Andre Ward WBC/WBA 168lb champion and Showtime Super Six Classic Tournament Winner
Happy New Year, fight fans!
It is now 2012, which means we are not only looking forward to a new great year for the sweet science, but also we must reflect back to 2011 and see who really shined and who was nothing more than a waste of our time and, unfortunately, money.
Here at the Bleacher Report once a year we allow the fans, the readers to have a voice and to vote on who was most deserving of winning the Bleacher Report's Best of Boxing Awards for 2011.
You voted and those votes are now calculated, and the winners of our 14 categories are now determined and forever in the books.
So with some of the finest top featured columnists offering expert commentary for all of our winners this past year, please enjoy this slide show of Bleacher Report's Best of Boxing Awards for 2011.
Andre Berto vs. Victor Ortiz-Best fight of possibly the past five years. Two young fighters in their prime (one 27, one 24) and fighting like their futures actually depend on it.
Ortiz was criticized for quitting against Marcos Maidana in the sixth round of an explosive thriller two years ago. Despite knockout victories over the likes of Nate Campbell among others, the critics were loud and clear with what they thought: Ortiz was still a quitter.
Ortiz set out to disprove this theory by starting a war with Berto from the first round forward, knocking down the then-undefeated warrior twice. Ortiz would survive two knockdowns to fight back and claim the dominant unanimous decision victory.
Berto also came with his own set of critics: apparently, he had never been in a situation of danger. Berto was put through the fire with Ortiz and showed he could give as well as he could take.
Both fighters displayed amazing heart and drive, but it was just Ortiz’s night. And hopefully the sequel to the fight set for Feb. 11 can live up to the original.- Justin Tate
Both fighters hit the deck twice in a barn burner that restored Ortiz’s reputation in the sport. - Stewart Flaherty
Berto-Ortiz. I think that one will win going away. It was a classic “recruit a new boxing fan” fight.- Briggs Seekins
With an impressive 70% of the total votes, Andre Ward is hands down the 2011 Fighter of the Year as voted by the fans and top writers of the Bleacher Report.
With one-sided dominating clinic performances against former champions Arthur Abraham and Carl Froch, and winning the historical Showtime's Super Six Classic Super Middleweight Tournament unifying the highly regarded WBC and WBA division titles, Ward has accomplished by far the most than any other fighter within the 2011 calendar year.
Add on top of that his brilliant outclassing victory against Froch with an injured left hand that was already broken a month before the actual fight. Ward has the true heart of a champion. Many, if not most fighters, would often pull out of fights for lesser injuries or at least suffer in their performance and use that as a scapegoat right after.- King J
Andre Ward finished the Super Six Classic created by Showtime to create a superstar. Ward defeated Arthur Abraham in the semi-finals back in May. Then Ward gave British warrior Carl Froch the most dominating beating of his career and all with a broken left hand.
In his victory over Froch, Ward collected the WBC and Ring Magazine super middleweight championships as well as the Super Six trophy to sit besides his WBA world title.
With all these accomplishments accumulated from the Super Six tournament, his next great challenge for 2012 will be one-upping his historic 2011, a hard feat indeed.
Considering how Ward continues to grow in his increasingly great performances in the ring, 2012 could definitely become another “year of the Ward”. - Justin Tate
Andre Ward. Made serious strides towards complete lockdown of an extremely competitive division. When you look at the guys he beat, and the guys that those guys beat, and consider how he beat them all with ease, it really was a great year, and it seriously advanced his career.- Briggs Seekins
Andre Ward – A pound-for-pound great waiting to happen, who avoids nobody (take note, Manny and Floyd).- Stewart Flaherty
In a showdown of two top 10 pound-for-pound fighters, the match ended almost as soon as it began. In just the second round, Nonito Donaire landed a textbook left hook counterpunch against a lunging Montiel.
Montiel fell straight on his back, and you knew right then the fight was over. It was classic, it was stunning, and from a boxing standpoint, it was perfect.- Dave Carlson
Nonito Donaire practically broke poor former pound-for-pound bantamweight world titlist Fernando Montiel in Round 2. A crushing left sent Montiel tumbling down to the canvas, where he’d kick and squirm awkwardly while laying on his back as if trying to will himself up, only to discover his body is in disagreement with his will.
He eventually got up to barely beat the count at nine. The referee did give Montiel a chance to continue, but Donaire immediately pounced and showed the referee he made a mistake.
Now did the ref’s allowance for an additional two seconds of combat take away the impact of the knockout? No. It was a clear-cut knockout that got accidentally ruled as a knockdown, thanks to a ref who awarded Montiel’s heart vs. Montiel’s legs, which were obviously gone.
Montiel was gone from the moment that powerful left indented his cheek to put him down in Round 2. The rest was just an unnecessary continuation of a clearly won fight.- Justin Tate
For referee Russell Mora to allow Montiel to continue fighting after such a vicious knockdown is probably even worse than his "performance" in the first Abner Mares vs Joseph Agbeko fight. Mora could have caused some serious permanent damage to Montiel's health that night by letting the fight continue.
This fight should have been a KO and not a TKO for various reasons, but in the end yours truly won $1,500 that night, for I bet on a stoppage by Donaire. After the fight, I showed Nonito my bet winning ticket and like a true people's champion with charm, he said in a joking manner: "Hey, you owe me 10 percent of that money." - King J
A game and talented Froch mastered by a….master! - Stewart Flaherty
Andre Ward’s beatdown of Carl Froch was arguably the clinic of the year. Ward was able to disable Froch’s strength and make the British diamond-hard warrior look slow and helpless.
Nowhere this year has a great fighter of Froch’s level looked so lost and unable to cope with the drilling. Ward arguably won every round of the fight. Those who disagree need to watch the fight again VERY closely to recognize Ward’s genius.
Superb technique, great speed, surprising inside game, with a display of necessary rough-house tactics to handle Froch, and even a series of hard lefts delivered from a broken hand show just how uncommon a clinic Ward was really putting on. -Justin Tate
In all honesty, I thought Ward was going to win by decision no matter what. The political business behind this tournament indicated that Ward would get all the help he could from the powers that be, such as Ward being able to fight in his hometown and home state for the entire tournament up to this fight.
But to my amazement, Ward definitely proved he did not need any help at all. Andre utterly outboxed, and outclassed the supposedly stronger, more experienced fighter that night. Many claimed Froch had an iron chin, but Ward had Froch backing up and even buckling his knees at points of the fight.
The most impressive thing about Ward's performance besides his heart (in which we learned later he fought with a broken hand) would have to be his ring generalship. He knew where to be and controlled and dominated for virtually all 12 rounds.
Ward cut off the ring and countered Froch all night long when he was not beating the Cobra to the punch. The elite of 168 and even 175 should train hard before getting schooled in the S.O.G. clinic in 2012 and beyond.- King J
Erik Morales coming back to boxing after a three-year absence; Morales was thought to be washed up after too many tough in-ring battles. That assessment was premature.
In 2011, he fought to a tough majority-decision loss against Marcos Maidana, and then came back in his next fight to win a world title against Pablo Cesar Cano.- Dave Carlson
When Kirkland lost to Nobuhiro Ishida, many thought his career was over. He went back to Ann Wolfe and regained his swagger. His TKO victory over Angulo resurrected him has a title contender.
- Jeremy Herrings
Erislandy Lara vs. Paul Williams. A complete travesty. Nothing touched it for disgrace. All judges subsequently suspended. - Brin-Jonathan Butler
Paul Williams vs. Erislandy Lara. It is ridiculous that Lara could have lost the fight on a single judge’s scorecard, let alone two. He handled Williams, but Williams’ former glory apparently weighed heavier with the judges than Lara’s performance.- Jeremy Herringes
Paul Williams vs. Erislandy Lara. Lara won. Let’s just be real. It’s one thing to have a fight where the audience, the TV commentators and the fans at home disagree on, but it’s another for a state commission to actually suspend judges based on the results of their scores. That’s amazing, because that doesn’t happen all the time.
