Boxing 2010: No Superfight, No Problem
By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
It started with a frenzy over a superfight that wasn't.
But even though 2010 didn't produce the Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. showdown that seemed imminent 12 months ago, it's not as if the year was a total loss for the principals.
The Filipino phenom added another two notches to his in-ring belt in the soon-to-be old year, dominating former welterweight title-holders Joshua Clottey and Antonio Margarito en route to decision wins in separate outings at Jerry Jones's new football palace in Arlington, Texas.
The former allowed Pacquiao to retain his WBO championship at 147 pounds, while the latter eight months later gave the recently minted 32-year-old the WBC's jewelry at 154 pounds, though the bout was contested at a maximum catch weight of 150.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. has been inactive since the Mosley win but made news recently with a series of legal issues.
Pacquiao's first would-be opponent of 2011 was a topic of interest until a December announcement by his promoter, Top Rank, confirmed it'll be yet another former welterweight champ -- Shane Mosley -- who'll get the chance on May 7 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Both Juan Manuel Marquez, who drew with Pacquiao in 2004 and lost a split decision to him four years later; and Andre Berto, the undefeated WBC incumbent at 147 pounds; were also thought to be in the running but ultimately lost out to Mosley, who'll not have won a fight for 28 months by the time he and Pacquiao reach the Nevada ring.
Now 39 years old, Mosley defeated Margarito by punishing ninth-round TKO in January 2009, but was subsequently beaten in a wide decision by Mayweather in May 2010, then looked sluggish in a 12-round draw with former "Contender" series champion Sergio Mora four months later.
As for Mayweather, he's been inactive since the Mosley win but made news recently with a series of legal issues ranging from felony coercion, grand larceny and robbery in a September dispute with his children and their mother at her home, and misdemeanor battery following an incident with a security guard in December.
He faces a maximum six months in jail if convicted on the latter charge, while the former could carry a 34-year prison sentence.
"It wasn't a secret, Mayweather was our top priority," said Bob Arum, CEO of Top Rank. "All Mayweather had to do was give us a signal that he would have been available pending his legal situation and we would have waited. But we never heard from him. Nobody heard from him. He didn't speak with anyone."
Believe it or not, there were fights involving fighters not named Pacquiao or Mayweather.
Argentine middleweight Sergio Martinez earned Sports Network's "Fighter of the Year" honors with a pair of upset victories -- first via unanimous decision over Kelly Pavlik that earned him the WBC/WBO titles in April, and later with a stunning two-round flattening of pound-for-pound elitist Paul Williams in defense of the WBC crown seven months later.
Williams had defeated Martinez by majority decision in December 2009.
"I'm ranked No. 2 in the pound-for-pound, behind Pacquiao and ahead of Mayweather," Martinez said. "My goal is to be No. 1 and that has been my dream since I was an amateur. I have to box against one of them. With Pacquiao it will be difficult because he is so much smaller. He wants me to go under 154 pounds and for me that is impossible.
"With Mayweather, I believe that we can reach an agreement by the end of 2011 and I would love to fight him for the sport and the purse, which I reckon would be around $15 million from the pay-per-view."
Making a late push for high 2010 placement was ageless veteran Bernard Hopkins, who, just a month shy of his 46th birthday, was seen by many as the winner of what was scored a 12-round majority draw against IBO/WBC light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal on December 18 in Quebec City.
Hopkins, who was down in the first and third rounds, rallied to win eight, seven and six of 12 rounds on the three official ringside scorecards, but settled for a deadlock when the final tallies were 114-112, 113-113 and 114-114.
Before a return bout with Hopkins, Pascal must meet former champion Chad Dawson in a rematch of the August 14 bout Pascal won by technical decision after 11 rounds in Montreal.
