Boxing's Mid-Year Awards: The Best and Worst of 2011 so Far
The first six months of 2011 in boxing saw highs and lows, great performances and huge upsets mixed in with embarrassments and boring fights. Most of the sports major stars, with the exception of Floyd Mayweather, were active in the first six months of the year and some proved why they are at the top of the sport.
What has been the best fight so far this year? The worst?
In a year of upsets, what was the biggest?
What was the best KO?
Who is the fighter of the mid-year? Who turned in the most disappointing performance?
While some of these awards will undoubtedly change by year end, more than a few are likely to hold up for the year. Let's take a look at the best and worst of 2011 boxing so far.
Most Disappointing Performance: Shane Mosely
In the biggest fight of the first six months, a fight with a huge international viewership, Shane Mosley chose to run around the ring and avoid Manny Pacquiao rather than actually fight. For his pathetic display of track and field rather than boxing, Shane Mosley wins our award as the most disappointing performance of the mid-year.
To be sure, there have been some other poor performances. Devon Alexander's apparent quit job during the much-hyped Bradley-Alexander fight in the Silverdome in January will never win any awards for scintillating performance but it also doesn't compare to the performance that the previously great Mosley foisted upon the viewing public.
Anti-Fighter of the Mid-Year: James Kirkland
If we define the fighter of they year as the boxer who did the most to advance his career, presumably through victories in the ring, then the anti-fighter of the year should be defined as the man who hurt his career the most via defeat.
There are plenty of candidates for this award. Shane Mosley's performance against Pacquaio probably - hopefully - ended his career at the top level of the sport. Roy Jones continues to fight, lose, risk his health and tarnish his legacy with disturbing regularity.
Despite these and other worthy candidates, the mid-year award for anti-fighter of the year goes to James Kirkland. No fighter did more to hurt his career in the first half of 2011 than Kirkland. Since his release from incarceration, Kirkland has been on a trajectory to land a title shot in the next 12 months. All of that came crashing down in his April KO loss to the lightly regarded Nobuhiro Ishida.
It wasn't that Kirkland lost. Most boxing fans recognized that Kirkland's style was going to make him vulnerable to a big puncher and a KO loss was probably inevitable. It's who he lost to that sets his career back so far. Ishida is a light punching Japanese fighter with a KO percentage of 25%.
Losing a fight to a boxer with a mediocre record and no punching power, and managing to do it in the first round, sets Kirkland back enormously in his career. For that, James Kirkland wins the Anti-Fighter of the Mid-Year award.
Upset of the Mid-Year: Grady Brewer Beats Fernando Guerrero
2011 has been the year of the upset in boxing and there were many worthy candidates for Upset of the Mid-Year. Ishida's win over Kirkland is clearly a possibility and Salido's victory over Juan Manual Lopez has to be considered. Both were large upsets and probably higher profile, in both cases, than our winner of Grady Brewer over Fernando Guerrero. However, hype isn't everything and Guerrero's loss was probably the most surprising, given the opponent.
Until this fight, Guerrero was a rising star in the 154 pound division. With 16 KOs in 21 fights against increasingly strong competition, Guerrero looked like a future contender with star potential. His fight with Brewer was supposed to be a "resume fight" - a fight with a "name" opponent who wouldn't give him too much trouble but would look good on his record. Fights like this are part of the sport and promoters love to find easy fights against name opponents to pad their fighters resumes.
For Brewer, this was supposed to be a nice payday at the tail end of a journeyman's career. At the age of 40, with a pedestrian 27-12 career record, Brewer was not supposed to be a real threat to the 24-year old Guerrero. He was there to pick up a paycheck and a loss, just like Kent State will when they visit Alabama in football this year.
This fight though, ended up being more like Appalachian State's 34-32 win over Michigan in 2007. It wasn't supposed to happen but it did. Until the fourth round, it looked like the fight was following the expected script. Brewer was game but outclassed. In the fourth, though, Brewer rocked the unbeaten Guerrero with a right and took control of the fight, ending it with a TKO in the same round.
Knockout of the Mid-Year: Donaire KOs Montiel
February's tilt between Nonito Donaire and Fernando Montiel was one of the most anticipated fights of the first half by boxing aficionados. Two top level fighters in their prime for supremacy in the Bantamweight division. With both fighters being active, it promised to be a slug fest and an entertaining fight. Experts were split on who would win the fight - Freddy Roach called it a "50/50" fight.
For the short time the fight lasted, it was entertaining. In the second round, Donaire unleashed a devastating left hook that left Montiel on the canvas twitching like Apollo Creed after he was taken down by Ivan Drago in Rocky IV.
While there have been some other impressive knockouts in 2011, nothing matches both the drama of the blow and the stage on which it was done. Nonito Donaire wins the Knockout of the Mid-Year and has an excellent chance to retain the designation when the year is done.
Fighter of the Mid-Year: Bernard Hopkins
This was, by far, the toughest category and it is unlikely that our mid-year winner will be the winner at year's end. The basic problem is that the top fighters in the sport have not been very active in the first half. Obvious candidates like Martinez, Donaire, Pacquiao and Ward have had only one fight each so far. Ward, Pacquiao and Martinez each fought less than top contenders so they are out. Donaire's win against Montiel was impressive but contract issues have kept him from following up on the February win.
Bernard Hopkins only had one fight and, like Donaire, it was for a title. The edge goes to Hopkins, though, for making history. At 46 years old, the Philadelphia fighter won a legitimate world title beating Jean Pascal in Montreal.
For making history as the oldest man to capture a title, Hopkins wins the Fighter of the Mid_year award.
Fight of the Mid-Year: Ortiz vs. Berto
This category came down to two real candidates: Ortiz vs. Berto and Maidana vs. Morales. Both were outstanding action fights that showed the best of boxing. Heart, courage, action and skill. Both were major fights that were exciting until the end.
Maidana vs.Morales may have been more of a surprise. Given his recent his age and the long layoff from boxing, many believed that Morales would be a game fighter but relatively easy vicotry for the hard throwing Argentinian. Despite an ugly cut early in the fight, though, Morales gave Maidana everything he could handle, and more, in the ring. It was a classic war in the ring, and Morales, despite age and injury, never backed down.
As great as Maidana vs. Morales was, the bout between Ortiz and Berto was better. Both men had to pick themselves up off the canvas during the fight to continue the match. They brawled, they boxed and, ultimately, they both relied on tremendous heart and courage to get them through the fight. Ortiz won on the scorecard, but both men won the admiration of boxing fans.