Boxing Experts Blog - Boxing

November 29, 2009

Stories of the decade

Follow Martin Rogers on Twitter at @mrogersyahoo

Yahoo! Sports' decade in review takes to the ring for a series of boxing-related top-fives. Last up is the top five stories of the 2000s. Whatever your opinion on the issues which engulfed the sport, these are the storylines that generated the greatest controversy and speculation over the past decade.

5. Margarito's illegal hand-wraps

Antonio Margarito headed into his Staples Center matchup with Shane Mosley as one of boxing's favorite sons; an iron-chinned superstar beloved for his bravery and competitive fire.

But the events of January 24, 2009, and their aftermath have turned Margarito into a boxing pariah. Margarito's hand wraps were found to have on them calcium and sulfur, which would have hardened into a Plaster of Paris-like substance.

Eagle-eyed Mosley corner man Nazim Richardson spotted the unusual nature of Margarito's wraps in the locker room prefight and immediately alerted officials. With new wraps, Margarito was smashed up by Mosley before being stopped in the ninth round.

The California State Athletic Commission handed down bans a month later - a ludicrously brief one-year suspension for both Margarito and his trainer Javier Capetillo.

4. Diego Corrales dies in a motorcycle crash

Corrales was one of boxing's most colorful characters, a man who lived and fought at full speed.

His spectacular wars with Jose Luis Castillo cemented his popularity, but he was unable to handle the resulting fame and battled constantly with personal problems.

Many friends said afterward it had been inevitable that Corrales' tumultuous life - he had served 14-months in prison for abusing his pregnant girlfriend - would end in tragedy.

Despite limited motorcycle experience, Corrales insisted on riding down a busy residential street in Las Vegas on the second anniversary of his classic victory over Castillo. His blood alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit, Corrales collided with the back of a vehicle and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.

3. The continued fall of Mike Tyson

Tyson's life and career had already plummeted downhill in the 1990s, but a new decade didn't bring any better fortune for the former undisputed heavyweight champ.

Iron Mike has become an increasingly forlorn figure, with most of the millions he earned during his career having been squandered away.

The early part of the decade offered an opportunity for him to scale the heights of the heavyweight division once more, but he was demolished by Lennox Lewis in eight rounds and followed up with shocking defeats to Danny Williams and Kevin McBride before, mercifully, hanging up his gloves.

2. The FBI raids Top Rank's offices

Has boxing ever seemed sicker than when federal agents stormed into Top Rank's Las Vegas HQ in the first week of January 2004 and seized computers, contracts and financial documents?

The most salacious part of the investigation was that Oscar De La Hoya's rematch with Shane Mosley had been "fixed," and the fight game winced from this latest controversy as Bob Arum's company came under scrutiny.

More ugly details filtered out, that the investigation was part of an ongoing probe into organized crime, rumors of fixing, tampered medical records and deep-rooted corruption.

The investigation eventually was dropped in 2006 with no charges filed, but it was an episode that took boxing to the top of the news bulletins for all the wrong reasons.

1. Top Rank/Golden Boy lawsuit over Manny Pacquiao

Pacquiao was on his way to becoming the world's most exciting fighter in 2006, and promotional giants Top Rank and Golden Boy both wanted a slice of the action.

Bob Arum claimed he had Pacquiao signed to a contract, but Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy also insisted he had him tied to a deal after handing over a satchel of cash during an airport meeting.

The two parties went head-to-head in an acrimonious courtroom battle that was eventually settled when the judge warned Arum and Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer that neither may like the final judgment.

The upshot is that Arum continues to promote Pacquiao, while Golden Boy also receives a sizeable cut every time he fights.

Honorable mentions: Despite lacking a definitive incident like these other stories, there were a couple of issues that were a constant theme during the 2000s.

• What happened to the heavyweights?  The decline of the heavyweight division has been lamented for much of the decade. Lennox Lewis' retirement left a void, while Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson both faded from the world scene. Instead, a generation of big Russian and Ukrainian fighters came to the fore, led by the Klitschkos, Vitali and Waldimir, but none were really able to capture the public imagination.

• Boxing v MMA The emergence of mixed martial arts and the UFC has presented boxing with some significant challenges. MMA's deep undercards for pay-per-view events and the relative lack of bluster surrounding its fighters won over some supporters who had previously gravitated towards boxing. However, the huge PPV numbers generated in recent times by fighters such as Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather suggests boxing is not ready to roll over just yet.

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