Miami Herald boxing article by Santos Perez
Pacquiao headlines up-and-down 2008
Posted on Mon, Dec. 29, 2008
BY SANTOS A. PEREZ
Out with old and in with the new. Boxing might have found a fresh crossover attraction in 2008.
And the sport desperately needs it.
Manny Pacquiao’s victories over Juan Manuel Marquez, David Diaz earlier in the year and his signature performance against Oscar De La Hoya four weeks ago finally could provide a needed fresh personality to generate appeal beyond boxing’s hard-core fans.
Taking advantage of the attention common of De La Hoya fights, Pacquiao stopped the sport’s most popular fighter in eight rounds. The native of the Philippines perhaps ushered in a new era and finally cut the emotional chord with De La Hoya.
TURNING THE PAGE
For the past 10 years, De La Hoya, 35, attracted casual followers. The fight against Pacquiao generated 1.25 million pay-per-view buys, but De La Hoya’s performance could finally signal the end of a prosperous career.
Based on Pacquiao’s three significant victories, most boxing experts and fans considered him the sport’s best pound-for-pound fighter at the end of the year.
But Welsh native Joe Calzaghe could pose an argument after his victories against two future Hall of Famers.
Calzaghe recovered from a first-round knockdown and outworked Bernard Hopkins for a split-decision victory April 19. Calzaghe also was dropped in the first round against Roy Jones Jr. but eventually scored a lopsided decision seven months later.
Like De La Hoya, Jones, 39, now seems better suited for life outside the ring. Against Calzaghe, the Pensacola native far from resembled the fighter who was recognized as boxing’s best a decade ago.
Hopkins, 43, recovered from the loss against Calzaghe and scored a convincing decision over previously unbeaten Kelly Pavlik on Oct. 18.
Pavlik, 26, has youth and power to dominate the middleweight class and the humble personality to gain crossover appeal like Pacquiao. Pavlik plans to return to the 160-pound division in 2009 after fighting Hopkins at 170 pounds.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. may have capitalized on additional ring popularity following his victory over De La Hoya in May 2007 and appearance on the ABC series Dancing With the Stars. But Mayweather, considered boxing’s best fighter before Pacquiao, surprisingly retired in June.
Boxing provided its share of thrilling bouts in 2008, headed by the third consecutive title fight between Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez on March 1. The super bantamweights fought at a furious and bloody pace for 12 rounds before Vazquez won the rubber match with a tight split decision.
Antonio Margarito and Miguel Cotto waged an exciting welterweight title match July 26. Margarito withstood a busier Cotto in the early and middle rounds, countered with solid power shots and eventually finished his previously unbeaten opponent in 11 rounds.
Since its creation in the 1980s, the cruiserweight division was known as one of boxing’s least attractive weight classes, serving as a steppingstone for future heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield.
But on Dec. 13, Tomasz Adamek and Steve Cunningham made the cruiserweights matter with an admirable test of will and aggression during their 12-round title fight. Adamek scored three knockdowns, but Cunningham’s boxing skills kept the fight close. Adamek’s knockdowns proved sufficient in dethroning Cunningham with a split decision.
The heavyweight class continued to lack appeal in the United States. Ukraine’s Wladimir Klitschko, who won three bouts in 2008, dominates with two of the four major sanctioning body titles.
Klitschko’s brother, Vitali, returned from a four-absence and captured a separate heavyweight belt with a ninth-round technical knockout over Samuel Peter.
Promoters Felix Zabala Jr., Seminole Warriors Boxing and Henry Rivalta kept the local boxing calendar busy throughout the year.
Despite being the aggressor for most of the fight, Miami resident Glen Johnson lost a disputed decision against defending light-heavyweight champion Chad Dawson on April 12.
Yuriorkis Gamboa, a Miami resident and 2004 Olympic gold medalist representing his native Cuba, has won his first 12 professional bouts, including five in 2008. Gamboa has stopped 10 of his 12 opponents and could fight for a featherweight title next year.