The year is coming to an end and it is time to look back on what happened in boxing in 2010. When the year started, the biggest story was the on and off machinations between Team Pacquiao and Team Mayweather over the most anticipated fight in decades. The year ended with more of the same. Team Pacquiao is over in the Philippines right now to celebrate Manny's birthday with a massive party and the word is they will be deciding the Pacman's next move before promoter Bob Arum and trainer Freddie Roach return stateside. Meanwhile Team Mayweather is hunkered down in Las Vegas considering a different set of options. How to keep Pretty Boy Floyd out of jail after multiple arrests.
But while everyone waits on these two superstars, there were several other big winners in the sport and it is time to look and see who might be ready to break through and become the sport's next big star.
Amir Khan was cruising along with one of the best years of any major fighter last Saturday when he walked into a vicious right hand from Marcos Maidana that almost knocked him out. Khan ended up surviving the round and the fight but it certainly changed the way the English fighter will be perceived by fight fans. He also didn't do himself any favors by telling the London Telegraph that Maidana's punches never hurt him. Yeah, and the sun doesn't rise in the East, the Pope isn't Catholic and and bears don't... oh, never mind.
Khan is still the best in a talented division but he, Devon Alexander and Timothy Bradley better hope Maidana never gets a top trainer because he has the kind of toughness and power to beat them all if he ever develops better skills.
After moving up to welterweight and and getting thumped by Floyd Mayweather, Jr., JMM moved back to his natural weight and notched solid wins against Juan Diaz and Michael Katsidis. Those wins put him in the running for a possible showdown with his old nemesis Manny Pacquiao. It's a fight Marquez and his fans have wanted ever since JMM lost a disputed bout to the world's number one pound-for-pound fighter back in 2008.
Floyd, Floyd, Floyd. This should have been a banner year for Money May. First, he outmaneuvered Bob Arum by landing a fight with Sugar Shane Mosley after it appeared he'd been outfoxed when negotiations with the Pacquiao camp fell apart over drug testing issues. Then, he took Mosley's best shot and then outboxed and outclassed Sugar Shane when they got in the ring, racking up over a million pay per view buys to cement his status as a top draw. This gave him leverage in negotiations with Pacquiao and forced the Filipinos handlers to make concessions in negotiations that followed that fight.
So what has PBF done since that time? First, he scoffed at the proposed mega-fight by claiming he was never even in negotiations, a statement that was in complete opposition to his own promoters and Ross Greenburg of HBO. Then he managed to get arrested twice in three months and is now due in court to face charges on Feb. 3 that may result in jail time for Money May.
That's why I put him at number 8. If he beats the charges, comes to his senses and makes the fight with Pacquiao he could easily go back to number one on this list and in the world. That's a pretty big if, though.
Last week, Maidana was a little-known, big-hitting fighter from Argentina. A dangerous knockout artist with little drawing power. Exactly the kind of fighter most top fighters would avoid like the plague. The tenth round of his fight with Amir Khan changed all that. By turning the fight around, he made the fight an early front-runner for fight of the year for 2010 and he also made himself a fighter that people will pay to see fight all of the top fighters in the division.
Timothy Bradley, who is regarded by many as the class of the division, can't draw flies even in his native Southern California and will have to consider Maidana now. As will Devon Alexander. And of course, many fight fans will be clamoring for a rematch with Khan. If handled properly, Maidana is set to cash in on several big paydays in the next two years. All because of that one punch in the tenth round against Khan.
The Super Middleweight division is easily the toughest division around in my humble opinion. The top ten is loaded with champions and former champions with many of the best fighters in their primes. Bute was not a part of the Super Six tournament, which allowed him to sit back and wait for several of the best fighters in the division to battle it out while setting himself up to fight the winner. Within the next year, Bute should be in line to fight either Carl Froch or Andre Ward to prove who is the best fighter in the division and make a run at the top of the pound-for-pound list.
Ward has remained undefeated and put himself in line to win the Super Six tournament. He shouldn't have much trouble with Arthur Abraham in the semifinals which will most likely put him in the finals against Carl Froch. If that scenario plays out Ward will be in line for big paydays with both Froch and Lucian Bute in 2011 and 2012.
The two brothers might not be the best thing for boxing, but they know what is best for their pocketbooks. They quietly print money with their sold out matches in front of sold out German football stadiums and European PPV audiences. They hold all the significant belts in the Heavyweight division and their dominance over their opponents is formidable. Simply the two best heavyweights on the planet.
It is hard to imagine that the Pacman could possibly get more popular than he was last year, but somehow he did it. By winning a congressional seat in his home country he became known as a patriot. By agreeing to drug testing he eliminated the taint that had been attached to him by Team Mayweather's accusations. And by fighting the much bigger Antonio Margarito and beating him up he once again proved his mettle in the ring. Add it up and Manny retook the number one pound for pound title in the eyes of critics and fans alike.
No one had a better year than Sergio Martinez. By pounding one-time star Kelly Pavlik and then flattening Paul Williams in two rounds, the Argentine boxer who resides in Oxnard, Calif. proved himself as one of the best fighters around. Maybe even the best around. The only question now is who does he fight next. He's probably too big for Pacquiao so I predict he goes up to Super Middleweight. That puts him in line for some good fights, but it also means a lot of tough fighters who are just a little bigger than Martinez. Whoever he fights will be in for a battle though. And I for one can't wait to see his next fight.