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Articles of 2010

PREDICTION PAGE: Ward-Bika………Who Do Ya Like?

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OAKLAND>’S WBA WORLD CHAMPION ANDRE WARD & WORLD CONTENDER SAKIO BIKA FINAL WEIGH IN RESULTS AND CAPTIONS

Judges: Hunter Walton, Tacoma, Wash.

Marty Sammon, Santa Clara, Calif.

Jon Schorle, El Dorado Hills, Calif.

Referee:Dan Stell of Vacaville, Calif.

Weights: Andre Ward 168.0 pounds even; Sakio Bika 168.0 pounds even.

OAKLAND, Calif. (Nov. 26, 2010)–WBA Super Middleweight Champion Andre Ward and World Contender Sakio Bika both landed on the exact 168-pound weight mark on Friday, one day before their world title clash on Saturday, Nov. 27 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif. Oakland’s Ward will make the second defense of his World Boxing Association (WBA) super middleweight championship against world-ranked contender Bika, live on SHOWTIME (9 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the west coast).

Ward (22-0, 13 KOs), who has already secured a berth in the Semifinals of the SHOWTIME Super Six World Boxing Classic, will be making the second defense of his 168-pound title. The 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist and tournament points-leader will face the tough Bika, (28-4-2, 19 KOs) of Sydney, Australia, via Douala, Cameroon.

The World Championship night of boxing will begin at 4 p.m. featuring undefeated Mexican Jr. middleweight and 2008 US Olympian Javier Molina (4-0, 4 KOs), Sacramento’s undefeated lightweight Stan Martyniouk (10-0, 1KO), Houston’s power-punching Cornelius White (15-0, 14 KOs), plus four other bouts with the main event featuring Oakland’s finest starting at approximately 7 p.m.

Tickets are priced at $150, $75 and $35 are on sale now at the Oracle Box Office or visit www.coliseum.com or www.ticketmaster.com.

Goossen Tutor Promotions and TNT Boxing are promoting this night of World Championship boxing, with the championship bout in association with Golden Boy Promotions, the promoter for Bika.

In the first bout of the split-site doubleheader on SHOWTIME, former world championsKing Arthur Abraham (31-1, 25 KOs) of GermanyandCarl TheCobra Froch (26-1, 20 KOs) of England will battle in the final Group Stage 3 bout of the Super Six World Boxing Classic. from Helsinki, Finland.

Here’s some of what the fighters had to say on Friday:

ANDRE WARD:

“I had a date to fight and I wanted to keep it. I wanted to choose the next best available boxer and we did that with Sakio Bika. Plus, there weren’t a lot of other options.

“I’m a competitor. I don’t like to lose at anything be it pickup basketball or a game of cards with my family. But they all like to beat me because of it. Even my family conspires to beat me at cards.

“Boxing is one of the only sports that if you’re pinned with one loss your pay scale definitely decreases. It’s important for me and my family that I get this win tomorrow night.

“I don’t care who wins tomorrow night’s first fight on SHOWTIME (between Abraham and Froch). I’m so locked into my own. I won’t even ask and I don’t care if anyone tells me. It doesn’t matter. I’ve never been so focused for a fight as I am for this one.

SAKIO BIKA:

“We have studied what we need to do and we just have to do it. We have to do stuff that other fighters have not been able to do.

“We are not going to be like the other fighters he’s faced and go for the knockout. We just want to go for the win.

“People have labeled me a rough and tough fighter, even a dirty fighter. I will show that I can truly box and that I belong with the elite of this sport.

“Andre Ward is a champion. He wants to remain a champion. It’s my job to disrupt that and shake up the Super Six by pinning him with his first loss.

“I didn’t even watch him weigh in. I didn’t need to check him out. I’ve seen him before. I know what he looks like.

OAKLAND, Calif.(Nov. 24, 2010)– World Boxing Association(WBA) super middleweight champion Andre “S.O.G. Ward and world contender Sakio “The Scorpion Bika met with local Bay Area media members on Wednesday to discuss their anticipated world title fight just three days away.

