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2009 Ring Fan Polls

29
Dec

FIGHTER OF THE YEAR VOTING RESULTS

Manny Pacquiao: 88.5 percent
Vitali Klitschko: 8.5 percent
Andre Ward: 2 percent
Timothy Bradley: 1 percent

Note: These are not the official RING awards. Those will be announced next month in the magazine.

Manny Pacquiao became a bona fide first-ballot future hall of famer after going 5-1-1 in seven fights against fellow future hall of famers Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales and Juan Manuel Marquez.



The Filipino marvel ascended to superstardom and replaced Oscar De La Hoya as the face of boxing by knocking him out last year.

So how are we to describe the realm into which Pacquiao elevated himself in 2009? Well, some would argue that in the previous year he became one of the greatest fighters who ever lived -and they could be right.

First, he scored one of the most-spectacular knockouts in history when he rendered the supposedly stronger Ricky Hatton unconscious with a mighty left to the chin in the second round of their fight on May 5 in Las Vegas, inspiring awe from everyone who saw it.

That triggered the comparisons to Henry Armstrong, who once held the featherweight, lightweight and welterweight titles simultaneously. Pacquiao seemed to fit that mold, a little man who moved up in weight and destroyed capable bigger men.

And then Pacquiao outdid himself. On Nov. 14, also in Las Vegas, he fought talented veteran Miguel Cotto. The Puerto Rican put up a good fight for a few rounds but was hurt in the fourth round and Pacquiao took over from there, ultimately scoring a 12th-round knockout.

The victory in itself was impressive because Cotto was deemed by many as the toughest foe of Pacquiao’s career, a very good fighter near his prime. The fact the victor made history by winning a major title in a seventh weight division – SEVEN DIVISIONS! – lifted the performance to an epic level.

Thus, there was little doubt that Pacquiao would be voted as 2009 RING FAN POLLS Fighter of the Year, an award he also won in 2008.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. rivals Pacquiao as an attraction in the United States but it’s hard to argue that Pacquiao isn’t the biggest international star in the sport.

Pacquiao is our Muhammad Ali, our Sugar Ray Leonard, our Mike Tyson, our De La Hoya, the most-important and most-compelling fighter on the planet. And he’s earned it, giving us thrill after thrill in big fights for years now.

And, under the tutelage of Freddie Roach, he seems to be getting better and better. That means there’s a good chance he’ll compete for Fighter of the Year again in 2010, particularly if meets and beats Mayweather.

We should all enjoy Pacquiao while he’s still at his best. Such fighters don’t come along often.

FIGHT OF THE YEAR VOTING RESULTS

Juan Manuel Marquez-Juan Diaz: 64.5 percent
Paul Williams-Sergio Martinez: 26 percent
Andre Berto-Luis Collazo: 5.5 percent
Bernard Dunne-Ricardo Cordoba: 4 percent

Note: These are not the official RING awards. Those will be announced next month in the magazine.

Juan Diaz was backed by 14,000 fans inside the Toyota Center in his native Houston, Texas, when he challenged lightweight champ Juan Manuel Marquez on Feb. 28.

After 26 minutes and 40 seconds of ferocious back-and-forth boxing and fighting, those same fans cheered as loudly for Marquez, who had just scored a breathtaking ninth-round stoppage of their gutsy hometown challenger, as they did for Diaz during the barnburner.

The fans hadn’t turned their backs on Diaz, a college grad and model citizen who just happens to be a former unified titleholder and all-action fighter. They simply recognized greatness when they saw it and they were more than happy to show Marquez their appreciation.

Marquez-Diaz was one of those fights that caused members of ringside press to shake their heads in awe and disbelief for several minutes after the bout came to its dramatic conclusion.

Marquez had already made a name for himself, all but securing his hall-of-fame credentials with the competitive 24 rounds he went with Manny Pacquiao and impressive victories over Marco Antonio Barrera and Joel Casamayor. But it wasn’t until his brutal, bloody triumph over Diaz that most fans and boxing writers began connecting his name with the word “great.”

