We did this about a year ago, so it looks like it's about time to put the list together once more. Last year, Sergio Mora topped the list, with horrible career decisions and a draw against fringe contender Elvin Ayala, followed by Joel Casamayor, who was the lucky winner in one of the worst-judged fights the sport has ever seen against Jose Armando Santa Cruz.
This year, Mora won a 154-pound title, though he did lose it back to Vernon Forrest in the rematch, and Casamayor regained some honor with a great fight against and win over Michael Katsidis, and then a fine performance in a losing effort to Juan Manuel Marquez.
So who mans the list this year?
When HBO approved a welterweight title match between then-unbeaten Miguel Cotto and "Contender" season one fan favorite Alfonso Gomez, there was actually a portion of the boxing audience that didn't think twice about it.
Gomez had been the man to finally retire Arturo Gatti in 2007, of course, and he was a humble, hard-working guy that was so easy to like that anyone who didn't was probably being way too cynical.
It was a mismatch, but I don't think we all knew how big of a mismatch it was until that first round came. After five rounds, my personal scorecard during the round-by-round had Miguel Cotto up 50-42, with three 10-8 rounds in his pocket. Gomez wasn't just out of his depth, he looked like he didn't belong in the same sport as Cotto. The game Gomez did the very best he could, which was the most damning thing of all, perhaps. That was truly all he had to offer. He tried really hard. But it was no contest.
Gomez hasn't really been heard from since, which might be a good thing. He's a club fighter whose genuinely nice personality got him as far as a world title shot on HBO against an elite-level fighter. But it couldn't get him any further than an ass-whipping after that.
Brit sensation Khan's chin had been tested before, but with a new trainer who knows the fundamentals (famed Cuban coach Jorge Rubio) in his corner, nobody thought much about a fight against unknown Colombian Breidis Prescott. It was, simply, the next step in Khan's journey, no doubt ending in a crack at a 135-pound strap in the near future.
Khan was wobbled, then he was floored. In a fight of lesser stature than this one, the referee may well have not let the fighter continue on. Had it been stopped after the first knockdown, it would've been hard to argue. Moments after his eight count, he was down again, and this time couldn't make it back to his feet.
The young Khan went out to Los Angeles to work at Freddie Roach's Wild Card Gym, sparring some with Manny Pacquiao as Pacquiao prepared to fight Oscar de la Hoya late in the year. Reports from the gym were all good, and Khan indeed fought and won again on December 6. Here's hoping he doesn't make this list again for a good while, but with those whiskers...
The last time Jeff Lacy impressed anyone in a boxing ring, it was when he knocked out Scott Pemberton. That was November of 2005.
Since then, he was famously manhandled by Joe Calzaghe, won disputed and ugly decisions over Vitali Tsypko, Peter Manfredo, and Epifanio Mendoza, and then in November, was outworked and easily outpointed by former Olympic teammate Jermain Taylor.
Now 31, Lacy has some real deep thinking to do about his career. Injuries, age, and a lack of skill beyond his depleted power shots have combined to make for a guy that simply isn't going to be a world title contender again barring some sort of miracle, or some sort of political sanctioning body shadiness. Lacy is alternately off-putting (his inflated sense of financial worth leading into the Taylor fight) and hard to dislike (he admits his shortcomings and keeps trying to fight, even when being beaten badly). But what good is he really doing himself by continuing on?
That depends on what he really desires out of boxing at this point. If his only wish is to be the man again, it's not happening. If he's OK with being who he is and making his living that way, hey, as long as he can defend himself in there. It's not like every carpenter in the world is one of the best.
Former world light heavyweight champion Tarver's 2007 was far more deplorable than his 2008, but every year at this point is one more in the tank for the 40-year old southpaw.
