30.12.05 – By Paul Ruby: So… Let’s give out some awards: Fighter of the Year: Ricky Hatton. To me, this one is not even that close. Hatton heard people criticizing him for years, saying he faced only soft competition. He never lashed out at his critics, kept winning all of his fights, and represented his sport like a gentleman. This past year was one big coming out party for Hatton. He began the year by beating a foe that many thought insurmountable in Kostya Tszyu and punctuated the year by dismantling Carlos Maussa in a rough and tumble affair. Other contenders include Winky Wright and Jorge Arce.
Fight of the Year: Corrales/Castillo I. This will be virtually everyone’s pick, and with good reason. This epic battle had a little bit of everything that makes us love boxing – talent, heart, skill, ebb-and-flow, knockdowns, drama, redemption.
I don’t think I can anything that others have not already said. If for some reason, you’ve been living in a cave for the last year, track down a copy of this fight and watch it from start to close. You will be reminded not only why you love boxing, but also why this sport can be a metaphor for the grit and determination necessary to find to success in other avenues of life as well. Other contenders include Jorge Arce/Hussein Hussein I and Paul Briggs/Tomasz Adamek, and Oscar Larios/Wayne McCullough I. Some other fights that are not necessarily Fight-of-the-Year material, but were among the most entertaining fights of the year include Miguel Cotto/Ricardo Torres and Jhonny Gonzales/William Gonzales; each of those fights averaged about a knockdown per round.
Round of the Year: Begrudgingly, I’m going to go with the general consensus on this one and give it to Corrales/Castillo I’s 10th round. I wish I could go out on a limb here, but that truly was the best round of boxing in 2005. Other contenders included Cotto/Torres’ Round 2 and Briggs/Adamek’s Round 8.
Knockout of the Year: I’m going to go with Lamon Brewster over Andrew Golota in a very close race. I make this choice for two main reasons – first, as a heavyweight championship bout, this knockout was significant in that it took place on one of boxing’s biggest, most public stages; second, I don’t want to throw a third consecutive award at Jose Luis Castillo for his left hook in the 4th round of his 2nd fight with Corrales. Look, I’m the first admit I’m a long-time Golota-hater. I like athletes that do things I cannot picture myself doing, people that show heart and grit that most cannot. Andrew Golota has made a career of laying down when faced with adversity. He got himself DQ’d against Riddick Bowe twice and followed that up by basically internally combusting against Mike Tyson and particularly against Lennox Lewis.
I thought that his inability to prepare mentally for a fighter he probably could outbox in Lamon Brewster was very fitting. It showed not only Golota’s mental frailty, but also why Lamon Brewster truly should be on the verge of stardom in this sport. He went tino Golota’s town and came out of the locker-room prepared to go to war, replete with camouflaged trunks.
Brewster decided that he wanted to defend his title, and refused to take no for an answer. The result was that Golota was on the floor within thirteen seconds of the opening bell. What Brewster may lack in conventional skills, he more than makes up for in heart, determination, and a positive inability to ever let himself quit. He has not lost in 5 years, and he’ll travel anywhere to fight anyone. I don’t see how he doesn’t have a bigger following. Other contenders include obviously Corrales/Castillo II and Cotto/Torres. I hate to jump on the Brewster bandwagon again, but his stoppage of Luan Krasniqi was also very impressive. Brewter had his opponent floored in the 8th, but Krasniqi raged back in the 9th, only to get stopped with seconds left in the round.
KO1 of the Year: This was year of the KO1 in fights we thought would be competitive or close to it. In addition to Brewster/Golota, you had four other interesting quick KO’s. My pick in this category is Sechew Powell over Cornelius Bundrage. The fight started with a rare double knockdown. Powell collected himself much quicker than the less experienced Bundrage and proceeded to put him down two or three more times with a single punch. The whole fight lasted just over 20 seconds! Two other quick, but memorable fights from 2005 were Rocky Juarez’ three knockdown 1st round against Ranchero Ramirez on ESPN that featured a series of precise left hooks to the body and head. Additionally, Brian Viloria’s KO 1 over Eric Ortiz with a perfect right earned the former Olympian his first legitimate world title and Allan Green’s quick attack of Jaidon Codrington on ShoBox lasted all of 18 seconds when Green jumped on his opponent, pinned him to the ropes, and kept going until Codrington fell down.
Sportsman of the Year: Glen Johnson. After losing to Antonio Tarver in June, Johnson faced George Khalid Jones about three months later. Jones had been the winner in a fight that turned out to have tragic consequences when Beethaeven Scottland passed five days after they fought in 2001. Additionally, Leavander Johnson had passed only a week before Glen Johnson and George Jones fought in September from injuries sustained in the ring. In Johnson’s fight with Jones, Johnson won virtually every round. By the 9th round, it was becoming obvious that Johnson’s body attack and superior conditioning had all but eliminated any chance Jones had for victory. Johnson had Jones out on his feet with a left hook then a compact right, pinned to the ropes, and started unloading a wicked series of rights. Johnson could see the dazed look in his opponent’s eyes and, like a true sportsman, stepped back and waved for referee Marcos Rosales to do his job and stop the fight. The referee called a halt to the fight seconds later.
Though it is impossible to say that Johnson’s actions had any impact on Jones, one thing is for sure – Glen Johnson, like far too few athletes around today, realizes that boxing is his job and his livelihood, but it is not something worthy of dying over. Johnson explained himself after the fight, and it was obvious that Leavander Johnson’s death weighed on Glen Johnson’s mind, “ There was an accident a few weeks ago in the ring and I didn’t want to have that same kind of experience. I thought he was helpless and open to my shots, so I just wanted the referee to do the right thing.” Though the result of the fight was a predictable win for Glen Johnson, his actions in the ring, his efforts, and his attempt to save others from needless injury in an already brutal business truly deserve special commendation. Similar praise should be given to Zab Judah for beckoning for the referee to stop his February fight with Cory Spinks in the 9th round.