Boxing in 2010: The fight we didn’t get
Boxing is a star-driven sport and there are no bigger individual stars in the game now than welterweights Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. They’re the top two fighters in the Yahoo! Sports poll of the world’s best fighters. They’re the game’s best ticket sellers. They’re the top pay-per-view draws. They’re the best-paid fighters in the sport and among the most handsomely remunerated athletes in the world.
So much of what happens in boxing revolves around them. Their fights are big news. Their out-of-ring exploits are big news. And the machinations other boxers go through in attempt to line up high-paying bouts against them are huge news.
As a result, Pacquiao and Mayweather dominate the list of the biggest boxing stories of 2010. From fight negotiations that failed, to triumphant victories on the largest stage, Pacquiao and Mayweather commanded the most attention in boxing in 2010.
10. Golden Boy Promotions suspended by New York – Golden Boy promoted a doubleheader on May 15 in the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York, featuring Amir Khan against Paulie Malignaggi and Victor Ortiz against Nate Campbell.
The New York State Athletic Commission demanded the promotional contracts of Golden Boy fighters Khan, Ortiz and Campbell, but the company initially refused to turn them over. The commission responded by suspending the promoter from staging shows in New York and fining it $10,000. Later, New York rescinded the suspension and Golden Boy remains in good standing with the state.
9. World champion Edwin Valero commits suicide in Venezuelan jail – Edwin Valero won the World Boxing Council lightweight title on Feb. 6 with a dominant knockout victory over Antonio DeMarco, a win that raised his record to 27-0 with 27 knockouts.
But Valero’s always turbulent personal life spiraled out of control after that fight. In March, Valero was questioned by police about assaulting his wife. And on April 18, he was arrested and charged with her murder.
The next day, he was found dead in his cell, the victim of what Venezuelan police called a suicide by hanging.
8. Mayweather gets his wish and Mosley agrees to drug screening – Mayweather demanded in 2009 that Pacquiao submit to what he called random, Olympic-style drug testing, and Pacquiao’s refusal led to their fight negotiations falling through. Mayweather said he would never fight again without the extensive testing regimen, and he followed through with it in his May 2 fight with Shane Mosley.
Mosley, who once admitted in grand jury testimony to buying steroids from Victor Conte at BALCO prior to a 2003 fight with Oscar De La Hoya, agreed to the testing.
It was administered by the United States Anti-Doping Agency and garnered nearly as much attention as did the one-sided fight between the men.
Each man passed all the drug screenings, though Mayweather passed the test in the ring, winning a one-sided unanimous decision.
7. Boxing returns to the big stage – Top Rank chairman Bob Arum promoted boxing matches in baseball stadiums for years, but in the U.S., the sport has become arena-driven in the last couple of decades. In 2010, though, Arum changed that, putting on two matches at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and another at Yankee Stadium.
Pacquiao fought Joshua Clottey on March 13 and Antonio Margarito on Nov. 13 at Cowboys Stadium, drawing 50,994 and 41,734 for the two events. On June 5, he put on a super welterweight world title fight between Miguel Cotto and rabbi-to-be Yuri Foreman in front of 20,272 at Yankee Stadium. It was the first boxing match in the new Yankee Stadium.
6. Margarito makes his less-than-triumphant return – Margarito’s boxing license was revoked in California in 2009 after he was caught with an illegal knuckle pad in his hand wraps prior to a Jan. 24 fight with Mosley.
Margarito quietly fought a tune-up fight in May against Roberto Garcia in Mexico. He reapplied for a license in Nevada, which declined to vote and shipped him off to California. The California State Athletic Commission then denied his request, so Arum took him to Texas.
Texas quickly granted Margarito his license to fight and Arum put him in the ring with Pacquiao.
Margarito, though, wasn’t competitive and was trounced by the Filipino superstar.
5. Stars face substance abuse issue – In September, a British newspaper published sensational photos of former super lightweight champion Ricky Hatton appearing to snort a line of cocaine. A few days later, Hatton admitted the story was true and that he checked himself into rehab.
That came only a few months before former middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik pulled out of a scheduled Nov. 13 fight with Bryan Vera and checked into the Betty Ford Clinic. It turned out, though, that it was Pavlik’s second stint in 2010 at the Ford Clinic. His father, Mike Pavlik Sr., admitted that he had been in rehab for an alcohol problem before an April loss to Sergio Martinez.
Co-manager Cameron Dunkin said he thought Pavlik’s career may be over. Mike Pavlik Sr. said he hadn’t given boxing a second thought since his son sought treatment.
