Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Pacquiao was number one again in 2009

It is impossible to take a look back at the last year on the international boxing scene without concentrating heavily on the major achievements of Manny Pacquiao.

Some years it is difficult to pick one fighter who stood out above the rest but Pacquiao, again, has to be regarded as the main man in boxing.

I also thought the Filipino was the best of 2008 with wins over Juan Manuel Marquez, David Diaz and Oscar De La Hoya but he surpassed his own high standards in 2009 with a brutal two-round destruction of Ricky Hatton at light-welterweight before busting up Miguel Cotto at 145lb last month.

The Hatton knockout has to be the KO of the year after the Englishman had his lights switched off with a perfect left hook, while the victory over Cotto saw Pacquiao push the physical boundaries even further by dominating the naturally stronger Puerto Rican.

Cotto soaked up tremendous punishment before the referee belatedly stopped the fight in the 12th round to mean Pacquiao added another chapter to a story that seems to be going way beyond the realms of possibility.

Although we last saw Pacman and Cotto engaged in a feral battle, they may come together again tomorrow at Pacquiao's birthday party in General Santos City in the Philippines.

Manny invited Cotto to attend the bash, and Diaz and Marquez have attended in previous years, which is another facet of the world's most exciting boxer that is so fascinating.

Pacquiao has become a major crossover star thanks to his easy-going nature and that was evident when he came to Bangkok in May as part of a promotional event organised by San Miguel beer.

He charmed fans and journalists and seemed a long way from the cold-eyed destroyer that has made him such a big hit all over the world. Who knows, he may become the fighter of 2010 if he beats Floyd Mayweather Jr.

The second best fighter of 2009 is much more debatable, but my pick will be WBC bantamweight champion Hozumi Hasegawa if he gets through Friday's defence against Alvaro Perez in Kobe, Japan.

Hasegawa has defended his title against two tough opponents this year and has taken less than two rounds to dispose of both of them.

Vusi Malinga lasted 157 seconds in March and Nestor Rocha only managed 148 seconds in July.

It's hard to rate Mayweather, Bernard Hopkins and Shane Mosley above him when all three have only fought once this year.

A case could be made for Vitali Klitschko after three decent wins but I feel he has benefited from being in an extremely weak heavyweight division.

My favourite fight of the year was Juan Manuel Marquez's ninth round stoppage win over Juan Diaz in Feburary. The lightweight clash was fast and skilful throughout with a great finish.

Marquez landed two stinging hard rights to Diaz's face in a three-punch combination that sent the American falling face forward to the canvas with 35 seconds remaining in the ninth round.

Diaz rose but, seconds later, Marquez followed with a right uppercut to the chin that left Diaz flat on his back as referee Rafael Ramos waved an end.

Bernard Dunne's war with Ricardo Cordoba also deserves a mention.

From that, we should try and work out which was the worst fight of 2009 and my pick has to be David Haye's mind-numbing majority points victory over WBA heavyweight champion Nicolay Valuev in November.

Haye announced himself as the saviour of a dire heavyweight division but instead plunged it to new depths with a fight almost completely devoid of action. Perhaps he will live up to the hype next year because it can't get any worse than that.

Shock of the year was Juan Carlos Salgado starching Jorge Linares inside a round in October. Unbeaten WBA super-feather champ Linares was simply blown away. Roy Jones Jr suffering the same fate against Danny Green at the start of this month comes a close second.

A review of the Thai scene will follow once the full programme of fights has been completed.

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