With the last major fight of the year — last night's controversial draw (and which draws aren't controversial?) between Bernard Hopkins and hometown favorite Jean Pascal in Montreal — behind us, it's now safe to start making our year-end declarations and preparing for the big announcements as writers and publications declare their choices for fighters, fights, rounds, and upsets of the year.
I will soon be analyzing the front-runners in those categories, leading up to King J's year-end column compiling the top choices of all of the boxing Featured Columnists here on Bleacher Report.
However, before I delve into that rich subject matter, I'd like to take some time to recognize the individuals and groups that had the most successful, unsuccessful, and mixed results in 2010.
This is Part 1 of my three part series on boxing's biggest winners, losers, and split decisions over the past year.
Amir "King" Khan, the fighting pride of Bolton, England. The former Olympic silver medalist was one of the lucky fighters who entered the professional ranks already riding high on the wings of fame and publicity.
Hailed early in his career as the future of British boxing, Khan hit a major speed bump when he lost a stunning first-round knockout to undefeated Breidis Prescott in late 2008.
Immediately after that match, my mind flashed to memories of a young boxer named Jeffrey Resto. Resto was a talented and well-regarded prospect from New York who entered a 2003 fight against undefeated Carlos Maussa as a major favorite. It was a huge surprise when Maussa, much like Prescott, emerged as the undefeated boxer.
Resto's career never recovered, and I was concerned about Khan's as well. However, Khan has looked exceptional, compiling a 6-0 record against solid opposition since the lone blemish of his professional career. Big-time wins over Paulie Malignaggi and Marcos Maidana in 2010 re-established Khan as one of the supreme talents in the sport today, and should set him up for a big showdown with the winner of the January Showdown between top junior welterweights Timothy Bradley and Devon Alexander.
Add to that the impressive accolades Khan garnered as a sparring partner for Manny Pacquiao, and I'd call that a pretty impressive year for the blue-chip prospect from Bolton.
Juan Manuel "Dinamita" Marquez.
The 37-year-old Marquez isn't getting any younger, but he simply performs too well for us to start considering him one of the elder statesmen in boxing. A shaky 2009 performance against Floyd Mayweather Jr. put him dangerously close to earning that distinction, but he looked flat out dominant in a big win over Juan "The Baby Bull" Diaz in a rematch of 2009's Fight of the Year. He may have also just delivered 2010's FOTY with his TKO victory over rugged and ready Australian Michael Katsidis.
Marquez is the boxing fan's type of fighter. He is always in shape and ready for whatever opposition he faces, and he never backs down from a big fight. Odds aren't looking great for a third fight against Manny Pacquiao, but I think Marquez is one of only three fighters in the world who truly deserves to fight Pacquiao. The other two are Floyd Mayweather and Sergio Martinez, both of whom are also looking like unlikely options right now.
Whatever the case, The Mexican fighter had himself a tremendous year in 2010 and is positioned for another series of exceptional fights in the coming year.
I am not going to give away many of my picks for the year-end Bleacher Report boxing awards, but I might as well just let this one be known right now. Sergio Martinez was hands-down the fighter of the year during 2010. With Pascal-Hopkins ending in a draw, the only fighter who is even close to Martinez is Juan Manuel Lopez, but his fights just don't stack up to what Martinez accomplished in 2010 — he fought a very dangerous Kelly Pavlik and then had probably the year's most stunning knockout, felling Paul Williams in the second round of their rematch with a crushing left hook to the head that caused the ref to call off the fight before he even counted to six.
Martinez is 36, but by boxing standards, he is a very young 36, and clearly still has some fight left in him. If his win over Williams is any indication, he has a lot of gas still in the tank. A former two-sport star in both cycling and soccer, Martinez has tremendous athleticism and has recently shown traces of clear knockout power — he should be primed to be one of boxing's reigning stars in 2011.