It will be the second consecutive defense of his world title for the local fighter Ward (22-0, 13 KOs), who will have his hands full against Bika(28-4-2, 19 KOs) of Sydney, Australia, via Douala, Cameroon on Saturday, Nov. 27, live on SHOWTIME (live at 9 p.m. ET/PT).

In the first fight of the split-site doubleheader, “King Arthur Abraham will meet Carl “The Cobra Froch in the final Group Stage 3 bout of tournament for the vacant WBC super middleweight world title. The world title match will be televised on same-day-delay from the Hartwall Areena in Helsinki, Finland.

The Oracle Arena in Oakland will be the site of the World Championship night of boxing which will begin at 4 p.m. featuring undefeated Jr. middleweight and 2008 US Olympian Javier Molina (4-0, 4 KOs), Sacramento’s undefeated lightweight Stan Martyniouk (10-0, 1KO), Houston’s power-punching Cornelius White (15-0, 14 KOs), plus four other bouts with the main event featuring Oakland’s finest starting at approximately 7 p.m.

Tickets are priced at $150, $75 and $35 are on sale now at the Oracle Box Office or visit www.coliseum.com or www.ticketmaster.com.

Goossen Tutor Promotions and TNT Boxing are promoting this night of World Championship boxing, with the championship bout in association with Golden Boy Promotions, the promoter for Bika.

Here’s what the principals had to say on Wednesday.

ANDRE WARD:

“I thank God for the opportunity. I dont take this time in my life for granted. I take my job seriously and appreciate the compliments, but I still feel that we have a lot of work to do before it is considered anything great.

“Sakio Bika and I have both had great camps. Come Saturday night I know that I am prepared both physically and mentally.

“Whether there are two or 100,000 fans in the stands makes no difference to me because I will still come in here to do my job.

When asked about running in the ring:

“I step up and show what theyre dealing with in the ring. I am a fighter that doesnt take a lot of punishment. Like Floyd Mayweather.

SAKIO BIKA:

“I am happy Andre Ward has given us the opportunity. I am looking for the win. Training camp went very well and we will win this fight.

“We have been training hard for six weeks.

On his preferred style of fighting:

“I dont care what kind of style of fighting an opponent brings to me. I do what I have to do to win the fight.

VIRGIL HUNTER, Ward’s Trainer:

“Its good to be here once again in our hometown and at the Oracle Arena. We have a difficult, tough task ahead. Sakio Bika is a world class fighter. In this training camp, we have no stones left unturned. We prepared diligently and have plans to prevail. We wish Sakio Bika luck. When I say luck, I mean that he goes home to his family in tact. We plan to win just like weve been winning for years. When Sakio Bika gets into the ring with Andre Ward it will be a whole different ball game on Saturday night.

On Bikas style:

“Sakio Bika is a very determined and aggressive fighter. Ive seen him get hurt on a few occasions and it intrigued me how he did get hurt and how he knows what to do when he does get hurt. We know hes aggressive and we know how to neutralize that.

On Andre Wards past knee injury:

“Andre Wards knee has finally healed. He beat Miranda, Kessler and Green with one leg. I am glad that he has his lateral movement back and that he is finally pain free. Im glad to have all the weapons back. I am happy that he his healthy once again.

RONNIE SHIELDS, Bika’s Trainer:

“Its a pleasure to be here out in Oakland. Sakio Bika is ready to go. We are just looking forward to Saturday night. Sam Watson asked me to train Sakio and I said yes because of the type of fighter he is. I know that he is talented and I know what he is capable of in the ring. Thats what we are prepared for and we’re ready to go.

“We know what we’re up against with Andre Ward. We have a great fight on our hands. Andre Ward can keep his spot in the Super Six Boxing Classic Tournament. We just want the WBA Title.

“I have never seen Andre Ward fight live but I have watched him on television. Hes a great fighter.