The New Jersey boxing commission actually suspended those three judges that ruled the fight for Williams. Williams is a good guy with some nice highlight-reel ready moments in his career, but he took too many lefts to the head. It was sickly the amount of punishment he absorbed, only to be awarded for receiving and barely giving.- Justin Tate
Paul Williams vs. Erislandy Lara was a clearly incorrect decision, but can be partly understood by Williams' greater name recognition and punching volume, and the large number of close rounds. Russell Mora's officiating in the Showtime Bantamweight Tournament final, on the other hand, can't be understood at all.- Dave Carlson
Robert Garcia was in Donaire’s corner during his defining second-round knockout of Fernando Montiel. Garcia was in Brandon Rios’ corner during all three of his exciting, blood-pumping knockout victories this year.
Garcia also helped Antonio Margarito prepare to put up a great (though losing) performance against a highly motivated, healthy and less worn Miguel Cotto. If the story of a trainer is told by who’s corner he was in during what moment in that fighter’s career, then Garcia’s story in 2011 caps off with him being the absolute best of the year.- Justin Tate
Roberto Garcia. Freddie Roach had an off year, with Manny Pacquiao and Amir Khan posting disappointing performances late in the year. Roberto Garcia's saw Antonio Margarito lose, but his success with Nonito Donaire and Brandon Rios earns him my selection for the second year in a row.- Dave Carlson
Robert Garcia. It’s amazing how many of his guys are fighting at a high level.- Briggs Seekins
Cotto vs. Margarito II has a star-powered main event fueled by a major grudge between the two stars. Brandon Rios supplied the adrenaline-pumping precursor to the event. Both ended in exciting stoppages.
Add the exciting Rodriguez-Wolak II to the mix and you have the most exciting televised card of the year.- Justin Tate
Best fight card ever, maybe.- Briggs Seekins
The biggest names in boxing media all flocked to New York to cover this fight. Miguel Cotto is one of the last remaining stars of boxing who can sell out the Madison Square Garden today obviously because of his foundation of local Puerto Rican fans who live nearby.
That same night Top Rank rival promotions company Golden Boy was going head to head with a separate fight card on Showtime with the rematch of Abner Mares vs Joseph Agbeko which turned out to be a solid fight card as well.
But with all the drama, hype and stacked action fights such as Rodriguez/Wolak II and the always exciting Brandon Rios this was one of those rare occasions where a fight fan was not totally pissed that they forked over $50 to the mighty Top Rank.
I personally was covering the Golden Boy promotions Mares vs Agbeko II fight that night in Anaheim, Calif.,and many of the boxing media were watching what was happening in the ring as well as what was happening on their live streams from Madison Square Garden that night.
Many of the boxing media even skipped the post-fight conference to watch the main event on their laptops in random areas of the Honda Center.- King J
Gary Russell Jr. would still seem to count in theory, but does anybody think he should be fighting anyone other than world-class talent now?
So I go with the big heavyweight, Seth Mitchell, who has shown tremendous skill for his number of years training. He has a very dangerous offensive game, very accurate and quick punches, coming from a 240-pound dude. They’ve got to test him for real in 2012.
- Briggs Seekins
Gary Russell Jr. fought six times, including an amazing first-round knockout of Heriberto Ruiz. He’s the only new guy who really stands out as someone to watch and someone who can be envisioned grabbing headlines in the near future. Speed, skill, he’s got it all. He just needs to keep applying it in 2012.
Al Bernstein, he is a class-act boxing historian. He was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame this year. He has a great body of work, and this was definitely his year.- Jeremy Herrings.
Al Bernstein, if you disagree you probably just started watching boxing like last year and you probably do not have Showtime or have seen my popular interview with him on YouTube. For all the true boxing fans, we all know Al is man. Now a Hall of Famer, a boxing expert, boxing historian, boxing legend and most importantly a really nice, swell guy.- King J
Manny Steward – Insightful and neutral analyst.- Stewart Flaherty
Emanuel Steward stood out in a year of familiar characters performing their standard duties as commentators. Nobody did a bad job, but after a while as a boxing fan you just want a new voice.
Steward is far from a new voice in boxing, but instead of the standard droll bland vocal performance he’s projected in the past to convey his more logical and insightful take on the action in progress, this year actually saw him be emotive in the face of in-ring awesomeness.
