Thursday, December 29, 2011
Boxing's 11 greatest misses of 2011
By Brian Campbell
As we enter the championship rounds of 2011 and reflect back on what went right over the past year in boxing, we'd be remiss to neglect what went dreadfully wrong.
To be fair, even a part-time admirer of a sport so honest in concept yet often frustrating and fraudulent in execution couldn't last without becoming cynical, if not half-crazy. And boxing (somehow still operating in its own Wild West reality) gave us plenty to cringe over this calendar year.
Without further ado, here's a look at boxing's 11 greatest misses of 2011:
11. Mosley takes the money ... and runs
In a recurring nightmare, I often find myself in the ring at the opening bell of a major fight with an aggressive slugger rushing toward me. Without proper training or the proven ability to take a punch, the dream always ends the same way: with me absorbing tremendous punishment before waking in a cold sweat.
Based on his performance against Manny Pacquiao in May, I can only imagine Shane Mosley felt exactly this way himself. Only, it was the rest of us who endured the $54.95 nightmare on pay-per-view.
Mosley isn't the only former warrior to go out with a whimper in a much-hyped fight, but the 39-year-old had to be the first to act like a nervous sparring partner who was more focused on thanking Pacquiao for the $5 million payday with high fives each round than actually throwing punches.
If the fight had been a movie, many would have walked out of the theater by Round 10. Ironically, that's the exact time Mosley attempted to do the same by unsuccessfully pleading with trainer Naazim Richardson to stop the fight.
10. Waiting at the altar
Fresh off victories over then middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik and a frightening one-punch knockout of Paul Williams, 2011 was supposed to be the year Sergio Martinez catapulted from relative unknown to crossover, rock-star status.
It never happened.
Despite leading-man good looks and a flashy skill set (not to mention bonus points for being an activist for women's rights and anti-bullying), Martinez played the role of bridesmaid as every talented and marketable star between 150-160 pounds declined his invitation to dance. No spring chicken at 36 years old, Martinez was left with low-reward title defenses against nondescript European challengers Sergei Dzinziruk and Darren Barker.
It's one thing for rival promoters to label Martinez as high risk and difficult to market, in part due to his lack of a traveling fan base and the fact he doesn't speak English. But with all of the sanctioning bodies and alphabet organizations in this sport, it's a crying shame an action fighter recognized by most as boxing's No. 3 pound-for-pound fighter was denied a chance to prove himself against the best in the sport.
9. Detroit rocked silly
In hindsight, it's almost laughable the amount of hype thrown at January's junior welterweight unification bout between young, unbeaten Americans Timothy Bradley Jr. and Devon Alexander.
Fans and experts alike were drunk on the promise, expectations and that historically boxing-friendly venue of ... the Pontiac Silverdome?
Yes, the same cavernous warehouse that once saw 93,173 people cram in like sardines for "Wrestlemania III" drew a paltry 6,247 fans 24 years later to witness a foul-filled Bradley victory that, if anything, lowered the stock of both fighters.
(Gratuitous Detroit-themed fight joke coming:) Let's face it, fans got more bang for their buck from the "Malice at the Palace" seven years earlier.
Shelling out big bucks for a PPV headlined by the only fight worth watching on the card and hoping you don't get burned is just part of the gamble when it comes to being a boxing fan. No one ever said the powers that be make it financially easy (or always rewarding) to follow the sport.
Getting pickpocketed by a body slam-induced freak shoulder injury, a la the Bernard Hopkins-Chad Dawson fight, is one thing. But when promoters expect fans to pay for cards headlined by perishable fighters so far past their primes you couldn't blame anyone who "must've forgot," it's another thing entirely.
Let's call the Evander Holyfield-Sherman Williams and Roy Jones Jr.-Max Alexander cards exactly what they were: fundraisers. The only thing anyone should be paying for is a collection to keep both of their legacies (and faculties) intact.
7. The most dangerous punch is the one that you don't see (or anyone else, for that matter)
With a third fight against Manny Pacquiao already lined up for November, most found it odd that Juan Manuel Marquez was willing to risk the opportunity with a July tuneup bout against 30-1 underdog Likar Ramos in Cancun.