That’s what an epic battle can do for a fighter. Diaz later said that he was honored to be a part of such a fight, even though it ended with him flat on his back.

The conclusion of the bout was a stark contrast to the way it began.

For the first four rounds of the HBO-televised fight, Diaz gave his hometown fans a reason to jump out of their seats as his relentless pressure and volume punching consistently got the better of the 35-year-old champ.

Even fans who watched the fight on TV had the feeling they were witnessing Marquez’s last stand.

Fans in the Toyota Center and at home would remain on the edge of their seats during the next three rounds of the fast-paced fight as Marquez’s determination and underrated toughness kept him upright and in the fight.

By the eighth round, Diaz was no longer backing Marquez to the ropes and buckling his legs with whipping left hooks. The two lightweights stood in the center of the ring and traded punches on almost equal terms. Almost.

Diaz was the stronger and busier man for much of the fight, but for all his youth and enthusiasm, he lacked the textbook technique and ring savvy of the 16-year veteran who was suddenly looking to turn his lights out with sharper, more-accurate punches.

A left uppercut drew blood from Diaz’s right eye in the eighth, which seemed to stifle the young challenger’s charge for just a moment. That was all the opening Marquez needed. The master technician rocked Diaz just before the end of the round.

In the ninth, Marquez went for the kill, beating Diaz to the punch and outmaneuvering the younger man until a combination started with an overhand right dropped the challenger to his hands and knees halfway outside of the bottom ropes. Diaz bravely got up on wobbly legs but the seasoned warrior landed a perfectly timed right uppercut that ended the fight with chilling finality.

Referee Rafael Ramos didn’t bother with a count. He didn’t need to. Diaz was out. At the time of the stoppage, one judge had Marquez ahead 77-75, the other had Diaz leading 77-75, and the third had it even.

Marquez was criticized earlier in his career for not fighting “Mexican” enough by Los Angeles-area fans who watched him develop on cards at the Great Western Forum early in his career. They thought the technician was, well, too technical. He wasn’t blood and guts enough for them, which is why he wasn’t as popular as fellow Mexican featherweights Barrera and Erik Morales.

If those fans thought Marquez lacked courage, they were dead wrong. And if his bouts with Pacquiao and Barrera didn’t prove his mettle, the war with Diaz certainly did.

Marquez showed that his heart is every bit as impressive as his skills against a battle-tested young warrior, which is why his showdown with Diaz is the Fight of the Year for 2009.

EVENT OF THE YEAR VOTING RESULTS

Manny Pacquiao-Miguel Cotto fight: 75 percent
Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Juan Manuel Marquez fight: 5 percent
Oscar De La Hoya's retirment: 13 percent
Super Six Boxing Classic: 7 percent

Note: These are not the official RING awards. Those will be announced next month in the magazine.

Big events in boxing generally fall into two categories: competitive matchups between elite fighters and “super fights” involving at least one star who attracts the attention of the world outside of boxing whether the fight is competitive or not.

Once upon a time the biggest boxing event of the year was often a combination of the two categories — such as Sugar Ray Leonard-Thomas Hearns I or Marvin Hagler-Leonard — but that hasn’t been the case in recent decades, not until this year’s showdown between Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto.

The Nov. 14 welterweight bout, which Pacquiao won by 12th-round stoppage, was a hardcore fan’s dream match that received extensive coverage in the mainstream sports media.

It was a significant bout garnering significant attention, which translated into significant numbers. The live pay-per-view event sold 1.25 million buys, which generated $70 million in revenue, making it the most lucrative bout of the year.

The fight, which matched the sport’s pound-for-pound king against the most formidable fighter he’d ever faced above 130 pounds, was an easy sell to hardcore fans.

However, HBO, which produced and distributed the Pacquiao-Cotto pay-per-view show, made sure that casual fans knew as much about the fight and the combatants as possible via its 24/7 program and comprehensive digital marketing of the bout on its various internet and social network platforms.

High-quality video ads of Pacquiao-Cotto that were featured on HBO.com, HBO You Tube, HBO Facebook, HBO My Space, HBO Twitter and major websites such as I-Tunes, Yahoo.com, ESPN.com, AOL.com, and Foxsports.com garnered tens of millions of views in the final weeks leading into the fight.

