by David P. Greisman
Part one ( Click Here ) of this year’s Freewheeling Fighting awards took a look at some of the unforgettable and unforgivable moments of 2011 — and sometimes those moments turned out to be both.
First, the notable. In part one, Nonito Donaire’s perfect left hook on Fernando Montiel garnered “Knockout of the Year” honors, even if Montiel’s surviving for a few more seconds meant the moment wasn’t as perfect as it could have been. Danny Garcia’s past 12 months made him “Prospect of the Year,” setting the stage for him to become a contender, and possibly a titleholder, in the months to come.
Next, the not. We had boxers punching themselves out and boxers just plain punching themselves. We had two boxers suffering simultaneous knockdowns and two boxers seemingly simulating knockdowns. We had empty stadiums and we had empty trash talk.
Now, for part two. This week we have more of the eye-opening, jaw-dropping and head-shaking. We also have the best fist-throwing, awarding 2011’s “Fight of the Year,” as well as the best arm-raising, selecting the “Fighter of the Year.”
Let us close the books on 2011, then, with the second and final part of the Freewheeling Fighting Awards.
The “Ozzie Canseco Stepping Into the Celebrity Boxing Ring Instead of Jose Canseco Award,” for stories involving mistaken identities and the sweet science: to the Associated Press and the South China Morning Post, two news outlets that didn’t know what they didn’t know.
The Associated Press had a video package about the new class of Hall of Fame inductees, posting a photo of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. rather than the more acclaimed and accomplished Chavez Sr.
And in China, the death of Joe Frazier brought a photo tribute, captioned “Joe Frazier 1944-2011,” showing a picture not of Frazier, but of George Foreman.
The “Zinedine Zidane Award,” for most blatant head butting: to Victor Ortiz, for his head-on onslaught against Floyd Mayweather Jr.
The “Wonder Twin Powers Activate! Award” for most annoyingly overdone fist bumping: to Manny Pacquiao and Shane Mosley, who touched gloves 44 times during the course of their 12-round bout in May, a much higher rate, unfortunately, than Zan and Jayna demonstrated during an average episode of “Super Friends.”
Fight of the Year: Akira Yaegashi TKO10 Pornsawan Porpramook, Oct. 24, 2011.
The best fights were everywhere to be seen this year — and the fact that there are now so many good fights to catch is a sign of how technology is changing the sport for boxing fans for the better.
There were good fights on HBO and Showtime and ESPN2, the good fights on cable television and the good fights on pay-per-view. But there were also the great fights seen on live streams online or caught after the fact on YouTube and other less-then-legal but more-than-necessary channels.
And so when a war is taking place in Panama between Luis Concepcion and Hernan Marquez, word goes out over Twitter and message boards and fans tune in. Those who missed it quickly catch on and catch up. Knowledge of global boxing is no longer limited to what you can get on TV or satellite, nor is it limited to those few who pursue such hardcore fandom.
Great boxing is global now because it can so easily go viral. This year’s best example was a title fight in Japan between two straw-weight fighters, Akira Yaegashi and Pornsawan Porpramook. It was communicated from person to person and continues to spread, for good reason.
Yaegashi and Porpramook, at 105 pounds each, have a combined weight equal to what David Haye tipped the scales at for his fight with Wladimir Klitschko. Yet their individual effort far surpassed what Haye showed in merely going the distance, and their combined effort brought 10 rounds that started off fast-paced and only accelerated into an action-packed power-punching extravaganza.
There were no knockdowns, not that there need be for a “Fight of the Year” — another top candidate for 2011, the first pitched battle between Delvin Rodriguez and Pawel Wolak, fit the same blueprint.
There were other great bouts in which fighters trading floorings and switched momentum: Marquez-Concepcion I, for one, Andre Berto vs. Victor Ortiz for another. Those two, along with several others, were worthy entrants that deserve to be shared with anyone who somehow hasn’t seen them.
None of them maintained the pace nor had a crescendo to the conclusion like Yaegashi-Porpramook did.
Thanks to technology, the fight is still online to be seen and shared. Thanks to the fighters, that deserves to be done as soon, and as often, as possible.
The “Taco Bell Award,” for worst run for the border: to Francisco Bojado, the former prized prospect who was arrested in July for allegedly leading police on a chase to the California/Mexico border. The chase began when police tried to pull Bojado over because his vehicle’s license plate was allegedly covered, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune. It ended when a Customs and Border Protection officer shot at Bojado’s car, and Bojado allegedly got out of the vehicle and tried to run away.
The “Roberto Alomar Award,” for spit of the year : to cruiserweight Matt Godfrey, whose physical spat with Lateef Kayode led to him physically spitting on Kayode in the eighth round of their June bout. Kayode won by unanimous decision, and Godfrey has not fought since his spit decision.