Just take Steward’s quote during the sixth round of Andre Berto vs. Victor Ortiz, “OH MY GOD!!!” It described the events precisely. There’s no need to be superfluous with high claims of it rivaling an older historic fight of great prestige.
Sometimes people just want an emotional expression to describe the incredible things before them. And when Steward made the sad remark of “Awwww…” when Mayweather delivered those fateful two punches to Ortiz in round 4 summed up the reaction of millions of disappointed boxing fans.
The rest of the crew simply decided to remain silent and then echo the now familiar refrain of “always protect yourself.” Steward took the emotional route when he could’ve taken the logical one and that has made all the difference this year.- Justin Tate
Bernard Hopkins SUPPOSEDLY too injured to continue.
Bernard Hopkins-Chad Dawson. And it probably would have gotten worse if BHop hadn’t gone down.
Bernard Hopkins vs. Chad Dawson is absolutely the worst fight of the year. Who on paper even wanted to see this fight? Great fights are created by fighters who push each other to have to dig deep and fight hard, forming a great chemistry in the ring. Hopkins and Dawson clearly do not have that chemistry.
No one walked away from this fight feeling satisfied. The fight ended in the second round, not by some magnificent KO, but by a shove to the ground that produced a freak-accident that injured the shoulder of Hopkins.
For Dawson to have originally been awarded a second-round TKO was disgraceful to the sport. Now that it’s been changed to the no-decision, justice has been restored for Hopkins’ record. Now both fighters can move on and not put us through another potentially abysmal fight again. - Justin Tate
Hopkins vs Dawson is the type of fight that will turn OFF any fight fan from the sport of boxing. Many turned on the now record-breaking oldest champion in history because of his dirty/cheating tactics and for rather faking injuries instead of fighting on to give the fans their money's worth.
But my question is why now? Why did it take this fight to open many of your eyes about Hopkins when he virtually did the same excruciating boring tactics all throughout his career? If you suffer from insomnia, pop in any of Bernard Hopkins' fights and you will be instantly cured.
How bad was this fight? It was so bad that YouTube doesn't even have any footage of it, so we have to just settle for this picture of Hopkins on the floor, deciding "I'll just sit this one out by pretending I am too injured to continue." - King J
Top Rank just knows how to make a fight card. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. vs. Peter Manfredo was a stacked card with some nice fights that many unfortunately did not get to see on HBO thanks to the Pacquiao-Marquez III replay that weekend.
Pacquiao-Marquez III had a decent undercard with undefeated light welterweight stealing the show against Breidis Prescott by knocking him out for the first time in Prescott’s career.
Cotto-Margarito II is probably the best televised undercard of the year with Rodriguez-Wolak II finishing the business that their first “fight-of-the-year” candidate started earlier in the year.
Brandon Rios has delivered potential knockout and fight of the year candidates in all his performances this year, so him against an all-action British fighter in John Murray had no choice but to be a thrilling show.
Murray held his own and gave as good as he got in what became more a battle of endurance than strength.
Rios, of course, won by late stoppage, but not before delivering a few scares for his fans in an amazing fight. It’s hard to get one pay-per-view card that lives up to its hype, Top Rank delivered two along with some standout HBO and Showtime televised cards. - Justin Tate
I'm not a huge fan of Arum's promotional practices, but there was no greater promoter in boxing this year. Arum was effective and consistent, signing two big-name opponents (and former Golden Boy fighters) for Manny Pacquiao and snagging a top pound-for-pound fighter in Timothy Bradley.
Arum's main competitors did not fare so well: Oscar De La Hoya had a weak year aside from his significant success with Victor Ortiz. Kathy Duva's main fighters (Zab Judah and Tomasz Adamek) both lost major matches.
Lou DiBella's main fighters (Sergio Martinez and Andre Berto) had off years, and Joe Goossen's crown jewel (Andre Ward) thrived, but mostly due to the Super Six tournament. -Dave Carlson
Kirkland vs. Angulo is a classic round of back-and-forth drama. Angulo was the Mexican favored to conquer Kirkland, who suffered the “upset of the year” candidate against Nobuhiro Ishida. Many still felt his would be an exciting match style-wise and boy, was it.
