Boxing returned to prominent, public glory in 2007. Major fights happened between all the best boxers, and almost all of them lived up to the hype. With the year’s most important and promising battles having already transpired in in 2007, we turn our attention at Ring Report to our year-end awards. All week long, we’ll look at the best of 2007 (but reserve the right to alter our awards should the last few weeks of the year deliver any surprises).
And we start with the individual fighters themselves.
The Boxing Writers Association of America narrowed down its own list of nominees for Fighter of the Year to Floyd Mayweather, Jr. (welterweight, 147 lbs.); Miguel Cotto (also a welterweight); Kelly Pavlik (middleweight, 160 lbs.); Joe Calzaghe (super middleweight, 168 lbs.); and Juan Diaz (lightweight, 135 lbs.).
But here’s who we picked:
Tim: Kelly Pavlik
The first time I saw Kelly Pavlik, in July of 2006, he was nuking respected vet Bronco McKart with hard punch after hard punch, one after the other, and most especially with that straight right of his. I thought I recognized something special in the kid — the frightening power, deceptive quickness, underrated technique and volume-punching style — and I was right. In January, he put contender Jose Luis Zertuche to sleep so quick in the eighth round he didn’t even have time to fall down. When the fight with Edison Miranda was made in May, you could tell HBO loved the idea of Miranda beating up this pasty white Midwesterner as a stepping stone to the stardom for which they had Miranda earmarked. I knew better. In a great slugfest, Pavlik out-punched the puncher and just flat beat up Miranda. When Jermain Taylor agreed to fight Pavlik, I was impressed with Taylor’s balls, because I thought Pavlik was going to obliterate him in a one-sided route. Taylor didn’t even think Pavlik could hang with him, and Pavlik came in the underdog again. Both Taylor and myself were wrong, but I was more right than he was. Taylor did well, right up until Pavlik left him crumpled in a heap. In 2007, Pavlik beat a legitimate contender in Zertuche; upset a burgeoning star in Miranda who, but for some bad officiating in 2006 against Arthur Abraham, would have been a title-holder; and upset Taylor, one of the top 10 pound-fpr-pound fighters in the world. And he was a thrill a minute doing it, with a “knockout of the year” candidate (Zertuche) and two candidates for “fight of the year” (Miranda and Taylor). And now he’s on the verge of superstardom. Runner-up? I wouldn’t argue with anyone giving the top slot to Miguel Cotto, who became a legitimate superstar after beating one fighter better than any Pavlik licked: Shane Mosley. And that Cotto defeat of Zab Judah was pretty fun to watch, too.
Sean: Kelly Pavlik
There is little doubt as to why I chose the pride of Youngstown, OH for Fighter of the Year honors. After all any fighter who ascends from undefeated prospect to undisputed champion in the span of three fights is a shoe-in to garner such accolades. 2007 has been the year of the Pavlik. In January he would dispatch of tough-as-nails Jose Luis Zertuche in eight rounds. That was followed with a truly masterful dominating performance over the concussion causing Colombian Edison Miranda which paved the way for Pavliks middleweight showdown with Jermain Taylor. It proved to be the fight of his career; after being floored in the 2nd round, Pavlik would survive, and with the hopes of his Youngstown contingency on his back, proceed to turn the fight around stopping the undefeated Taylor in the seventh round. It was a moment that will be forever regaled in stories in and around the Youngstown area. Pavlik not only gave credence to every pigment-challenged Midwestern fighter, but he also gave the people of his downtrodden city a reason to stand tall with pride and that is why Kelly Pavlik is the Fighter of the Year.
Runner-up Miguel Cotto
Any other time this would be a very easy award to hand out because typically, the sport has only had one or two true ‘smashmouth’ fights in the course of a year, however, this time around, we’ve seen a multitude of mega-fights and the sport itself has been able to thrive as a direct result. Part of what made this year so dynamic for the sport is the fact that two of the mega fights witnessed had international followings, which shattered the records of previous all-time pay-per-view events. Standing at center stage in both mega fights is the man who I personally feel – based on not only talent, but also the ability to put asses in seats whether you love him or hate him – is Floyd Mayweather Jr. This honor goes to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in my book because in a year of so many high notes for so many new, key players in boxing, few can argue that they were as successful in bringing new fans to the sport by the masses. Last Saturday night’s mega fight with the UK’s Ricky Hatton and last springs showdown with Mexican Oscar Dela Hoya made Floyd Mayweather Jr. the first ever in the sport to amass back to back pay-per-view events that exceeded 1Million viewers. Quite a credible feat when you consider the heyday of “Iron” Mike Tyson, Felix Trinidad, and female fan favorite Oscar Dela Hoya. Ohio’s Kelly Pavlik certainly cemented a runner up spot in my book, but the emergence of Miguel Cotto in his dominating performance of Shane Mosley lurks within a shadow’s reach as well.
All in all, it was a great year for the sport, but for those who missed out, we will post a daily look at the biggest ‘happenings’ in the sport for the year 2007.
Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the best Knockouts of 2007.