Martinez finishes on top of impressive group

Kevin Iole
Sergio Martinez finished 2010 with a well-earned hardware collection

There were plenty of great fights in 2010 and a number of memorable performances. But few boxers stood out regularly enough to make themselves the obvious pick as the 2010 Yahoo! Sports Fighter of the Year.

The top three fighters in the Yahoo! Sports pound-for-pound rankings, Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Sergio Martinez, fought a combined five times. The greatest boxer of them all, Sugar Ray Robinson, would sometimes fight five times in two months.

Pacquiao, of course, was superb, as he has been regularly for the last several years. But he was an overwhelming favorite to defeat Joshua Clottey and Antonio Margarito. He did so, handily in each case, but he didn't fight the kind of opposition one needs to meet to win Fighter of the Year. As a result, Pacquiao's two-year reign will end.

Here's a look at the six men I considered most seriously for the honor – The Super Six, if you will – and why I chose the man I did:

6. Giovanni Segura, WBA-WBO light flyweight champion, 26-1-1, 22 KOs

What he did in 2010 – Segura was 4-0 with four knockouts, with the big one – the eighth-round knockout of the great Ivan Calderon on Aug. 28. Segura also beat Walter Tello in three, Ronald Ramos in four and Manuel Vargas in seven.

Why he's considered – Calderon is one of the greatest small fighters of the modern era and Segura ate him up, landing punches on him like no one had previously.

Where he comes up short – His opposition could have been tougher outside of Calderon.

5. Fernando Montiel, WBC-WBO bantamweight champion, 44-4-2, 34 KOs

What he did in 2010 – Montiel was 4-0 and none of his fights went past four rounds.

Why he's considered – Montiel won the WBO title by stopping previously unbeaten Ciso Morales in the first round. He added the WBC belt by going to Japan to defeat the highly regarded Hozumi Hasegawa in the fourth. He also knocked out Rafael Concepcion and Jovanny Soto.

Where he comes up short – Bantamweight is loaded and he failed to fight guys like Abner Mares, Yonnhy Perez, Joseph Agbeko, Anselmo Moreno or Vic Darchinyan.

4. Nonito Donaire Jr., interim WBA super flyweight champion, 25-1, 17 KOs

What he did in 2010 – Donaire went 3-0 with wins over Manuel Vargas, Hernan Marquez and Volodymyr Sidorenko.

Why he's considered – Donaire was exceptional in taking apart Sydorenko and dictated the style and pace in each of his three fights.

Where he comes up short – Top Rank didn't put him in tough and kept him busy while it moved him toward a 2011 showdown with Montiel.

3. Manny Pacquiao, WBO welterweight champion, WBC super welterweight champion 52-3-2, 38 KOs

What he did in 2010 – Pacquiao went 2-0 and nearly blanked both Joshua Clottey and Antonio Margarito.

Why he's considered – Clottey and Margarito are former world champions and naturally bigger men. Pacquiao won 67 of 72 scored rounds in those victories.

Where he comes up short – Pacquiao is so good, he could win every year. But the opponents were not the most difficult and Pacquiao failed to A) knock either down and B) finish either fight.

2. Amir Khan, WBA super lightweight champion, 24-1, 17 KOs

What he did in 2010 – Khan defeated former world champion Paulie Malignaggi by stopping him in the 11th and won a decision over then-reigning interim WBA super lightweight champion Marcos Maidana.

Why he's considered – He defeated good opposition handily.

Where he comes up short – Malignaggi had seen better days by the time Khan faced him and Maidana is a one-dimensional fighter with great power but not very good boxing ability.

1. Sergio Martinez, WBC middleweight champion, 46-2-2, 25 KOs

What he did in 2010 – Martinez rallied over the final four rounds to break open a close fight and defeat Kelly Pavlik, to win the WBC/WBO middleweight titles. He then knocked out Paul Williams with a single punch in the second round.

Why he's the 2010 Yahoo! Sports Fighter of the Year – He defeated a pair of world champions in highly impressive fashion and his stoppage of Williams is the 2010 Knockout of the Year. He showed himself to be an elite boxer, a powerful puncher and a superbly conditioned athlete. He separated himself from the pack, both with his quality of opposition and quality of performance.

Previous winners – 2007: Miguel Cotto. 2008: Manny Pacquiao. 2009: Manny Pacquiao. 2010: Sergio Martinez.