Glen Johnson, the "Road Warrior," is a another guy whom boxing fans simply can't get enough of. I had the great privilege of meeting him in Dallas where I was fortunate to sit ringside thanks to an excellent contest organized by KingJ323 Productions in support of their upcoming film "Temecula Skeletor." He is a tremendous class act in a sport that could use a lot more people like him.
Johnson has been on the receiving end of more unfortunate decisions than you can count on both hands, but he looked very impressive in his Super Six debut against Allan Green.
Glen Johnson is the 40+ fighter who nobody should ever overlook in boxing today. Bernard Hopkins is arguably the better fighter, but Hopkins fights sporadically at best. It's extremely rare that anyone gets past Johnson without a fight.
We'll see if Johnson can dispatch Carl Froch, who is a much higher caliber opponent than Green, in the Super Six Semifinals, but what w do know is that Johnson brought a smile to a lot of boxing fans' faces with his mid-fight knockout over Green.
It's great to see one of boxing's true good guys do so well, and we get to see the Road Warrior fight another day.
As I said earlier, the young Puerto Rican champion known as "Juanma" is the only fighter who I think poses any threat to Sergio Martinez for fighter of the year. The reason: Juan Manuel Lopez has been one of the most active marquee fighters in the sport for a few years now, and has looked exceptional in all of his recent fights, most notably a huge win in a Fight of the Year candidate versus Rafael Marquez.
Lopez also had a knockout win that ended the career of world-class champion Steven Luevano, and a thrilling second-round KO of Filipino puncher Bernabe Concepcion. Not a bad year.
I posted a recent article where I said that Juan Manuel Lopez could become the new face of boxing. With Pacquiao-Mayweather coming closer and closer to eternal oblivion, I think my assertions about Lopez are even truer now than they were just six weeks ago.
Lopez is an impressive, fun-to-watch talent with no physical limitations, and if he can harness his sometimes-sporadic defensive abilities, he is primed for world domination. Juanma is one of the true stars in the sport and is a joy to watch. A huge 2010 for the newest in the long line of great Puerto Rican superstars.
I try to give credit and publicity to women's boxing whenever I can, and there's no better reason to watch the sport right now than Yesica Bopp. I've already let it be known that Sergio Martinez is my pick for fighter of the year in 2010, but if I had to pick a women's fighter of the year, it might be a full Argentinean sweep of the awards: Yesica Bopp has put in a strong set of results this year, and might narrowly edge out Cecilia Braekhus of Norway.
Bopp is a thrilling fighter and possesses extraordinary offensive and defensive talent. Like many women's boxing champions, she isn't a pure knockout puncher, but she is a thrill to watch and never disappoints. A small fighter who rarely weighs in over 110 pounds, she uses blazing hand speed and excellent footwork to deliver a relentless flow of punishing attacks on her opponents, usually garnering a broad unanimous decision victory or a TKO in the later rounds.
Bopp continued her undefeated streak in 2010 and along with Braekhus, is one of the two major women's boxers to watch in 2011. She has potential to become the next big crossover star in women's boxing, especially as she starts to pull in a larger international audience instead of just Argentinean fans.
Midway through the year, Fernando Montiel was arguably the front-runner for fighter of the year, and had perhaps the year's biggest win, a fourth-round knockout of Hozumi Hasegawa last spring.
Montiel has stayed active, both inside the ring and out (as evidenced by an unfortunate recent injury sustained in a dirt bike riding accident), and has been winning most of his recent fights by stunning knockouts. This has earned him a spot on Ring Magazine's top 10 rankings, and pushed him into the upper echelon of the sport's greats.
The next step for him is a long-anticipated match up with Nonito Donaire in February, and if Montiel can get through that fight, he should be a clear front-runner for 2011's Fighter of the Year too.
Pop Quiz: Who is the most important woman in boxing today?
Is it a fighter, like the recently-mentioned Yesica Bopp? No.
Is it someone like Rachel Donaire: the knowledgeable and microphone-friendly wife of champion Nonito? Incorrect again.
