When the New Year rolls around it’s always the time most sports awards are handed out by various media publications.
When it comes to boxer of the year, it’s basically a tossup between 32-year-old Manny Pacquiao (52-3-2, 38 KOs) of the Philippines and 35-year-old Sergio Martinez (46-2-2, 25 KOs) of Argentina.
A strong case can be made for each of them -- even though they only fought twice apiece in 2010.
To casual boxing fans, Martinez basically appeared on the scene out of nowhere in December of 2009 when he lost a controversial 12-round majority decision to American Paul Williams (39-2, 27 KOs) in an exciting middleweight bout.
However, serious fans might have also caught several of his fights earlier in his career, including a draw with Kermit Cintron, a TKO loss against Antonio Margarito, and wins against the likes of Alex Bunema and Archak TerMeliksetian. The fight against Williams was a definite step up in class for Martinez and he handled himself exceptionally well on the televised fight.
Martinez traveled to Atlantic City on Apr. 17, 2010 to take on 28-year-old American Kelly Pavlik (36-2, 32 KOs), who was the reigning WBC and WBO Middleweight Champion. The outcome was never really in doubt after the first few rounds, and Martinez took Pavlik’s belts by a unanimous decision, with scores of 115-111, 116-111, and 115-112.
He returned to Atlantic City on Nov. 20 to take on the 29-year-old Williams again in a much-anticipated rematch and put his WBC Middleweight Title on the line, even though the bout was fought at a catch weight of 158 lbs. Most fans were hoping for a repeat of their first bout, but what they got instead was a sensational knockout when, during the second round, Martinez landed one of the best left hooks in boxing history. The fight was over in just four minutes and 10 seconds.
While the knockout itself was a thing of beauty it lacked drama because it came so early in the fight. This wasn’t Martinez’s fault, of course, but it wasn’t as spine-tingling as Sugar Ray Leonard’s 1981 KO over Tommy Hearns in their first fight or Muhammad Ali’s when he knocked out George Foreman to regain the heavyweight crown in 1974.
Martinez had an excellent year and has turned into one of the world’s most respected boxers. Not bad for a 35-year-old guy who didn’t start boxing until he was 20.
Pacquiao also had a great year, both in and out of the ring. He was elected to congress in his homeland and attracted 90,000 fans to his two fights at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, Texas.
The first fight against Joshua Clottey (35-4, 20 KOs) of Ghana, which took place on March 13, was a letdown right from the get go. This is probably because of the choice of opponent. Everybody was hoping for a showdown with Floyd Mayweather Jr. but had to settle for Clottey. While Clottey’s a good fighter, he was coming off a split decision loss to Miguel Cotto nine months earlier. Pacquiao didn’t have any problems with the African and won a decisive, unanimous decision by scores of 119-109, 119-109, and 120-108 to retain his WBO Welterweight Championship.
Pacquiao returned to Dallas on Nov. 13 to try and win an eighth world title in eight different weight divisions when he took on 32-year-old Antonio Margarito (38-7, 27 KOs) of Mexico for the vacant WBC Jr. Middleweight Championship.
Again, some people were disappointed at the choice of opponent, but negotiations with Mayweather broke down earlier in the year. Margarito entered the ring with advantages in just about all size and weight categories, but Pacquiao picked him apart over 12 entertaining rounds to win his historic eighth championship.
It was a good fight, which Pacquiao might have won by stoppage if he wanted to and the scores of 119-109, 120-108, and 118-110 were fully deserved. In his two fights Pacquiao showed his dominance by winning every round on the scorecards of two judges, losing just one round on three judges’ cards and two rounds on the cards of the sixth judge.
Both Martinez and Pacquiao entertained fans across the world in 2010 and gave them their money’s worth. But if you could only pick one of them as fighter of the year I’d simply flip a coin and hope they can both keep it up in 2011.