2007: A ‘Pretty’ good year for boxing

December 18, 2007 4:52 AM
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It was a wonderful year, for boxing.

Win, lose or break even, 2007 produced more than a year’s share of close, competitive and meaningful matches, sparkled by some breath-taking performances. There were the usual ugly mismatches, terrible decisions and choke-filled backroom dealings. But over all it was a year, capped by the brilliance of Floyd Mayweather Jr. against Ricky Hatton, that proved the lie in the oft-cited proposition that the sweet science is dead.

Best of all, seems to point the way to more good things in 2008.

You can almost bet on it.

The more times good fighters face other good fighters in meaningful matches, the more the game will be invigorated and the more passions will rise. And with high passions oft come huge overlays — see Mayweather-Hatton.

The passionate Brits, including the ones who booed the Star-Spangled Banner, created an unusual low line on the favorite. I believed Hatton had a chance before Referee Joe Cortez refused to allow him to work inside. In the long run, that had nothing to do with the outcome. However, laying anything less than 3/1 on Floyd was a bargain.

It will happen in 2008 because 2007 was so spectacular.
Already, they’re lining up to give away money. Wladimir Klitschko is only -400 to beat Sultan Ibragimov. Kelly Pavlik is a mere 12/5 to stop Jermain Taylor again. Manny Pacquiao is only 7/5 over Juan Manuel Marquez.

We’ll look into these, of course, in more detail at the appropriate times. Suffice it to say for now that the game is exciting again — and that means good betting opportunities.

If it were just Floyd Mayweather vs. Joe Blow, who would care to bet?

But thanks to 2007, the year 2008 should be a continuation of the game’s resurrection. And this is how good 2007 was — there were several candidates who, in lesser years, would have strong arguments to be named Fighter of the Year.

You won’t even see Juan Diaz’s name mentioned in blogs about Fighter of the Year. This is a guy who made Acelino Freitas and Julio Diaz both quit while monopolizing the lightweight title belts.

Forget about Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez. Even with 1-1 records, they could stake a claim to Fighter of the Year as well as Fight of the Year (parts I and II). Each won one and set up III for 2008.

But how could anyone overlook Miguel Cotto, who wore down Zab Judah in a thriller and then eked out a deserved victory in a tremendously two-sided contest with Sugar Shane Mosley? That’s Fighter of the Year stuff, except not this year.

Kelly Pavlik came from prospect to mandatory challenger to middleweight champion with a riveting knockout of undisputed and undefeated Jermain Taylor. Pavlik had been down twice and almost out in the second round. Fighter of the Year, except in 2007.

Sorry, I have to give the honors to Pretty Boy.

Yes, he beat two guys (Oscar de la Hoya and Hatton) who, going in, he figured to beat. But you can’t penalize him for being the No. 1 boxer in the world and thus a natural favorite over any and all opposition. As far as I’m concerned, he toyed with de la Hoya, to the degree I think he carried the Golden Boy. He didn’t carry Hatton and though he beat up a smaller, less talented guy, he looked the part of the game’s No. 1.

Maybe Diaz, Cotto and Pavlik’s accomplishments in 2007 rate higher. But I truly believe that when we look back at this year, Mayweather will be The Man. He went from pound-for-pound No. 1 to the game’s No. 1. He, and his team, made a great boxer into a great attraction who crossed many lines in becoming a national headliner.

Al Haymon and/or Leonard Ellerbe deserve to be Manager of the Year for turning the foul-mouthed, bling-filled imp into the cross-over wonder of the year. His appearance on "Dancing with the Stars," the HBO 24/7 series before his two pay-per-view fights and the financial numbers he racked up made this the biggest year for any fighter since Mike Tyson’s prime. In a way, the management was more brilliant than the boxing.

In de la Hoya and Hatton, he had the perfect foils to make zillions of dollars - maybe $50 million in one year without one throwing error from third base (you hear that, A-Rod?).

The only negative on Mayweather is that he says his body is getting old and will have to take off for months, maybe all of 2008. Boxing will survive, especially if we get fights like Pacquiao-Marquez II, Vazquez-Marquez III and Joe Calzaghe-Bernard Hopkins I.

But I believe Mayweather will be back at the trough sometime in 2008. Mayweather has lots of unfinished business, and millions more dollars, out there, starting with what might be the fight of the new year, a showdown with Cotto.