose, was digging left hooks to the body and Hussein was answering with right hands. There was tremendous sustained action, especially in the final minute.
As the round came to a close with Arce and Hussein in an all-out exchange and the MGM Grand crowd going berserk, HBO's Lampley summed it up: "It's becoming a movie fight!"
Lamon Brewster-Luan Krasniqi (9th)
The fast-paced heavyweight title bout appeared to be over in the eighth when Brewster, who was trailing, scored a hard knockdown at the end of the round. However, Krasniqi survived with the help of an excessively long count from the referee.
When the ninth round began, however, Krasniqi was still dazed, and Brewster jumped on him to try to end it. He cracked Krasniqi, who was hurt and reeling, and just as it looked like Brewster would retain his title via knockout, Krasniqi came to life and staggered Brewster. The turnaround was brief, though, because with 12 seconds to go Brewster finally finished him.
Vinny Maddalone-Shannon Miller (1st)
These limited heavyweights with no use for defense wasted no time. Instead of sizing each other up, they dove right into battle at the opening bell.
Miller did the damage first, buzzing Maddalone with a left hand. But just when Maddalone appeared to be in trouble, he landed a tremendous looping left hand to knock Miller down. He was hurt but got up quickly and staggered Maddalone with a left hand of his own. Then, as they were swapping punches toe-to-toe in the center of the ring, Maddalone hammered Miller with a right hand to the eye, dropping him again. Miller was unsteady as he rose, but before they could engage again, the bell sounded to end a terrific round.
Alex "Terra" Garcia- Rhoshii Wells II (8th)
The heavy-handed Garcia dropped Wells 40 seconds into the round with his vaunted right hand, but Wells rose quickly in this junior middleweight title bout. Wells was hurt, however, and Garcia dominated the first two minutes.
Wells tried to grab onto him in order to smother the punches, but when that didn't work he figured he might as well try something else. So Wells went on the offensive and started winging shots. One of them, a left hook, nailed Garcia, who was stunned. From there, they spent the final 45 seconds battering each other.
"What a round of boxing this is," exclaimed broadcaster Bob Sheridan. "They're loading up shots at the bell again! What a war! All right! Both guys out on their feet!"
Calvin Brock-Jameel McCline (7th)
The two heavyweight contenders were in an exchange when McCline leveled Brock with a right-left combination. Brock was in trouble and badly hurt when he got up. McCline tried to finish him but Brock survived. There was still a minute to go when Brock turned things around and hurt McCline with a combination on the inside.
By the end of the round, Brock was in full control, raining shots on the winded McCline.
"What action from two very hungry and determined heavyweights," ESPN's Joe Tessitore said as the thrilling round came to a close.
Ike Quartey-Verno Phillips (9th)
The first half of the round of this junior middleweight bout was just solid, nothing spectacular. But the final 90 seconds were intense and exciting.
Phillips crushed Quartey with a right-left combination, sending him sprawling to the mat. Quartey was up at five, but wobbling. Yet he survived and rebounded to dish out punishment on Phillips. Just as it looked like Quartey might score a knockdown, Phillips unloaded at the bell and Quartey went down to a knee, although the referee ruled it a slip rather than the genuine knockdown that it appeared to be.
Antonio Tarver-Glen Johnson II (11th)
They had already fought 22 tough rounds against each other dating back to their first match in December 2004. Six months later, here they were again battling for light-heavyweight supremacy in another bruising fight.
Johnson was losing this time, although not by much. So he attacked Tarver in attempt to seize control. Johnson kept throwing punches nonstop while Tarver landed some of his own in this grind-it-out three minutes that personified their rivalry.
When it was over, even HBO's hard-to-please Larry Merchant was impressed: "That is one of the best rounds you will ever see two light heavyweights fight."
12-28-2005, 12:41 AM
The Top 3 Upsets of 2005
By Oleg Bershadsky
*This Article is Sponsored by www.healthycoco.com/ (http://www.healthycoco.com/)
Photos © HoganPhotos.com
In boxing almost no fight is ever a sure thing. One punch, one slip, one pretty much of anything can change or influence the outcome of a fight. The year of 2005 had its share of upsets like all the years before it. The top 3 upsets of 2005 are as follows:
#3 - Hopkins vs. Taylor I
The only reason why this fight is in the top 3 is that Bernard Hopkins prior to this fight had gone undefeated for over a decade. He was ranked by many ringside observers as the best pound for pound boxer, who was on the brink of making history with 21 consecutive title defenses, considering he could get by Jermaine Taylor. While most agreed that Taylor was the future of the middle weight division a minority believed he had what it takes to beat Bernard.
