2010 Boxing Awards Pu Pu Platter, Part I

2005_recipe_pupuplatter_lEver had a pu pu platter so big that it had to be brought out to you in two servings? After today, you will have, albeit a pu pu platter not of food but of 2010 boxing awards.

First up is a mixture of awards for serious stuff like Upset of the Year and not-so-serious stuff like Best Breakfast Chain-Endorsing Fashion Statement.

Next up is a similar mixture, featuring stuff like Prospect of the Year and Worst Reason For A Boxer To Punch Somebody.

Trainer. This was a two-man race, although Emmanuel Steward deserves some love for adding junior middleweight Miguel Cotto to his stable successfully. The two main contenders? Gabriel Sarmiento was excellent with 2010 TQBR Fighter of the Year/middleweight champion Sergio Martinez and junior lightweight prospect Javier Fortuna, and he almost helped junior welterweight Lucas Matthysse get past Zab Judah. The other is Freddie Roach, who helped Manny Pacquiao to a junior middleweight title and completed the overhaul of junior welterweight Amir Khan. Roach is the right pick. What he’s done with Khan is remarkable; it feels like it could be as dramatic a job as he’s done with Pacquiao’s career, down the line, and it’s pretty good now.

Upset. There were some tremendous upsets in 2010, from journeyman junior flyweight Carlos Tamara taking out the highly-regarded Brian Viloria at the start of the year to the even more journeyman-y Gilberto Keb Baas taking out another highly-regarded junior flyweight, Omar Nino Romero, toward the end of the year. But when a boxer comes into a fight with people fearing for his health and walks away the victor over a pound-for-pound top-20 opponent, that’s a for serious upset. Junior lightweight Jason Litzau fought as well as he probably ever could and did just that when he beat the much-feared Celestino Caballero, who gave Litzau the assist by fighting as lethargically as HE probably ever could.

Best Ring Walk. I’m a fan of the flamboyant ring walk. There wasn’t much to choose from this year, compared to last year, but I’m fond of Jean Pascal’s big energetic/pyrotechnic/multi-song walk to the ring for his light heavyweight fight with Chad Dawson. I’m fond of Pacquiao’s decision to walk to the ring while the theme song from “Karate Kid” played — “you’re the best/around.” I’m fond of junior middleweight/rabbi in training Yuri Foreman walking out to a traditional Jewish horn sounding, followed by Pantera’s “Walk.” The finest was one that wasn’t on TV. Reliably quirky junior welterweight DeMarcus Corley came to the ring wearing the get-up below on a card near my ‘hood of Washington, D.C.

Event. This is a category for the one event that above all others captivated boxing. It wasn’t a good one this year: the twice-failed negotiations for the two best fighters and two biggest stars in the sport, Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather. Pacquiao’s rise to mainstream media saturation — at least, as much saturation as any boxer can get in this era — was a big driver of the news. But before, during and after any Pacquiao crossover appearance, the news was about Mayweather-Pacquiao, from the drug test debate to the Mayweather racist/homophobic rant and beyond. I’ll have much more to say about this in the last post of 2010, you should expect.

Worst Decision. Many of the fights people called robberies in 2010 — like Bernard Hopkins-Pascal, Devon Alexander-Andreas Kotelnik (junior welterweight) and Vanes Martirosyan-Kassim Ouma (junior middleweight) — often had respectable defenders who argued that the decisions were not out of the question. A few, though, were. One was Beibut Shumenov-Gabriel Campillo II, a light heavyweight bout where everyone thought Campillo deserved to win but didn’t. Another: Even the team of welterweight Selcuk Aydin has confessed he was lucky that the judges sided with him over Jo Joe Dan. But the award-winner: Over this past weekend, junior flyweight Ulises Solis went to Argentina to challenge Luis Lazarte on his home soil, and one judge had it 117-109 for Solis, which might have been generous to Lazarte, who lost two points for rabbit punching. The other two had it a draw. Keep in mind when considering Lazarte-Solis for Worst Decision of the Year that Lazarte flirted with a disqualification not only with rabbit punches and other desperate fouls, including biting Solis. In multiple different ways, Solis got ripped off. Consider the video evidence:

Worst Scorecard.
Nobody thought Shumenov-Campillo II was terribly close, but Patricia Morse Jarman was on some “Through the Looking Glass” trip by filling out her scorecard as a wipeout in Shumenov’s favor, 117-110. The scorecard of Daniel Van De Wiele in Hopkins-Pascal was doofus-y with its even 10th round, but Jarman gets the award because she was just plain delusional. Delusional trumps doofus-y.

