Top boxing stories of 2009
Controversy, it seems, is one of boxing’s annual staples. But the stories and scandals were a little larger and garnered bigger headlines in 2009.
The year was dominated by various sorts of controversies. It began in January when Antonio Margarito was caught trying to conceal a knuckle pad covered with a plaster-like substance in his hand wraps before a fight with Shane Mosley.
It ended with a surprising controversy over drug testing that threatened a fight between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr., one that had the world talking.
In between, there were great fights, tragedies and a number of emotional goodbyes.
10. Tragedies take lives of boxing stars: July was a sorrowful month in the boxing world. Alexis Arguello, the Hall of Famer who had recently become mayor of Managua, Nicaragua, died of a gunshot wound on July 1. Officials suspected suicide. Less than two weeks later, Arturo “Thunder” Gatti was found dead in a hotel in Brazil. Police arrested his wife and charged her with the crime, but later released her and labeled it a suicide. And on July 25, super welterweight champion Vernon Forrest was shot and killed in Atlanta during a robbery.
9. Paulie calls his shot: Paulie Malignaggi met Juan Diaz in Houston, Diaz’ hometown, on Aug. 22. He complained publicly before the fight about the smaller than standard ring that favored Diaz and about judges Gale Van Hoy and Raul Caiz, whom he said would favor Diaz. In a highly competitive fight many think Malignaggi won, Van Hoy scored it 118-110 for Diaz, sending Malignaggi into an emotional, profanity-laced rant on HBO. Malignaggi wound up with the last laugh when he defeated Diaz in the rematch in Chicago in December.
8. Calzaghe hangs ‘em up: Joe Calzaghe, who defeated Roy Jones Jr. at the end of 2008 to run his record to 46-0, announced his retirement on Feb. 5. The long-reigning super middleweight champion, who also held a light heavyweight belt, is one of just nine world champions to retire unbeaten. After his retirement, he opened a promotional company.
7. Pavlik’s staph infection: Middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik developed staph infection on a knuckle that wound up nearly killing him, forcing him to pull out of a planned bout with Paul Williams. The staph turned into MRSA, and Pavlik had an allergic reaction to medication he was given. He said he was “touch and go there” for a while. He returned on Dec. 19 to defend his title in little more than a tune-up by knocking out Miguel Espino in five rounds.
6. Super 6 tournament kicks off: Showtime created a tournament among six of the world’s leading super middleweight boxers it dubbed the Super 6. The tournament opened amid rave reviews with a round robin format. Eventually, the field will be cut to the top four and it will turn into single elimination until a champion is crowned. Carl Froch, Arthur Abraham and Andre Ward won first-round matches.
5. Mayweather Jr. returns: It was hardly unexpected news, but Floyd Mayweather Jr. announced on May 2 he was ending his retirement and returning to boxing. Mayweather had retired in June 2008, saying he was emotionally spent. He was slated to fight Juan Manuel Marquez on July 18, but the fight was postponed because of a Mayweather injury. He routed Marquez when they met on Sept. 19.
4. De La Hoya bids adieu: Oscar De La Hoya, one of the biggest stars of the latter part of the 20th century and early part of the 21st, announced his retirement on April 14 in an emotional ceremony in Los Angeles. De La Hoya said goodbye with a 39-6 record, 30 knockouts and world titles at 130, 135, 140, 147, 154 and 160 pounds.
3. Manny makes like King Kong: Manny Pacquiao continued his amazing run, knocking out Ricky Hatton in the second round and stopping Miguel Cotto in the 12th to become the Yahoo! Sports Fighter of the Year for the second year in a row. Pacquiao also became a near-unanimous top pick in the pound-for-pound rankings.
2. Margarito caught red-handed: Antonio Margarito entered 2009 with a lot of momentum as one of the sport’s hottest fighters. But before a Jan. 24 fight against Shane Mosley at the Staples Center that drew an arena record 20,820, Margarito was caught with a knuckle pad in his hand wraps that had a plaster-like substance on them. Inspector Che Guevarra of the California State Athletic Commission missed it, but Mosley trainer Naazim Richardson caught it. Margarito was stopped in the ninth round without the illegal wraps and then suspended for a year by the commission.
1. Floyd says test; Manny says no: Negotiations for a 2010 fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao were surprisingly easy. Or so it seemed. Days before Christmas and just as it appeared the fight was going to be formally announced, Mayweather demanded Pacquiao submit to Olympic-style drug testing administered by the World Anti-Doping Agency. Pacquiao didn’t want to risk giving blood the week of the fight and refused to accept the demand, leaving the potentially lucrative bout on the verge of collapse.