Taylor, the more physical of the two fighters, would face the most dominant middleweight of his era in Bernard Hopkins. A champion who was set on making history and appeared that he would not be denied. In a seesaw battle that ensued, Taylor was able to impose his will on Hopkins in the early rounds, something no one has been able to do in over a decade. While Hopkins came on strong in the later rounds he fell short losing a close split decision to Taylor. This fight was a big upset in a sense that despite Taylor’s prowess in the ring he was able to defeat a living legend in Bernard Hopkins who over the years became so dominant that his defeat prior to his retirement seemed unlikely at best.
#2 Tszyu vs. Hatton
In this Junior Welterweight match-up there was a concrete favorite in Kostya Tszyu. Like Hopkins, Tszyu reigned supreme in perhaps the toughest weight division for many years. His ring smarts and tremendous punching power gave him a serious advantage over the young star Ricky Hatton. Similar to the Hopkins vs. Taylor fight this bout put an up and coming star against a proven champion whose dominance reigned supreme for many years.
There were doubts on whether Hatton, who has been criticized severely for not fighting outside of England could seriously challenge someone of Tszyu’s caliber. In the end, what made this fight such a big upset was not only that Hatton beat Tszyu, but that he completely dominated him. In his first real mega fight Hatton did what no one else had been able to do against Tszyu and that is making him quit after lashing out a tremendous amount of punishment. Any time a rising star can dominate a seemingly dominant champion it inevitably raises lots of eyebrows.
#1 Morales vs. Raheem
While the first two upsets listed above can certainly be questioned as whether they were truly big upsets considering the pedigree of the challengers, the Morales-Raheem match-up I believe was certainly the upset of the year. In this fight, Zahir Raheem was basically chosen as an easy sacrifice for Eric Morales before his second mega fight with Manny Pacquiao. Raheem was virtually given no chance of winning the fight and no one took him as a serious threat to Morales.
I’m not a big fan of easy setup fights that are designed to protect a fighter for a future mega bout. I mean, what is the point of watching a fight when the outcome is all but certain? It doesn’t exactly leave a lot of suspense for the fans. That is why I love it when a fight like that backfires and the sacrificial lamb turns into a tiger, which is precisely what happened in this bout as Raheem fought the best fight of his career by completely out-boxing Morales. He made the all time great Mexican fighter look confused and helpless throughout the fight by using his superior boxing ability to overcome the toughness Morales always brings to the table. In a stunner, Raheem dominated Morales and almost derailed the plans for a Pacquiao vs. Morales rematch. Considering the odds Raheem was given of winning this fight and the fashion in which he won, this fight certainly deserves to be the top upset of 2005.
12-29-2005, 03:23 PM
Time to recycle the rematch
by Tim Sith NY Daily News
It will go down as the year of the rematch and the year that saw Mike Tyson finally admit what we have known for more than a decade - he really doesn't want to fight anymore.
As 2005 comes to a close, the question remains: Is the sport better off now than it was a year ago? And will 2006 be a better year than 2005?
All the rematches last year were a drag on the sport, doing nothing to advance many of the divisions. They seemed a safe way for promoters and boxers to make money as opposed to taking a risk on a fight that would be a greater thrill for fans.
The exceptions to that were Zab Judah-Cory Spinks and Glen Johnson-Antonio Tarver. Those two fights established the dominant forces in their particular division - Judah as a welterweight and Tarver as a light heavyweight. The rematches that decided the least were Jermain Taylor-Bernard Hopkins and Diego Corrales-Jose Luis Castillo.
The first Corrales-Castillo match will surely be Fight of the Year. The rematch wasn't going to be as good, and when Castillo didn't try to make weight it became a fraud.