Kirkland was hurt and dropped in the first round as some expected, but the big question was whether he would be ended in the first round like he was against Ishida. Kirkland not only survived the constant wave of Angulo’s attacks, he fought back in the final minute of Round 1 to stun and hurt a tired Angulo.
With only a few seconds remaining, Angulo collapsed onto the canvas at the intense beating given to him. He got up to beat the count, but would later succumb to Kirkland’s fiery comeback in Round 6. Round 1 was as good as it gets in boxing action, featuring warriors who are oblivious to the knowledge of defense.- Justin Tate
Last year, there were no rounds deserving this award. This year, there were two: Round 1 of Kirkland-Angulo, and Round 6 of Berto-Ortiz. Both featured competitive back-and-forth action, and knockdowns landed by both fighters.
However, Ortiz's knockdown of Berto seemed like a bit of a fluke in a round mostly dominated by Berto. Round 1 of Kirkland-Angulo involved much greater drama.
Kirkland was knocked down early, invoking memories of his collapse a few months earlier against weak-fisted Nobuhiro Ishida.
However, Kirkland rallied strongly, and the attention shifted to whether Alfredo Angulo could survive the round after punching himself out. He did, but suffered a knockdown, and the all-out action made this the most exciting round in years. - Dave Carlson
Would you even know who the hell Ishida is today had he not shockingly upset the powerhouse known as James Kirkland via first-round TKO? - King J
There were many significant upsets this year, including a two-week stretch that saw high-profile upsets of Kirkland, Andre Berto, Juan Manuel Lopez and David Lemieux. Antonio Tarver's win over Danny Green also comes to mind.
Of all the upsets listed, however, only one came from a true "unknown" fighter and only one happened in the first few rounds of a fight. James Kirkland, who had just been anointed by Max Kellerman as the rising middleweight star to challenge Sergio Martinez for divisional supremacy, entered the fight 27-0 against a 22-6 Japanese fighter with only 7 KOs.
Two minutes later, Kirkland was stopped after being knocked down three times. The fact that James Kirkland was able to survive a first-round knockdown to the vastly superior Alfredo Angulo a few months later underlines just how significant Nobuhiro Ishida's upset was.- Dave Carlson
Kirkland’s loss to Ishida was major on so many levels. First off, Kirkland was undefeated and a fearsome puncher that many saw being on the road to an amazing future.
Ishida was only meant to be a step on that road. Ishida had only seven knockout victories in 22 victories and six losses. Nobody saw him as a big puncher.
Kirkland obviously didn’t either and ran straight into his punches enough to be knocked down three times en route to a shocking first-round TKO loss. Clearly the most shocking upset of the year.- Justin Tate
No one saw Kirkland losing this fight, let alone by TKO in Round 1. It was supposed to be an easy warm-up bout for Kirkland. Ishida was hand-picked because he lacked power. He stunned the boxing world by knocking out Kirkland in the first round.- Jeremy Herringes
So there you have it, fight fans. The fans, readers, and the writers have all spoken, voted and now we have awarded those within the sport of boxing who most deserved it by democracy.
Did you agree with our winners? Disagree?
Either way, we encourage you to join the boxing community here at Bleacher Report and start contributing and climbing up the ranks, and maybe next year, we can have you be included not only in our voting but also our expert commentary as well.
We have a ton of great possible fights that can be made in the 2012 year and some that are already signed.
Who will shine and really break out in the 2012 year? Who has the most potential?
But most importantly, aren't you glad we didn't once mention a certain super-duper mega fight involving the two biggest super stars of the sport within this collaboration article?
I want to thank everyone who voted, contributed, and especially all of the featured columnists who provided their expert commentary to this collaboration piece.
Cheers to 2012 we shall meet a year later and vote and spill our guts on what did or did not go down in the 2012 calendar year for boxing.
KING J is the Bleacher Report Boxing Community Leader and a Featured Columnist. All expert commentary was submitted to him by the featured columnists of Bleacher Report to be used verbatim in this collaboration piece. All voting for the 14 award categories was submitted to him via private message and email.
Follow on Twitter: http://twitter.com/KingJ323