2010 not only starts a new year for boxing but also a new decade. We’ve already taken a look back at the best of 2009. Now we’ll be taking a look back at the best of the decade. Read on to find out who we crown as the Best Boxer of the Decade as well as the Decade’s Most Exciting Fighter. We will also select the Fight of the Decade as well as Knockout of the Decade.
Boxer of the Decade
Marco Antonio Barrera
Floyd Mayweather Jr
Barrera is maybe the most versatile of the nominees as he showed an ability to both box and brawl during the decade. Barrera scored numerous wins over top competition like Erik Morales (twice), Prince Nasem Hamed, Paulie Ayala, Johnny Tapia, Rocky Juarez (twice), and Kevin Kelley. The Baby-Faced Assassin held world titles in three different weight classes during the decade.
Joe Calzaghe retired undefeated and held a version of the super middleweight title for the majority of the decade. He ended his career in 2008 after the three biggest wins of his career: Mikkel Kessler, Bernard Hopkins, and Roy Jones Jr.
Bernard Hopkins was never one to shy away from an opponent and proved it by taking on prime competition over the decade. Hopkins was a stalwart of the middleweight division, defeating the likes of Feliz Trinidad and Oscar De La Hoya before consecutive losses to Jermain Taylor. Hopkins moved up in weight and scored wins over Antonio Tarver, Winky Wright, and Kelly Pavlik.
Floyd Mayweather Jr began the decade climbing up the ranks in the super featherweight and lightweight divisions, earning wins over Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo (twice). Mayweather Jr became one of boxing’s biggest names as he accumulated wins over Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, and Juan Manuel Marquez.
Manny Pacquiao rose to prominence by dominating the super featherweight division, racking up wins over Erik Morales (twice), Marco Antonio Barrera, and Juan Manuel Marquez. Pacquiao’s legend grew as he moved up in weight and defeated Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, and Miguel Cotto.
Five great nominees but there can only be one winner. And the winner is…
Manny Pacquiao made a habit of defeating the best a weight class had to offer over the course of the decade. He was more impressive with each fight and may not be finished setting records as we enter a new decade. The dominating performances over De La Hoya, Hatton, and Cotto catapulted Manny into a league of his own.
Fight of the Decade
Marco Antonio Barrera vs. Erik Morales I (2-19-2000)
Arturo Gatti vs. Micky Ward I (5-18-2002)
Marco Antonio Barrera vs. Erik Morales III (11-27-04)
Diego Corrales vs. Jose Luis Castillo I (5-7-2005)
Israel Vazquez vs. Rafael Marquez II (8-4-2007)
Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales would become bitter rivals as a result of their three fights during the 2000s. It all began in February of 2000 when Morales was awarded a split decision victory, although many believe Barrera was the true winner. This fight was awarded the Ring Magazine Fight of the Year in 2000.
Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward kicked off their epic trilogy two years later in what was an epic display of wills. The action was back-and-forth, never moreso than in the 9th round when Gatti not only survived a knockdown but rallied to hurt Ward later in the stanza. Ward would win this bout by majority decision.
Barrera and Morales hooked up for a third time in 2004 and by this time the hatred between the two was intense. Both were Mexican warriors but they had polarizing fan bases. Barrera would go on to win another thrilling contest between the two by majority decision, and taunted Morales after the decision was rendered.
Both Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo entered their 2005 bout with resumes that already included exciting fights. Their fight became an instant classic when Corrales rallied after two knockdowns in the 10th round and stopped Castillo with less than a minute remaining in the round.
Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez engaged in a thrilling trilogy that was so good, a fourth fight is scheduled for 2010. The second fight may have had the most action despite going the least amount of rounds. Vazquez scored a 6th round TKO despite cuts over both eyes.