Boxing's big winners in 2005:
1. Showtime. The cable network broke out of the shadow of HBO with some fantastic shows on a shoestring budget. Judah-Spinks II, Wayne Braithwaite-Jean-Marc Mormeck's cruiserweight unification, Castillo-Corrales I, Kostya Tszyu-Ricky Hatton, and Tyson-Kevin McBride helped the network become a must-stop destination for boxing fans.
2. Hatton. The British junior welterweight established himself as a hit with his victory over Tszyu. He did it without even setting foot on American soil. Now his name is on the lips of everyone between 140-147 pounds who wants to prove himself.
3. Lacy. He has put the 168-pound division on the map, and with his active schedule (four fights in 13 months), forced a showdown with the unheralded king of the super middleweights, Joe Calzaghe on March 4.
4. Winky Wright. His complete domination of Felix Trinidad moved him close to the top of the mythical pound-for-pound list. It still hasn't helped Wright get the top names to face him. But at least he has backed Taylor into a corner.
5. Floyd Mayweather Jr. He didn't really fight anyone of note last year - at least not anyone who could match his skills - but Mayweather cemented himself as the best in the game. His match against Judah on April 8 has the earmarks of 2006 Fight of the Year.
The big losers in 2005:
1. Vitali Klitschko. Entering the year, Klitschko was the WBC heavyweight champ, and considered the man in the division. He never had a mandatory defense and never lifted a glove in 2005 as injuries postponed his fight against Hasim Rahman four times. Finally he retired after knee surgery and canceled the Rahman match for the last time in November.
2. Tyson. The once Baddest Man on the Planet went out with a whimper when he refused to come out of his corner for the seventh round against McBride. Later, Tyson admitted he had been faking the funk for a decade and said he didn't want to fight anymore. Let's hope he doesn't insult our intelligence and get back in the ring against Tarver in 2006.
3. Samuel Peter. After knocking down Wladimir Klistchko three times, Peter was unable to box well enough to close the deal. A victory would have made him the mandatory heavyweight contender in the IBF and the WBO. Talk about a squandered opportunity. But he's still in the mix in '06.
4. John Ruiz. He lost a match to James Toney, but got his WBA belt back when Toney tested positive for steroids. Then, he went over to Germany to fight a giant Russian, Nicolay Valuev, and lost a majority decision. And his longtime fiery manager, Norman Stone, quit out of frustration. Maybe that makes Ruiz a winner.
5. Bernard Hopkins. The maverick middleweight champion had dominated the division for a decade and planned on riding off into the sunset by whipping upstart Taylor. Instead, Taylor won two close decisions against Hopkins to lay claim to the middleweight title and now Hopkins finishes his career without the titles he worked so hard to hold onto for 10 years.
12-30-2005, 08:20 PM
Glenn’s best of boxing for 2005
Wednesday, December 28, 2005 4:54 PM CST
The local fighters, fights, quotes and knockouts that can’t be beat
By Glenn McBrady
FROM the St. Louis American
While covering the local boxing scene over the course of this past year, my experiences spanned a wide spectrum. From the euphoric high of watching more than 23,000 fans at the Savvis Center give their hometown champion Cory Spinks a warm collective hug on a frosty February evening to sweating along with an anonymous amateur hopeful grinding through a lonely workout in a stifling city gym, the one constant was that the pulse of the “Sweet Science” in St. Louis continued to grow stronger.
The standout performances and special moments along the way have been collected into this look back at the individuals who earned Fighting Words’ “Best of 2005” honors.
Professional Fighter of the Year
Undefeated welterweight Devon Alexander “The Great” began and ended his year where a fighter of his caliber belongs - under sweeping spotlights in an arena setting. He pitched a six-round shutout at Savvis on the undercard of Spinks’ rematch with Zab Judah and then headlined a show at the same venue in October, taking a decision over the very durable Kelly Wright. Devon’s future looks limitless as he continues his ascension in 2006.
Amateur Fighter of the Year
Junior middleweight DeAndre “Bull” Lattimore made the most of his last stand in the amateurs, winning national titles at the PAL and Ringside Tournaments and going deep into the national Golden Gloves and U.S. Championships. With his pro debut looming on January 26 at the Family Arena in St. Charles, the power he showed in recent performances should serve him well in his professional campaign.