DAN GOOSSEN, Ward’s Promoter:

On the Super Six World Boxing Classic:

“The Tournament is a great, great concept. When it can be accomplished well see a lot more come about with this great concept.

“Today is about this Saturdays fight. When you get this close to a fight, youre just thinking of retaining this title.

“Antonio Leonard (Ward’s manager) said it best when he said that Andre Ward has the wits and the ability to put it all together. He will be one of the superstars in the sports in the years to come.

“I am proud of Andre Ward and his march to making history. Everyone is witnessing something special for the Bay Area and Oakland. This is a privilege for Oakland and the entire Bay Area to have a man born and bred and who wants to continue to perform in front of his hometown fans. This man epitomizes what a mother, father, brother or whoever you are can be proud of. I am extremely excited about him and who he is as a person.

“Bika and his camp have talked a lot about their plans to dismantle Andre Ward and pin the loss on him. I believe that Virgil put it best when he said that people underestimate Andre Ward.

ANTONIO LEONARD, Co-Promoter TNT Boxing:

“This is our fourth fight back in Oakland and nothing has changed. Andre is still the best 168-pound fighter in the world. He has done everything he said he would do when I met him in 2002. You dont have to talk the talk and walk the walk .No doubt in my mind that Andre Ward wins the fight like always.

ANDRE WARD & SAKIO BIKA

SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING

CONFERENCE CALL HIGHLIGHTS

Andre Ward and Sakio Bika participated in a national media conference call on Monday to discuss their upcoming world title fight on Saturday, Nov. 27, LIVE on SHOWTIME® (9 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the west coast) from Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif.

Ward (22-0, 13 KOs) will defend his World Boxing Association(WBA) super middleweight championship in front of his hometown fans for a second time against the tough, dangerous Bika(28-4-2, 19 KOs) of Sydney, Australia, via Douala, Cameroon.

The Super Six World Boxing Classic tournament points leader, Ward has already secured his spot in the tournament Semifinals and will face Bika outside the tournament.

Bika will be making his third world title appearance in a world title fight. Two of his most noteworthy victories came when he crushed Peter Manfredo, Jr. (TKO 3) in November 2008 and when he outpointed Sam Soliman across eight rounds in October 2007.

In the first fight of the split-site doubleheader on SHOWTIME, “King Arthur Abraham will meet Carl “The Cobra Froch in the final Group Stage 3 bout of tournament for the vacant WBC super middleweight world title. The world title match will be televised on same-day-delay from the Hartwall Areena in Helsinki, Finland.

Here’s what the principals had to say on Monday:

ANDRE WARD:

“I’m so excited. It’s been a year yesterday (Nov. 21, 2009) since I won my world title and I’m focused and locked in on defending my title. That’s all me and my team has ever focused on. Not just becoming a champion but being a defending champion and striving for great challenges like Sakio Bika. I’ve prepared myself for a fight like this years in advance. I’m prepared for Sakio and I know he’s prepared for me. And I know we’re going to put on a great show on Saturday.

Does it matter to you that this is not a Super Six fight?

“Absolutely not. At the end of the day my championship belt is still on the line and at the end of the day I’ve got to show up and get the job done. And I’ve got a guy on the other side of the ring that’s trying to hurt me. For me personally there’s no let down. This is as big as it gets. There’s really no problem with this not being in the tournament. Everyone understands why it’s not in the tournament but this is a fight so as far as myself and my team it’s business as usual.

Why aren’t you fighting Andre Dirrell on Saturday night?

“I think Andre Dirrell’s team has already said why we’re not fighting Saturday night. Apparently, Andre’s got some neurological issues and I’ll leave it at that. I think with the writers and the media it’s their job to be able to figure out what’s true and not true and I just have to take whatever comes. I take Dirrell at his word and I hope he gets better soon and that we can see him back in the ring.

“When you sign a contract it’s a binding agreement and we were legally bound to fight Dirrell in our third fight. Personally, it’s not something you want to do; that’s a friend of yours, your family knows one another. It’s not really an ideal situation. But at the end of the day I’ve been fighting for a long time and I was prepared to do what I agreed to do. I think some of the fans blew things out of proportion. A lot of people weren’t talking and there really wasn’t much to say and it would have probably just made things worse.