"You all saw it. I beat the guy up. I dominated the fight. It was a sure enough robbery," Hopkins said. "It was a perfect fight for a senior citizen. I set a profound bar and statement. I beat Pascal. If I got the decision, you wouldn't be saying Pascal got robbed. Somebody had to be fighting their ass off to come from two knockdowns, fighting a Canadian in Canada and get a draw."
Up among the heavyweights, Ukrainian brothers Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko leave the year with the same stranglehold on the division they'd had upon entering it, combining for three knockouts in four title defenses.
Wladimir defeated Eddie Chambers (KO 12) and Samuel Peter (KO 10) to retain his IBF/IBO/WBO crowns, while Vitali toppled Albert Sosnowski in 10 rounds and decisioned Shannon Briggs over 12 to hold on to his WBC title belt.
WBA champion David Haye defended his share of the division with KOs of John Ruiz and Audley Harrison, and is reportedly on the verge of a deal to meet either or both of the Klitschko brothers in 2011. He was scheduled to meet Wladimir in 2009 before pulling out with an injury.
"Wladimir is ready to fight Haye," Vitali Klitschko said. "It is always Haye who comes up with the excuses. Last year we had a signed contract and that wasn't enough. Haye has the last remaining title that doesn't belong to a Klitschko. There are no problems with us to make a fight with Haye."
In the lighter weight classes, unbeaten champions Timothy Bradley and Devon Alexander will meet in a 140-pound title match on January 29 at the Silverdome in Pontiac, MI.
Bradley, a 27-year-old from Palm Springs, CA., is 26-0 with 11 KOs and has held a championship in the division since 2008. Alexander, 23, is 21-0 with 13 KOs and last fought on August 7, when he took a 12-round decision over challenger Andriy Kotelnik at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
He's made two defenses since winning his title in August 2009.
"I feel like this is my steppingstone to Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr.," Bradley said. "I want to put myself in a position where the fans and the media will call for them to fight me. I want to fight them, but we have to make it so that they have to fight me."
At 126 pounds, a 2011 showdown is possible between another pair of rising, unbeaten belt-holders, Puerto Rican-born WBO champion Juan Manuel Lopez and Cuban export Yuriorkis Gamboa, who holds the IBF title.
Lopez, a former title claimant at 122 pounds, moved up to capture a featherweight belt with a seventh-round stoppage of Steven Luevano at Madison Square Garden in January. He returned home to Puerto Rico for a second-round TKO of Bernabe Concepcion in August, then stopped veteran Rafael Marquez in eight rounds in Las Vegas on November 6.
Gamboa, who turned 29 on December 23, won his title in September with a unanimous 12-round decision over Orlando Salido in Las Vegas.
Also a champion in the division is unbeaten Indonesian Chris John, who improved to 44-0-2 with a decision over Fernando Saucedo in Jakarta on December 5. John has held the WBA belt since 2004.
Finally, at bantamweight, the second championship tournament sponsored by the Showtime cable network began on December 11 in Tacoma, WA., when Abner Mares beat Vic Darchinyan for the weight class's IBO title and Joseph Agbeko toppled Yohnny Perez for the IBF crown.
Mares and Agbeko will fight for the tournament title in 2011, while Darchinyan and Perez meet in a third-place bout.
Showtime is also in the final stages of a six-man tournament at 168 pounds, though injuries have hampered the effort. As it stands now, WBA champion Andre Ward will meet Arthur Abraham in one semifinal bout while WBC title-holder Carl Froch faces Glen Johnson in the other.
Jermain Taylor, Mikkel Kessler and Andre Dirrell pulled out of the original field.
Taylor was replaced after one fight by Allan Green and Kessler fought twice before withdrawing and having his spot taken by Johnson.
Green was eliminated after a loss to Johnson in stage three of the event. Dirrell pulled out after two fights and his spot was not filled, leaving the final four participants.
"One thing I am happy about is learning how to win different ways," said Ward, a 2004 Olympic gold medalist who's now 23-0 with 13 knockouts. "I want to be a great fighter and you have to learn to deal with every style."