The “Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield Award,” for bite of the year: to Alejandro Gomez, who was disqualified in April in Argentina after gnawing on Vicente Martin Rodriguez’s left ear, drawing blood.
The “Trenton Titsworth vs. Jessie Vargas ‘Two Points for Kissing’ Award,” for best peck between the ropes: to Chris Arreola, who scored a first-round stoppage over Joey Abell in January and then planted a kiss on Abell’s left cheek.
The “Satchel Paige Award,” for best old man: to Bernard Hopkins, who out-pointed Jean Pascal in May to become, at age 46, the oldest boxer ever to capture a world championship.
The “Steve Forbes award,” for boxers who failed to make weight: to Saul Alvarez, Ray Betancourt, Eric Bradford, Hector Camacho Jr., Kentrell Clairborne, Jason Cook, Jose Cruz, Felix Diaz, Kevin Engel, Shawn Estrada, Steve Forbes (TWICE!) Ruben Galvan, Frankie Gavin, Armando Gonzales, Allan Green, Bernardo Guereca, Richard Gutierrez, Bladimir Hernandez, Isaac Hidalgo, Demetrius Hopkins, Livingstone Joseph, Anthony Lenk, James Lester, Vanes Martirosyan, Rosbel Montoya, Hector Munoz, Puro Pairol, Juan Palacios (TWICE!), Delray Raines, Shamir Reyes, Brandon Rios, Carlos Rivera, Francisco Rosas, Marco Antonio Rubio, Francisco Sierra, Omar Soto, Ricaurte Torrero, Jose Torres and Anthony Woods.
The “Glen Johnson Award,” for confusing HBO and Showtime: to Mike Tyson, who while speaking to HBO’s Jim Lampley during the network’s “Fight Day Live” broadcast prior to Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez 3, confused Lampley with Jim Gray of Showtime.
Lampley had brought up HBO’s “Face Off” broadcasts putting two fighters and a moderator around a table. Tyson, however, recalled Showtime’s “Staredown” knock-off: “It was you and, Andre Ward and, um… Flock, was crazy. That was intense.”
The “DeMarcus ‘Chop Chop’ Corley Award,” for best story involving a boxer and underwear: to Victor Ortiz, who got mainstream mention for modeling unmentionables for a website called Freshpair.com.
The “Floyd Mayweather Jr. Award,” for boxers with unpaid taxes: to the unlikely duo of Cassius Baloyi and Roy Jones Jr. Baloyi owed the South African government 400,000 rand, or more than $49,000, but that paled in comparison to the liens filed against Jones for a combined $3.5 million.
The “Mike Tyson-Buster Douglas Latex Glove Award,” for strangest item used to try to combat swelling: to whoever was the cut-man for Pawel Wolak during both of his bouts against Delvin Rodriguez. Rather than use a standard enswell, the cut-man tackled Wolak’s swelling with what appeared to be… an ice cream scoop.
The “Ric Flair, Dirtiest Player in the Game Award,” for most blatant low blow not to be called: to Abner Mares, whose left hand hit nothing but Joseph Agbeko’s cup in the 11th round of their August fight, sending Agbeko down to the canvas — yet referee Russell Mora, who was perfectly positioned, called it a knockdown rather than a foul.
The “Paulie Malignaggi’s Extensions Award,” for a haircut being your worst enemy: to Ossie Duran, whose dreadlocks kept dropping in front of his face during his October bout with Brandon Gonzales.
The Boxers Behaving Badly Unholy Trinity: This year we had a boxer arrested before a bout, during a bout and after a bout:
- Diane Torres was arrested prior to a weigh-in in New Mexico for an alleged parole or probation violation.
- Brock Aleksich was arrested in Montana during an amateur bout in which he allegedly turned to the crowd, removed his gloves and made an obscene gesture with his hands.
- Tshepang Mohale was taken into custody in June in South Africa shortly after walking down the steps following a victory, accused of having a stolen cell phone.
The “ ‘T N A Wrestling Has Signed…’ Award,” for bringing in another organization’s failed talent: to Epix, a premium cable outlet that decided to hire Lennox Lewis to its boxing commentary team — because, you know, he’d absolutely, definitely done a great job with HBO.
The “Prince Naseem Hamed Award,” for crazy-driving boxers: to Shane Mosley and Arthur Abraham. First there was Mosley, who decided it’d be bright to go more than 100 mph on a California highway — and not only to be filmed while doing so, but to have that footage shown on national television.
Yet he didn’t get into the trouble Abraham did. In September, German authorities caught the former middleweight titleholder driving 230 kilometers per hour (about 143 mph) in an 80 kilometers per hour zone (about 50 mph zone).