“I think it’s unfortunate people think Dirrell and I were trying to take the fight off the table and that we were working together. That’s personally not who I am. I was always going to do what I had to do.

“I’m just as hungry as any opponent I’m fighting. I’m just as desperate as any opponent I’m fighting. I take this game very, very seriously. Having a championship and defending it means the world to me. I’m sure Sakio thinks this is a huge opportunity for him but this is a huge opportunity for Andre Ward as well.

“Becoming a great finisher like Sugar Ray Leonard is something we’re definitely working on and it’s something that’s going to keep showing up as we keep moving up and improving.

“I don’t really have any outside distractions. I keep a low profile and I don’t need an entourage. The guys that are around me are either family or they have a job to do. So I keep a tight circle. I really don’t have a lot of people pulling on me. I just think people over the years know where I stand and we just kind of set the tone from there. At this stage in my career I just don’t really have a lot do deal with in terms of outside distractions.

“At this point, Carl Froch and Arthur Abraham and Lucian Bute are non-factors. It’s all about Sakio Bika right now. I’ll take a line from Vince Lombardi: Success demands singleness of purpose. I’m locked in on Sakio Bika and Saturday night.

SAKIO BIKA:

“This is a very big opportunity for me. I just want to take care of my business and make a big upset even though I’m not in the tournament. I was very disappointed at the start that they didn’t include me in this tournament. I am very happy for Andre Ward for giving me this opportunity.

“I think I’m one of the best fighters in the world at 168 pounds. Since 2006 I’ve challenged everyone but no one wants to fight me. I challenged Mikkel Kessler and I’ve challenged others. I was disappointed I wasn’t selected at the start but I’m just very happy for this opportunity to get a chance to win this fight on the 27th.

“I just have to show the world that I’m the best fighter. I will show Andre Ward that. I have this great opportunity. I just have to try and do my best.

“I know Andre has a very good style. He moves a lot and will be very tough. On the 27th everyone will see what I will bring to beat Andre Ward. I don’t need to say too much about his style. It will be an exciting fight on the 27th.

“Every time I go in there I’m trying to win the fight. I’m prepared to go the whole 12 rounds. If I could knock him out I’d be so happy. I’m looking forward to showing Andre Ward my power.

“I’m prepared for Andre Ward on the inside and the outside. We can handle him from the inside and the outside. We are prepared for whatever game plan Andre has for us.

Do you think Andre Ward might be underestimating you as a fighter?

“No. Andre Ward is a professional fighter and this is a business. He was preparing for Andre Dirrell and now he has prepared to fight me.

DAN GOOSSEN, Goossen Tutor Promotions:

“None of this could have been possible without SHOWTIME and Ken Hershman’s intestinal fortitude to keep everything moving in this Super Six Tournament which I believe the best is yet to come. This Saturday we’re going to have Froch and Abraham opening up this telecast and then to wind up the main bout with Andre Ward against Sakio Bika. I’m looking forward to Saturday night and seeing Andre Ward continue his path to becoming one of the best fighters pound for pound in the world today.

DAVID ITSKOWITCH, COO of Golden Boy Promotions:

“I know they call Glen Johnson the ‘Road Warrior’ but that would also be apt for Sakio. When you look at his record he’s really fought the best of the best in their backyard. … Going into someone’s backyard and taking them on is nothing new for him. It’s not something that fazes him at all. We expect him to come out with a victory this weekend. He’s an offensive machine who keeps coming and coming and coming. I think his style and Ward’s style are going to mesh for just a really great fight.

*OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

OAKLAND’S WBA WORLD CHAMPION

ANDRE ‘S.O.G.’ WARD

PRESS CONFERENCE*

PLUS WORLD CONTENDER SAKIO BIKA

Tomorrow/ Wednesday, Nov. 24 at 11:30 a.m. PT at Oracle Arena’s Courtside Club

WHO: WBA Super Middleweight Champion Andre Ward

World Contender Sakio Bika

WHEN:TOMORROW / Wednesday, Nov. 24 at 11:30 a.m. PT

WHERE: ORACLE Arena – Courtside Club, 7000 Coliseum Way, Oakland, CA 94621

WHAT: Ward and Bika will participate in their final press conference just three days before Oakland’s Ward defends his World Boxing Association (WBA) super middleweight championship against world contender Bika on Saturday, Nov. 27 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif.

Ward (22-0, 13 KOs), who has already secured a berth in the Semifinals of the SHOWTIME Super Six World Boxing Classic, will be making the second defense of his 168-pound title. The 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist and tournament points-leader will face the tough Bika (28-4-2, 19 KOs) of Sydney, Australia, via Douala, Cameroon, who will be making his third world title appearance.

Ward-Bika will be televised live on SHOWTIME (9 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the west coast)

The World Championship night of boxing at Oracle Arena will begin at 4 p.m. featuring undefeated Mexican Jr. middleweight and 2008 US Olympian Javier Molina (4-0, 4 KOs) of Commerce City, CA, Sacramento’s undefeated lightweight Stan Martyniouk (10-0, 1KO), Houston’s power-punching Cornelius White (15-0, 14 KOs), plus four other bouts with the main event featuring the Bay Area’s finest starting at approximately 7 p.m.

Tickets priced at $150, $75 and $35 are on sale now at the Oracle Box Office or visit www.coliseum.com or www.ticketmaster.com.

Goossen Tutor Promotions and TNT Boxing are promoting this night of World Championship boxing, with the championship bout in association with Golden Boy Promotions, the promoter for Bika.

Articles of 2010

Judah To Fight Mbuza March 5 In NJ

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Totowa, NJ – Kathy Duva, Main Events CEO, announced their promotional firm won the purse bid held at IBF headquarters in East Orange, NJ, Thursday. The bid was for the right to hold the IBF's junior welterweight title fight between Zab Judah of Brooklyn, NY and Las Vegas, and South Africa's Kaizer Mabuza.

IBF Championships Chairman, Lindsay Tucker explained, “It is a 50-50 split of the earnings between the two fighters. Kaizer is ranked No. 1 by the IBF, and Judah is No. 2. Where the fight will be held is up to the winning bidder.”

Judah (39-6, 26 KOs) is promoted by Main Events and his own firm Super Judah Promotions, and Branco Milenkovic, of South Africa, promotes Mabuza (23-6-3, 14 KOs).

Kathy Duva confirmed the fight will take place at Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, late February or early March this year as part of Main Events' Brick City Boxing Series.  (Saturday Update: the fight is March 5th, in NJ at the Pru Center. The bout will be part of a PPV card.)

“We are very happy that Zab has the opportunity to fight for the IBF Junior Welterweight title right here in New Jersey.  Winning this fight will put Zab right in the mix with the winner of Bradley-Alexander and Amir Khan.” Duva elaborated, ” Zab will work very hard to win this fight so that he will be one step closer to his ultimate goal of unifying all of the Junior Welterweight titles by the end of 2011!”

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UFC 125 Preview: Frankie Edgar Vs. Gray Maynard

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UFC_Edgar_and_Maynard_Dec._2010
Few predicted Frankie Edgar would grab the UFC lightweight championship last year but he did. Most felt he would eventually win it but Edgar not only took the title, he beat one of the best mixed martial artists in history to do it.

Edgar (13-1) has emerged from the milieu of nondescript MMA fighters to become one of the more brilliant performers for Ultimate Fighting Championship. Next comes a rematch with Gray “The Bully” Maynard (11-0) tomorrow at the MGM Grand Casino in Las Vegas. UFC 125 will be televised on pay-per-view.

All it took was not one, but two victories over BJ Penn.