Fight of the Year
It takes two fighters willing to dig in and trade for the duration to elevate a fight to this status. On September 8, light heavyweights Mike Wood and Jesse Bryan were up to the task, as they faced off for the North American Midwest Association’s championship belt. The two had met once before and fought to a draw, and Wood told me prior to the rematch that he knew he could out box Bryan in the rematch. Wood stuck to his word, using his longer jab and picking his spots with straight rights. But luckily for the fans, there were moments in each round when the pair took the fight inside.
Bryan’s punishing right hooks had blood dribbling freely from Wood’s beak, but a steady diet of stiff lefts opened a jagged crimson zipper over Bryan’s right eye that Wood continued to revisit. The pace was exhausting, with both fighters treating each stanza like it was the last and then somehow recovering on their stools during the 60-second intervals for more abuse.
After eight torrid rounds, Wood won the majority decision and wrapped the title strap around his waist. He will defend it for the first time on January 26 at the Family Arena. As for Bryan, he showed even more class after the fight by standing near the exit and shaking hands with fans as they filed past. Hopefully these two warriors will clash once more in the new year.
Quote of the Year
Between all the trash talking and gym banter, there was no shortage of candidates for this honor, but I have to go with pro lightweight Cornell “The Assassin” Jackson for this gem. He had just finished a brutal sparring session at 12th & Park with the anvil-fisted Lattimore, who was complaining about a sore shoulder. Jackson walked over to “Bull” and said, “You hurt your shoulder, huh? Dude, you hurt my soul … and my feelings.”
Knockout of the Year
On October 21 at the Savvis Center, it was a combination of the frenzied excitement of the hometown crowd cheering on lightweight power puncher “Dangerous” Danny Williams and the way his opponent Will Diamond crumbled to the canvas like a whitewashed section of the recently razed Busch Stadium that made the knockout the most dramatic of the year.
Oddest Knockout of the Year
When cruiserweight William Guthrie clipped Preston Kenney on the chin in the opening round of their match at the Family Arena on June 2, it didn’t appear to be more than a glancing blow. Kenney, however, went down in a neutral corner near ringside like he had been hit with a tranquilizer dart meant for a charging rhino. He fell face-first and landed with his arms outstretched in the felony arrest position.
The most surprised person in the building seemed to be Guthrie. He stepped back looking like he had just answered the doorbell in his bathrobe and had been greeted by the crew from Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes carrying a bundle of balloons and an oversized check.
During the referee’s count, Kenney was a statue - no twitch, no expansion of the ribs to suggest he was still breathing. The only thing missing was a chalk line around his body. But as soon as the referee’s count reached nine and a half, Kenney climbed up to one knee and then protested when the bout was waved off. It was an odd moment in a sport filled with the unusual.
My wish for the coming year is for boxing in St. Louis to continue the upward trend of gaining visibility and support from fans and those who volunteer their time helping to build future champions and solid citizens.
01-02-2006, 07:33 AM
The Glass is Half Full in 2006
by Scott Mallon
The New Year brings us hope for peace
A new day for boxing kind
Where we can all live hand in hand
And leave all the B.S. of boxing behind
The Coming Year
Corrales vs. Castillo III
Resident gluttons for punishment, Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo, give us their third, modern-day version of Graziano-Zale when the duo meets once again February 4th. Say what you will, but a third fight with Castillo is all wrong for Corrales. Weight issues aside, Corrales persevered in the first fight thanks to his enormous heart and a little luck and these sorts of performances are hard to duplicate. Castillo will make weight without the assistance of an errant foot, and take out Corrales before round six, providing an anti-climatic finish to the trilogy.
James Toney vs. Hasim Rahman
Far removed from being the middleweight he once was, Toney’s now an obese version of Bernard Hopkins, only unlike B-Hop, Toney scraps during his fights, fat and all. He’s the same angry fighter he’s been all along, with the same mad skills, and as one of the last remaining old-school fighters, he deserves a modicum of respect.
Forget the steroid controversy, the real question, in his biggest heavyweight test to date, is the fat man capable of conquering chronic underachiever Hasim Rahman, or will he end up on his backside like a beached whale? Rahman may be the first to shut Toney’s trap, but as Big James is an anomaly, anything can happen. Regardless of how many coconut cream pies he eats, I wouldn’t bet against him. Toney by UD12.