The “Shannon Briggs in ‘The Transporter 2’ Award,” for best boxer-slash-budding actor: to Mike Tyson, who tackled the role of himself in “The Hangover 2” and also impersonated presidential candidate Herman Cain for a comedy bit.
Fighter of the Year: This decision has been easy in years past. The winners have run away with the award, their 12-month campaigns overwhelmingly surpassing their pugilistic peers.
This year’s decision was also easy to make, but largely by default. There was no campaign like what Sergio Martinez did in 2010 against Kelly Pavlik and Paul Williams, no campaign like what Manny Pacquiao did in 2008 against Juan Manuel Marquez, David Diaz and Oscar De La Hoya, and no campaign like what Glen Johnson did in 2004 against Clinton Woods, Roy Jones Jr. and Antonio Tarver.
Those all were great years. Several fighters had good years in 2011, among them Brian Viloria (who beat Julio Cesar Miranda and Giovani Segura), Jorge Arce (who beat Wilfredo Vazquez Jr., Simphiwe Nongqayi and Angky Angkota), Brandon Rios (who beat Miguel Acosta, Urbano Antillon and John Murray), Nonito Donaire (who beat Fernando Montiel and Omar Narvaez) and Lamont Peterson (who beat Victor Cayo and Amir Khan).
As always, the issuing of this award is a fill-in-the-blank exercise. Complete this sentence: This was the year that __________ did ___________.
This, then, was the year that Andre Ward became the lineal super middleweight champion — and he made it look easy.
It’s fair to argue that Ward is being recognized as much for what he’s done in the past 25 or so months as for what he did in the past 12. His run through the “Super Six” tournament began in November 2009 with a win over Mikkel Kessler, and ended in 2011 with decision victories over Arthur Abraham and Carl Froch.
Abraham had lost two of his last three bouts, both of those defeats coming against “Super Six” opponents in Andre Dirrell and Froch. Ward’s win over Abraham doesn’t contribute much at all, if anything, to this award.
The victory over Froch should, though, and does.
This was a year in which Viloria, Arce and Rios are on the list for defeating other contenders and titleholders. Peterson’s 2011 was very good, though the controversial nature of his dethroning of Khan must be noted, as should his title victory coming against a Victor Cayo who had never defeated a top junior welterweight.
This was also a year in which Wladimir Klitschko and Floyd Mayweather Jr. also received some nominating votes on the strength of single victories.
Ward’s win over Froch deserves more plaudits than Klitschko’s points victory over David Haye and Mayweather’s knockout of Victor Ortiz, both of which were big wins. This just happens to be bigger.
Even with a broken hand, Ward stymied Froch, and showed there to be a tremendous gap between the No. 1 guy at 168 pounds and the fighter who had truly earned his ranking at No. 2. Two of the bout’s scorecards had a close fight at 115-113, but the reality was much closer to the 118-110 that the third judge had for Ward.
It was Andre Ward’s night, just as it has been 24 times before, just as it was in the Olympics. He has gone from a gold medalist to an undefeated prospect to an unproven tournament entrant to a proven formidable fighter — the best super middleweight until proven otherwise.
R.I.P.: Prince Laide Adeboye, Jonathan Andre, Georgie Benton, Henry “Hank” Boone, Amilcar Brusa, Raju Budhamagar, Mick Carney, Felix Castillo Jr., Kevin Cestone, Nick Charles, Trevor Christian, Milton Chwasky, Gil Clancy, Mark Conn, Henry Cooper, Billy Costello, Bongani Dlamini, Billy Duluth, Richard Duran, Bouie Fisher, Coert Fourie.
Joe Frazier, Bill Gallo, Ronald T. Gibbs, Juan Gonzalez, Bobby Grasso, Rafael Guzman, Kevin Hargreaves, Genaro Hernandez, Andre Holyk, Abrar Hussain, Anthony Jones, George Kimball, Brett Lally, Scott LeDoux, Yolande Leveque, Butch Lewis, Hector Lopez, Ron Lyle, Anele Makhwelo, John Marceta, Gary Mason, Tom McNeeley Jr., Nkosana Mgxaji, Kazunori Miyakawa, Mthuthezeli Nene, Bob Oleson.
Jimmy O’Pharrow, Pat Petronelli, Giulio Rinaldi, Joseph Robert Jr., Lindsay Roberts, Lionel Rose, Rodrigo Salud, Mohammaed Sampado, Albert Barros Silva, Tairone Silva, Roman Simakov, Cordaro Simpkins, Mario Sitri, Terry Smith, Shorty Smook, Joe Souza, Lou Tabat, Humberto Tapia, Carlos Tello, Des Williams, Roger Williams, and all the other boxers, corner men, managers, officials, promoters, referees, journalists and people within and around the sport.
The 10 Count will return next week.
David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. His weekly column, “Fighting Words,” appears every Monday on BoxingScene.com.
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