In my last write-up, I vented about all the things that irked me about the sweet science over the past year. Now, I get to list my top five favorite gloved moments of 2009, or -- as I have decided to call it -- the Nice List.
Santa and I definitely have different opinions as to what is "nice": Santa thinks helping old people across the street is nice, Bryguy thinks pinning a guy on the ropes and going to the body is nice. Santa thinks leaving him cookies is nice, Bryguy thinks leaving an opponent battered and bloody is nice. Santa likes peace on earth, Bryguy likes to see a guy get dropped by a left hook in the second round.
I enjoyed making this list so much that I've decided that I'm going to make it a Boxing Day tradition. Hey, Canada celebrates a different Thanksgiving than we do, so why can't I celebrate a different kind of Boxing Day? From here on out, year after year, you can count on me to break down the Naughty and Nice for Boxing Day.
24/7 -- This documentary-style advertisement for HBO's big fights is one of the best things on TV in my opinion. The program follows each fighter around for the weeks leading up to the big event for an up-close and personal view of their camp and all the characters involved in it. The show is done so well that people who don't usually watch boxing get into 24/7, so I suppose that's why HBO does it. For a boxing fan, there is nothing better than a big fight, and any extras that come along with it are just bonuses -- especially if it's done as well as 24/7.
5. Quality Fights
I think the downturn in the economy has helped boxing fans. There have been more quality fights on regular television than I can remember in the past (it’s sad, but I consider HBO and Showtime regular television). A few years ago, fights like Shane Mosley vs. Antonio Margarito would have been pushed as a pay per view. Remember, in 2008, HBO was planning a PPV for Zab Judah and Mosley. A fight like that in 2009 would never have been put on PPV. Instead, we got to see quality fights like Juan Manual Marquez vs. Juan Diaz, Kermit Cintron vs. Alfredo Angulo, Paul Williams vs. Winky Wright, Lucian Bute vs. Librado Andrade, Miguel Cotto vs. Joshua Clottey ... you get the picture. Also, thanks to the push from UFC, the fights are getting better. I didn't see too many lopsided fights on the big networks -- outside of maybe the Pacquiao-Cotto undercard fights.
4. New Blood
Usually I am very skeptical when I hear people pushing boxers as the stars of tomorrow. That sometimes comes with HBO dates against overmatched opponents and sickening amounts of butt-kissing from the HBO team (except maybe Larry Merchant -- he pretty much tells it like it is). This year, I saw more deserving fighters having star-making performances than I have in quite some time. Here are a few on my list:
Andre Ward (21-0,13 KO): The 2004 gold medalist has had his doubters since he turned professional, but the whooping he put on the favorite in the Super Six tournament should have started a long line for his bandwagon. His fight against Mikkel Kessler (42-2, 32 KO) was a star-making performance if I've ever seen one.
Timothy Bradley (25-0,11 KO): Bradley has been a champion at 140 pounds since 2008 and he defended his title three times in 2009, but it was his last fight against Lamont Peterson that really had people noticing what a great champion he could be. He got better with every fight and finally proved to me he is the real deal. I am looking forward to seeing what he can do in 2010.
Amir Khan (22-1, 16 KO): Khan was a much-hyped prospect coming out of the Olympics and was all but written off when he was KO'd soundly in the first round by Breidis Prescott (21-2, 18 KO). Khan made a great career move in hooking up with Freddie Roach, which led to a stellar year. He took a technical decision in five against legend Marco Antonio Barrera (65-7, 43 KO), outboxed Andriy Kotelnik over 12 and demolished Dmitriy Salita (30-1-1, 16 KO) in about a minute and a half.
Lamont Peterson (27-1, 13 KO): I was impressed with the skills, heart and overall composure that Peterson showed in his fight with Timothy Bradley. I think he proved that he has what it takes to be a champion -- just not right now, and especially not against a steamrolling Bradley.
Lucian Bute (25-0, 20 KO): I know that in Canada, Lucian Bute is already a star, and he was starting to win me over slowly, but after his destruction of the iron-chinned Librado Andrade (28-3, 21 KO), I’m sold. The only bad thing I can say about Bute is he's not in the Super Six.
Jean Pascal (25-1, 16 KO): A move to light heavyweight turned out to be great for Pascal. It is a division that has gotten stale over the years, and boxing fans were looking for someone to challenge Chad Dawson (29-0, 17 KO). In his first fight at the higher weight, Pascal won the vacant WBC belt after taking an entertaining decision from Adrian Diaconu (26-2, 15 KO). Pascal then dispatched Silvio Branco in 10 and fended off Diaconu again, this time with one shoulder (Pascal’s right shoulder had to be popped back into place twice during the fight).
3. The Villain Returns
Love him or hate him, you have to like the return of Floyd Mayweather Jr. (40-0, 25 KO) in 2009. The guy may not be the most likable character in the world, but he sure knows how to box. He put on a master show against a very talented boxer in Juan Manuel Marquez (I know Marquez was much smaller, but he is still a great fighter). Without Mayweather's return, Manny Pacquiao would be without a dance partner for the March 13 super-fight. It’s like my Mom used to say: “It takes two to tango." Also, you must admit that the 24/7s just aren’t as fun without the whole Mayweather clan. There were so many times I was praying Uncle Roger would show up and train Miguel Cotto.
2. World Boxing Classic
What a great idea -- taking some of the best guys in a stacked division and pitting them against each other in a round robin-style tournament. Why is this such a new thing? Showtime deserves all the credit for putting together a format that will hopefully catch on in other weight classes and flush out some new superstars in the world of boxing. We have already seen three solid fights, we are lined up to see three more at the start 2010, and after that, we have another three to look forward to -- and that’s before we even get to the semifinals. I hope this -- or something close to it -- becomes a staple in the boxing world.
1. Manny Pacquiao (50-3, 38 KO)
Come on, what has been nicer in 2009 than Manny Pacquiao? The man has risen from a great fighter to an all-time great in less than a year’s time. Sure, he had momentum coming in from 2008, but did anyone really think he wasn’t going to do a job on Diaz? And the whole Oscar De La Hoya thing seemed more like a circus sideshow at the time. I am not even going to get into the sudden sideshow that the Mayweather negotiations have turned into; it would only tarnish what a great year Pacquiao had.
In 2009, Pacquiao took on two legit champions in Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto, and he left no questions lingering in the way he finished off both fighters. The left hook he landed on Hatton nearly decapitated the poor guy, and the beating he gave Cotto may have ended his career (at least as the fighter we have come to know). I don’t think I’ve ever seen a fighter that is as skilled as he is entertaining. Without question, the nicest thing about 2009 was watching Manny Pacquiao KO his way into the record books (he is the first fighter to capture seven world titles in seven different weight classes).
There you have it -- all that was Naughty and Nice in the year 2009, according to the Bryguy. As I said, I enjoyed jotting them down so much, I may do it every year in honor of my own version of Boxing Day. Please let me know if there is anything I left out, or if you disagree with any items on my list.
I hope all you boxing fans out there have a safe and happy holiday. Let's hope Santa brings us a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight.