Ted the Bull’s 2008 Boxing Awards

manny pacquiao10.12.08 - By Ted Sares

1) Pound for Pound Fighter of the Year: Manny Pacquiao

While Joe Calzaghi became a Legend Killer in 2008 and Tony Margorito was ultra compelling, Pacquiao brought to mind the great Henry Armstrong as he dismantled Oscar De La Hoya, slaughtered David Diaz and beat super tough Juan Manuel Marquez. And he did this in three different weight classes. Clearly, Pac Man is the MAN for 2008.

2) Fight of the Year: Mtagwa vs. Villa (November 7, 2008)

In a fight that gave new meaning to the words “fury” and “courage,” Rogers “The Tiger” Mtagwa (25-12-2) and Mexican warrior Tomas “El Norteno” Villa (20-6-4) engaged in almost ten rounds of wild ebb and flow savagery. The battle was held in Tucson..

The first round was one of pure fury in which both engaged in legal, back-and-forth assault and battery and the crowd was up and roaring in disbelief when the bell rang. Villa’s punches were shorter and sharper; Mtagwa’s were wider but seemed to be more menacing. Both landed numerous times. This continued in rounds two and three.

In the fourth, Villa decked the Tanzanian with a sneaky right uppercut, but referee Rocky Burke missed it and called it a slip. Rogers then came back at the end of the round with a series of neck snappers. The fifth featured great body work by Villa including a rare triple hook ala Micky Ward. He also landed a number of jolting uppercuts that had the crowd ooohing and aaahing and chanting “Villa, Villa.” In the sixth, Villa continued his assault, but then Mtagwa suddenly opened up with a number of flush rights that stunned his opponent and likely won the round for him.

Mtagwa, whose face was now badly swollen, tired badly in the seventh and went down twice on slips--one of which easily could have been ruled a knockdown. Villa was now coming on and almost floored Mtagwa in the eight with a crunching left hook that landed flush at the bell. He finally caught up with and staggered the courageous Tanzania early in the ninth with malicious roundhouse punches and then decked him with two rattling rights that should have ended the fight right there and then. Somehow, someway, the “Tiger” survived the round after absorbing incredible punishment. He even was able to counter with some sharp punches of his own; perhaps signaling what was to come in the next and last round.

Mtagwa slowly went to his corner at the bell and Referee Burke gave him a long and hard look. While both fighters were swollen around the face, Villa was much the fresher. He raised his hands before the start of the last round acknowledging to the crowd that he was poised to soon end matters decisively and to their satisfaction.

However, it was not to be. As the bell sounded, Mtagwa immediately caught the shocked Villa with a crunching right that sent him down hard. He then chased Villa across the ring like a madman launching a series of looping punches most of which seemed to land. After throwing about fifty of these wild unanswered shots, “El Norteno” again went down from a final malefic right. Miraculously, he too was able to get up, but Mtagwa quickly ended matters with one well-leveraged right at the 1.20 mark that sent the valiant Mexican crashing into the ropes for the third and final time in one of the wildest brawls you will ever hope to see.

3) Round of the Year: Round One: Holt vs. Torres II (July 5, 2008)

After decking Kendall Holt twice and nailing him with a hard shot on the break that referee Jay Nagey missed (as it happened behind his back), Ricardo “Mochuelo” Torres maneuvered Holt into a corner for the quick kill, but then he himself was rocked by either a punch or Holt’s head. Whatever it was (and it looked to be a head butt), it hurt Diaz badly and then a savage right sent him to “Barranquilla Dreamland.” It all took place in just 61 seconds.

Vasquez - Marquez III round 12 was another action-filled stanza that could have been my first choice as well, but the interesting cross-currents of Holt-Torres did it for me.

4) Best breakthrough Fighter of the Year: Juan Manuel Lopez

“Juanma” left no doubts as he surged to prominence in 2008 with a first round KO over dangerous Daniel Ponce De Leon. He sports a complete arsenal of weapons topped by a gaudy KO percentage of 91.6 and a spotless record of 24 (KO 22)-0. The latest in a long line of Puerto Rican champions, this bomber has only fought six rounds in 2008 knocking out opponents like they were ten pins, but his first round blow out over Sergio Manuel Medina on December 6 affirmed his status as a major force to be reckoned with.

5) Upset of the year: Brian Vera TKO over Andy Lee (March 21, 2008)

Clearly, 2008 was the year of the upsets. Spinks lost Philips, Karmazin was upset by Bunema, Matthews lost to Choi, Sidorenko was shocked by Moreno as was Diaz by Campbell. As well, Williams was out pointed by Quintana, Forrest was upset by Mora, Lorenzo lost to Marquez, and Mijares was iced by Vic.

Yes, Pavlik was surprised by an inspired Hopkins, but that would be my choice for Most Inspired Performance of the Year assuming I had included such a category. And, of course, should Rahman do the unthinkable against Wlad Klitchko on December 13 and Holyfield shock “The Beast from the East,” one week later, all bets are off!

