By Rick Reeno
Another year of boxing is in the books, and for the first time in a long time, the good outweighed the bad. We saw fighters like Floyd Mayweather, Jermain Taylor, Miguel Cotto and Jeff Lacy elevate themselves into superstars. We saw comeback attempts by veterans like Felix Trinidad and Roy Jones shot down with one-sided defeats. We saw Bernard Hopkins, a fighter that went undefeated for 12 years, lose twice before the year was over. We saw Vitali Klitschko suffer multiple injuries that led to his unexpected retirement from the sport. We also saw our share of tragedies, with fighters like Leavander Johnson suffering ring injuries that untimely ended his life.
BoxingScene.com takes a look at the winners of 2005, and reflects on what made them the best that boxing had to offer in what many called a good year for the sport.
Fighter of The Year - Ricky Hatton
After years of facing no-hopers and over-the-hill fighters, Hatton stepped up his level of competition by several miles. In June, Hatton risked his undefeated record against one of the top pound for pound fighters in the world, Kostya Tszyu.
After ten years of ruling a division, Hatton was determined to take Tszyu's throne by force. Thousands of screaming Hatton fans packed the M.E.N arena in Manchester to cheer on their countryman. Atomically billed as the underdog by the experts, Hatton rose to the occasion by fighting like the favorite.
Obviously reviewing countless hours of tape on Tszyu, Hatton executed a picture perfect strategy to smother the power and boxing skills of the champion by staying on top of him at all times with swarming attacks. After eleven grueling rounds, the unthinkable happened as Kostya Tszyu was unable to come out for the final round and retired on his stool. Hatton rocked the boxing world with the victory and picked the IBF junior lightweight title in the process.
In the final quarter of the year, Hatton set his sights on unifying the division. Unable to secure bouts with Floyd Mayweather and Miguel Cotto, Hatton challenged WBA junior lightweight champion Carlos Maussa for a November battle in Manchester. Hatton, bloodied from badly cut eyes and facially bruised, came back to stop his unorthodox opponent with a single crushing power shot in the ninth round.
Hatton, now the proud owner of two-thirds of the unified junior welterweight crown, is looking to continue his successful career on American soil in 2006.
Fight of The Year - Diego Corrales vs. Jose Luis Castillo
Not since the trilogy between Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward has there been such as sheer display of brutality, competitiveness, heart and perseverance. Some call it the fight of the year, others call it the fight of the century.
Both fighters were known to their hardcore legions of fans. After their May 7 meeting, they were known to the entire boxing world. It started in brutal fashion and ended in unexpected fashion. The blistering pace of the bout was unbelievable to watch. Both men stood toe to and exchanged power punches to the head and body for ten grueling rounds. If Castillo had the better of one round, Corrales came back to win the next.
The fighters were bruised, spent and bloody when the sound of the bell was heard to start the tenth and final round. In one of the most spectacular comebacks in boxing history, Diego Corrales suffered two knockdowns and came back batter Jose Luis Castillo with power punches to score a cinema style TKO win.
A few months later, Castillo dominated their October rematch and stopped Corrales in 4 rounds. A third meeting is set for February 4, let's hope the third meeting is a mirror image of the first.
Round of The Year - Diego Corrales vs. Jose Luis Castillo Round 10
The round that made onlookers jump out of their seats at the finish. The fight was dead even on most cards when the fighters resumed their battle in the tenth round.
A monster left hook from Castillo sent Diego Corrales crashing to the canvas. Corrales was able to beat the count, but not before he spit out his mouthpiece. The referee, Tony Weeks, gave Corrales some precious recovery time when he brought him to his corner to allow Joe Goossen to place the mouthpiece back in his mouth.
Moments later, an accumulation of punches sent Corrales to the canvas for the second time. The time Corrales used his glove to take the mouthpiece out of his mouth. The bout looked all but over and victory appeared to be in sight for Castillo. As Castillo charged in for the kill, he underestimated the recuperation skills of Corrales and was caught flush by punches that had him seeing stars. Just when it appeared to be over for Corrales, he was pounding a defenseless Castillo against the ropes with power punches. As Castillo dropped his hands and appeared to be out on his feet, Tony Weeks jumped between the fighters and saved Castillo from suffering career ending punishment. The entire crowd was in awe and the sport had another classic that will stand the test of time.
Comeback of The Year - Wladimir Klitschko
After two disappointing years, Klitschko rose back to the top of the heavyweight division in 2005. Last year was marred by a knockout loss to Lamon Brewster and a four round technical decision win over DaVarryl Williamson. Wladimir was determined to turn his career around in 2005.
In April, Klitschko stopped undefeated prospect Eliseo Castillo in four rounds. The bout started slow, but Wladimir showed the boxing skill and power that made many in the business regard him as the heir to the heavyweight throne of Lennox Lewis.
The bout which many billed as the most anticipated heavyweight clash in years, landed in Atlantic City on September 24. In a very risky move, Klitschko accepted the challenge of the most feared fighter in the division, "Nigerian Nightmare" Samuel Peter. Wladimir was a heavy underdog in the bout, but used his experience and boxing skills to get up from three knockdowns, out-hustle the highly touted prospect and hand him his first loss.