Floyd Mayweather vs. Zab Judah
On January 7, 2006, Zab “Super” Judah puts his WBC, WBA and IBF titles on the line against Carlos “Tata” Baldomir. Should Judah successfully defend his titles as expected, it sets up an April 8 meeting with Floyd “Pretty Boy” Mayweather.
Mayweather sits atop the pound for pound ratings with few others as deserving of the spot. A win over “Super” Judah would further solidify his position and set up a massive superfight with England’s Ricky Hatton at 140.
But Pretty Boy may find Judah to be his most challenging opponent to date. He’s the naturally bigger fighter, he can punch, he can box, and he can match Mayweather’s speed. Plus he’s a southpaw. Judah gave King Kostya all he could handle for a round until a well-paced punch from Tszyu left him flopping around the ring like a catfish in a frying pan. His only other loss was to Corey Spinks which he avenged with a 9th round KO.
In what should be a thrilling and explosive tactical battle: Mayweather by a stunning, one punch fish-finder in the late rounds.
The Thai Elite
Ratanachai Sor Vorapin, Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai, Veeraphol Sahaprom and Pongsaklek Wonjongkam are certainly all among the top ten or twenty of the greatest Thai fighters of all-time and all have one thing in common; they’re all closing in on the end of their careers.
Ratanachai Sor Vorapin
In the Mexico vs. Thailand World Cup promoted by Golden Boy Promotions, Sor Vorapin faced a hungry and vastly improved Jhonny Gonzalez. Sor Vorapin went into the bout as the prohibitive favorite and the most experienced fighter of the event with 73 fights under his belt. But in his last title defense against Mauricio Martinez, the 29-year-old veteran showed signs of fraying and narrowly escaped defeat.
The younger Jhonny Gonzalez came in off an impressive KO over William Gonzalez and showed from the start he deserved to be champion. From the outset Gonzalez controlled the bout, pounding Sor Vorapin into oblivion and knocking the Thai down three times before referee Robert Byrd stopped the carnage in round seven.
The bantamweight division has a plethora of talent and Sor Vorapin has a minefield of fighters lying ahead of him; unless he’s given a gift fight against a weak titleholder, his days as a champion will remain a thing of the past.
Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai
When Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai put his title on the line against Vicente Mosquera of Panama, he hadn’t fought for nine months. For many fighters, fighting once or twice a year may be enough; but Thai fighters tend to fight 4 or 5 times per year and need to stay active. Still, it came as a major shock to most when he dropped hard-fought decision in a war with Vicente Mosquera.
When you consider Sor Nanthachai hadn’t lost in eleven years and Mosquera had never defeated anyone of any consequence, this was a huge upset. At 35, Yodsanan is fighting on borrowed time and has to move quickly. There have been talks of a fight against KO artist Edwin Valero, but this has yet to be confirmed by promoter Artie Petullo, and at least for now Sor Nanthachai will have to be content fighting tune-ups in Thailand until he can land a big fight.
At 38, Sahaprom is also fighting on borrowed time. Early in 2005, after holding the WBA bantamweight title for 6½ years, he dropped a close decision to Hozumi Hasegawa of Japan, losing his title in the process. Sahaprom has been on a mission since the loss, fighting every other month and winning four fights in a row. A rematch against Hasegawa would be ideal, and even at his ripe old age he’d stand a good chance of regaining the title from Hasegawa.
Pongsaklek Wonjongkam vs. Jorge Arce
The much anticipated bout between Wonjongkam, the long-reigning champion from Thailand, and Arce, the interim champion of Mexico, may actually come to pass this year. Rosendo Alvarez had been declared the mandatory challenger however; this was before Arce took the interim title. The WBC ordered negotiations to take place between the two, only to somehow quietly sweep the matter under the rug.
A Wonjongkam-Arce summit promises to be explosive should it take place. The shy and reserved Thai is the exact opposite of Travieso and their personalities match their fighting styles. Arce has excellent knockout power; Wonjongkam’s power is good. Arce is free-swinging and at times wild; Wonjongkam is a masterful technician, content to use his considerable defensive skills to set up openings and force his opponent into making mistakes.
