Award Round-Up

I’ve little to say in disagreement with Sean about his awards for “trainer of the year” and “worst decision of the year,” and I hardly have anything interesting to say about either (just short of unloading every metaphor and synonym for “historically bad” I can think of as it pertains to the judges who somehow saw Joel Casamayor beating Jose Armando Santa Cruz in their lightweight [135 lbs.] fight. Which I already kinda did once). Other stuff? Yeah, I got some stuff to say about that stuff. Here it is, some of the best and worst of the rest of 2007: Upset of the Year: Nonito Donaire toppling Vic Darchinyan. The two 112-pounders squared off in a fight that was to be but another stepping stone for the hard-hitting Darchinyan. But Donaire was practically dominating him through the early part of the fight, then scored an unfathomable one-punch knockout. Donaire, it turns out, is the goods. But at the time, nobody knew it, and the shocking fashion in which he both out-boxed Darchinyan and sent him to a visit with Little Nemo helps seal this as an upset. Add in the fact that he was avenging his brother’s defeat at the hands of Darchinyan, and Donaire’s upset is all the richer in its texture. Prospect of the Year: Is the prospect of the year a fighter who graduates to contender, or the one who only show the most potential to? In the former category are boxers like welterweights (147 lbs.) Victor Ortiz and Andre Berto, and in the latter are boxers like junior middleweight (154 lbs.) James Kirkland and junior welterweight (140 lbs.) Amir Khan. I’m going to go with the latter definition, or else the award would be called “new contender of the year.” Within that category, I’m tempted to go with Khan, because I think he’ll be special, while Kirkland is flawed in many respects. But Kirkland’s star is probably going to rise sooner than the younger Khan, whose chance to become prospect of the year is looming. And Kirkland’s flaws — namely, his utter lack of defense as he pursues pure offense — well, they sure are lovable. Comeback of the Year: Sick of coming out on the wrong side of close decisions, Gerry Penalosa, Filipino forerunner to sensation Manny Pacquiao, retired in 2002. He returned in 2004 and began the climb back up the contender latter, only to run into is old nemesis — the bad decision. Most everyone who watched his junior featherweight (122 lbs.) fight against Daniel Ponce De Leon thought Penalosa won. But a few months later, a few pounds lighter, a 118-pound Penalosa dug himself out a deep hole on the scorecards to knock out well-regarded former champ Jhonny Gonzalez with a single body shot. For the record, that’s one career comeback; another comeback within 2007; and a come-from-behind victory in the fight that sealed him as my comeback fighter of the year. Promoter of the Year: Golden Boy Promotions — with its “we’re going to do things a new way” aspirations and its glamorous boss, Oscar De La Hoya –has arrived in full. But that doesn’t mean all the old lions have died. Top Rank and Golden Boy ended their promotional feud and contributed to 2007’s amazing year. It just so happens that Top Rank fighters got the better of end of things in head to head clashes — welterweight Top Rank product Miguel Cotto defeated Golden Boy exec Shane Mosley, and junior lightweight (130 lbs.) Manny Pacquiao of Top Rank beat another exec at Golden Boy, Marco Antonio Barrera, and so on. Let’s pray that Golden Boy doesn’t get jealous, because the results have been good for all parties. And it’s only Promoter of the Year, not Promoter of Forever. Event of the Year: Although my colleague Sean argues quite reasonably that the truce between Golden Boy and Top Rank was a major event this year, the May meeting between Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather was the biggest-selling and biggest-grossing fight of all time. And the event wasn’t just limited to the fight, which was disappointing if not better than I feared. It was a mult-city promotional tour, a whole reality series… in other words, a big, big event. Worst Referee Award: Laurence Cole. Perhaps in perpetuity. Hardly a month goes by where I don’t open up my Ring Magazine, turn to the back, read the fight summaries and stumble across a sentence like, “Boxer X scored a clean knockdown of Boxer Y, but