There is a simple truth in boxing that frequently seems to escape those who run the sport (often into the ground): The fans will support evenly matched and competitive bouts and will eschew the one-sided fights designed only to pad one man's record and his pocket book.
In 2007, the powers that be seemed to get that more often than not, and the result was a year filled with sensational bouts.
From beginning to end, 2007 was filled with jaw-dropping slugfests and exhibitions of courage and bravery. That makes it difficult to whittle down a list to choose from for the Fight of the Year, but here are seven which prove there is no sport like boxing at its best:
Rafael Marquez TKO7 Israel Vazquez, March 3, Carson, Calif.: This bout was for the WBC super bantamweight title. It was one of the rare fights that lived up to its billing. The two men tore at each other from the opening bell and traded hard, powerful shots. Just as Marquez, who was moving up from bantamweight, seemed to be in trouble, he landed a shot that turned the fight around. Vazquez broke his nose and couldn't breathe and was forced to quit on his stool after the seventh round. Only seconds after the bout ended, talk of a rematch began.
Jean-Marc Mormeck W12 O'Neil Bell, March 17, Lyon, France: A little more than a year after Bell had stopped Mormeck in New York to unify the WBA and WBC cruiserweight belts, they met again in Mormeck's home country. The bout wasn't on network television in the U.S. and thus wasn't widely seen. The entire fight is available online at dailymotion.com, and is worth seeing. Though they faded a bit in the later rounds, the pace was fast throughout. Mormeck landed a thudding right hand about 50 seconds into the fight that set the tone for what was to come.
Kelly Pavlik TKO7 Edison Miranda, May 19, Memphis, Tenn.: The main event on this night was a middleweight title fight between Jermain Taylor and challenger Cory Spinks that turned out to be a dreadful affair. The card was saved by the savage slugfest put on by Pavlik and Miranda.
Miguel Cotto TKO11 Zab Judah, June 9, New York: The bout was the most significant at the time of Cotto's career. More than 21,000 fans crammed into Madison Square Garden and were treated to an entertaining back-and-forth brawl. Cotto was the stronger fighter, and the impact of his punches began to take their toll on Judah as the bout progressed. But Judah, whose career was in jeopardy because of losses to Carlos Baldomir and Floyd Mayweather, bravely fought back until he could no more.
Israel Vazquez TKO6 Rafael Marquez, Aug. 4, Hidalgo, Texas: The rematch was even better than the first fight, and the first fight is a deserving Fight of the Year candidate. This was boxing at its best, as each man took and delivered unbelievable amounts of punishment.
Kelly Pavlik TKO7 Jermain Taylor, Sept. 29, Atlantic City, N.J.: Pavlik was down in the second round and nearly out. He not only got up but also engaged the middleweight champion in a back-and-forth war that had the sellout crowd in Boardwalk Hall roaring. Pavlik ended the fight with a devastating right hand that hurt Taylor in the seventh and gave Pavlik the WBC and WBO belts.
Sakio Bika TKO8 Jaidon Codrington, Nov. 6, Boston: The bout was the finale of Season 3 of the reality series "The Contender," and at times this fight seemed like a piece of fiction. They wobbled each other with crushing shots as if it were a Rocky movie. I watched not expecting much but was thrilled as the fight progressed.
Any of the fights would be a worthy winner, but the second Vazquez-Marquez fight gets my vote.
The Bika-Codrington fight is the fight eliminated, despite the great action, because the quality of the fighters isn't the same as in the other bouts.
I also dropped the first Vazquez-Marquez fight early because I don't think a fight should be chosen as the top of the year when one of the combatants quits, for whatever reason.
The drop in pace late in the Mormeck-Bell fight eliminated that from contention.
That left me with the two Pavlik fights, Cotto-Judah and Vazquez-Marquez II.
It is hard to separate the bouts, but both Vazquez and Marquez are magnificent fighters, their work rate was high throughout and the back-and-forth was more than in either of the other bouts.
For those reasons, Israel Vazquez-Rafael Marquez II is the Yahoo! Sports Fight of the Year for 2007.
• See also: Trainer of the year
- Israel Vazquez
- Rafael Marquez
- Kelly Pavlik
- Jermain Taylor