If Pongsaklek makes it out of the first four rounds, I’ll go with the Thai via a close, unanimous decision. If Arce is focused – and especially if the fight is outside of Thailand – it could be the end of a long title run for Wonjongkam.
He’s arguably the best of the best of the new-age Thai fighters. He’s quick, he’s fundamentally sound, he’s got a decent chin, he’s young and strong and he can whack a little. In another words, he’s the total package. Look for him to defeat WBA champion Wladimir Sidorenko in 2006 in what will be the start of a lengthy reign.
Indonesian Rumble in the Jungle 2 – Chris John vs. Juan Manuel Marquez
On March 4, the WBA featherweight championship bout between former super champion Juan Manuel Marquez and regular champion Chris John will finally take place on Borneo Island, Indonesia. Originally scheduled for December 9th, the bout has been postponed twice due to a chronic and serious ankle injured suffered by John.
It’s been a rough year for Marquez. First, The RING magazine’s #1 featherweight and #5 pound for pound fighter was stripped by the IBF in August for failing to defend his title against mandatory challenger Fahprakorb Rakkiatgym. Then he was subsequently stripped of his WBA super championship. Not one promoter was willing to shell out the 50K purse bid minimum for Marquez to defend the title against the undeserving Rakkiatgym, not even his own promoter. So without declining the mandatory, or even setting foot in a ring, Marquez is now without a championship belt.
Aside from Chris John, though, not many dispute that Marquez is the best featherweight boxer in the world. But he’ll have to prove it against John for a paltry $30,000 and change in order to take back possession of the belt which was unjustly seized.
John is a gifted fighter and by no means a pushover. He’s vastly underrated, underexposed and relatively unknown and unseen outside of Asia. Make no mistake about it, the Indonesian Thin Man can fight and will test Marquez. Pick-em...
Fantastic Filipino or Future Flop?
Filipino fans call Rey Bautista “Boom-Boom,” and the heir to the throne now held by Manny Pacquiao. This may be expecting too much though, as he’s still only a 19-year-old teenager. It may take another year or two, even three, to find and fill the weighty shoes now worn by the Pacman. He’s yet to have faced any high-quality opposition with his best wins coming against undefeated Hengky Wuwungan of Indonesia, Tanzania’s Obote Ameme and KO specialist Gerardo Espinoza of Mexico.
In his most recent bout against Gerardo Espinoza, Bautista was forced to climb off the canvas after being dropped in the second round. He went on to control the rest of the bout and win a close, unanimous eight round decision but he does have some flaws and will need some work. Bautista moves to 19-0 with 14 KO’s while Espinoza drops his fifth fight in a row.
Fantasies and Farces
BRITISH heavyweight pretender Fraudley Audley Harrison will realize his limitations as a pugilist and decide to run for Prime Minister of England. He’ll shock the world and win via the sympathy vote. Shortly thereafter he’ll appoint Danny Williams as his right-hand man and “advisor.”
The self-proclaimed, humble servant of boxing, El Presidente Jose Sulaiman, will follow the yellow brick road to the Emerald City for reasons only he knows. Along the way he’ll befriend the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion. Once in the Emerald City, he’ll order the Scarecrow and Tin Man to pay the WBC a sanctioning fee. He’ll then label the Cowardly Lion the “interim” champion and extract a sanctioning fee from him as well. As if this weren’t enough, he’ll find a rich midget who’s never fought a day in his life, somehow rate him #3 in the world and then get him a title shot.
Sulaiman will also realize that regardless of what he may think about himself, or what sort of pompous front he creates, boxing doesn’t need the WBC or him. He’ll retire from boxing, fade from public scrutiny and become the owner of the largest pig farm in Mexico.
The WBA will once again add to its list of growing championships. Not only will they have regular and Super-Champions, they’ll now add the “Super-Duper-Champion” title. A Super-Duper-Champion will be awarded to the fighter who pays the most sanctioning fees in a calendar year and a winning record will not be a prerequisite.
Question of the week
Where would boxing be without the WBC, WBA, IBF, WBO and every other alphabet organization?
Happy New Year and long live The Sweet Science!
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