2006 National Boxing Awards

2006 was another year of great boxing and at the end of every season the best should be recognized, so here they are the second annual Philly Keith Awards!

Fighter of the Year – Manny Pacquiao
Manny Pacquiao 2006While it was another entertaining year of boxing, there wasn’t one fighter that truly stood out after Carlos Baldomir took the loss against Floyd.

But if I had to pick one, I am going with the PacMan who basically ended the career of legendary yet fading Erik Morales over two fights and in between put a severe beating on Oscar Larios in the Philippines.

The promotional free agent was thought to have signed with Golden Boy but at the zero hour changed his mind and went with Top Rank so that might put a damper on a rematch in 2007 against Marco Antonio Barrera.

If that fight doesn’t shape up how about a rematch with Juan Manuel Marquez or giving Joan Guzman a shot?

What ever comes about, you can always count on Pacquaio to give a crowd pleasing performance.
Runner up – tie between Carlos Baldomir, Miguel Cotto
Carlos Baldomir had a run for the ages in 2006 by coming out of nowhere to beat two of the welterweight division best on their home turf. Wins over Zab Judah and Arturo Gatti earned his a shot at the number 1 pound for pound in the world Floyd Mayweather, Isaand like many others before him found himself in the losers bracket. Boxing is a cold sport and one loss usually drops you from consideration for anything but I think Tata still can offer a lot and pull more upsets. If anything he can provide a solid test for any up and comer shooting through the ranks. What Baldomir did in 2006 should not go unnoticed and hopefully he stays around a while longer.

Miguel Cotto finished 2005 strong and built on that momentum in 2006 winning three times against fighters with a combined record of 80 – 1. His latest victory, an impressive 4th round TKO of previously undefeated Carlos Quintana, has catapulted his name into the upper echelon of the sport and puts him in prime position to gain a money fight against the best in the business. Cotto is another crowd pleaser who gives it his all every time out and before long I wouldn’t be surprised to see him recognized as the undisputed welterweight champ.

Fight of the Year – Israel Vasquez TKO10 Johnny Gonzalez

LAS VEGAS - SEPTEMBER 16: Jhonny Gonzalez of Mexico sits on the mat as referee Kenny Bayless counts as Israel Vazquez waits in the corner in the 10th round during their WBC super bantamweight titile fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena September 16, 2006 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Vazquez retained his title after defeating Gonzalez by TKO in the 10th round.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS – SEPTEMBER 16: Jhonny Gonzalez of Mexico sits on the mat as referee Kenny Bayless counts as Israel Vazquez waits in the corner in the 10th round during their WBC super bantamweight titile fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena September 16, 2006 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Vazquez retained his title after defeating Gonzalez by TKO in the 10th round. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Now this was a true PPV fight and it wasn’t even the headliner! For those who follow the lower weight fighters this was one they marked on the calendar with a big gold star.

Gonzalez started the year basically sending former champ Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson into retirement with an 8th round knockout and then going on to pick apart highly ranked challenger Fernando Montiel over 12 rounds.

Israel bloodied his previous two opponents into quitting on the stool as he caused a gash too big for longtime contender Oscar Larios to overcome and showed Ivan “Choko” Hernandez that he just wasn’t ready for the big time, breaking this kids nose early and making him say he wants no more by the 4th.

When these two finally paired up, the fight materialized as advertised. Action packed from the opening bell leather flying everywhere and both men getting a taste of canvas.

It ended with flair as Vasquez was able to peel himself off the deck twice to finish off Gonzalez in the 10th round causes Jhonny’s corner to wave the white towel in defeat.

Runner up – John Duddy vs. Yori Boy Campas

Before they stepped into the ring it was thought to be nothing more than a notch for Duddy’s record against a washed up veteran. Little did they know that Campas tank is far from empty and he gave the fighting Irishman all he could handle over 12 rounds of non stop action. It was a bitter back and forth battle where in the beginning it was all Campas but in the second half Duddy came on strong. In the end, Duddy was able to escape with a victory but his future is in the air due to rumors that he is still to this day feeling the effects of the crafty vet who has stepped in against some of the best competition around the world.