Marquez went on to win by first-round knockout after a straight right hand to the chin sent Ramos to the canvas less than two minutes into the bout. But the ensuing controversy surrounded the way that Ramos, who was knocked out cold, collapsed following such an average punch -- as if had been shot to death. Referee Manolo Alcocer, in fact, didn't even bother to count Ramos out.
I'm not going to say it was a ghost punch or that Ramos took a dive, but even Sonny Liston thought that was a flop.
6. No Prince, no revolution
It's been nearly a full decade since boxing's last great showman, "Prince" Naseem Hamed, flaunted himself down the aisle one last time in leopard-print trunks before performing his patented flip over the top rope.
Not to sound like an overplayed tequila commercial, but whatever happened to half-nut flamboyance in boxing?
In a sport where style still sells as much as substance and self-promotion is half the battle in becoming a marketable star, the cupboard is frustratingly bare. Where we once had the colorful Hector "Macho" Camacho, a rapping Roy Jones Jr. and a chain-smoking Ricardo Mayorga, we are left today with Adrien Broner's hairbrush and Omar Narvaez's rat-tail. Yawn.
5. In a class all his own
Floyd Mayweather Jr. put boxing back on the front page for one night with his merciless and controversial knockout of defenseless (yet far from innocent) Victor Ortiz in their September PPV showdown.
Whether you thought Mayweather's actions were dirty or justified (or believe that any number of the celebrated all-time greats would've done the same thing), it's the type of winning tactic that should have been below a fighter of Mayweather's incredible class.
Although, in this situation, it appears that "class" (or lack of it) is the operative word.
4. Thou shalt not judge
Was there something in the water at ringside this year, or was it me?
While boxing is typically good for a few decisions each year that rank anywhere from highly suspect to highway robbery, 2011 gave us three sore thumbs that stuck out above the rest in Robert Helenius-Dereck Chisora, Felix Sturm-Matthew Macklin and Paul Williams-Erislandy Lara.
The Williams-Lara decision was so bad that the three judges involved were suspended indefinitely by the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board. The worst scorecards, however, may have come from the Super Six final -- also staged in New Jersey -- between Andre Ward and Carl Froch. Two judges scored it 115-113 for Ward, but they were partially saved by the fact both, at the very least, had the right fighter winning, even if by such an indefensible margin.
Seeing a hard-fought bout spoiled by incompetent scoring or officiating is like taking a series of unpenalized shots below the belt. And, yes, I'm looking at you, Russell Mora.
3. Haye is for horses
The moral of the classic story "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" is that liars are never rewarded. But in boxing's version of Aesop's fable, the liar in question was not only rewarded handsomely, he took his money and walked off into the sunset of retirement.
In 2009, former cruiserweight champion David Haye began crying wolf to anyone who would listen that he would dethrone the heavyweight champion Klitschko brothers. After holding the barren division hostage for two years by signing for fights against both brothers, only to pull out twice with flimsy excuses, Haye created enough demand that world No. 1 Wladimir Klitschko agreed to a 50-50 financial split for a July unification bout in Germany.
In the end, the sheep in Haye's clothing fought like he had a plane to catch, refusing to engage in a fight that was supposed to have been the defining bout of Wladimir Klitschko's sure-fire Hall of Fame career. Instead, all it did was define Haye's true colors.
2. The window is closing
One more year without the only fight that truly matters: Mayweather versus Pacquiao.
It's boxing's version of the Guns ‘N' Roses "Chinese Democracy" album. And if you think we're any closer to seeing this fight today than we were 365 days ago, you're fooling yourself.
1. Mayweather sentenced to 90 days in jail
It's never a positive when the No. 1 athlete in any sport is stripped of his freedom amid a firestorm of pending felony cases and negative headlines. But it's especially damning in a sport so reliant on its unquestioned brightest stars.
Mayweather has always appeared to need the spotlight and validation from boxing every bit as much as it has needed him. And his tale is a cautionary one in many ways.
The five-division world champion, who pleaded guilty to a reduced battery domestic violence charge against a former girlfriend and mother of his children, has played the villain role perfectly, to record-breaking financial success at the box office. But you can only "play" the villain for so long before you start to become one.
Mayweather has been given a brief respite from his lavish lifestyle in exchange for a dose of hard reality. Upon return, he'll have an opportunity to redefine his lasting legacy in more important ways than inside the ring.