referee Laurence Cole somehow ruled it a slip.” Cole just gets way too many big fights for a guy who mishandles nearly every fight he comes across. I bet he even screws up fights he’s not officiating, somehow. Plus, there’s a whiff of corruption to his continually high profile assignments — read here for my full disdain. Worst Commentator Award: Lennox Lewis, man. I can’t even imagine how he was smart enough to be so Hall of Fame-worthy as a heavyweight in the ring, because he says so many completely-from-outer-space kind of things on a microphone outside it. More disdain here, in the same disdain-fest for Laurence Cole. I try to bottle my disdain and unleash it all at once. Award for Best Wrestling Match in a Boxing Match: This one. Award for Best Fight Between a Human and a Bear: This ‘un. (OK, I’m cheating. It’s more MMA, and it’s not from this year, but I just wanted to share.) Bizarro Superman Fight of the Year Award: Me am like Andre Dirrell running in circles from Curtis Stevens in 451-pound fight. On Bizarro World we am favorite fights best when one fighter runs around and the other fighter has short arms and cannot punch him. Andre’s corner gave him correct instructions — he was putting on great performance, and boos from crowd show their love best. Go Away Award: Oh, this is a tough one. There are so many people who have overstayed their welcome. Like, say, malfunctioning heavyweight foul machine Andrew Golota. Or the pitiful definitely-no-way-he’ll-ever-be-unified-heavyweight-champ Evander Holyfield. But because his offense are more recent, I’m going to vote for promoter Don King. He’s always mistreated his fighters, which has always been offensive. But he’s so increasingly irrelevant that he’s been reduced to hanging on to one of his few good, promising young fighters with such a vice grip that he’s causing trouble for him even though didn’t even bother to show up for a purse bid when said fighter, Juan Diaz, went to make a February lightweight fight with Michael Katsidis. I know King was in Germany, but he knew when the bid would be, and rival promoter Golden Boy put up the money to promote the fight instead. Now, instead of clearing the path for a strong “fight of the year” candidate, he’s throwing up legal roadblocks and wants tons of dough to step aside. You have to wonder why Diaz or anyone else would sign with King, but I’m not going to blame the victim; King is the villain here, pure and simple. He’s a relic of a horrible era in boxing, and it’s time for him to move along. Best Quote Award: “Well, that was a fluke.” — Ricky Hatton, with a self-deprecating grin, after getting knocked out by Floyd Mayweather, Jr. in their welterweight fight Best Trash-Talking Award: I like the respective scorched-earth skills of Edison Miranda (super middleweight, 168 lbs.) and Ricardo Mayorga (super middleweight), but Julio Diaz (lightweight) combined trash talk with playfulness when he called for a fight with college student and fellow Diaz Juan, one of three lightweight belt-holding Diazes: “I’m hoping Juan Diaz finishes his homework and comes out to play. I just think there is too much Diaz in the weight class right now and we need to start getting rid of some of them.” Best Ring Entrance Award: Mayweather’s sombrero and Mexican flag-colored trunks amounted to one hilariously evil prank against De La Hoya on Cinco De Mayo weekend. But Jorge Arce (bantamweight, 118 lbs.) coming out on a dancing horse in a cowboy hat and rolling his trademark lollipop around in his mouth was more of a spectacle, so it gets my award. Award for Best Dan Rafael Adjective to Describe Alphabet Belt Politics: ESPN’s boxing writer has an understandable distaste for the antics of the various belt-sanctioning organizations, the WBAs and IBFs and the like. I get the impression he almost enjoys coming up with new adjectives for whatever bunk move they’ve recently pulled. So he’ll say things like, “As bad as that sounds, it’s no surprise for the horrendous IBF.” I really enjoyed “wretched,” but I’m going to have to go with “putrid” as my favorite of the year. Award for Boxing-Related Song I Wish I Could Get Out of My Head: There’s only one Ricky Hatton. There’s only one Ricky Hatton. Walking along, singing his song; walking in a Hatton Wonderland.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.