Pacquiao best of strong '09 so far
In 2009 so far, TV has been the thing.
After pay-per-view bombs like Joe Calzaghe-Roy Jones and Bernard Hopkins-Kelly Pavlik in the second half of 2008, cable TV got some gems this year. Three of the first half's best and most anticipated matches (Shane Mosley-Antonio Margarito, Juan Manuel Marquez-Juan Diaz and Miguel Cotto-Joshua Clottey) were free to premium subscribers.
This was the first time three fights that could have been bona fide pay-per-view shows aired in such close succession for years and the ratings have grown accordingly.
We also can't forget other high quality bouts such as the junior welterweight title unification battle between Timothy Bradely-Kendall Holt and a super middleweight war between Carl Froch and Jermain Taylor.
It is not to say every show on every channel has been good. There have still been some dreadful nights which initially looked fine on paper and some dreadful nights which didn't and lived down to expectation. However, the matchmaking is less erratic and the results show it.
The second half of the year may fizzle out, betraying elevated expectations. If it does not, then the stabilization of broadcast quality is likely to be a major reason why.
Here are some thoughts on the leader board for year-end honors with six full months ahead.
Fighter of the Half-Year
So much has been written and said about Pacquiao on the Internet, television, and radio, it almost makes further analysis redundant. At this point last year, coming off claiming the vacant junior lightweight title and a lightweight belt in two fights, Pacquiao was the leader for Fight of the Year at the halfway point. He finished on top of the stacks.
This year he has only one fight under his belt, but it's a doozy. In two rounds, he annihilated Ricky Hatton to win the junior welterweight championship. Hatton had previously been defeated only by Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a challenge for the welterweight crown and performed respectably. This was, in contrast, a rout.
The May victory granted Pacquiao claim to:
1. Being the first fighter in history to lay claim to the lineal world title in four weight classes after previous reigns at 112, 126 and 130.
2. Become only the second fighter to make title claims in six weight divisions, including additional alphabelt title reigns at 122 and 135.
Pacquiao's audacity is made even more compelling when one realizes that, despite reminders from some that he turned pro at 106 pounds while only 16 years old, he was the flyweight champion at age 20. In ten years, he has managed to add close to thirty pounds to his adult frame while bringing his speed and power up the scale. It appears he will close the year at welterweight, probably against WBO welterweight titlist Miguel Cotto.
There can be detractors, of course. His moves up the scale are well timed, as most such moves are. Hatton was not a prime Julio Cesar Chavez or Aaron Pryor, and Cotto would not be Emile Griffith or Ray Leonard. Opportunity for accomplishment has lined up well for Pacquiao. He still closes the deals available to him and will attempt more before he is done.
He was the story of the first half both in and out of the ring. Six months remain to see if he can stake out a third Fighter of the Year honor in the last four years. He enters the stretch the clear leader.
Shane Mosley, 37, set himself up to make a run at Fighter of the Year and more with his brilliant undressing of WBA titlist Antonio Margarito in January to claim gold at Welterweight for the first time since 2002. Will he get a significant opponent against whom he can make a case? ... Juan Manuel Marquez firmed up his hold on the lightweight division after a career at featherweight. If he can beat the unretired Floyd Mayweather in September, he'll do more than that in terms of career esteem. Â¿ WBC titlist Timothy Bradley came off the floor in April against WBO titlist Kendall Holt to win his second major title at junior welterweight, one of the few fighters to compete in a unification bout so far this year. ... Brian Viloria posted a career-saving win in April by knocking out one of junior flyweight's hottest fighters in then-IBF titlist Ulises Solis. ... Finally, IBF and WBO titlist Wladimir Klitschko made almost irrefutable his claim to the heavyweight crown in June with a stoppage of WBA titlist Ruslan Chagaev.
Fight of the Half-Year
If Marquez isn't quite the top fighter of 2009 half way through, he's not far off. Coming off a loss to Pacquiao in the first half of 2008, he became the first man to ever stop Joel Casamayor, earning the lineal lghtweight championship.
Lineage or not, the division was in strong dispute at the start of the year. Casamayor was aged and only slightly removed from an appalling 2007 decision which saved his crown. In the meantime, veteran Nate Campbell had marred the undefeated record of Juan Diaz and laid claim to almost every major belt in class. Marquez still had proving to do at 135 pounds
So too, did his opponent in February. Diaz had come back from the Campbell loss with an impressive performance against rugged Michael Katsidis to close 2008 but he wanted the sort of redemption a future Hall of Famer can provide. When Campbell lost his belts on the scales two weeks before Marquez-Diaz, it left the combatants as the two top dogs in the lghtweight yard.
They fought like there was only one bone to go around.
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Diaz took it to Marquez for the first half of the bout. While Marquez landed solid body punches and countered effectively, he seemed to be trailing of the cards.
Tired and cut, Marquez turned the tide. He set traps for Diaz and unloaded with combinations. Marquez accurate counters were too much for Diaz as Marquez stopped his younger opponent in the ninth round.
In January, Andre Berto barely got by veteran Luis Collazo at welterweight in the toughest fight of his young career. ... March was highlighted by a savage junior featherweight war which saw Bernard Dunne and Ricardo Cordoba come off the floor only for Dunne to send his man down for count late. ... April's war between Froch and Taylor could well be called Julio Cesar Chavez-Meldrick Taylor-lite. Taylor's quicker hands and greater experience meant a score card lead and a massive knockdown scored but they couldn't save him from the will of Froch in a desperate final round barrage. ... Finally Jean Pascal-Adrian Diaconu goes last among runners-up but only because of chronology. It was no one's bridesmaid.