Welcome to the 2007 year end wrapup of Knockout Nation. In 2006, we had to suffer through declarations that boxing was dead on a mainstream level. This year proved that not only is the sport alive and thriving, but that things can be even better by continuing to pit the best fighters against each other (wow, what a novel concept.)
Fighter of The Year: Kelly Pavlik
Most publications have awarded middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik as fighter of the year, and Im in agreement. In the span of a year, Pavlik has gone from an unknown to the top of the boxing heap. And he did so by making sure no fight was left in the hands of the judges. He first scored a chilling KO of rugged Jose Luis Zertuche, and then dominated heralded Edison Miranda for a TKO in seven rounds. Finally, he capped the year by coming off the floor from a hard knockdown to stop Jermain Taylor in seven. The most impressive thing so far about Pavlik is his ability to maintain poise under adversity and execute his game plan. In each fight this year, the Youngstown native was not frazzled by pressure from opponents. Pavliks wins over two young prime fighters gives him a very slight edge over Mayweathers two signatures wins this year. Look for Pavlik to reign at middleweight as long as his body allows.
1. Floyd Mayweather
2. Juan Manuel Marquez
3. Miguel Cotto
4. Juan Diaz
Most Exciting Fight:Vazquez-Marquez II
Barely edging their first brutal clash, Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez produced a sequel worthy to be called a classic. After quitting due to a nose injury in the first bout, many were questioning whether Vazquez could hold up to Marquezs punching power, and also the fact he was returning to the ring early against the wishes of his longtime trainer Freddie Roach. These factors may have lulled Marquez into a false sense of security, as he stormed Vasquez looking to pick up right were he left off.
Vasquez was able to counterpunch effectively throughout the bout, doubling up his left hooks to the body and head to hurt Marquez badly in the 3rd round. Despite this, Marquez would always fire back combos of his own, disfiguring Vasquez with cuts above both eyes. In the end, it was a hard hook that sent Marquez to the canvas in round six. Even in dire straits, Marquez continued trading punches as the referee called a halt to the bout.
The inevitable rubber match next year promises more of the same brutality. The humanity in me hopes that these fighters wont be finished after these brutal bouts.
Jermain Taylor vs. Kelly Pavlik
Miguel Cotto vs. Shane Mosley
Jaidon Codrington vs. Sakio Bika
Floyd Mayweather vs. Ricky Hatton
Joe Calzaghe vs. Mikkel Kessler
Most Improved Fighter: Chad Dawson
Bad Chad Dawson used 2007 as his breakout year, dismantling lightweight champ Tomasz Adamek, and making two successful defenses of his WBC title. The Adamek bout was a huge step up in class for Dawson, who won a lopsided decision despite a late flash knockdown. Unfortunately, Dawson has looked a little too good, and has been unable to secure a high profile bout since the Adamek fight. Antonio Tarver is quick to make excuses and spends his days calling out a supper middleweight (Jeff Lacy), while Bernard Hopkins and Joe Calzaghe are enamored with the potential dollars between them. As a result, Dawson takes on dangerous warhorse Glen Johnson in April. Dawson will likely have to continue cleaning out the division of B-level talent to give the big hitters no choice but to take him on.
Im Going Down Award: Oscar De La Hoya
One of these days, Oscar will realize that hes not going to get that definitive win to end his career. Despite receiving a boxing lesson from Floyd, Oscar is entertaining fights against Manny Pacquiao, Miguel Cotto, and Ricky Hatton. Stop it, Oscar. Your calling is now as a promoter, not convoluting the boxing scene from 147-154 lbs, tempting everyone and their mother to get another payday. Hang em up!
Knockout of the Year
You knew someone would do it eventually. While Vic Darchinyan was a terror to overmatched flyweights, his wild charge up punches left him vulnerable to a sweet counter punch. That day came earlier this year, when Nonito Donaire knocked him cold with a cracking left hook counter. Darchinyan had no clue what hit him, and now has to reconcile the fact the technique hes been using the majority of his career will not cut it against the elite.
Predictions for 2008
2008 promises more big matchups for boxing. Here are my matchup predictions for the confirmed bouts.
Pavlik has the psychological advantage of not only taking Taylors best shots, but coming back to KO him. Taylor has shown since facing elite competition, he has difficulty executing and/or adjusting his game plan when faced with adversity. I look for Taylor to be a lot more cautious in his engagements, but still be on the losing end of exchanges when forced to the ropes. Taylor survives, but loses a competitive decision 115-113.
This fight comes down to who executes better. In the first bout, Marquez varied his attacks, alternately between boxing and slugging when needed. In the rematch, the roles were switched and Vazquez won. Im going to go out on limb and pick Vazquez by TKO. I feel he just has a little more versatility and is not as gung ho as Rafael can be (which cost him the rematch). Vazquez TKO9.
Marquez has looked in rare form in his recent bouts against Marco Antonio Barerra and Rocky Juarez. Pacquiao also defeated Barrera this year, but hasnt looked like the ferocious whirlwind of a fighter since dispatching Erik Morales in their rubber match. Marquez seemed to figure out Pacquiao in the second half of their first fight back in 2004, and I expect him to pick up where he left off. Marquez UD 116-112
Mayweather vs. Cotto
Unified Heavyweight Division
Chad Dawson vs. Bernard Hopkins/Joe Calzaghe winner
Ricky Hatton vs. Junior Witter or Paulie Malignaggi
Manny Pacquiao/Juan Manuel Marquez winner vs. Joan Guzman
Juan Diaz vs. Joel Casamayor/Michael Katsidis winner
Nonito Donaire vs. Vic Darchinyan II