THE IMAGINARY FIGHT DOMINATES BOXING CONVERSATION IN 2011
By Santos A. Perez Miami Herald Writer
Another year of the imaginary fight dominated boxing conversation in 2011.
For the past three years, fans have clamored for a mega-fight between boxing’s two most popular fighters - Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather – and the hype again was high this year.
But the much-demanded bout will remain a topic of discussion, especially after Mayweather pleaded guilty of assault last week and will serve a three-month prison sentence starting in January.
In his only bout of the year, Mayweather scored a fourth-round knockout victory over Victor Ortiz Sept. 17 and recaptured a welterweight title. Typical of his fight schedule the last five years, Mayweather again fought after a lengthy absence. Mayweather’s bout was his first since May 2010.
Pacquiao, meanwhile, maintained a busier pace. In May, Pacquiao won a lopsided decision over an aggression-lacking Shane Mosley. But Pacquiao’s aura of invincibility took a slight hit in his third bout against nemesis Juan Manuel Marquez Nov. 12. Pacquiao escaped with a majority decision and retained his welterweight title.
Ortiz’s performance against Mayweather bordered on the bizarre after deliberately head butting Mayweather, seeking his forgiveness by kissing him and ending on the canvas a knockout victim. But Ortiz earned his pay-per-view date with Mayweather while participating in one of the year’s most exciting fights. Ortiz and Miami native Andre Berto knocked each other down twice before Ortiz won a unanimous decision in April.
Miguel Cotto now is firmly established as the sport’s third-best pay-per-view performer and gate attraction. The native of Puerto Rico made two successful defenses of his junior-middleweight belt. Cotto scored a 12th round technical knockout over Ricardo Mayorga in March and avenged his first career loss to Antonio Margarito after his 10th-round TKO victory in their rematch Dec. 3.
Andre Ward gradually is moving up boxing’s pound-for-pound listings thanks to an impressive two-fight performance. In addition to capturing two sanctioning body belts, Ward won convincing decisions over Arthur Abraham in May and Carl Froch for the championship of a six-fighter super-middleweight tournament Dec. 17.
Part-time Miami Beach resident Bernard Hopkins, 46, became the oldest fighter to win a world title when he defeated Jean Pascal for a light-heavyweight belt in May. Hopkins injured his shoulder during a title defense against Chad Dawson in October and at first the bout was declared a TKO win for Dawson. But the result was later reversed to a no contest and Hopkins insists he will continue fighting next year.
Once considered the engine that drove the sport in the United States, the heavyweight division remains obscure to American fight fans. For the second straight year, there were no heavyweight title fights in the United States.
Ukraine-born brothers Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko monopolize the heavyweight belts. England’s David Haye talked up his title-unification bout with Wladimir Klitschko in July but laid the “proverbial egg” as Klitschko won a lopsided decision. Vitali Klitschko retained his sanctioning body title with knockout victories over Miami resident Odlanier Solis in March and Tomasz Adamek in September.
Although Solis missed on his title opportunity, fellow Miami resident Yuriorkis Gamboa continued to make an impact in the lighter weight divisions. Gamboa stopped Jorge Solis in four rounds in March and won a technical decision over Daniel Ponce De Leon in September.
Gamboa plans to move to the 135-pound lightweight class next year after previous title reigns in the featherweight and super-featherweight divisions.
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