Best Hand Gesture Pre-Knockout. I still can’t believe the Internets hasn’t found a way to give to us the gift of junior welterweight Jonathan Cuba getting knocked down by Christian Martinez, then getting up, turning to the audience and simulating masturbation. Why isn’t this on YouTube? WHY? It’s been almost six months.

Worst Fight. Golden Boy Promotions’ two mostly useless pay-per-views featured main events that, plainly stated, sucked: Hopkins-Roy Jones II, and the junior middleweight bout between Shane Mosley and Sergio Mora. We knew they would suck; nobody wanted either of them; and they didn’t even defy expectations by sucking less than we hoped. Mosley-Mora sucked harder earlier than nearly anything I’ve ever seen, but managed a couple late rounds that were modestly interesting. Hopkins-Jones II had a sustained commitment to suckiness that couldn’t be topped, so it gets the nod.

Best Top To Bottom Card. In my book, Golden Boy’s pay-per-view for the lightweight rematch between champion Juan Manuel Marquez and Juan Diaz II was, on paper, the most stacked card of 2010 — there hasn’t been a card with four fights that meaningful in years, and I’m not even counting the bonus coverage of the super middleweight bout between Sakio Bika and Jean Paul Mendy. In actuality, the card was less entertaining than a couple others, like the last Latin Fury of the year by Top Rank or the Magnificent Seven card in England. The Magnificent Seven card didn’t have some of the highest highs of the Latin Fury show, but for shear volume of quality fights, it gets the nod.

Best Trend. There was some cool stuff going on in 2010, like the trend toward stadium fights that Top Rank was driving, although it looks like that trend is already on the way out after a couple worse-than-expected attendance numbers. Tournaments, by contrast, flourished in 2010. And they did so even with Showtime’s Super Six hitting some icebergs that nearly sunk the whole thing. In the end, the Super Six is still alive and kicking, and Showtime started a new bantamweight tourney that has been plenty exciting, while in Europe, a cruiserweight tournament is in the advanced stages of planning.

Worst Trend. While the Super Six and bantam tourney showed promoters could work together toward something positive, Top Rank and to a lesser extent Golden Boy proved themselves to be focused more on keeping fights in-house than nearly anything else. Golden Boy has loosened up marginally; they originally balked at a junior welterweight tournament and dashed the whole thing by doing so, but one of their fighters each appeared in both the Super Six and the bantam tourney. Top Rank had a grand total of two truly meaningful fights with another promoter that I can think of right now.

Weirdest Trend. Every other weekend or so, there would be a strange ending to a fight. Boxer catapults out of the ring! Boxer lifted up and tossed out of the ring! Disqualifications for punches thrown at bad times! When I wrote this in August, it really was only just getting started, this trend. The weirdest ending remains what happened in the junior middleweight bout between Paul Williams and Kermit Cintron, of course:

Best/Worst Excuse For Losing A Fight. Joshua Clottey managed not just one but two hilarious explanations for why he lost to Pacquiao in their spring welterweight bout. The first was diarrhea. Yes, diarrhea. The second was that he claimed he was having a bad day prior to the fight. I don’t know whether to sing Daniel Powter or “The Diarrhea Song!” Neither excuse is too convincing, so they’re the worst excuses of 2010, but they’re also hilarious, so that makes them the best excuses of 2010, too.

Worst Refereeing. What was Argentina thinking when it brought in Max Parker, Jr., a referee who couldn’t speak Spanish, to referee a fight between two Spanish-speakers, Solis and Lazarte? And why didn’t Parker come down hard on Lazarte for trying to bite Solis, and why did he seemingly fail to warn Lazarte that a disqualification could await him for his endless fouling — not to mention why he didn’t he actually DQ the guy? And yet, Parker’s performance wasn’t nearly as bad as what Arthur Mercante, Jr. pulled in Cotto-Foreman, when Mercante made a big production of letting the fight go on despite the wishes of Foreman’s corner after Foreman’s severely injured knee made him a sitting duck for the nasty-punching Cotto. Mercante’s performance screamed, “Look at me!” I didn’t like what I saw — I saw a man who already had a reputation of needlessly risking the health of fighters before hand doing that once more. Months and months later, it still gets my stomach boiling in rage.

