by David P. Greisman
We want the phenomenal to be forever, for the incredible to be indelible, for all that is right to be all that is remembered.
That’s not how it works.
We must take the wrong with the right and the bad with the good — and unfortunately it is the depressing and distressing that sticks with us more easily, that does not leave us, but lingers and haunts.
The mortifying is more memorable.
And so 2011 goes down more as a year for embarrassment, rather than stand out as a year of excitement. We recall these past 12 months for the controversial, for people talking about boxing for all the wrong reasons.
We recall 2011 for Victor Ortiz’s intentional fouls against Floyd Mayweather Jr. more than for his incredible battle with Andre Berto.
We recall Floyd Mayweather dispatching Ortiz with two shots while Ortiz wasn’t looking more than we remember Mayweather dissecting his opponent as the fight went on.
We recall Bernard Hopkins’ two-round travesty with Chad Dawson rather than the 12 rounds of history against Jean Pascal.
We debate over the scoring of Manny Pacquiao’s third fight with Juan Manuel Marquez rather than debate over which man is better — Pacquiao or Marquez.
We think back to this being another year in which Pacquiao and Mayweather didn’t fight each other, rather than think about all of the boxers who did.
We should remember the boxers who did fight, however, and we should remember the nights that did delight.
We should remember Nonito Donaire’s ascendance with his technical knockout of Fernando Montiel, rather than his disappearance afterward due to a conflict with his promoter.
We should remember the pitched battle that was Amir Khan vs. Lamont Peterson, rather than stick only with the controversy that followed. Khan-Peterson gave aesthetically in December everything that Timothy Bradley and Devon Alexander did not give in January.
We should remember Delvin Rodriguez and Pawel Wolak going to war for a small payday, doing what David Haye was unwilling to do despite the millions he earned to merely survive the distance against Wladimir Klitschko.
We cannot help but remember all that shouldn’t have happened in 2011 — but we must make sure not to forget the rest that did.
And as long as we remember all that was superb — and don’t worry, there will be a bit of that this week, and more of it next week — we can still make light of all that was silly.
So before we turn our full attention to 2012, let us send last year off — and as far away as possible — with part one of this year’s Freewheeling Fighting Awards:
The “Kim Kardashian’s Ample Hindquarters Award,” for biggest brouhaha over one person’s body part: to Antonio Margarito’s right eye, subject of scrutiny, gossip and an abundance of attention before, during and after his December rematch with Miguel Cotto.
The “Christina Hendricks’ Ample Cleavage Award,” for biggest bust of the year: to Bernard Hopkins vs. Chad Dawson, which failed on three fronts — it died at the box office, fizzled with pay-per-view purchases, and provided less than two forgettable rounds before finding an even more embarrassing manner to conclude.
The “Mike Jones vs. Jesus Soto-Karass Award,” for worst case of punching yourself out: to Alfredo Angulo, who threw caution and endurance to the wind in the first round of his November fight with James Kirkland, only to wind up winded and, five rounds later, on the losing end of a technical knockout.
The “Tyson Fury Award,” for best case of punching yourself: to super middleweight James DeGale, for the sweet left uppercut that hit nothing but his own noggin during his October bout with Piotr Wilczewski.
The “Lindsay Lohan Award,” for positive tests for banned drugs: Damon Allen (diuretic), Joel Casamayor (marijuana), Joan Guzman (2010, diuretic), Matima Molefe (steroids), Bastie Samir (diuretic), Sofiane Takoucht (unknown) and Manju Wanniarachchi (2010, norandrosterone).
Prospect of the Year: Danny Garcia.
This award is based solely on what a fighter did in the past year — not on the bright future a fighter might have.
So while Gary Russell Jr. is on the fast track, his fast hands spotlighted on HBO, his bandwagon already piling on passengers… his ledger is lacking.
Garcia, meanwhile, went 3-0 in 2011, with the latter two of those victories earning him this recognition.
The 23-year-old junior welterweight began the year with a keep-busy fight against John Figueroa, and barely a month and a half later was in the ring with former lightweight champion Nate Campbell.
Garcia out-pointed Campbell over 10 rounds, and then finished his year with a split decision victory over former 140-pound titleholder Kendall Holt.
Garcia’s time as a prospect ended after that. He’s since signed for a January 2012 title fight with Erik Morales, which — should Morales’ health issues not postpone the bout — raises Garcia to the status of contender.
Whether Garcia moves beyond contender status depends on what he has — and what Morales has left.
Upset of the Year: to James Toney, for somehow making the cruiserweight limit for his November bout with Denis Lebedev. Just eight months after tipping the scales at 257 pounds against Damon Reed, Toney dropped down to 199 pounds, the lowest weight he’d been in more than eight years.
Alas, weight isn’t the only thing Toney dropped — he also lost the bout by unanimous decision.
The “Hollywood Hogan vs. Kevin Nash Finger Poke of Doom Award,” for dive of the year: to Likar Ramos and Florencio Castellano, whose performances were, well, performances in their respective first-round “knockout” (cough, cough) losses to Juan Manuel Marquez (in July) and Joan Guzman (in November).
The “Cello Renda vs. Paul Samuels Award,” for best double knockdown: to Jesus Pagan and Israel Vazquez, a pair of flyweights who floored each other simultaneously in the first round of their October bout, according to Fightnews.com.
Robbery of the Year: Alexander Petkovic DQ6 Cisse Salif, Oct. 14, 2011.
There are the robberies that come from horrible judging — witness the travesty that was Paul Williams’ majority decision win this year over Erislandy Lara, criminal scoring that left all three judges suspended.
But what happens when a fighter tries to make sure a fight doesn’t go to the judges, and yet the referee doesn’t even give him that chance?
