A knockout year
Adam Smith looks back on boxing's best over the last 12 months, both at home and abroad...
Last Updated: 03/01/11 8:08am
British boxing ends 2010 on a high with four world champions and a series of young upcoming stars.
David Haye, Amir Khan, Carl Froch and Ricky Burns are our quartet of belt holders, while the likes of Nathan Cleverly, Kell Brook and James DeGale are poised to follow their lead next year.
Internationally it has not been so busy, with the multi-million-dollar megafights few and far between. Manny Pacquiuao continues to amaze us all, the brothers Klitschko continue to dominate at heavyweight and Sergio Martinez made a name for himself.
Juan Manuel Marquez again showed age is no barrier, but Floyd Mayweather boxed just once and we're still no clearer to finding out whether he or Pacquiao is the best on the planet.Here, Sky Sports' head of boxing, Adam Smith, picks out his heroes and highlights from the last 12 months... and Audley Harrison even gets a mention!
Fighter of the Year
DOMESTIC: Amir Khan - Yes, Carl Froch was fantastic against Arthur Abraham but he also lost in 2010, while David Haye wasn't able to shine because of his opposition and Ricky Burns was a great story but nothing can top what the boy from Bolton has achieved. He made his American debut in New York against Paulie Malignaggi and looked good, putting in a really mature performance against an experienced and awkward guy, but that blockbuster with Marcos Maidana really cemented Khan's place in the sport's elite. I don't think any of us expected what happened that night in the Mandalay Bay and fewer still will forget it. I would have liked to have seen him fight maybe one more time in 2010, but the two he did get in were very, very good.
INTERNATIONAL: Sergio Martinez - This is a guy we knew over here from those couple of fights with our own Richard Williams in 2003, but he still came from nowhere in 2010 with that win over Paul Williams. No-one wants to fight the Punisher, but Martinez pressed for his rematch and when it came produced something astonishing to go from zero to absolute hero. Before that he also out-pointed Kelly Pavlik and it is hard to think of a guy who has had two harder fights over the last 12 months. Manny Pacquiao beat Joshua Clottey and put on that masterclass against Antonio Margarito, Wladimir Klitschko barely put a foot wrong, Vitali Klitschko didn't and Juan Manuel Marquez produced yet again, but Martinez doesn't have the same promotional backing.
Fight of the Year
DOMESTIC: Ricky Burns v Roman Martinez - The best on British soil had to be that world title win in September. Back in May Ricky was struggling against part-time ice cream salesman Youssef Al Hamidi, but that night against the number one in the world he found something special. No-one really gave him a chance but he was down in the first round yet got up, came back strongly and out-boxed a guy we all thought would do a job on him. Gavin Rees' British lightweight title win over John Watson was brilliant action and one I want to see repeated in 2011 for sure; Gary Sykes and Andy Morris served up something different with great action and a furious, frenetic pace and unluckily for Morris again, his defeat by Anthony Crolla was also a real treat. And don't forget George Groves getting off the floor to stop Kenny Anderson - and light the touchpaper for a 2011 showdown with James DeGale!
INTERNATIONAL: Amir Khan v Marcos Maidana - I have been ringside for a lot of American fights for Sky and this was right up there with the very best. I thought we would be in for something great, in terms of Khan's performance, but what we got was a great fight. I have watched it back three times and it was as good as we thought at the time. It had a sensational start when Maidana was down in the first, it see-sawed all the way through, we had that dramatic 10th, which reminded be of Holyfield-Bowe and you just didn't know who was going to win all the way through. How he made it through the 10th and then the 11th, I don't know! It was Khan's Vegas debut and it had all the hallmarks of Naseem Hamed v Kevin Kelley in terms of an American launch. Elsewhere Floyd Mayweather turned it on against Shane Mosley, Juan Manuel Marquez and Michael Katsidis continued to entertain and gave us all what we knew they were capable of, Carl Froch's win over Abraham in Finland was a great performance as was Toshiaki Nishioka's win over the brave Rendall Munroe. And of course, Manny Pacquiao against Antonio Margarito was a brilliant exhibition.
Knockout of the Year
DOMESTIC: Audley Harrison v Michael Sprott - He has rightly been slated for his performance, or lack of, against David Haye, but surely that sensational 12th-round right that did for Sprott was THE KO of the year over here? Harrison was losing, was injured and all Sprott had to do stay out of the way, but he got caught in the corner and then came what literally turned out to be the million-pound punch. Ian Darke's commentary was certainly the most dramatic of the year. Other mentions must go to Ashley Sexton's first-round obliteration of Usman Ahmed which was just scary; Enzo Maccarinelli being floored by Alexander Frenkel on the Magnificent Seven bill (it should've been stopped before, mind); the sweet hook that won Stephen Foster Jnr a European title; Carl Dilks sparking Carl Drake and Sam Webb's late KO of Martin Concepcion.
