2005 - The Year in Review, plus Year-End Awards - Part I

29.12.05 - By Paul Ruby: 2005 was a year like many others in boxing, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It was a year that was predictable at times and unpredictable at others; it was a year that engendered satisfaction and frustration in equal measure. There were times that remind us why we love this sport, but there were also decisions that show us how agonizing it can be.

At heavyweight, 2005 gave us the same phenomenon we have been seeing since Lennox Lewis’ retirement - past-their-prime fighters being recycled into title shot after title shot while younger, hungry fights are left standing outside the fire. As has become standard practice, each major sanctioning body has a different champion and the division is largely devoid of excitement. Still, the landscape looks better than it did a year ago - John Ruiz has been defeated twice, people have largely stopped listening to Chris Byrd’s unrealistic self-evaluations, and a series of exciting young fighters are on the doorstep of becoming household names.

Fights I would love to see in 2006 include Calvin Brock against Danny Williams, Samuel Peter against Kirk Johnson, and Joe Mesi against Sultan Ibragimov, with the winner of each getting a title shot. Though the heavyweight division remains full of problems, the forecast appears much brighter than it did one year ago. For what it’s worth, I like James Toney to put on a clinic against Hasim Rahman in March. I am disappointed by Vitali Klitschko’s retirement, but I would not be at all surprised to see him make a return to the ring in the next 18 months.

The Cruiserweight and Light Heavyweight divisions have experienced no major changes in 2005. Jean-Marc Mormeck surprised many by defeating Wayne Braithwaite in April. Personally, I was more surprised by Braithwaite’s laissez-faire style in the ring and lack of a game-plan than I was by Mormeck’s hard-charging and aggressive style. Mormeck is set to take on O’Neill Bell in two week’s time. Bell has looked both spectacular and pedestrian in recent fights, so there’s little way to predict which version will show up. Even if the best Bell is in the ring with Mormeck, I still favor the Frenchman because his volume will let him win close rounds and his ability to cut off the ring and close distance quickly will help neutralize Bell’s jab and straight left, his best punch.

At 175, there were few surprises at the top of the division - in Antonio Tarver/ Glen Johnson rematch, Tarver won the fight because he determination and dedication caught up to his talent. Tarver went on to defeat Roy Jones in an unspectacular bout four months later. Two things do, however, warrant mention - the great war waged between Paul Briggs and Tomasz Adamek in Chicago and the class shown by Glen Johnson in looking to the referee and calling for him to stop the fight when he could tell his opponent in September, George Jones, could no longer defend himself.

At Super Middleweight and Middleweight, the focus is almost entirely on the future. The Super Middleweight division features many exciting fighters with contrasting styles from across the globe. Obviously, the biggest fight on the horizon is Jeff Lacy and Joe Calzaghe, set for March 4th. Lacy deserves credit for his willingness to travel across the Atlantic to make this fight happen. Additionally, Mikkel Kessler and Marcus Beyer should dispose of their opponents in January and set the stage for bigger fights in the middle of the year. Hungry young bucks like Chad Dawson, Librado Andrade, and Jackson Chanet will each to try to show they are for real in the coming year.

At Middleweight, Jermain Taylor has established himself as the division’s champion by taking one close decision and one debatable decision over aging Bernard Hopkins. Taylor looked like the fresher and more aggressive fighter in their second bout, but he still must fix some technical flaws before he can reach his full potential. Namely, he spreads his legs so far that he gives up his height and he has difficulty transitioning between offense and defense. In spite of those flaws, he was able to take it to the Executioner. Winky Wright and his snoozer of a style are also on display at Middleweight. Frankly, I’d rather watch paint dry than Wright fight, but I’m the first to admit he’s got formidable skills. Arthur Abraham and Felix Sturm present tough matches to anyone in the division and Sam Soliman is willing and able to put on a good show against any opponent thrown at him.

Article posted on 28.12.2005

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