Six Candidates for Boxing's 2010 Fighter of the Year
This hasn't been the most scintillating year for the sweet science. Though there are still four months to go, 2010 will likely be remembered mostly for the big fights that didn't happen (Mayweather-Pacquiao, obviously) as well as some that looked better on paper than they played out in real life (Marquez-Vazquez IV, among others).
Despite that, someone will still emerge as the 2010 Fighter of the Year. Eric Raskin of The Ring Magazine recently did his usual excellent job highlighting some of the most likely candidates to win the award, as well as some arguments for and against each one.
I took a look at his list, combined it with my own thoughts and came up with a half-dozen boxers who could still end up with the hardware. Read on to see who made the cut:
6. Manny Pacquiao
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Sorry Pac-fans, but I don't think Manny can possibly rank any higher than this.
Yes, I expect him to be 2-0 for the year after his November 13 meeting with Antonio Margarito. That was good enough to earn him the award before, and supporters will tout the fact that a win in the fall will get Pacquiao a world title belt in his eighth different division.
But let's get real: Pac Man's victory over Joshua Clottey was a snoozer, and he'll be a heavy favorite against Margarito. Add in some bitterness over the Floyd Mayweather fight not taking place and I don't think voters will be thinking of Manny first at the end of 2010.
5. Andre Dirrell
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The Super Six World Boxing Classic recently took a hit when Mikkel Kessler withdrew due to injury, but that could benefit Dirrell, whose upcoming bout with Andre Ward may become one of the tournament semifinals.
The Matrix looked very impressive en route to handing Arthur Abraham his first professional defeat in March. If he knocks Ward from the ranks of the undefeated as well, that will likely be the most impressive accomplishment anyone will pull off in 2010.
Then why isn't Dirrell closer to the top of this list? It's simple, actually: I don't think he's going to beat Ward.
4. Rafael Marquez
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Marquez brought his thrilling series with Israel Vazquez to something of an anticlimactic end in May, stopping his rival in just three rounds. Though that was certainly a big win, most observers have attributed it largely to a decline for Vazquez.
Rafa is supposed to take on Juan Manuel Lopez in what promises to be an explosive fight, but minor injuries have already caused its September date to be called off. Reliable boxing sources have suggested that it will be rescheduled for November, but that's not set in stone just yet.
If Marquez gets by Juanma, he'll absolutely deserve serious consideration for Fighter of the Year. The twin possibilities that the fight will get pushed back to 2011 and that Rafa will be an underdog when it actually happens keep him in fourth place.
3. Fernando Montiel
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The WBC and WBO bantamweight titleholder has had the busiest year of all of the top candidates. He's already notched up three victories, all by stoppage, and he's rumored to be fighting again in September in his native Mexico.
Beating Hozumi Hasegawa in Japan was no easy feat, and Montiel did so emphatically. You have to wonder, though, if the quality of his other victories will be enough to swing voters his way.
He also doesn't have as much name recognition as the other boxers on this list, but that won't matter to the boxing writers who hand out the award. If some of the other candidates falter in their fall outings, little Montiel could make out big.
2. Sergio Martinez
Becoming the middleweight champion of the world and avenging a prior defeat to a top 10 pound-for-pound boxer sounds like a Fighter of the Year resume for sure. That's exactly what Martinez may have by December 31 and why Raskin is leaning toward him as the favorite.
I tend to agree. Martinez has already disposed of Kelly Pavlik, and if he defeats Paul Williams as well, he should win.
That's if Martinez-Williams II is finalized, and it hasn't been thus far. That keeps me from elevating Sergio to the top spot.
1. Juan Manuel Lopez
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Even though he's undefeated and has won world titles in two different weight classes, Lopez still doesn't quite feel like a finished product. He still shows more vulnerability than you'd like, and he hasn't had a career-defining win.
Still, he has two impressive KO wins in 2010, taking out tricky Steven Luevano in January and emerging as the last man standing in a short but wild brawl with Bernabe Concepcion in July. Assuming his fight with Rafael Marquez is rescheduled for November, Juanma could boast a more impressive body of work than anyone.
I like his chances. In a year that no one has really grabbed and made his own, Lopez has an excellent shot at saying it belonged to him once the final bell rings.