2008 was a great year for boxing. Whether youre a purist who enjoys slick technicians or a bloodthirsty observer who enjoys horrific brawls, there was an abundance of everything. Particularly, 2008 showcased many older stars from the 90s get brutally removed from top draw status, and younger fighters eagerly move in to replace their spots.
So who earned top marks this year? Read on.
Fighter of the Year: Manny Pacquiao
The favorite son of the Philippines continued his dominance of boxing with two signature wins over elite fighters, three weight classes apart. In March, the Pacman squeaked out a razor-thin decision over his determined rival Juan Manuel Marquez in a sensational rematch. Despite Marquezs best efforts, a key knockdown early on was enough to give Pacquiao a controversial but hard-earned victory. Over the summer, Pacquiao moved up to lightweight to put on a brutal display of speed and power against the limited but tough WBC champ David Diaz. After nine one-sided rounds, Pacquiao ended Diazs night with a pinpoint straight left that deposited the rugged Mexican face-first on the canvas.
The Pacman capped his year by yet again moving up, this time to welterweight, to face the much larger Oscar De La Hoya. Despite being a big underdog and never before fighting above 135 pounds, Pacquiao beat De La Hoya from pillar to post, earning a corner stoppage before the 9th round.
As boxings newest mainstream star and the worlds undisputed pound for pound #1, Manny Pacquiao looks to further build on his guaranteed Hall of Fame spot with 2009 superfights with 140 pound kingpin Ricky Hatton and previous pound for pound #1 Floyd Mayweather.
1. Joe Calzaghe
2. Chad Dawson
3. Antonio Margarito
4. Vic Darchinyan
5. Juan Manuel Marquez
Fight of the Year: Vazquez vs. Marquez III (March 1, 2008)
It was a rubbermatch for the ages that crystallized arguably the most action-packed trilogy in the history of boxing. In March, Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez waged war over 12 back and forth rounds. Marquez boxed well early, even dropping his rival hard in round 4, but Vazquez consistently came back to buzz Marquez with huge shots. The championship rounds continued the drama, with Marquez losing an invaluable point in the 11th for a low blow and Vazquez storming out to batter Marquez the entire 12th round and secure a much-needed knockdown with seconds remaining.
The last round heroics gave Israel Vazquez a 114-11, 111-114, 113-112 split decision win, and his second career-shortening win over Rafael Marquez. Although concern for the health of both guys abound, there is serious talk of a lucrative 4th fight in 2009. Can anyone say tetralogy?
1. Steve Cunningham vs. Tomasz Adamek
2. Joel Casamyor vs. Michael Katsidis
3. Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez II
4. Antonio Margarito vs. Miguel Cotto
5. Chad Dawson vs. Glen Johnson
Most Improved Fighter: Vic Darchinyan
After getting blasted out with one punch by Nonito Donaire in 2007, pint-sized brawler Vic Darchinyan showed vast improvement in 2008 by mixing controlled aggression behind accurate jabs and hooks. Overcoming an early dubious draw in February, Darchinyan went on to capture IBF super-flyweight title in August with a dominant knockout of Dimitri Kirilov. In November, he shocked most boxing experts by annihilating pound for pound technician Cristian Mijares to become the first man to unify the super-flyweight division.
On February 7th, Darchinyan looks to continue his winning ways against hated rival Jorge Arce.
1. Paul Williams
2. Andre Berto
3. Juan Manuel Lopez
4. Ricky Hatton
Im Going Down Award: Oscar De La Hoya
The Golden Boy begins a new streak with his second consecutive award for futility. Earlier this year, De La Hoya won a lackluster albeit lopsided decision over an undersized Steve Forbes, who still managed to bust up Oscars face in the process. After talks fell through for a rematch with Floyd Mayweather, De La Hoya was able to secure a fight with another great but even smaller fighter in Manny Pacquiao. But instead of any easy victory, the tenacious Pacman thrashed De La Hoya all over Las Vegas for 8 rounds, forcing Oscar to quit on his stool before the 9th. If getting beat up by a blown up super-featherweight isnt enough to convince Oscar to retire, I dont know what will.
1. Roy Jones, Jr.
2. Jeff Lacy
3. Jose Luis Castillo
Upset of the Year: Bernard Hopkins vs. Kelly Pavlik
One of these days, the boxing press will learn not to bet against the Executioner. Bernards dismal outing against Joe Calzaghe had many convinced the ageless wonder had finally become shot, and that young middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik would be the final nail in Hopkins legendary career. Instead, Hopkins put on a masterclass performance, hitting Pavlik with every punch in the book for 12 rounds without once becoming visibly tired. At 43, Hopkins still remains high on boxings short list of pound for pound elites.
1. Timothy Bradley W12 Junior Witter
2. Carlos Quintana W12 Paul Williams
3. Nate Campbell W12 Juan Diaz
4. Manny Pacquiao TKO8 Oscar De La Hoya
Knockout of the Year: Breidis Prescott KO1 Amir Khan
Youd be hard pressed to envision a worst possible loss then Khans September public execution. The PPV bout was supposed to be Khans coming out party. Instead, hell be spending the foreseeable future attempting to undo his new image as a china-chinned, overhyped protected fighter who was blasted out the first time he met decent competition.
At a mere 21 years old, time is on Khans side to make the necessary defensive improvements echoed by many British commentators, such as former champ Barry McGuigan.
No more fighting during Ramadan, Amir
1. Edison Miranda KO3 David Banks
2. Shane Mosley TKO12 Ricardo Mayorga
3. Juan Urango KO4 Carlos Vilches
2009 Wish List
Retirements of Evander Holyfield and Roy Jones, Jr
Manny Pacquaio vs. Ricky Hatton and Floyd Mayweather
Paul Williams vs. Antonio Margarito II
Timonthy Bradley vs. Kendall Holt
Chad Dawson vs. Joe Calzaghe
Tomasz Adamek vs. Steve Cunningham II