Round of the Year – Lamon Brewster vs. Sergei Liakovich round 7

The most action packed heavyweight fight of the year by far; both men were toe to toe the entire fight. The 7th was an extra special round with Brewster in control early landing heavy handed punches and eventually decking Sergei with about a minute remaining in the round. The Russian beat the 10 count then proceeded to put a beating on Brewster for the final 40 seconds. In the end Liakovich won a surprising unanimous decision to become the new WBO heavyweight champion of the world.

Upset of the Year – Carlos Baldomir over Zab Judah
Who would have though, Baldomir, coming into Judah’s hometown as something like a billion to 1 underdog, gets the unanimous decision win at the Garden in front of his opponent’s fans and friends. This was definitely one of the biggest shockers in the history of boxing let alone 2006 and also started the tailspin that Judah’s career is currently stuck in. It was the beginning of a great ride for Tata which also included another shocking win over Arturo Gatti in his hometown of Atlantic City. The ride ended in Vegas against Floyd Mayweather in November but man it was great while it lasted. I would love to see Baldomir go to Manchester to fight Ricky Hatton in the near future.

Runner ups – Joe Calzaghe over Jeff Lacy

Hindsight is always 20-20 but before this fight everyone and their grand mom thought Lacy was going to wipe the ring with the Welshman but boy were we in for a surprise when Calzaghe put on a clinic, embarrassing the former US Olympian over 12 painfully one sided rounds. In 36 minutes Lacy went from the next great champion in boxing to being referred to as one dimensional and grossly over rated.

Runner up #2 – Bernard Hopkins over Antonio Tarver
Another fight where one of the contestants wasn’t given a hookers chance in heaven yet went on to completely dominate the fight. Everyone was saying Hopkins was washed up, couldn’t bounce back from losing to Jermain, no way can me move up two weight classes and win etc etc. Everywhere you turned Tarver was close by running his trap talking about being the legend killer and how he was going to knock B-Hop out early. While Tarver might have won the war of words, he was forced to eat them come fight night as Hopkins embarrassed Tarver over 12 rounds winning a lopsided decision. Now Hopkins is talking about taking a run at the Heavyweight title while Tarver hasn’t been seen or heard from since.

Breakout fighter of the year – Edison Miranda
If it weren’t for the robbery in Germany we might be discussing Miranda as a possible fighter of the year. While suspect scoring prevented the Columbian native from becoming the IBF middleweight champ, he did make a big name for himself in 2006 first by exploding on the scene destroying English tough guy and former contender Howard Eastman live on Friday Night Fights and after the Germany debacle, starched prospect Willie Gibbs in one round live on HBO. Now he is calling out the big names and in my opinion has definitely done enough to deserve a shot.

Runner up – Paul “The Punisher” Williams

The rangy southpaw had a good showing in 2006 winning two minor league welterweight titles and getting national exposure with three HBO dates beating then undefeated prospect Walter Matthysse, destroying aging vet Sharmba Mitchell and blowing away a very outgunned Santos Pakau. After each of these fights he made a point of it to call out Antonio Maragarito, a fighter some say The Punisher got the better of in sparring sessions. It won’t be long before the 6’1” Williams is locking horns with the top rated challengers in the division.

Knockout of the Year – Daniel Ponce De Leon TKO1 Sod Lookyanantoy II

It was a rematch for the WBO Super Bantamweight title which Ponce won by decision over Sod in 2005, this time he left no doubt about who is the better fighter and 52 seconds into the fight, Ponce De Leon landed a picture perfect left to Sod’s jaw leaving him flat on his face unconscious looking like he was ready to be outlined in chalk. HBO, please put together De Leon vs. Israel Vasquez!

Runner up – Shannon Briggs TKO12 over Sergei Liakhovich

As much as it pains me to relive this terrible fight, I have to give credit where it is due and recognize this knockout as one of the best in 2006. For 11 rounds and 2 minutes, Sergei Liakhovich and Shannon Briggs put forth one of the biggest heavyweight snoozers in recent history but for the few who had enough stamina to suffer through this big dose of Nyquil, the final minute of the final round was one of the most dramatic of the year.

Brooklyn Briggs, who was behind on points, dropped the champ in the last round. Briggs went back on the attack as the champion rose to his feet and sent the Belarus man through the ropes with about :10 seconds left in the contest.

