Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Wrapping up the 2010 boxing awards
By Dan Rafael
Even though 2010 is in the books, the Fight Freaks have been tweeting to ask me to dole out other awards besides the traditional fighter, knockout, prospect, round and fight of the year honors I handed out last week. So after handing out a batch yesterday, I offer up the rest today. This ought to tide you over until next January.
Event of the year: Well, it's really three rolled into one: stadium fights. For years, Top Rank's Bob Arum talked about bringing a major fight to a pro sports stadium. He would talk about it, get some publicity and then fail to deliver. But Arum walked the walk in 2010. And he didn't just put on one stadium fight -- he put on three major fights in stadiums.
Arum cut a deal with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to bring Manny Pacquiao's March fight against Joshua Clottey to Cowboys Stadium, the first-ever fight card at the $1.2 billion palace. In June, Arum opened new Yankee Stadium to boxing with Miguel Cotto's victory against Yuri Foreman -- the first fight on those grounds since Arum promoted the third Muhammad Ali-Ken Norton fight at the old ballpark across the street in 1976. And in November, Pacquiao returned to Cowboys Stadium for his domination of Antonio Margarito.
Pacquiao sold almost 2 million pay-per-views for his two stadium appearances and drew more than 80,000 fans. Cotto-Foreman generated HBO's highest rating of the year for boxing. Undoubtedly, the venues had a lot to do with the success. And I loved all of it. I covered all three fights and had a chance to make a pilgrimage to Southfork Ranch, where the fictional Ewing family lived on "Dallas," my all-time favorite TV show. And as a lifelong Yankees fan, it was a thrill to tour the new stadium and spend a good chunk of time hanging out and taking pictures in a virtually empty Monument Park.
Non-event of the year: No Pacquiao fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. Need I say more?
Worst brain cramp of the year: Somehow Leonard Ellerbe, one of Mayweather's advisers, forgot that there had been a round of negotiations for the fight with Pacquiao during the summer and denied they ever took place. It was Ellerbe's word against Arum's, but when HBO's Ross Greenburg -- who was serving as an intermediary in the talks -- publicly admitted they took place, Ellerbe forfeited any shred of credibility he had on the subject.
Worst video: Mayweather's low-class, pathetic internet video rant against Pacquiao, whom he slammed with unacceptable racist and homophobic language. Mayweather's obvious jealousy of Pacquiao, a beloved figure worldwide and now a congressman in his native Philippines, boiled over in a sad display.
Biggest waste of time: Shane Mosley's draw with Sergio Mora. The fight was unwatchable. I'll always consider it the walkout fight for Saul Alvarez's sensational knockout of Carlos Baldomir.
There were some other notable fights also covered in stink:
• David "The Ducker" Haye's third-round knockout of Audley Harrison in a so-called heavyweight title bout was abysmal (other than the actual knockout). Haye did almost nothing at all. Harrison, who more than earned his "Fraudley" nickname, did less. And this was on pay-per-view in England.
• Andre Berto's first-round knockout of Freddy Hernandez was as bad as advertised. HBO, which has excelled at wasting money on Berto mismatches, wasted another $1.2 million on an undercard fight nobody wanted to see and everyone knew was a disgrace. The result was as expected: Berto via first-round knockout. This, by the way, came on the heels of HBO handing Berto $1.5 million for a second-rate fight against Carlos Quintana that managed to sell a mere 972 tickets in an 18,000-seat NHL arena in Florida, Berto's home state.
• Bernard Hopkins' rematch with Roy Jones Jr.. Their first fight, 17 years earlier, was bad. The sequel, years too late, was way worse -- and on pay-per-view, no less. The entire promotion, from the start to the miserable end at a morgue-like Mandalay Bay, was depressing.
• There was also Paul Williams' four-round technical decision against Kermit Cintron at a virtually empty Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., a region where nobody cared about either fighter, who both hail from the East Coast. The fight ended when Cintron was launched out of the ring after he and Williams got their feet tangled. I don't think Cintron jumped out of the ring on purpose, as many believe, but I do think Cintron could have continued. Instead, he dogged it and took the easy way out, perhaps thinking he would get a no-contest.
• "General Hospital" soap opera of the year award: Showtime's Super Six World Boxing Classic, which had more twists and turns than I can even remember. Most significantly, half of the original field -- Jermain Taylor, Mikkel Kessler and Andre Dirrell -- dropped out because of injuries. Kessler's and Dirrell's injuries remain highly suspect in some quarters. There were numerous venue and date changes in addition to the fighter changes. There was great mystery surrounding the Andre Ward-Dirrell fight that ultimately never happened, and Ward even wound up having one fight outside the tournament when Showtime's Ken Hershman decided to go with a five-man field during the final group stage. Now we're headed to the semifinals. Things can't go much worse than Group Stage 3, can they?
• All bark, no bite award: Maybe this award should heretofore be named after this year's winner? It's Allan Green. Has any fighter ever promised more and delivered less -- and made more excuses about his failures in the process? Green cried about being left out of the Super Six field, and when he got his chance as an alternate after Taylor dropped out, he laid two giant eggs. Ward shut him out as Green practiced sleepwalking. Then Glen Johnson was handling Green before drilling him in the eighth round.
• Biggest tease of the year: No, it's not the two rounds of failed Pacquiao-Mayweather talks. It's WBC president for life Jose Sulaiman throwing a temper tantrum and handing in his resignation at the wretched organization's annual convention -- and then taking it back an hour or two later. Damn!
• Best PPV of the year: Not all of Top Rank's small pay-per-view cards are worth the money, but "In Harm's Way" on Dec. 4 turned out to be a gem and was worth every penny. The original main event of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. against Alfonso Gomez was scrapped a couple of weeks ahead of time when Gomez suffered an arm injury. He was replaced by Pawel Wolak. Later, Chavez dropped out with the flu. But who needs Chavez? The card still turned out excellent.
Lightweight titlist Humberto Soto's defense against Urbano Antillon was bumped up to the main event, and they produced the 2010 ESPN.com fight of the year. Also on the card, Nonito Donaire moved up to bantamweight and looked sensational in knocking out respected former titlist Wladimir Sidorenko in the fourth round. Top featherweight prospect Mikey Garcia looked great as he stepped up in competition to stop Olivier Lontchi, and Wolak survived some rocky moments to stop Jose Pinzon in an exciting fight. There were low expectations going in and joy when it was over.
• Worst PPV title of the year: Golden Boy named the Mayweather-Mosley fight "Who R U Picking?" Uggghhh. Besides the name being woeful, it didn't even properly represent the fight because everyone and their mother was picking Mayweather (who wound up winning easily). In a related story, I hear Top Rank plans to name the critically hammered May 7 Pacquiao-Mosley fight "Why R U Watching?"
• John McEnroe Award (You cannot be serious!): In mid-July, Arum called a ridiculous 3 a.m. ET conference call that I stayed up to be on just to hear him tell the press what we all knew was coming -- that Mayweather had not responded to a deadline to accept a deal to face Pacquiao, and that Pacquiao was moving on to another fight. It was a dog-and-pony show from the moment it was announced. But, hey, if it was a typical 2 p.m. media call, would I be writing about it half a year later?