With the win, Klitschko became the mandatory challenger to the IBF and WBO heavyweight titles. No bad for a fighter most fans thought of as being shot, possessing no heart and lacking a chin.
Knockout of The Year - Brian Viloria's first round knockout over Eric Ortiz
On September 10 at Los Angeles, a new Filipino fighter began to make some noise in the sport. Viloria was a respected prospect, a 2000 Olympian, was getting his first crack at a major world title.
Ortiz was a durable champion who tried in vain to get back to his feet from a perfectly planted right hand from Viloria, but he fell back down to the canvas and the referee waved off the contest with a second left in the first round. The bout ended as quickly as it began. After 2 minutes and 59 seconds of action, along with a perfectly landed right hand, Viloria was the brand new WBC light flyweight champion.
Prospect of The Year - Joel Julio
The 20-year-old sensation from Columbia is well on his way to becoming a force in the sport. The welterweight division, the experts and more important - the networks, are keeping their eyes on the rising prospect.
The promoters for Julio, Main Events, are bring the fighter along slowly, but at the same time they are keeping him very active. Julio saw action 5 times in 2005, stopping all his opponents in four rounds or less. The crowds love his aggressive ring nature, he wont settle for anything less than a knockout. The television coverage for Julio has been limited, but his natural talents have landed him a January 6, main event spot, on the popular boxing series ShoBox.
The youngster has compiled a perfect 25-0 record with 22 of those bouts ending by knockout. If Julio was a new IPO on the market, I would advise everyone to invest big.
Upset of The Year - Zahir Raheem's Twelve Round Decision over Erik Morales
It was supposed to be a tune up towards a January rematch with Manny Pacuqiao. Instead, it turned into sparring session that showcased Raheem dominating Morales and turning him into an amateur. Morales wanted to use Raheem as a stepping stone towards Pacquiao and a fourth world title in his fourth weight division. He made a terrible mistake.
Morales and his camp underestimated Raheem and paid the price. Never before had anyone seen Morales being handled in such fashion and nobody expected Raheem to be the fighter to dish out lesson. Prior to the bout, the Morales camp was talking about Diego Corrales, Marco Antonio Barrera and Manny Pacquiao - they never saw Raheem coming.
Trainer of The Year - Billy Graham
The force behind undefeated WBA/IBF 140 pound champion Ricky "Hitman" Hatton. At Hatton's side, Graham was able to display his skills as a trainer to a boxing audience that spanned the globe. He mapped out the perfect strategy to act as the kryptonite to Kostya Tszyu's power.
Months later against Carlos Massua, he kept a bloody Hatton calm between rounds as the "Hitman" managed to keep his cool, stick to the game plan and brought home the victory. Hatton was paranoid about the doctor stopping the fight due to the severe cuts above both of his eyes, but it was Graham who kept drilling him to keep his composure and stay focused on the plan.
Event of The Year - Bernard Hopkins vs. Jermain Taylor
The youngest promotional companies in the business put on one of the biggest events of the year. Golden Boy Promotions and DiBella Entertainment joined forces to stage one of the biggest middleweight fights in the last few years.
The young vs. the old, the new lion vs. old lion and heir vs. king, the storyline was easy. It was one big event that saw a young undefeated Olympian in Taylor end the twelve year win streak of Hopkins, the ten year title run of Hopkins and the 20 successful title defense streak of Hopkins. Quite the accomplishment from a single win. I should mention that Taylor also picked up every major title in the process, the IBF, WBA, WBO and WBC straps all came back with him to Arkansas.
The marketing campaign of building up an unknown in Taylor as the biggest middleweight threat to Hopkins paid off with successful pay-per-view buyrate numbers. The controversial split-decision meant only one thing - a rematch.
Some had said that the first fight was not exciting enough to make a rematch on pay-per-view, but the rematch ended up being even more successful than the first encounter.
Promoter of The Year - Gary Shaw Productions
Some promoters had their highs and some had plenty of lows, but Gary Shaw ended the year off in a big way. He saw Diego Corrales stop arch rival Jose Luis Castillo in one of the most bouts in the recent memory. The fight of the century was followed up with an action packed rematch which saw Corrales headline his first pay-per-view. The undefeated super middleweight champion, Jeff Lacy, had a great year with three impressive televised victories over Rubin Williams, Robin Reid and Scott Pemberton - all won by knockout.
GSP pulled off a major coup when they added one of the most exciting pound for pound fighter in the game, Manny Pacquiao. The Filipino sensation ended off the year strong with a knockout victory over tough Hector Velasquez. The buck certainly did not stop there. Rising prospect Chad Dawson shined like a star in 2005. Dawson fought three times, stopping all three of his opponents, including veteran Ian Gardner. He ended the year with a perfect 20-0 record, with 14 knockouts.
To say 2006 would be a better year for GSP would not be an understatement. All three of Gary Shaw's upper elite fighters, have mega-bouts scheduled for 2006. Manny Pacquiao is set for revenge against Erik Morales in highly anticipated January rematch. Diego Corrales will be looking for his own measure of revenge against Jose Luis Castillo as both men clash for the third time in February. Jeff Lacy tangles with undefeated rival Joe Calzaghe in March, a bout that hardcore boxing fans have been demanding since 2004.