It was Satchel Paige who gets credit for the phrase, "Don’t look back, something may be gaining on you" and if you have to ask who was the great Satchel Paige, I’m very disappointed you don’t know one of the greatest players in baseball history.
The Hall of Fame pitcher, of course, never had to write a year-end review, where it is incumbent to pause for a moment and reflect upon the immediate past. So, ignoring one of Satch’s primary rules for living, we hereby bequeath upon Manny Pacquiao the fighter of the year award for 2009.
Big deal. You don’t need much assistance in divining that, even though the Pac Man made only two starts in the calendar year (he did close 2008 with a December stoppage of Oscar de la Hoya), but was brilliant in dispatching of a couple of top 10 pound-for-pounders – Ricky Hatton in two violent rounds and Miguel Cotto in 12 tortuous frames.
Despite the return of Floyd Mayweather Jr., who had an easy time with Pacquiao’s old nemesis, Juan Manuel Marquez, the Filipino superstar began and ended 2009 as boxing’s No. 1 performer.
Others deserve honorable mention, of course. Mayweather looked as if he never was away. Vitali Klitschko tore through three challengers with a combined record of 93-1-1 with nary a hair mussed. Paul Williams showed why the best are wise to stay away from him by beating two other oft-ducked fighters, Winky Wright and Sergio Martinez.
The year really belonged to a New Wave of stars. Sugar Shane Mosley had only one start – and beat the hell out of Antonio Margarito, sending the man with the funny gloves off into a shameful exile – and Bernard Hopkins, the other still stalwart member of the Old Guard faced only one meaningless journeyman.
Chad Dawson, like Paul Williams unable to secure a meaningful opponent, repeated in 2009 what he did in 2008, beating Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson. But the future arrived in a big way, starting with a couple of undefeated Andres.
Andre Berto, in an early fight-of-the-year candidate, won a welterweight title against Luis Collazo, then convincingly handled a junior welterweight belt-holder in Juan Urango. Andre Ward, our last Olympic gold medallist, finally got his pro career moving and ended the year with a dominant display against Mikkel Kessler.
Along with the Andres was a Timothy (whatever happened to names like Rocky or Jake?). Tim Bradley established himself as a demon boxer with three brilliant performances, though only two victories. He beat Kendall Holt and Lamont Peterson and would have done the same to Nate Campbell but for an accidental clash of heads that resulted in a technical draw after three rounds (all won by Bradley).
Juan Manuel Lopez and Yuriorkis Gamboa also made 2009 a year in which to anxiously anticipate 2010, despite what Steve Kim of maxboxing.com has dubbed the "Blood Feud" over drug-testing that has jeopardized the biggest possible fight, a showdown between Pacquiao and Mayweather.
Little guys like Nonito Donaire and Vic Darchinyan will bring more excitement in 2010, too.
Freddie Roach, of course, was trainer of the year again, not only improving Pacquiao, but helping Amir Khan become the comeback fighter of the year. I’m not sure there deserves to be a manager of the year category any longer. My personal vote for fight of the year was a late entry, Paul Williams’s narrow but clear decision over Sergio Martinez.
Bob Arum, my old buddy, deserves to be promoter of the year, though he should also have his mouth washed out with soap for saying Pacquiao, his star, was the best fighter he ever saw (Arum, of course, promoted such weaklings as Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Butterbean).
I have a slight lean towards Pacquiao’s left hand against Ricky Hatton for knockout of the year – though Mosley’s beat-down of Margarito was probably more enjoyable.
But for real enjoyment, let me return to Satchel Paige. So if I give you some bad advice here and there in 2010, it should be more than balanced by his other rules for living, including "Avoid runnin’ at all costs."
Then there was "avoid fried meats which angry up the blood," "keep the juices flowing by jangling around gently as you move," "if your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts," and my favorite, "Go very light on the vices, such as carrying on in society. The social ramble ain’t restful."
Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Michael Katz