If you’re not familiar with Penn, he’s one of the most versatile fighters in MMA history and had been nearly unbeatable in the 155-pound lightweight division. That is until he clashed with Edgar. Until he met New Jersey’s Edgar, the Hawaiian fighter chopped down lightweight opponents with ease. It was only the heavier welterweights he had problems against. Namely: Canada’s Georges St. Pierre.

Edgar showed poise, speed and grit in defeating Penn in back-to-back fights. The world took notice.

“You know, if I keep winning fights, the respect will come eventually,” said Edgar during a conference call.

Now Edgar will find out if he can avenge the only loss on his record.

“I just think I grew as a fighter. You know, mentally, you know, physically I, you know, possess differently skills, increased – you know, I think I boxed and got better, my Jiu-Jitsu got better and, you know, just have much more experience now,” Edgar says.

Maynard seeks to find out if Edgar has added any more fighting tools to his repertoire. Back in April 2008, the artillery shelled out was not enough to beat the Las Vegas fighter.

“It’s a perfect time. He had the chance and, you know, he took it and the time is now for me and I’m prepared,” said Maynard (11-0). “Any time you’re going up against the top in the world, you evolve and change and so I’m prepared for a new fight, so it will be good. I’m pumped for it.”

Though Maynard’s record indicates he is unbeaten that’s not entirely true. He did suffer a defeat to Nate Diaz during The Ultimate Fighter series and subsequently avenged that loss last January.

The UFC lightweight title is in Maynard’s bull’s eye.

“Looking to take the belt for sure,” said Maynard. “We’ll see on January 1.”

Edgar versus Maynard should be a good one.

Other bouts:

Nate Diaz (13-5) faces Dong Hyun Kim (13-0-1) in another welterweight tussle. Diaz is the only fighter with a win over Maynard. Anyone watching TUF remembers Maynard tapping out from a Diaz guillotine choke. The Modesto fighter has a tough fight against South Korea’s Kim.

Chris Leben (21-6) fights Brian Stann (9-3) in a middleweight fight. Leben is a veteran of MMA and if an opponent is not ready for a rough and tumble fight, well, that fighter is not going to win. Stann dropped down from light heavyweight and we’ll see if the cut in weight benefits the Marine.

Brandon Vera (11-5) meets Thiago Silva (14-2) in a light heavyweight match up. Vera is trying to rally back to the promising fighter he was tabbed several years back. Silva is a very tough customer and eager to crash the elite. A victory by either fighter could mean a ticket to the big time.

Clay Guida (27-8) versus Takanori Gomi (32-6) in a lightweight bout. Guida has become one of the most feared fighters without a title. No one has an easy time with the long-haired fighter. Gomi lost to Kenny Florian but knocked out Tyson Griffin. Can he survive Guida?

Marcus “The Irish Hand Grenade” Davis (22-8) clashes with Jeremy Stephens (18-6) in another lightweight fight. Davis is a go-for-broke kind of fighter and is looking to get back in the win column after a tumultuous battle with Nate Diaz last August. Stephens needs a win too. In his last bout he lost to Melvin Guillard.

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Articles of 2010

Borges Looks Back, And Forward With Hope

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As the end of another year approaches, there’s no need to invoke Charles Dickens to describe what went on in boxing. It was neither the best of times nor the worst of times. It was just too much time spent on The Fight That Never Took Place.

For the second straight year the sport could not deliver The Fight, the only one fans universally wanted and even casual fans craved – the mix between Floyd Mayweather, Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao.  No one has to be singled out for blame for that failure because this time there’s plenty to go around on both sides. The larger issue is what does it say about a sport when it cannot deliver its top event?

What would the NFL be without the Super Bowl? Where would major league baseball be without the World Series? Golf without the Masters? College basketball without March Madness?

They would all be less than they could be and so it was with boxing this year. Having said that, the sport was not without its signature moments. It was not bereft of nights that left those of us with an abiding (and often unrequited) love for prize fighting with good reason to hope for the future.

