Meet the Fighter of the Year

The race for the 2008 Fighter of the Year award is not much of a race at all. It's about as competitive as the 1973 Belmont, when the great Secretariat won by 31 lengths, or the 1940 NFL championship game, when the Chicago Bears routed the Washington Redskins 73-0.

Picking the winner this year is as easy as falling asleep on the couch after a large holiday meal. It doesn't take much effort.

But there were plenty of good individual performances in 2008, so we'll count them down from No. 10 to No. 1, when we pick our Yahoo! Sports Fighter of the Year.

10. David Haye, heavyweight contender (22-1, 21 KOs)

What he did in 2008: TKO 2 Enzo Maccarinelli on March 6 to win WBA-WBC-WBO cruiserweight titles; TKO 5 Monte Barrett on Nov. 15 after announcing move to heavyweight.

Why he's considered: Easily disposed of well-regarded fighter like Maccarinelli to unify the cruiserweight belts, then showed his power was legitimate when he brutalized Barrett in first bout after full-time move to heavyweight.

Where he comes up short: Barrett is a second-tier contender, and Haye still has questions to answer about his chin.

9. Vic Darchinyan, IBF-WBA-WBC flyweight champion (31-1-1, 25 KOs)

What he did in 2008: Split draw with Z Gorres on Feb. 2; TKO 5 Dmitri Kirilov on Aug. 2 to win IBF super flyweight title; KO 9 Cristian Mijares on Nov. 1 to add the WBA and WBC super flyweight belts.

Why he's considered: World-class performances in wins over Kirilov and Mijares. Mijares was a heavy favorite and was ranked in the Yahoo! Sports top 10 at the time of their fight, but Darchinyan dominated him.

Where he comes up short: Draw with Gorres was disappointing.

8. Arthur Abraham, IBF middleweight champion (28-0, 23 KOs)

What he did in 2008: KO 12 Elvin Ayala on March 29; TKO 4 Edison Miranda on June 21; TKO 6 Raul Marquez on Nov. 8.

Why he's considered: Stature increased to point where many consider Abraham, not WBA-WBC champion Kelly Pavlik, the top middleweight in the world.

Where he comes up short: Though he had three knockouts in as many fights, he didn't face a real challenge. Pavlik had already proven Miranda was primarily bluster.

7. Chad Dawson, IBF light heavyweight champion (27-0, 17 KOs)

What he did in 2008: Won a unanimous decision over Glen Johnson on April 12 to retain WBC light heavyweight title; won a unanimous decision over Antonio Tarver on Oct. 11 to win the IBF light heavyweight title after giving up the WBC belt.

Why he's considered: Put himself among the pound-for-pound elite with wins over two highly-regarded veterans.

Where he comes up short: Many believe Johnson deserved to win their April bout.

6. Bernard Hopkins, light heavyweight contender (49-5-1, 32 KOs)

What he did in 2008: Lost a split decision to Joe Calzaghe on April 12; won a unanimous decision over Kelly Pavlik on Oct. 18.

Why he's considered: Victory over Pavlik was stunningly one-sided and might have been the best performance of a Hall of Fame career.

Where he comes up short: Lost a close decision to Calzaghe in a fight that was there for him to win.

5. Joe Calzaghe, Ring Magazine light heavyweight champion (46-0, 32 KOs)

What he did in 2008: Won a split decision over Bernard Hopkins on April 12 to win the Ring belt; won a unanimous decision over Roy Jones Jr. on Nov. 8.

Why he's considered: He stretched his unbeaten streak to 46 fights over 15 years as a pro and rallied down the stretch to defeat Hopkins.

Where he comes up short: Couldn't put thoroughly beaten Jones away.

4. Juan Manuel Lopez, WBO super bantamweight champion (24-0, 22 KOs)

What he did in 2008: TKO 3 Jonathan Oquendo on Feb. 23; TKO 1 Daniel Ponce de Leon on June 7 to win WBO super bantamweight title; KO 1 Cesar Figueroa on Oct. 4; TKO 1 Sergio Medina on Dec. 6.

Why he's considered: Went 4-0 in the year and still fought less than six full rounds.

Where he comes up short: Wasn't always competing against elite competition.

3. Juan Manuel Marquez, Ring Magazine lightweight champion (49-4-1, 36 KOs)

What he did in 2008: Lost a split decision to Manny Pacquiao on March 15; TKO 11 Joel Casamayor on Sept. 13 to win Ring Magazine belt.

Why he's considered: Fight with Pacquiao was excruciatingly close, and he was impressive in lifting title from Casamayor.

Where he comes up short: Couldn't get over the hump against Pacquiao.

2. Antonio Margarito, WBA welterweight champion (37-5, 27 KOs)

What he did in 2008: KO 6 Kermit Cintron on April 12 to win the IBF welterweight title; TKO 11 Miguel Cotto on July 26 to win the WBA title after giving up the IBF belt.

Why he's considered: Dominating victories over two quality fighters.

Where he comes up short: Nothing to dispute in his performances, but another fighter did more.

1. Manny Pacquiao, WBC lightweight champion (48-3-2, 36 KOs)

What he did in 2008: Won a split decision over Juan Manuel Marquez on March 15 to win WBC super featherweight title; TKO 9 David Diaz to win WBC lightweight title on June 28 after giving up the super featherweight crown; TKO 8 Oscar De La Hoya on Dec. 6 in a non-title welterweight bout.

Why he's the 2008 Yahoo! Sports Fighter of the Year: He was 3-0 with wins against quality opponents. He fought in three weight classes. He established himself clearly as the best pound-for-pounder fighter in the world. He took on the most significant challengers and came out on top.