Best Refereeing. I can’t think of any one truly exceptional refereeing moment in 2010, the way I could in 2009. The best body of work probably goes to Kenny Bayless, who makes himself invisible in the ring better than any of his peers and never loses control of a bout. In his most visible moment, when he stopped Marquez-Michael Katsidis, I originally called it a “borderline” call, but looking back on it, it was just right. And I’d always rather have a ref who would stop a fight on the earlier end of a beating than the later end.

Best Corner Banter. Are you a fan of such classics as “Hey, that black guy, he hits hard,” “Swim without getting wet,” and other comical discussions between a fighter and his corner after each round? Add this one to your playlist: welterweight prospect Demetrius Andrade instructing his father/trainer to “Tell me I’m the greatest” in a fight on ESPN2.

Best Breakfast Chain-Endorsing Fashion Statement. This was a very crowded category this year. Puerto Rican featherweight Juan Manuel Lopez built a big lead over the competition wearing an IHOP t-shirt to the ring in January. But in August, Mexican junior flyweight Giovani Segura walked to the ring decked out like and Aztec, except one wearing an advertisement for Winchell’s Donuts right on his chest. Score one for Mexico in the ongoing Mexico-Puerto Rico boxing rivalry.

Worst Stomach Evacuation Mid-Fight. OK, there was really only one entry here, since the only person to projectile vomit mid-round in a fight in 2010 was flyweight Suriyan Por Chokchai in his challenge to champion Pongsaklek Wonjongkam. The best part? Chokchai not only continued fighting, but he almost pulled off the massive upset in a close decision loss.

Worst Bowel Evacuation Pre-Fight. See “Best/Worst Excuse For Losing A Fight,” above.

Bravest Losing Effort. Three men, Foreman, junior middleweight Antonio Margarito and heavyweight Shannon Briggs, took severe, unnecessary beatings because of the stubbornness of the referees, doctors, corners or all of the above in their respective fights. All three insisted on fighting on, which is what they’re supposed to do, but it’s too bad no one saved them from their own bravery. A brave losing effort that didn’t rely on the incompetence of safety officials was that of junior welterweight Marcos Maidana in his challenge to Khan. Maidana took a flush, precise liver punch in the 1st round of that fight, yet somehow got to his feet, something that hardly ever happens — I can’t think of another occasion off the top of my head. Thoroughly outboxed and clearly tired, Maidana still summoned incredible reserves to badly hurt Khan in the 10th and come within a hair of finishing him off. Maidana’s was the best untainted performance among 2010’s bravest losing efforts.

Most Sordid. In a year that had Margarito’s glove scandal front and center, in a year that featured Mayweather having run-ins with the law and controversy every week or two, and in a year that featured lightweight Jorge Barrios kill a pregnant woman in a car accident and recent middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik check into rehab clinic for alcohol abuse… nothing was more sordid and awful than lightweight Edwin Valero’s murder/suicide.

Best New Programming. TeleFutura got back into the boxing business in 2010, the Internet flourished as an outlet for legitimate fights like the heavyweight bout between Tomasz Adamek and Jason Estrada and all in all, the volume of boxing broadcasts/webcasts took off compared to 2009. The best of the new programming came on Fox Sports Net/Fox Deportes courtesy Top Rank Live, which featured big names like Segura and heavyweight Odlanier Solis, prospects like Glen Tapia and action scraps between lesser-regarded but awfully tough fringe contender-types like Popoca and Soto Karass.

Best Imaginary Performance-Enhancing Drug. This was the year Roger Mayweather dreamed up a drug called “A-side meth” that Pacquiao was supposedly taking, a chemical so astoundingly secret that no one had apparently mentioned it before Mayweather did. But Mayweather must be some kind of ground-breaking student of the Philippines’ history, because he said that Pinoy soldiers used to take it and it would make bullets bounce off of them. Seems like the kind of thing we would have noticed at the time and tried to replicate, perhaps via some kind of Super-Soldier Serum… hey, waitaminnit! Does Mayweather think Captain America is real, too?

Worst Idea For A Performance-Enhancing Drug. If any boxer is interested in giving himself brain damage, may I recommend the Manuel Vargas Plan? First, move up a couple weight classes to fight the ridiculously quick and powerful Nonito Donaire at junior bantamweight. Then, take some painkillers. You won’t notice it hurting you when your brain switches off!

About Tim Starks

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