Three times promoter Bob Arum took the sport into massive stadium venues just like the good (very) old days and each time boxing drew a far larger crowd than its many critics expected. Twice those fights involved the sport’s leading ambassador, Pacquiao, who brought in crowds of 40,000 to 50,000 fans into Cowboys Stadium against inferior opponents Joshua Clottey and Antonio Margarito. Imagine what he might have done had Mayweather been in the opposite corner?

While both fights were, as expected, lopsided affairs, they showcased the one boxer who has transcended his sport’s confining walls to become a cultural icon and world celebrity. Pacquiao alone put boxing (or at least one boxer) on the cover of TIME and into the pages of such varied publications as Esquire, GQ, The Wall Street Journal, the American Airlines in-flight magazine and even Atlantic Monthly.

As history has proven time and again, that is what happens when boxing has a compelling personality to sell it and Pacquiao is that. Mayweather is such a person as well,  but for different reasons.

The one night he appeared in a boxing ring, he set the year’s pay-per-view standard against Shane Mosley while also leaving a first hint of dark mystery when he was staggered by two stinging right hands in the second round.

Mayweather was momentarily in trouble for the first time in his career but the moment passed quickly and Mosley never had another. By the end he had been made to look old and futile, a faded athlete who’d had his chance and was unable to do anything with it. So it goes in this harsh sport when the sands are running out of the hour glass.

As always there were some surprising upsets, most notably Jason Litzau’s domination of an uninterested and out of shape Celestino Caballero and Sergio Martinez’s one-punch demolishment of Paul Williams. The latter was not so much an upset as it was a stunning reminder that when someone makes a mistake against a highly skilled opponent in this sport they don’t end up embarrassed. They end up unconscious.

SHOWTIME did all it could to further the future of the sport, offering up a continuation of its interminably long but still bold Super Six super middleweight tournament as well as the launching of a short form bantamweight tournament which already gave fans to two stirring and surprising finishes with Joseph Agbeko decisioning Jhonny Perez and Abner Mares upsetting Victor Darchinyan in a battle of contusions.

While the Super Six has had its problems – including several of the original six pulling out – it also lifted the profile of former Olympic gold medalist Andre Ward from nearly unknown to the cusp of universal recognized as the best super middleweight in the world this side of Lucian Bute. If Ward continues winning he’ll get to Bute soon enough because that’s why SHOWTIME signed a TV deal with the Canadian and America may get its next boxing star if Ward proves to be what I think he is – which is still underrated and underappreciated.

HBO and HBO pay-per-view put on 23 shows, few of them compelling and many of them paying big money to the wrong people while doing little or nothing to grow the sport that has helped make their network rich. But they did have the knockout of the year – Martinez’s second round destruction of Williams – and some fights in the lower weight classes that were left you wanting more.

Two new names popped up who are causing the kind of fan reaction that also gives us hope for 2011 – American Brandon Rios and Mexican Saul Alvarez. They are two of the sport’s brightest young prospects because each comes to the arena the old-fashioned way – carrying nothing but bad intentions.
Aggression and knockouts still sell boxing faster than anything else and each exhibited plenty of both this year and left fans wanting to see more. Alvarez is already a star in Mexico without having yet won a world title and Rios is the definition of “promise.’’ Whether the star will continue to shine and promise will be fulfilled may be answered next year and so we wait anxiously to find out.

Backed by Golden Boy Promotions, there is no reason 2011 shouldn’t be Alvarez’s year and if it is people will notice and remember him because he has a crowd-pleasing style that is all about what sells most.

That is what boxing needs more of – fresh faces and new stars… so as fans we should root for guys like Alvarez, Ward, Rios and young Brit Amir Khan, who is a star in England but still a question mark with a questionable chin but a fighter’s heart here in the U.S.

