Big bouts, not big boys ruled 2007

By Scott Serrano
PA SportsTicker Boxing Editor

The big names dominated the boxing world in 2007, even though the big boys didn’t.

While the heavyweight division went another year without a unified champion or big-name fight, the three middle divisions featured a number of super showdowns between top-flight fighters.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. capped off a spectacular and lucrative year by retaining his WBC welterweight title and his unbeaten record with a 10th-round knockout over Englishman Ricky Hatton on December 8.

Mayweather (39-0, 25 KOs) knocked the previously unbeaten Hatton to the canvas via the ring post with a left hook, and after the “Hitman” clambered gamely to his feet, the champion finished the job with another huge left hand.

Hatton attempted to outhustle Mayweather from the start, but his tactics seldom worked and the American held a huge points advantage by the time the fight was stopped.

Prior to outclassing Hatton, Mayweather defeated Oscar De La Hoya with a split-decision victory on May 5 to capture the WBC light middleweight title - the fifth weight class in which he has held a world championship belt.

Mayweather was more elusive and faster and simply too much for the 34-year-old De La Hoya to handle.

Combined, Mayweather’s two bouts in 2007 generated 3.25 million pay-per-view buys and more than $200 million in revenue. He personally earned about $50 million for the two fights.

What’s next for the the world’s No. 1 pound-for-pound boxer is up in the air. Supposedly he is considering a revolutionary jump to mixed martial arts.

Mayweather’s interest in participating in an MMA event was sparked after he struck up a friendship with Mark Cuban during their participation on the ABC reality series “Dancing with the Stars.”

Among Cuban’s business interests is ownership of HDNet Fights, a fledgling mixed martial arts promotional company whose bouts are aired on Cuban’s HDNet.

If Mayweather does make the jump to MMA, boxing fans would miss out on another potential super bout pitting Mayweather with Miguel Cotto (31-0, 25 KOs), who won all three of his fights in 2007.

Kelly Pavlik (32-0, 29 KOs) left no such doubt when he stunned previously undefeated Jermain Taylor on September 29 by rallying from a second-round knockdown to post a seventh-round knockout and claim the WBC and WBO world middleweight titles.

Taylor will get another shot at Pavlik on February 16. The fight will be at 166 pounds and Pavlik’s title will not be on the line.

Joe Calzaghe (44-0, 32 KOs) is considering calling it quits to his 14-year unbeaten professional career after his next fight, but he had a 2007 to remember. The Welshman unified the super middleweight division by handing Denmark’s Mikkel Kessler his first loss with an unanimous decision on November 4.

The win made Calzaghe the first undisputed super middleweight champion of the world and surpassed the 20 title defenses made by Bernard Hopkins and Larry Holmes at middleweight and heavyweight, respectively.

Ironically, the WBC, WBA and WBO super-middleweight title holder is now looking to step up a weight to challenge Hopkins at light-heavyweight.

As we ring in 2008, the heavyweight division still does not have that one true champion, but it’s moving slowly but surely towards unification in the upcoming year.

On February 23, IBF and IBO champ Wladimir Klitschko will fight WBO titleholder Sultan Ibragimov. The winner will emerge with two of the four major sanctioning organization title belts and be one step closer to becoming the unified heavyweight champion.

The winner of the February 2 fight between Russian Oleg Maskaev and American Samuel Peter will be crowned the WBC champion. Ruslan Chagaev holds the WBA belt after defending it against then 44-year-old Evander Holyfield in Moscow on March 8.

Chagaev was supposed to fight Ibragimov that day, and it would have been the first heavyweight unification bout since 1999. But Chagaev had to drop out of the fight after contracting hepatitis, allowing Holyfield to take his place.

The fact Holyfield was able to challenge for his fifth heavyweight crown at such an advanced age showed the dearth of talent in the division. Even with his skills clearly eroded by time, Holyfield was able to back up the younger Chagaev. He even rattled him in the closing part of the 12th round, even though the end result was a unanimous decision for Ibragimov.

Holyfield says he will continue to train and to fight with the expectation of winning and unifying the heavyweight championship of the world.

The boxing world lost a world champion in 2007 when Diego Corrales died in a motorcycle accident in Las Vegas on May 7. He was 29 and had a career record of 40-5 with 33 knockouts.

A native of Sacramento, California, Corrales will be remembered for his epic win against Jose Luis Castillo on May 7, 2005, when he dragged himself off the canvas to force a thrilling stoppage victory.

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Updated Thursday, Dec 27, 2007