21.10.05 – By Joseph Carlo Russo: The year 2005 has shown itself to be one of the most appetizingly eventful years that boxing has had in a while. Over the course of the last 12 months kings were dethroned, legends were ended, stakes were claimed, and heirs were crowned. It was a year where some of the most anticipated fights, the most crowd-pleasing fights, and the most necessary fights happened. In the process, heroes had fallen, upsets were staged, and wars were waged.
The year kicked off on a good note as the first significant bout coming on February 5 featured one of the unfortunate scarcities in boxing, an undisputed champion. As a mere 20,000 fans filled St. Louis to demonstrate that boxing is far from gone the undisputed welterweight champion Cory Spinks was set to defend his crown before his hometown in a much necessary rematch against Brooklyn, NY’s Zab Judah.
To the disappointment of the St. Louis audience Zab Judah scored a 9th round TKO to become the new undisputed welterweight champion of the world.
Then on March 19th, fight fans were treated to two superbly entertaining fights in Manny Pacquiao vs. Erik Morales and Jorge Arce vs. Hussein Hussein. With Morales coming off a loss to arch nemesis Marco Antonio Barrerra, he was in search of the best available fight to redeem his legacy. He could not have chosen a better opponent than the always exciting, gutsy warrior Manny Pacquiao. It was an action-packed, worthwhile fight as expected en route to a unanimous decision for El Terrible. Equally entertaining on March 19th was the spectacular battle between two top-notch flyweights in Jorge Arce and Hussein Hussein, which ended in a 10th round TKO for the fun-loving, charismatic Mexican star Arce.
May 14th served to be a significant day in 2005 as a highly anticipated special attraction between Winky Wright and Felix “Tito” Trinidad was showcased. Even though this wasn’t the most crowd-pleasing fight, this bout exhibited true professionalism in boxing as both men made very respectable decisions in stepping up to the plate to take on a challenge and a risk. As Trinidad sought to restore his greatness and Wright sought to earn the full respect he deserves, Winky’s superior technical skills, turtle tight defense and laser of a jab dictated this fight to an utmost resounding unanimous decision with most ringside observers having Wright scoring a complete shutout.
June was perhaps the most anticipated month in boxing this year as the four top thoroughbreds in the junior-welterweight division were set to square off in two of the most highly awaited bouts of the year. As King Kostya was reigning supreme in the junior welterweight division he was to put his crown on the line in Manchester, England before 22,000 hungry fans against Manchester’s highly-rated contender Ricky “The Hitman” Hatton. The Hitman used the hometown advantage to draw encouragement and motivation as he fought like a pitbull, or a “trojan,” as the Manchester native put it, to overthrow the long-reigning junior welterweight champ Kostya Tszyu. Then on June 25, much to the credit of boxing writers and analysts worldwide, Mayweather did what they expected him to as he obliterated the Atlantic City hero Arturo Gatti through six rounds before Gatti’s corner threw in the towel and called a halt to the massacre.
Just as Bernard Hopkins was beginning to be mentioned in the same context as the great middleweight champions who defined the word undisputed such as Carlos Monzon and Marvin Hagler, The Executioner met his doom on July 16. In typical B-Hop fashion the bulk of the fight was slow and uneventful as Taylor simply outworked the champ to take most of the rounds. Hopkins exhibited some heart in the late rounds as he came alive and caught Taylor with a few clean blows, but it wasn’t enough to override Taylor’s prior lead. The decision went to Taylor, causing for Hopkins’ supposed “legacy” to be ended. Who would have fathomed that eight punches per round wouldn’t win him a decision?
Finally, we must take a step back, to March 5th. In a bout to unify the lightweight division, boxing fans all over the world were treated to the spectacle of the war waged between Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo. In ten savagely nonstop, jawdropping, seesaw rounds Corrales and Castillo laid everything on the line as fans witnessed one of the most ferocious and memorable fights in boxing history. What truly transformed this fight from a great fight to a legendary fight was the unforgettable 10th round. With Corrales having gotten knocked down twice and spitting his mouthpiece out on both occasions, he redeemed himself in a manner unprecedented in boxing as he came off the canvas to score an astounding TKO against Mexican warrior Jose Luis Castillo.
Naturally, fights like this call for a rematch. But, considering the state of boxing today, it was a gift to fight fans that it came only five months after their first slugfest. On October 8th, in their second encounter the battle began right where it had left off. The fight lived up to expectations before Jose Luis “El Temible” Castillo landed a flawlessly precise, textbook left hook to end the fight early much to the satisfaction of the largely pro-Castillo crowd.
Although it may be a bit premature, as the year gradually comes to a close, it is safe to say that 2005 was exactly the year that boxing needed. In a time where the good in boxing is seldom emphasized and the bad is often magnified, it is right that we devote some gratitude and respect to the sport where due as we celebrate one of the better years for boxing in recent memory, and hope that it is one that will be emulated in years to come.