“My whole concern for him is for him is to get healthy and be a good husband, a good father, a good son, a good citizen and a respectable man,” Mike Pavlik said. “That’s what I want from him. We’re all supportive of that goal. As a father, it’s destroying me to see this.”
4. Pacquiao elected to Philippine House of Representatives – In May, Pacquiao was elected to the House of Representatives in the Philippines representing the Sarangani province, making him the only known active boxer to hold political office.
Pacquiao ran because he said he had an intense desire to help his people, and he quickly embarked on projects such as building a desperately needed hospital and improving the schools.
His trainer, Freddie Roach, was worried during his preparations for the Margarito fight, noting that Pacquiao’s concentration seemed more on his political duties.
Pacquiao not only flew to Manila to discuss the hospital project with President Benigno S. Aquino, he flew to Las Vegas in the final days of his camp to stump for votes in favor of U.S. Sen. Harry Reid.
3. Super Six staggers toward the finish – Showtime’s Super Six World Boxing Classic was a great idea on paper, has proven hard to pull off. The super middleweight tournament, which began in 2009 and will conclude in 2011, was plagued by fighters pulling out.
In January, Jermain Taylor pulled out of the event after being knocked out in October by Arthur Abraham. Mikkel Kessler withdrew from the event in August, claiming an eye injury. And in October, Andre Dirrell pulled out, claiming post-concussion symptoms.
The withdrawals stung the tournament’s credibility, but Showtime’s Ken Hershman kept finding replacements. Allan Green stepped in for Taylor and Glen Johnson took Kessler’s spot. When Dirrell pulled out, Hershman set Andre Ward up for a match with Sakio Bika, instead of Dirrell, but didn’t include Bika in the field. Instead, Ward moved directly to the semifinals.
The semifinals will pit Ward against Abraham and Froch against Johnson.
2. Mayweather has a turbulent year – Mayweather made as much noise in 2010 for his brushes with the law and out-of-the-ring woes as he did with his brilliance in the ring.
In March, Mayweather associate Ocie Harris was arrested in connection with a 2009 shooting at a Las Vegas roller rink. Police allege Harris shot at a man, Quincey Williams, who had been arguing with Mayweather. Williams told police that Mayweather threatened him earlier that night, before the shooting.
“Do you know who I am? I could have you trumped!” Mayweather said to Williams, according to the police report.
In September, Mayweather released a video on uStream in which he directed racist comments toward Pacquiao. He apologized the next day, but was arrested the following week in a domestic violence incident with the mother of his two children.
He was charged and faces up to 34 years in prison if convicted on all counts. After the arrest, Mayweather was also accused of assaulting a security guard outside of his Las Vegas home, though no charges have been filed. And in November, Harris accused Mayweather of trying to run him off the road. Police took a report, but did not arrest Mayweather.
1. The fight that wasn’t – The year began as 2009 ended, with talks aimed at making a fight between Pacquiao and Mayweather. When that fell apart in January after the sides were unable to agree upon a drug testing regimen, Pacquiao went on to fight Clottey and Mayweather took on Mosley.
In the spring and summer, talks resumed and there were various reports of progress. But Arum, who promotes Pacquiao, gave Mayweather a midnight, July 16 deadline to accept offers. When the deadline passed, Arum made the fight for Pacquiao with Margarito.
But days later, Mayweather adviser Leonard Ellerbe announced there were never any negotiations and insinuated that Arum had made the whole thing up. Then Ross Greenburg, the president of HBO Sports, announced that he had mediated talks between Arum and Mayweather adviser Al Haymon.
In any event, the fight the fans wanted was delayed again, perhaps forever.
Fighter of the Year – Sergio Martinez won the World Boxing Council and World Boxing Organization middleweight belts from Kelly Pavlik on April 17 in Atlantic City, closing strong over the final four rounds to pull out a unanimous decision victory. Then, on Nov. 20, Martinez retained his belt with a one-punch second-round knockout of Paul Williams in a rematch of what was the 2009 Yahoo! Sports Fight of the Year. Runners-up: Manny Pacquiao, Juan Manuel Marquez, Juan Manuel Lopez.
Fight of the Year –Juan Manuel Marquez TKO 9 Michael Katsidis, Nov. 27, MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas. The fight was a great back-and-forth bout and Katsidis dumped Marquez in the third round. But Marquez was brutally efficient and took control of the bout at the midpoint, busting Katsidis up with his pinpoint accuracy. Runners-up: Juan Manuel Lopez-Rafael Marquez, Abner Mares-Yohnny Perez, Ivan Calderon-Giovanni Segura, Carl Froch-Mikkel Kessler, Rocky Martinez-Ricky Burns.