The fight ended with a dazed Sergei Liakhovich sitting on top of a ringside press table looking like a man who was out all night smoking crack and Briggs in the center of the ring raising his arms as the new WBO Heavyweight champ.

Sore loser of the Year – Winky Wright
A lot of people love Winky and I will give him credit as one of the best fighters pound for pound in the business but what was that rant all about after the Jermain Taylor fight? In the locker room crying, blaming everyone but yourself for not getting the win.

You didn’t get robbed Winky, you pulled the De La Hoya move thinking you were ahead on points. Even in this day and age of boxing where just about everything is ass backwards, it looks like one rule still applies, to be the man, you gotta beat the man and no way did Winky Wright clearly beat Jermain Taylor for the middleweight championship of the world.

In my opinion Winky was lucky to escape with a draw because I thought Jermain should have won a razor thin decision.

Worst Decision – Vernon Forrest UD 12 over Ike Quartey

In a year filled with highway robberies, this one takes the cake. Ike Quartey in a decent yet uneventful fight looked to be the clear winner of this HBO telecast but somehow all three judges agreed that Forrest did enough to win 96 – 93 & 95 – 94 twice causing an outrage by just about everyone in the building and also causing Larry Merchant to throw one of his gems asking Forrest in the post fight interview if he would also like to thank the judges after he rattled off a laundry list of people who helped boost him to victory. While Forrest got the win, Quartey still got the big fight getting the opportunity to take on (and eventually lose to) Winky Wright.

Dishonorable Mention #1– Sam Peter over James Toney
As much as I would like to see James Toney disappear I think he clearly won this fight. Maybe in all of this “controversy” and “hoopla” we tend to forget that this was a pretty good fight. It will be interesting to see how the new and improved Tae-Bo Toney fairs with his hiring of Billy Blanks as a conditioning coach. It looks like the winner of this fight gets a crack at Oleg Maskaev.

Dishonorable mention #2 – Juan Urango over Ben Rabah

This wasn’t one of the bigger fights of the year but it was a match of significance as these two young fighters battled for the IBF Junior Welterweight title live on ESPN. Urango was definitely the guy ESPN was pushing but he could do nothing against Rabah’s jitterbug style. Although Rabah’s style isn’t what you would call fan friendly, he was able to avoid Urango’s charges and poke shots that scored points. The fight went to the cards and somehow all three judges scored it convincingly for Urango. The chaos produced after the fact was far better than the action in the ring as Urango’s hometown fans loudly booed, Teddy Atlas gave us a classic rant and punch stats showed Rabah landed way more at a much higher percentage. But in the books Urango got the win and now will earn a big payday against Ricky Hatton for the IBF title, Rabah must now beat the tough Lovemore N’dou to become the #1 contender for that belt.

Dishonorable Mention #3 – Marco Antonio Barrera over Rocky Juarez

While the second showdown was all Barrera, the first contest a horrible exhibit of ring judging. Juarez fought his heart out against the old ring warrior and at times looked like he was going to put the Mexican legend away. Barrera, like the true warrior he is was able to ward off the attack and dish out some of his own punishment. The fight went to the score cards and it was initially ruled a majority draw. About 20 minutes later, Jim Lampley breaks through the HBO commercials to announce that there was an error in the calculations and Barrera was declared winner by split decision. Maybe this was a little bit of payback for Juarez who took a gift wrapped decision over Philly’s Zahir Raheem back in ’04.

Prospects to watch in 2007 – John Duddy & Andre Berto

Derry Ireland’s John Duddy is on the tip of shedding the label of prospect and with one more big win he should be widely considered a contender to any title middleweight division. He fought four times in 2006 and was impressive in each outing taking on your run of the mill guys and later in the year stepping up to fight wily veterans. Hopefully we can see him on an HBO Boxing After Dark soon taking on one of the better prospects in the division, maybe a Duddy vs. Kelly Pavlik showdown?

Andre Berto on the other hand has just stepped into the nation limelight putting his name on the map with a fierce beating over Camden NJ tough guy Miguel Figueroa. Berto is now 16 – 0 with 14 ko’s and seems to be a real beast in the ring. He has been in the ring an astounding 7 times in 2006 almost all of which against opponents with better than .500 records. With DiBella behind him, 2007 could be a breakout year for this tough welterweight.

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions you can email Philly Keith at keith@phillykeith.com

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