Perhaps it's newly-minted ringside reporter Inez Sainz? Horribly off the mark.
The most important woman in the sport of boxing, and arguably the most important promoter in the sport, is Main Events boxing promoter Kathy Duva. Daughter of the legendary Lou Duva, Kathy has set the boxing world ablaze with her trigger-happy booking strategies that has helped set her apart from the other lame-duck promoters in the sport.
Two years ago, who could have predicted that Tomasz Adamek would be one of the sport's most talked-about heavyweights and that Zab Judah would be making any sort of a comeback? Well, under the guiding light of Duva and the helm of Main Events Promotions, those two things have happened. That's why Duva is my choice for Promoter of the year in 2010.
This may come as a surprise pick for some, since his fighter Antonio Margarito was the recipient of a major beat down against Manny Pacquiao in Dallas in November, but it shouldn't be.
Robert Garcia had a tremendous year in 2010. Not only did he land an arguably undeserving fighter a spot in arguably the year's biggest bout, but he also coached up-and-comer Brandon Rios to a solid series of performances and oversaw Nonito Donaire's hard-hitting performance against dangerous Ukrainian Volodymyr Sydorenko.
Garcia has seen his stock rise more than any other trainer in 2010.
Say what you will about Jean Pascal's draw against Bernard Hopkins last night, but it's hard to dispute the impressive rising star that Jean Pascal has had over the past 12 months. He has gone from a high-level prospect who had lost to Carl Froch and beaten Adrian Diaconu, to a top-tier competitor on the world stage.
He first beat feared Light Heavyweight "Bad" Chad Dawson to assume the top spot in Ring Magazine's Light Heavyweight rankings, and then followed that up with a solid performance against Bernard Hopkins, one of the most famous fighters in the world today. In Montreal, Pascal made Hopkins touch the canvas for the first time in over 16 years, and then knocked him down again for good measure.
Though he only earned a draw, which knocks him out of contention for fighter of the year rankings, it is a decision that easily could have gone Pascal's way had he landed one or two more big punches, and he has clearly arrived on the world stage as a big time fighter that we all should be paying attention to.
Could Andre Ward be the next big boxing star from America? It's a definite possibility.
He is undefeated so far in his career and has looked dominant against top-tier opposition in every one of his Super Six fights, as well as a recent non-tournament bout against Sakio Bika.
The Oakland-bred fighter will probably never be the type of big knockout puncher that has defined many top American heroes, but he doesn't need to be. Ward wins dominantly, convincingly, and with a level of style and class that most fighters can only dream of.
He could use some seasoning on his microphone work, but that can be learned, and with the way he has looked infallible in recent bouts, it seems he'll be getting a lot of practice in victory interviews. Expect to be hearing more from him, especially if he can make it through the Super Six tournament unscathed, and prepare for a big showdown with reigning super middleweight king Lucian Bute.
I struggled with this pick. Do two token wins over Joshua Clottey and Antonio Margarito (and suspicion of another token bout in March against Shane Mosley) qualify Manny Pacquiao as a "Winner" in 2010? It's tempting to say no.
We boxing fans have grown frustrated with the lack of a big bout between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. Though 2010 was not an unsuccessful year for the sport, we are no closer to the most anticipated match in boxing than we were at this time last year.
Still, if Manny Pacquiao were anyone other than the Manny Pacquiao we've come to expect brilliance from in each and every fight, there's no question this would be a victorious year for any boxer. 2-0 in two of the three biggest pay-per-views of 2010, and he picked up new titles in two different weight classes, furthering his record of most weight division world championships.
Not only that, but he has maintained the Pound for Pound number one ranking in boxing at the end of another year.
For a fighter to enter a year with such lofty expectations, and manage to keep us thinking about him the same way at year's end, that should be a success for anyone. It's a testament to Pacquiao's greatness that we would even consider calling this year anything but a success for Pacquiao.