2011 ended in disappointment for British trio Amir Khan, Carl Froch and David Haye who all lost their world titles.
Amir Khan lost his WBA and IBF Light-Welterweight belts to Lamont Peterson (30-1) in one of the fights of the year, in Washington DC, Peterson’s hometown. Before the bout, Khan had been talking up his chances of facing Floyd Mayweather in 2012. Things do not always go to plan. During the fight, Khan was deducted two points for holding and pushing without receiving a warning from the referee. The first point deduction occurred in the 7th round which was deemed to be harsh. However Khan did not learn his lesson and was deducted a second, decisive point in the final round. ‘King Khan’ lost 113-112 on two of the judges’ scorecards.
Andre Ward’s stock continues to rise as he took away the WBA super middleweight from Carl Froch in Atlantic City in the final of the Super Six tournament. This was Froch’s second professional defeat (29-2). Ward, a gold medalist in the 2004 Olympics, improved his professional record to 25-0. He has not tasted defeat since the age of 12. Expect big things from Ward in 2012 as he is now being talked about in the same breath as Pacquaio and Mayweather as one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world. There is talk of a move up to the light-heavyweight division to face Bernard Hopkins, who himself defeated Jean Pascal, on a unanimous points decision, becoming the oldest man to win a world title at 46 years old. What makes Hopkins achievement all the more impressive is he fought on the inside for 12 rounds against an opponent 18 years his junior. Also, Hopkins dropped to the canvas and hammered out five pushups before the start of the 7th round just for good measure.
From the unstoppable to the ungracious. David Haye trash talked for months about the Klitschko brothers. He turned up to a press conference wearing a T-shirt of himself, standing over the brothers’ decapitated corpses with their heads in his hands. The following link is a HBO Face-off interview before his fight against Wladimir Klitschko, which portrays Klitschko as a cool customer and Haye, on the other hand, as a wannabe celebrity (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihJqR7Z3BZQ). As Wladimir says in the video, the T-shirt ‘was below the beltline’. Haye’s defeat was good for boxing as he lost convincingly in Germany with judges’ scorecards reading 117-109; 118-108; 116-110. Klitscko outclassed Haye, who instead of showing the public that he had a slight degree of humility, blamed his loss due to a broken little toe after the fight. Bless! Note to David, Andre Ward had two broken bones in his HAND before taking on Carl Froch and still put in a sublime performance.
In the States, it was certainly an interesting year. Victor Ortiz v Andre Berto was one of fights of the year. Held in Connecticut in April, both fighters dropped to the canvas after exchanging power blows throughout the duration of the fight. Ortiz won on the judges scorecards despite losing a point for an illegal head shot. The new WBC champion would then be involved in one of the most bizarre fights of 2011.
Floyd Mayweather kept himself firmly in the spot light by knocking out Ortiz when they met in September. Ortiz tried to cuddle Mayweather following a headbutt, letting his guard down. However, and in fairness to Pretty Boy Floyd, the referee said ‘fight’ which is exactly what he did by dropping an unprotected Ortiz following a lightning left hook and straight right combination. After the fight things got even more interesting with Mayweather unleashing a tirade to 80 year old, HBO commentator and pundit, Larry Merchant. The wise old man replied with the comedy line of, “I wish I was 50 years younger and I would kick your ass!’
Mayweather is due to start a 90 day prison sentence on 6th January damaging the chances of a super-fight with Manny Pacquiao in 2012.
Pacquiao fought Juan Manuel Marquez for the third time in Las Vegas. Marquez had fought well enough to believe he had won both of their previous fights. But the judges ruled the first a draw and gave the second to the Pacman in a split decision. In November, the Gods conspired against Marquez again. Pacquiao won on the judges scorecards 114-114; 115-113 and; 116-112. It was a surprising outcome given the Filipino’s lacklustre performance after the third round, where he probably only led by a round. The Mexican dominated the middle rounds and an upset was expected. Pacquiao dug deep rallying late on in the fight, doing enough in the judges eyes to win and more importantly maintain the dream that boxing’s biggest purse still possible.
In December, a keenly anticipated rematch was held at the home of boxing, New York’s Madison Square Garden where Miguel Cotto faced Antonio Margarito. The previous meeting came three years ago in Las Vegas when Mexican Margarito stopped Puerto Rican Cotto in the 11th round. Margarito was caught with loaded gloves when he fought Shane Mosley in 2009 so therefore the Puerto Rican has always protested that he lost the first fight unfairly (which was his first professional defeat).
This time around, Cotto though battled his way through to a 10th round TKO as the ring side doctor would not let Margarito continue as his suspect right eye was shut (Margarito’s right eye took a hammering at the hands of Pacman in 2010 and had been a cause of concern for the New York State Athletic Commission). Margarito’s trainer begged for another round but he was refused. Cotto retained his WBA Junior Middleweight title and banished the ghosts of 2008.
Finally, it was a sad year in boxing with the passing of Joe Frazier and Henry Cooper.
Joe Frazier had a brilliant heavyweight career (32-4) and was famous for handing Muhammad Ali his first professional loss in 1971. Smokin’ Joe and Ali would go on to have another two fights, culminating in The Thriller in Manila which Ali won in 1975 and was voted fight of the year by Ring Magazine.
Henry Cooper was one of boxing’s gentlemen. ’Our Henry’ was the British, European and Commonwealth heavyweight champion during the 1960’s. In 1966 he fought his sole World Heavyweight Title fight against Muhammad Ali at Highbury, London. The fight was stopped in the 6th round due to a serious cut over Cooper’s left eye. Sir Henry Cooper was knighted in 2000 in recognition of his services to boxing in the Queens 2000 Millenium Honours List.