However, those media platforms were only as good as the fighters and the stories of their careers.

Pacquiao-Cotto was the story of a Filipino idol finally crossing over into the consciousness of the American sports fan.

It was the story of a fallen Puerto Rican star climbing his way back from defeat and trying to prove to the boxing world that his first loss didn’t ruin him.

The story was the challenge. Cotto was the first real welterweight Pacquiao had faced. Pacquiao was the most dynamic opponent Cotto had ever fought.

The story was about history. Pacquiao was vying for an unprecedented seventh title in seventh weight class.

Pacquiao-Cotto was a story worth telling and for the first time in a long time a significant fight involving two non-American boxers was written up in major U.S. magazines and newspapers such as Time, Sports Illustrated, the Wall Street Journal, and New York Times.

And the best thing for the sport occurred the night Pacquiao and Cotto touched gloves in the middle of the ring — the fight lived up to its hype.

For four rounds the welterweights engaged in fight of the year-caliber action, but after scoring two knockdowns, Pacquiao asserted his dominance and set into motion an eventual showdown with Floyd Mayweather Jr. that could rekindle general interest in boxing that great matches like Leonard-Hearns and Hagler-Leonard once generated.

KNOCKOUT OF THE YEAR VOTING RESULTS

Manny Pacquiao-Ricky Hatton: 85 percent
Shane Mosley-Antonio Margarito: 9 percent
Arthur Abraham-Jermain Taylor: 4 percent
Brian Viloria-Ulises Solis: 2 percent

Note: These are not the official RING awards. Those will be announced next month in the magazine.

In retrospect, we tend to look at the Manny Pacquiao-Ricky Hatton fight on May 2 as a mismatch. A great fighter against a good one.

Going in, though, some gave the experienced Briton a decent chance of beating the pound-for-pound king. If nothing else, he was deemed the much stronger of the two and as tough as they come. We asked: How will Pacquiao respond when a true 140-pounder lands a hard shot to his chin?

Not as many asked: What will happen when the opposite occurs?

Pacquiao took charge of the fight from the outset, overwhelming his much-slower opponent and putting him down twice in the first round. Hatton survived – but not for long.

The underdog remained the aggressor in the second round but Pacquiao remained in control, countering his opponent’s rushes with blinding-quick, hard punches that did damage and frustrated Hatton.

Then came a moment that will live in boxing lore and might define the career of Pacquiao more than any other. With less than 10 seconds remaining in Round 2, he landed a left hook to the sturdy chin of Hatton that knocked him flat on his back and into temporary unconsciousness.

Referee Kenny Bayless didn’t even finish his count because there was no point; Hatton wasn’t getting up any time soon.

The knockout left about 18,000 jaws in the MGM Grand Garden Arena on the ground. Those of us at ringside just looked at one another wide-eyed and said nothing. What could we say other than, “Wow!”

“That,” HBO blow-by-blow announcer Jim Lampley said, “is the most-spectacular one-punch shot of Manny Pacquiao’s incredible career.”

“Any fighter,” added analyst Emanuel Steward, swept up in the moment.

The latter statement can be debated but few would argue that the knockout wasn’t one of the most-memorable of all time, both because of its sheer, sudden violence and the fact it happened in such an important fight.

Indeed, a single punch lifted Pacquiao from mere future hall of famer to something that more-closely resembled a living legend.

Certainly, no one who saw – whether in person or on television – will ever forget it.

ROUND OF THE YEAR VOTING RESULTS

Manny Pacquiao-Miguel Cotto 3: 74 percent
Marcos Maidana-Victor Ortiz 1: 12 percent
Paul Williams-Sergio Martinez 11: 11.5 percent
Luis Carlos Abregu-Irving Garcia 4: 2.5 percent

Note: These are not the official RING awards. Those will be announced next month in the magazine.

