By Scott Heritage
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Last year was a big one for boxing, and saw plenty of great bouts. New prospects rose to the top of the pile and a few veterans slipped into obscurity.
There were also a few fighters who stood out over the rest as having either a great or terrible year, and some who find themselves either better or worse off due to circumstances out of their own control.
Winner: Manny Pacquiao
Manny was the biggest winner of 2009 for becoming the lineal champion in two separate divisions, beating Ricky Hatton and then Miguel Cotto respectively. The only blot on Manny’s year was the fact that a super fight with Floyd Mayweather failed to materialize despite successful early negotiations. Manny is now the most in demand fighter in the world, and has a wealth of options for fighters who want to face him. Next up for Pacquiao is either an 8th title against Yuri Foreman, a clash with mouthy challenger Paulie Malignaggi or a third fight against Juan Manuel Marquez.
Loser: Floyd Mayweather
Floyd fought just once in 2009, and was universally panned for facing a pumped up lightweight in Juan Manuel Marquez. The turmoil surrounding the extra testing Floyd demanded for a Manny Pacquiao fight further lowered his stock in the eyes of some. Rumors of a fight against Matthew Hatton next will further damage Floyd’s credibility if they turn out to be true, and Floyd needs a series of big fights in 2010 if he still wants to make a case for being the best fighter in the world.
Winner: Juan Manuel Marquez
Marquez fought twice in 2009, beating Juan Diaz at lightweight and then losing to a much bigger Floyd Mayweather at welterweight. Given his willingness to fight any any weight, despite being at a big disadvantage in the higher divisions, Marquez now has a lot of options for 2010. Rumors of another Pacquiao fight, as well as a showdown with a returning Ricky Hatton are both good bouts, not to mention Paulie Malignaggi and Amir Khan, who have both expressed interest in Marquez.
Loser: Antonio Margarito
Obviously one of the biggest losers of 2009 was the once dominant Margarito. Caught with plaster loaded gloves against Shane Mosley in January, Margarito was banned for one year. Although his ban comes to an end soon, it isn’t clear whether he will be able to regain his license very easily or whether the fans are willing to forgive him for his cheating. Outside of several fighters wanting retribution for Margarito beating them under perhaps less than fair circumstances, there isn’t much on the horizon for Margarito at the moment, and his career could be effectively over.
Although few give him much of a chance against the Klitschko brothers, Haye capturing a heavyweight title is really a win for everyone. For the first time in several years we have a champion who can sell more than a handful of tickets in the United States. While this is far from a full return to previous glories, at least a popular champion should get some much needed attention for the sport again.
Loser: Mikkel Kessler
Once thought the de-facto number one super middleweight in the world after the retirement of Joe Calzaghe, Kessler put in a terrible performance against Andre Ward in the super six tournament and picked up his second loss. Things don’t get much easier from there either for Kessler who takes on the unbeaten Carl Frotch as his next opponent. At one time Frotch would have been easy pickings for Kessler, but after his last performance, the fight might be a lot closer.
Winner: Andre Ward
Before the Kessler fight most, myself included, had Ward pegged as a good prospect who would quickly find himself out of his depth against the best in the division. Ward shocked the world with his domination of Mikkel Kessler in November, and now has a relatively easy fight against the all but washed up Jermain Taylor in April to look forward to.
Taylor was once called one of the most naturally gifted boxers of his generation, but after losing 4 out of his last 5 fights, the consensus among most now is that he should retire. Even long time promoter Lou DiBella has walked away from Taylor, which tells a story in itself. While he has been close to winning in his last few fights, the blueprint is clearly there to beat Taylor. Ride out the fight and then turn out his lights when he tires himself out. With better conditioning or perhaps a move up in weight Taylor might get back in the winning track again, but most people will need some convincing he should still be competing after his recent losses.
Loser: Kelly Pavlik
Pavlik had a shocker of a year which was him fighting off staph infections and failing to land any big name fights. After his loss to Bernard Hopkins in 2008, Pavlik badly needs a big win to restore his credibility and fan base, after he struggled to sell tickets for his most recent fight in his hometown of Youngstown Ohio. Luckily for Pavlik there are plenty of challenges awaiting him in 2010, which will help determine just how good he is against top competition.
Scott Heritage covers both MMA and Boxing make sure to visit his Website to read his other articles:http://www.examiner.com/x-20066-Pittsburgh-Fight-Sports-Examiner
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