That was the travesty that was Cisse Salif’s disqualification loss this past October in a heavyweight fight against Alexander Petkovic in Germany.
Though Lara never got his loss to Williams back, at least there was an outcry, and at least there were repercussions.
Salif’s loss came on a quiet undercard, seen by few, leaving fewer voices in outrage. There is less likelihood that any justice will ever come out of this robbery.
The perpetrator was Manfred Kuechler, a veteran referee who shouldn’t be allowed near a ring again.
Salif, a journeyman who fought David Tua several years back, was in with Petkovic, once a cruiserweight but now out of shape at 258 pounds, his chest sagging nearly as badly as his stomach.
Salif knocked Petkovic down twice in the fourth round, the second knockdown coming after a pair of body shots. Salif opted to continue targeting Petkovic’s ample stomach — and though he had difficulty missing that target, Kuechler opted to rule otherwise.
A left hook to the body in the fifth round was ruled low, though it wasn’t. Kuechler docked Salif a point. Then Petkovic sent out a jab that strayed low — and Kuechler warned Salif, for some reason. Salif then landed a left to the body that put Petkovic down, a legal shot that wasn’t ruled a knockdown, but rather a low blow, for which another point was taken.
This continued, until, in the sixth, Salif landed another legal body shot that put Petkovic down, and Kuechler disqualified Salif.
Definitely-Not-A-Robbery of the Year: to Lucian Bute’s clear decision win over Glen Johnson — no matter what Johnson said afterward.
“I thought I won the fight,” Johnson, who has legitimately been a hard luck case in the past, said after the November bout. “I hit him a lot more than he hit me.”
Showtime’s Jim Gray summed up our collective disbelief mid-interview with a three-word response: “Not even close.”
The “Antoine Dodson ‘Hide Your Kids, Hide Your Wife’ Award,” for most unintentionally hilariously awkward interview: to Zab Judah, speaking to HBO’s Max Kellerman while watching a replay of the beltline shot that sent him down for the count against Amir Khan in July, a punch Judah contested as being a low blow:
“Self explanatory, baby. Self explanatory. In the balls. Excuse me. First of all, I’d like to thank my lord and savior, Jesus Christ, for allowing me to come out of here safe and just allowing me, you know what I’m saying, to be on this stage again.”
It made viewers strangely nostalgic for the night years ago in which Bernard Hopkins, also speaking to Kellerman, described his reaction to a low blow from Joe Calzaghe: “That’s my crotch. I mean, I ain’t going to ask you to feel it, but it’s right there.”
The “Kevin Johnson Against Vitali Klitschko Award,” for lamest performance in a heavyweight title fight: to David Haye, who talked big for two years about the Klitschko brothers, then got in the ring with Wladimir, did next to nothing to back up his big talk and then blamed his poor performance afterward on an injured pinky toe. How bad was Haye’s performance? Well, he gets this award instead of Odlanier Solis…
The “Joshua Clottey’s Catering Service Award,” for a Ghanaian fighter being done-in by a pre-fight meal: to Ray Narh, who blamed his third-round technical knockout loss to Mike Alvarado in May on being sick because of something he ate.
(By the way, ending a boxing match because of diarrhea gives new meaning to quitting on your stool.)
The “Danny Green Award,” for facing multiple faded fighters at cruiserweight: to Denis Lebedev, whose 2011 saw him get in the ring with the ghosts of Roy Jones Jr. and James Toney. Lebedev beat Jones by knockout and Toney by decision — but is secretly thinking he’ll have to wait at least another decade before facing Evander Holyfield.
The “Florida Marlins Award,” for most depressingly empty stadium: to Timothy Bradley and Devon Alexander, neither of whom was willing to face each other in his opponent’s hometown, and so their January junior-welterweight unification bout ended up pitting a California resident and a St. Louis native in the Silverdome.
In the dead of winter.
The “ ‘Huh? Adrian’ Award”: to Sylvester Stallone, who during his induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, actually uttered these words: “I’ve never pretended to be a boxer.”
So what were those movies about, then?
Knockout of the Year: The best knockouts are those that you must watch again and again — but that you don’t need to because they imprint upon your mind.
If there is one knockout this year that fits the most, it is Nonito Donaire’s second-round stoppage of Fernando Montiel in February.
Unlike past award winners, Donaire TKO2 Montiel is not a one-punch knockout. Somehow Montiel, his brain discombobulated, his legs flailing, was able to get off the canvas and beat the referee’s count. Somehow the referee let the fight continue, let Donaire land a couple more punches until realizing that Montiel was defenseless, that the fight was over.
Somehow none of that matters.
Go back and watch the replay. Rewind. Watch it again.
The left hook, a counter over Montiel’s right, is picture perfect. It looks great. It sounds great. The manner in which Montiel teetered and toppled, then struggled to rise, only makes it even better. None of the two seconds — and two punches — that follow can detract from this.
It remains a “Holy bleep, I’ve got to show this to everyone” moment. It remains in your mind. It remains, more than 10 months later, one of the must-see highlights of 2011.
That one punch changed the course of the fight, taking two bantamweight titles off a very good boxer. That one punch electrified the audience and excited boxing fans about seeing Donaire again. That one punch caused the knockdown, and the technical knockout that came soon thereafter.
It wasn’t a one-punch knockout, but that one punch helped make Donaire TKO2 Montiel the knockout of the year.
Part Two of the “Freewheeling Fighting Awards” will run Monday, Jan. 2, 2012.
The 10 Count will return in two weeks.
David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. His weekly column, “Fighting Words,” appears every Monday on BoxingScene.com.
Follow David on Twitter at twitter.com/fightingwords2 or on Facebook at facebook.com/fightingwordsboxing, or send questions and comments to [email protected]