I remember leaning toward colleague Doug Fischer in the middle of Round 2 of the Manny Pacquiao-Miguel Cotto fight and saying, “Man oh man, it looks like we have real fight here.” And that was only the start.

Cotto, an underdog going into the much-anticipated Nov. 14 fight in Las Vegas, came out for Round 3 – the 2009 Ring Fan Polls Round of the Year – as the aggressor. The once-beaten welterweight titleholder, utterly confident at that point, calmly stalked Pacquiao as if he and not the Filipino idol was the man to beat.

However, it was Pacquiao who scored first about 47 seconds into the round, catching Cotto with a hard right that knocked him off balance and caused the Puerto Rican to touch his gloves to canvas. The knockdown would give Pacquiao a 10-8 edge in the round.

I, along with everyone else it seemed, wondered whether that was the beginning of the end for Cotto but he wasn’t hurt. He continued to attack and score and Pacquiao, waiting to counter, did the same as the crowd – swept up in the building drama – buzzed.

Then, with about a minute to go in the round, the fighters picked up the pace. Pacquiao’s amazing quickness was plainly evident, as he darted in and out and landed fast, hard punches. Cotto, although somewhat slower, was able to score both to the head and body of his opponent as the buzz turned into cheers.

The fight probably hit its competitive peak at this point, as it wasn’t’ at all clear that this would evolve into a one-sided demolition. It was everything the fans could ask for – a huge event that was also very competitive through three rounds. It seemed as if we were in for an epic war.

When the bell rang to end the round, we had no idea that the fight would turn dramatically in Pacquiao’s favor in the following round.

The pound-for-pound king put Cotto down again in the final seconds of the fourth, hurting him this time. From then on, it was Pacquiao’s fight. He would gradually break Cotto down with his speed and power and then stop him the 12th, capping yet another great performance.

For three-plus rounds, though, we had a hell of a fight. And it didn’t get any better than a memorable Round 3.

UPSET OF THE YEAR VOTING RESULTS

Shane Mosley over Antonio Margarito: 46 percent
Danny Green over Roy Jones Jr.: 32 percent
Andre Ward over Mikkel Kessler: 16 percent
Juan Carlos Salgado over Jorge Linares: 6 percent

Note: These are not the official RING awards. Those will be announced next month in the magazine.

Shane Mosley looked as if he had grown old during his fight against Ricardo Mayorga in September of last year. He seemed sluggish, he didn’t throw his punches in bunches, he just didn’t seem like Mosley even though he scored a 12th-round knockout.

And that followed a unanimous-decision loss to Miguel Cotto in his previous fight. A lot of people believed Mosley was in decline.

Meanwhile, Antonio Margarito was rolling. The exciting Mexican brawler was coming off a sensational knockout of Cotto and seemed all but indestructible, which why few fighters dared take him on.

Thus, when Mosley and Margarito agreed to fight on Jan. 24 in Los Angeles, some “experts” feared for Mosley’s safety.

To be fair, no one could’ve imagined what would take place that night at Staples Center.

First, Margarito was busted before the fight with a foreign substance in his hand wraps that ultimately would result in his suspension. And, second, Mosley, at 37, was never better once the bell rang to start the fight.

The then-four-time titleholder proved to be far too quick and far too good for his tough, but lumbering opponent. Mosley simply broke Margarito down to set up one of the most-spectacular knockouts of 2009.

Mosley put a fast-fading Margarito down and almost stopped him in the eighth. He finished the job the following round by pummeling his helpless foe against the ropes until referee Raul Caiz jumped in to end the slaughter as Margarito collapsed to the canvas.

Mosley had done the improbable, re-invigorating his career in the process. He went from declining to a spot on most Top 10 pound-for-pound lists. He has a date with rising star Andre Berto on Jan. 30 and hopes for an even bigger fight before 2010 is up.

“Not everybody could beat him,” Mosley said in the ring immediately after the fight. “You have to be a special person to beat him. And that person was me.”

Margarito hasn’t fought since and can only hope to be re-instated, at which time he would try to re-build his career.

The fight was a stark example that anything can happen on fight night — particularly when a fighter as gifted as Mosley is involved.

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