Those guys and others not yet as well known are the future of boxing, a sport that for too long has been recycling the likes of Mosley (as it will again in May for one last beating against Pacquiao in a fight that's a joke), Bernard Hopkins (who can still fight although it is unclear why he bothers or where it’s all headed), Roy Jones and, sadly, even 48-year-old Evander Holyfield, who continues to delude himself but not many other people into believing he will soon unify the heavyweight title again.
If fighters like Ward, Alvarez, Rios, Khan, WBC welterweight champion Andre Berto and middleweight king Sergio Martinez continue their rise they could be the antidote for the art of the retread that Arum and Golden Boy have been forcing fans to buy the past few years at the expense of what boxing needs most – fresh faces.

The heavyweight division, which many believe determines the relevancy of boxing to the larger world, remains a vast desert of disinterest here in the US. The Klitschko brothers, Vitali and Wladimir, hold 75 per cent of the title belts but few peoples’ imaginations in the US, although to be fair they are European superstars and don’t really need U.S. cable TV money to thrive economically.

Each defended their titles twice this year, Vitali against lame competition (Albert Sosnowski and Shannon Briggs) and Wladimir against better fighters (Sam Peter and Eddie Chambers) but not competitive ones. Sadly, there is no American on the horizon to challenge them, a comment on the division and on our country, where the athletes who used to be Joe Louis or Muhammad Ali now opt for the easier and frankly safer road of the NFL or the NBA. Who can blame them considering all the nonsense a fighter has to go through to just make a living these days?

The one heavyweight match that would be compelling and might lift the sport up for at least a night would be either of the Klitschkos facing lippy WBA champion David Haye. The fast-talking Brit claims to not be ducking them but he’s had more maladies befall him after shouting from the rooftops how much he wants to challenge them that you have to wonder if Haye is simply a case of big hat no cattle syndrome.

For the sake of the sport, we should all be lighting candles each night in hopes our prayers will be answered and Haye will finally agree to meet one of them. It may not prove to be much of a fight but at least it will give us something to talk about for a few months.

Whatever Haye and the Klitschkos decide the fighter with the most upside at the moment however seems to be Sergio Martinez.  He has matinee idol looks, a big enough punch to put Paul Williams to sleep with one shot and a work ethic second to none. The Argentine fighter had a year for himself, starting with a drubbing of Kelly Pavlik followed by his demolishment of Williams. Those kinds of victories, coupled with his Oscar De La Hoya-like looks, are the type of things that if HBO or SHOWTIME would get behind him could allow Martinez to capture the attention of both fight fans and more casual ones.

In general, Hispanics fighters continued to dominate much of the sport’s front pages with Juan Manuel Marquez’s two victories in lightweight title fights leading that storyline. His war with Michael Katsidis is a strong candidate for Fight of the Year and his technical skill and calm demeanor make him the uncrowned challenger to Pacquiao. The two have unfinished business that should be settled this year if Arum stops standing in the way.

Two other fighters who gave us moments to remember in 2010 were Juan Manuel Lopez, who knocked out three solid opponents including highly respected Mexican warrior Rafael Marquez, and Giovani Segura, who won four times (that’s three years work for Mayweather) in 2010, all by knockout. Along the way, Segura defeated one of the great minimum weight fighters in history, slick Ivan Calderon, to win the belt on Aug. 28.

Lastly, boxing gave us another magical cinematic moment as well with the release of “The Fighter,’’ a film based on the life and hard times of junior welterweight scrapper Micky Ward. The film has won rave reviews and many awards and seems likely to have several of its actors nominated for Academy Awards, most notable Christian Bale for his sadly humorous portrayal of Ward’s troubled half brother, former fighter Dickie Ecklund.

Boxing has a long history of providing the framework for memorable movies and it did it again with “The Fighter,’’ a film that did more for boxing than any promoter did all year.

All in all, it wasn’t the best of years for boxing but it was a good year that picked up speed in the final months and, like that great golf shot you finally hit out of the rough on the 18th, left us with reasons to hope for a better year in 2011. If somehow it gives us Mayweather-Pacquiao, the emergence of Alvarez and Rios, the ascension of Martinez and Haye vs. the best available Klitschko in addition to the kind of solid performances that always come along, it could be a year to remember.

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