Boxing: Luis Pabon boxing 2012 'Other Awards'

December, 26, 2012
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 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.

The TV powers that be in the sport will put up with a good amount of B.S. and still book fighters into meaningful bouts. You can be a loose cannon, or a loudmouth who talks smack and then fights scared, or be prone to a party-boy lifestyle that leaves room for only intermittent training. But as long as you show up for the weigh-in, make the weight and the show goes on, you will get gigs.

But those gigs will be much more scarce if you screw up on the scale. If you throw a wrench into the gears of the promotion, as Joan Guzman did a few times, your viability in the business can tank hard and fast. And once you have that rep, as a fighter who is too friendly with the fridge, it can be a hard slog back to getting people to trust you so that they book you for decent gigs.

Guzman is one of my favorite fighters to watch when he's on his game. He is master of his domain between the ropes, using ring generalship and flashy combos and deft movement -- to the point that he had become one of the top Dominican boxers of his era. But recent struggles with the scale have left his rep in tatters, and he has embarked on a mission to make people forget a few years' worth of screwups.

Guzman, 35, will get another shot at the spotlight on this week's "Friday Night Fights," against Jesus Pabon at the Westin Diplomat Resort in Hollywood, Fla. It looked like it would never again shine on him after Guzman showed up heavy for a September 2008 title fight with Nate Campbell, causing the cancellation of a Showtime show, and then was nine pounds over the 135-pound max for a March 2010 rematch with Ali Funeka. One might think a lesson would have be learned; but Guzman came in three pounds over in his next fight, against Jason Davis in December 2010, and then had that win changed to a no-contest because he tested positive for a diuretic.

The message Guzman sent on those occasions: I do not take this seriously, I am not an athlete-entertainer who respects the show and you put me on your program at your own peril. Golden Boy heard that loud and clear; the promoter dumped Guzman from his promotional deal after the Davis bout.

The fighter now swears up, down and around that he is a changed man, one who takes his craft seriously, who will show the fight world that he still has skills, enough to take another run at the big guns at 140 and thereabouts.

Guzman is ranked No. 8 by the IBF at junior welterweight. Though his nickname, "Little Tyson," has fallen into disuse, he was a major player in the pound-for-pound mix not too terribly long ago. He won a 122-pound title in 2002 and a 130-pound crown in 2006. He came pretty close to securing a bout with Manny Pacquiao, but that fell through and then the bottom fell out. Guzman told me not long ago that it stung when people shunned him after he lost some luster.

"I like the fans, I like the kids coming up to me. But I understand people are mad at me," he said. "People say, 'Guzman has no respect for the sport.' I feel bad for that. I changed everything. They say, 'Guzman had a lot of talent, he didn't respect that.' I had a lot of friends that are not friends anymore. I have a couple of friends now, they are good friends."

Emotional issues, stemming from his mother's fight with brain cancer, which she lost in the summer of 2009, took Guzman's focus off boxing and made him susceptible to eating to pacify himself. He says he's now dialed in.

"Me not making weight, that changed my mind. Now I'm focused on boxing," he said. "In the past, I had too many problems and didn't think too much of boxing. Now I put 200 percent into my career."

In his most recent outing, Guzman (31-0-1 with 18 KOs) shed some rust and worked toward restoring some of that shine when he showed up on weight and KO'd Florencio Castellano in the Dominican Republic last November.

Pabon comes into Friday's bout with a 17-2 record, with 11 KOs. The Puerto Rican lefty is 31 years old and last fought in June 2011, suffering a TKO2 loss to Javier Castro. He is of a higher caliber than Castellano. (Note: I watched and rewatched a replay of that ending, trying to see how much of Guzman's finishing uppercut landed on Castellano. It was my Zapruder film for a day or so.)

Jose Bonilla, Pabon's manager-trainer, thinks and hopes Guzman is a faded being: "I think he's not the same Guzman that he used to be eight, 10 years ago. Guzman is a big name. A victory against Guzman will be great for Pabon's career."

I expect Guzman to be too slick for Pabon. If so, we're left to wonder what comes next. The fighter has targeted Amir Khan, Marcos Maidana and Manny Pacquaio. Henry Rivalta acknowledged to me that Guzman needs to win about four or five more bouts to get suits and fans believing that his woes are ancient history.

"We want Pacman," Rivalta said. "We're the exact same size, height, reach. We're willing to go to 147."

Do I think Guzman can soldier on, keep on acting like a pro and get back to the bigger stages, ensuring his legacy isn't one of unfulfilled promise? I don't know. But as one who has been known to utilize a bowl of ice cream to pacify, I do root for him.

[On Thursday, Guzman came in over the contracted weight on his first weigh-in attempt. Rivalta said the fighter weighed 140.4, stepped off to skip rope for a spell, then made 140. Does it disturb the promoter that Guzman was over? "We had made him weigh in before the fight in our gym, and he was on weight," he said. "The commission scale read 140.4. I was confident he'd get that off, and he did. I'm very proud of Guzman and proud to be his promoter."]