INTERNATIONAL: Sergio Martinez v Paul Williams - Not only my international fighter of the year, but the knockout as well. It came in the second round of what was supposed to be a tough rematch and it came after Williams had been forcing the issue. Both fighters threw lefts at the same time, but Martinez's landed flush on the chin and The Punisher was out before he'd even hit the floor, face-first. The other one that stands out was Dmitry Pirog's fifth-rounder against Daniel Jacobs for the WBO middleweight title. Jacobs was the Golden Child, the Golden Boy's big hope and had been fast-tracked, but he was taken out with a massive right on the ropes that knocked him out cold and left him needing treatment.
Trainer of the Year
DOMESTIC: Billy Nelson - This is normally a tough one to call but this year I have no doubts. Billy is the man behind Ricky Burns' rise and also the man behind John Simpson's brilliant comeback win over Martin Lindsay that closed our year here on Sky Sports. Billy has done a fantastic job with both fighters but will never get the headlines. He is one of those unsung heroes of boxing, but was the trusted sidekick of Peter Harrison when he took son Scott to the world title and is a hard, old-fashioned trainer. He believes in a lot of sparring, his fighters are always there and his Glasgow gym must be a fantastic place to be these days.
INTERNATIONAL: Freddie Roach - This is even clearer; the Wild Card supremo would scoop anyone's awards for his 12 months. Not only did he mastermind those two Manny Pacquiao wins, he has resurrected Amir Khan's career. I do think Alex Ariza deserves a huge amount of credit for his role in it all as well because he doesn't perhaps get the attention he should. But he is the one responsible for re-structuring Khan's body and putting him through the hard graft. Then, when it comes to putting a gameplan in place, Roach has proved himself a master again.
One to watch in 2011
DOMESTIC: James DeGale - Regular readers of my blog will know just how much I believe in James and he showed us all how good he already is with that classy display against Paul Smith. To become the British champion in only his ninth fight says something, but I wouldn't put it past him becoming a world champion within the next 12 months. We're still not sure how hard a puncher he is or whether he is going be thrilling entertainment in every fight, but I have heard good things about his chin and we already know he has wonderful skills, looks good, and is a real family guy. He is great with the media as well and I truly believe he has the X-Factor. Joe Selkirk is another I'm expecting big things from, but want to see him fight more, while wouldn't it be a wonderful story if Matthew Hatton could follow in his brother's footsteps and become a world champion? Watch this space!
INTERNATIONAL: Saul Alvarez - You can't miss this kid, even outside the ring. He is Mexican, but looks Irish with his shocking ginger hair, and would do either nation proud! He is only 20 yet has already had 36 pro fights (one draw) and his slate includes recent wins over light-welterweight names Lovemore N'dou and Carlos Baldomir. He already has the WBC's silver world title, and the full version must surely follow. I also like the look of Jose Benavidez, another young light-welterweight with Bob Arum, who spars with Amir Khan in the Wild Card camp. He is, like DeGale 9-0, and from what I have seen, another very, very good fighter.
Gripe of the Year
DOMESTIC: Audley Harrison - He has been slagged off for his showing against David Haye and rightly so. It was his big chance and I don't doubt he had a plan in place, it's just a shame he never used it. Only Audley will know what happened that night but what made it more disappointing was that he played his part in building it up to the boxing event of the year. The build-up was brilliant, it was a proper occasion; it's just a shame the same couldn't be said about his performance.
INTERNATIONAL: Mayweather-Pacquiao - I think I am as disappointed as everybody that this fight never happened in 2010 and at the time of writing doesn't look like it's ever going to. Pacquiao has of course signed to fight Shane Mosley next and with every new fight Mayweather gets further and further away, which is a real shame for the fans and a real shame for the sport. Mayweather also has plenty of legal issues to deal with and we know Manny is not going to go on forever, so I am starting to wonder whether we will see the two best fighters of their generation in the same ring.
It's been a great year for boxing on Sky Sports and it promises to be even better next year. Ringside is back on January 13 and we are again comitted to bringing you the best action both at home and abroad. It has been a strange year on the world scene with not too many huge fights and a fair few of the established names perhaps past their best, but over here in Britain 2010 was a remarkable year.
To end it with four world champions is something special and I love the way our three soldiers, David Haye, Amir Khan and Carl Froch, all support each other and go to each other's fights. Those three will be at the forefront again in 2011, of that I am sure. Ricky Burns is perhaps a level beneath them but what a story he provided and what a boost for boxing in Scotland, where we always get a warm reception and where they do love their champions.
Behind those four we have another crop coming through and I am sure Nathan Cleverly, Kell Brook, James DeGale and maybe one or two others will be knocking on the world-title door over the next 12 months. I'll finish with a quick prediction: when I I sit down to do this again next year, we will have six world champions.