- Eric Raskin, Boxing
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There are two kinds of year-end awards: the ones that matter, and the ones you're about to read.
First, an acknowledgement: Boxing is a deadly serious sport, and just for having the guts to step into the ring, every professional fighter deserves the respect of us know-it-alls on press row.
But it is sometimes a writer's job to provide levity and to playfully mock the brave men (and women) whom he wouldn't dare mock to their faces. In that spirit, enjoy these awards recognizing some of boxing's best, worst and just plain weirdest from 2012:
The Fastest Way to Throw Away All of Your Street Cred Award goes to Floyd Mayweather Jr., whose carefully cultivated gangsta image unraveled when "Money May" went to prison and insisted he couldn't survive without bottled water. I'm pretty sure when Suge Knight did time, he didn't complain about the scarcity of Evian. I can't wait until Floyd meets Dewey Bozella and bends Dewey's ear with tales of how tough his two-month stretch was.
The Male Undergarment Trendsetter of the Year Award goes to Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., who turned heads and burned out retinas with his neon pink briefs on "24/7." It could have been worse, I suppose; at least Chavez never forced HBO to go to the blurcle.
The Most Appropriate Name Award goes to Guy Robb, who was the guy robbed when ref Vic Drakulich called a premature stoppage in his January fight with Joel Diaz. Sure, Robb was behind on points and probably going to lose anyway. But I'm willing to stretch a bit to give him this award, because the alternative involved making a bunch of jokes about Adrien Broner's last name that would have put my editor in an uncomfortable position. Speaking of Mr. Broner ...
The Most Polarizing Figure in Boxing Award was a tight race between Broner and Danny Garcia's father Angel, but in the end, I'm giving it to the Twinkie-tweetin' lightweight sensation. By a nose, it's the "Can Man" over the least popular man in Pakistan.
The Live TV is not for Everyone Award goes to Chuck Giampa, who in his debut appearance as a Showtime analyst in January took us inside the mind of a boxing judge ... revealing it to be an awful lot like going inside Al Capone's vault. Giampa hit for the cycle of on-camera work: The freeze, the repeat-your-line, the four-letter word and the premature cutaway were all represented in his first 10 seconds on the air.
The Wasted Year Award goes to Gary Russell Jr., who, at age 24, followed up his ESPN.com Prospect of the Year campaign by fighting just twice against nondescript opposition. If Russell doesn't show up to collect his award (a realistic possibility, given his recent disinclination toward public appearances), we'll instead give it to his Olympic teammate Demetrius Andrade, in recognition of his racking up five rounds of professional experience this year as a fellow 24-year-old.
The Best Performance of a Bette Midler Song by Two Men About to Fight Each Other Award goes to Kevin Johnson and Tyson Fury, who delivered a stirring piano-and-vocals rendition of "Wind Beneath My Wings" in December. Full-on "Beaches" remake, anyone?
The Best Story About Biting out Another Dude's Eye Award goes to Freddie Roach, as revealed on the outstanding HBO documentary series "On Freddie Roach." Meanwhile, the Worst Investigative Journalism Award goes to the production team behind "On Freddie Roach." Freddie tells this amazing and gruesome story about getting jumped and biting out the eyeball of one of his attackers, a one-eyed man happens to work at his gym and appears regularly on the show ... and we don't get any follow-up questions?
The Most Inspiring Fighter Award (hey, nobody said we couldn't mix in a serious category or two) goes to Paul Williams, who handled his motorcycle crash and subsequent partial paralysis with more positivity than I ever would have thought possible. A runner-up nod to Orlando Cruz, who this year became the first openly gay active pro boxer.
The You Might Want to Stick to Promoting Award goes to 50 Cent, for the quality of his rapping during Yuriorkis Gamboa's ring entrance in December.
The Worst Refereeing Award goes to Luis Pabon, who simply wouldn't get out of the way in February's Marco Huck-Alexander Povetkin heavyweight fight and almost certainly cost Huck a knockout win as a result. Pabon proved to be the fight game's equivalent of a helicopter parent, always hovering, always looking to break clinches before they even happened. Pabon even got clocked by an errant punch at one point -- which is the sort of thing that happens when a ref inserts himself while the fighters are actively attempting to, you know, fight.
The Hottest Twitter Trending Spectacles of the Year Award goes to Jim Lampley's tortoise-shell frames. Better luck next year, Jim Lampley's matte black frames and Jim Lampley's wire frames.
The Please do Your Business Off TV From Now on Award goes to Miguel Vazquez, who put two audiences to sleep in a six-week span late in the year with his action-free decision wins over Marvin Quintero and Mercito Gesta. Vazquez is a skillful fighter who has every right to make a living in the ring. I just don't want to know about it until the fight is over and the result is posted somewhere on the Internet.
The Least Welcome Fight of the Year winner is a toss-up between Christy Martin-Mia St. John II and Wladimir Klitschko-Jean-Marc Mormeck. In the end, I lean toward Klitschko-Mormeck because it lacked the potential for a wardrobe malfunction from a former "Playboy" cover girl.
The Chin of the Year Award would have gone to Mariusz Wach for the beating he endured from Klitschko, but because Wach's performance was tainted by a positive drug test, I'm instead giving this one to all the loyal boxing fans who took it on the chin from the sport's feuding, counterprogramming power brokers on Sept. 15. The fans who support this sport take enough abuse week in and week out without being forced to miss either a Chavez fight or a Canelo Alvarez fight because rival promoters and rival networks need to have their diva standoffs. Hopefully, in 2013 more of the powers that be will consider what's best for the fans and the Chin of the Year Award can be bestowed on an actual fighter.