The hyped and undefeated Lee, trained and highly touted by Manny Steward, was a heavy favorite to take out the brawling Vera who lacks technical skills but not a heart muscle. Lee entered the ring waiving to fans in the crowd and had a big smile on his face. The Texan, however, had other ideas as he hung tough and finally tired and stopped the Irishman in the seventh round before a stunned crowd at the Mohegan Sun Casino. Andy lacked any semblance of a back-up plan once he was in trouble. The fact that Vera would later be slaughtered by James Kirkland while Lee would stop Willie “The Gladiator” Gibbs in his next outing attested to the quality of the upset.

NOTE: Manny Pacquiao was the top pound for pound fighter going into the De La Hoya and this, in my mind, disqualified his great performance as an upset; he was simply too great going in.

6) KO of the Year: Edison Miranda’s KO of David Banks (January 11,

Super middleweight “Pantera” Miranda scored a devastating third round icing over The Contender's David Banks at the Seminole Hardrock LIVE Arena. After moving Banks straight back, a big right hand left him sprawled through the bottom two ropes. He was counted out at the 1:15 mark, but no count was necessary. Banks was in “Contender’s Dreamland.”

Mosley’s dramatic KO over Mayorga was a great one, and Urango’s fully leveraged ending over Vilches was concussive, but the suddenness of Pantera’s was downright scary..

7) Most exciting fighter of the year: Antonio Margarito

It’s difficult not to pick Pac Man, but Tony’s ability to stalk, trap and then finish off his prey with one heavy shot after another is better than anything you will see on the Discovery Channel. This monster’s style of starting slow but using a high punch volume and incoming pressure to wear out his opponents setting them up for brutal closure is as exciting as it gets.

But there are three additional factors that accentuate his particular brand of seek and destroy. First, his granite-like chin allows him to keep the pressure on; secondly, his stamina is great and he gets stronger as the fight progresses; and thirdly (and most startling), is his unique way of virtually jogging after his tiring foes, something guaranteed to deplete anyone’s spirit as Miguel Cotto found out in brutal fashion..

There is no such thing as a boring Margorito (or, for that matter, Pacquiao) fight.

8) Comeback Fighter of the Year. Vitali Klitschko

After suffering a devastating KO at the hands of Nonito Donaire, Vic Darchinyan made a great comeback in 2008, but Klitchko overshadowed it by coming back after four years to dominate and stop The Nigerian Nightmare, Sam Peter. This was a truly amazing feat.

9) Mismatch of the year: Wonjongkam vs. Sutton (October 31, 2008)

Thai southpaw, Pongsaklek Wonjongkam stopped Indonesian Danny Sutton in two brutal rounds. Wonjongkam was 68-3-1 coming in and had lost only once in his last 41 bouts. As for Sutton, this was his professional debut! This was a disgraceful match up.

10) Worse Decision of the Year: Figuero SD over Augustus (Nov. 8 2008)

Judges Frank Lombardi had it right at 77-75. Judges Billy Costello and John McKaie did not. They had it 77-75 for the Bronx -based “El Gato.” The fight was at Madison Square Garden. Interestingly, both of Figuero’s losses came outside of NYC. Oh yes, last year’s worse decision (Cassamayor vs. Santa Cruz) also took place at the Garden.

Of course, Bute’s UD over Andrade was highly controversial as well.

11) Trainer of the Year: Freddie Roach

He wins hands down for the manner in which he guided Manny Pacquiao to his three big wins in 2008. He even called the De La Hoya fight on the money. Freddie studied the Steve Forbes fight films and plotted the perfect strategy. Seemingly alone in his findings, he concluded an aged Oscar could no longer pull the trigger, nor could he (or his now tender skin) handle Manny‘s pressure.

Complimenting his many other awards, Freddie received a “Lifetime Achievement Award” in a fund raiser for ex-fighter John Montes’s ailing wife at the WBC Legends of Boxing Event during a special lunch at the New Museum at San Bernardino, California on October 11, 2008.

12) Boxing Event of the Year: De La Hoya vs. Pacquiao (December 6, 2008)

Given the difference in size, it had the makings of a mismatch, but as it turned out, size (as in height) was the only thing in Oscar’s favor. Still, when he fights, it is a major event including ultra-hype, 24-7 ad nauseam, adoring female fans, expensive PPV, the ethnic factor, Golden Boy Promotions, etc, etc. The thing is, none of this seemed to have anything to do with the fact he is well passed his prime. Like Mike Tyson, fighting the “Golden Boy” guarantees gold in an opponent’s pockets. And like Tyson toward the end of his career, Oscar is an “event fighter.” The way this fight ended, however, gave “event” a new meaning.

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Article posted on 10.12.2008

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