Five classic bouts but only one can be crowned Best of the Decade. And the winner is…
Diego Corrales vs. Jose Luis Castillo I
This fight had everything a fan wants to see in a fight. There was blood, knockdowns, and plenty of drama. The two fought as if they were confined in a phone booth, throwing little outside of power shots. Corrales was knocked down twice in the 10th round, spitting out his mouthpiece after each knockdown in order to buy more time. After a quick pep talk from Joe Goossen on the ring apron, Corrales stunned Castillo with a left and followed with a flurry that caused Castillo’s eyes to roll in the back of his head. Referee Tony Weeks had no choice but to stop the fight.
This category is a tough call that depends on the voter’s preferences regarding a devastating knockout. Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson fought in what may have been the biggest fight of the decade and it ended in decisive fashion when Lewis sent Tyson to the canvas in the eighth round. Iron Mike was unable to beat the count.
Antonio Tarver began his rematch with Roy Jones Jr by asking, “You got any excuses tonight, Roy?” Tarver left no doubt the second time around as he put Jones Jr out for the first time in his career.
Allan Green swarmed Jaidon Codrington at the onset of their fight and immediately had his opponent in the corner of the ring and in trouble. A few seconds later and Green knocked Codrington out cold, leaving him lying prone over the middle rope.
Calvin Brock and Zuri Lawrence fought on the Mosley-Vargas pay-per-view undercard and left the most indelible image of the night. As the seconds ticked away to end the 6th round, Brock caught Lawrence with a shot that sent him crumbling to the mat, causing the referee to immediately stop the fight.
Manny Pacquiao and Ricky Hatton engaged in a big fight and it ended with a big knockout. Hatton was struggling to survive the first two rounds with Pacquiao and his struggle ended with a clean left hand from Pacquiao. Hatton was overwhelmed in the fight and it showed in the knockout, as Hatton was out cold.
A tough category to judge but there can only be one winner. And the winner is…
Antonio Tarver KO Roy Jones Jr
Tarver-Jones Jr was a combination of devastation and significance. Jones Jr still exuded an aura of invincibility yet it was wiped away by one counter left hand. It would prove to be the beginning of the end for Roy as he was knocked out by Glen Johnson in his next fight, followed by a decision loss to Tarver.
Most Exciting Fighter of the Decade
One thing is for sure when it comes to a Diego Corrales fight, someone is going to hit the canvas. Never one to shy away from a fight or a fighter, Corrales slugged it out with the best of them. Some of his most entertaining fights came in his trilogy with Joel Casamayor, his aforementioned Fight of the Decade with Jose Luis Castillo, and a 2004 battle with Acelino Freitas.
Arturo Gatti is often times regarded as the Ultimate Blood & Guts Warrior. His trilogy with Micky Ward cemented his legacy as one of the most exciting fighters to step into a ring. Gatti’s style also endeared him to Italian fight fans in the northeast. He fought his last nine fights in Atlantic City, NJ and the arena was packed with Gatti fans each time.
Erik Morales kicked off the decade by also kicking off his breathtaking trilogy with Marco Antonio Barrera. It seemed like Morales wasn’t happy unless he was throwing punches, and he had plenty of opponents willing to trade back with him throughout the decade, like Paulie Ayala, Kevin Kelley, and Manny Pacquiao.
Not only did Manny Pacquiao engage fearlessly with Erik Morales, he was unrelenting against all of his opponents in the decade. He became a superstar later in the decade but that groundwork was laid through exhilarating fights with Barrera and Juan Manuel Marquez.
Israel Vazquez made his case stronger as the decade was coming to a close. His three wars with Rafael Marquez played a large part in his nomination but he also had exciting confrontations with other fighters such as Oscar Larios and Jhonny Gonzalez. Vazquez always fights with a passion that boxing fans can’t help but be drawn to.
Choosing five nominees was hard enough but we do have a leader of the bunch. And the winner is…
Arturo Gatti’s fights at The Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City became must-see events regardless of his opponent. It’s a pretty telling statement about your ability to put on exciting fights when you can pack a stadium against Thomas Damgaard, Leonard Dorin, and Gianluca Branco. Sadly, Gatti passed away in 2009 but his legacy as one of boxing’s most exciting fighters will live on forever.