Though he easily wasted Clinton Woods in April, it was only a fight against rising star Chad Dawson that really mattered, and in that bout, Dawson took out the trash, so to speak. While Tarver had continually talked a good game for years, he had last beaten a real opponent (prior to Woods) in 2005, when he beat Glen Johnson. I don't even think you can count that second win over Jones as much of a credit.
Dawson's domination wasn't quite Bernard Hopkins-level, but it was convincing. He outhustled Tarver, made him look slow and feeble, and in short, made him look like what he is: a faded, 40-year old boxer. Guys don't hang around at the top level at Tarver's age. The world ain't chock full of Bernards.
The good thing about Tarver's '08 was that he at least mustered up the guts to fight Dawson, and he's showing the testicular fortitude to do it again, this time as an obvious, no doubt about it underdog in March 2009. Some guys would take that beating and forget about the rematch clause. But Antonio still thinks he has it. A lot of guys have over the years.
Though Tito no doubt made his bank account and that of promoter Don King very happy with his January comeback against old Roy Jones, this one isn't about good business. This is about what happens bell-to-bell, and we learned a couple things about Tito Trinidad this year:
1. He's way past it.
2. He's sure as hell no 170-pound fighter.
Though Trinidad won the first few rounds against a tentative Jones who was in complete feel-out mode, by the middle of the fight, it became sad to watch Trinidad hopelessly punch at Jones. His speed was gone, his power wasn't even in the zip code, and Jones just walked through him. He toyed with him. He made fun of him. And he dropped him twice en route to an easy decision win, one that somehow convinced a few people that Jones was "back."
Even the slow, ancient Roy Jones was way too much for the slower, technically younger but seemingly much older Trinidad. Felix hasn't officially retired again, but he should. If he can't cut down to at least 160 -- and he and his father/trainer say he won't -- there's just no reason to fight. He stands no chance against anyone good. I'm not big on the idea of ruined legacies for athletes that stick around too long, because it doesn't take anything away from what they did at their peaks, but this is one of those situations where folks that like to bandy that stuff about will bring up the "ruined legacy" argument.
Yap, yap, yap, and splat.
For a guy who was touted as the division's best power puncher, its most exciting top-level fighter, and the man who stood a chance against universally recognized No. 1 heavyweight Wladimir Klitschko, Samuel Peter sure crapped the bed when faced with an old, rusty Vitali Klitschko in October.
After nine rounds of punishment from the 37-year old Klitschko, who hadn't fought in just shy of four years, Peter quit. And by all rights, that should shut him up. No more big talk, no more demands. Peter did what he said he'd do against Oleg Maskaev in March, but Klitschko so easily disposed of him that it all but erased the good work Peter has done in his career. Now he just looks like another squat, lumbering heavyweight with sloppy technique and no chance at beating a technically sound, tall heavy, and those are the guys ruling the division.
He earns extra demerits as the boxing feature in that hideous Showtime Sports video, "Hits & Chicks." Counting Kimbo Slice, perhaps we can give that quickly-removed promo video a curse aura.
There is no questioning his ability, but boy did Mikkel Kessler and his management team screw the pooch on their fighter's career in 2008.
No doubt, he'll rebound and the bad feelings can easily go away with some more good performances. He took a couple fights and won them fairly easily, against guys he should easily beat.
But when his amateur hour promotional team pulled him out of an agreed-to fight on Showtime with Edison Miranda, it not only painted Kessler as a coward, it spit on all the hard work he's put in to become the fighter he is. It's somewhat unfair to Mikkel, and no doubt most of the blame falls to his handlers. But life ain't fair, and 2008 was unquestionably a PR disaster for the great Dane.
8. Winky Wright
If a detractor ever gives you the ol' "boxing is boring" routine and you try to stick up for the sweet science, pray to whatever God you believe in that they don't have some handy footage of Ibragimov's pathetic loss to Wladimir Klitschko, because damn, it'll be hard to respond to that.
In a highly-hyped heavyweight unification bout against the big Ukrainian, Ibragimov's best offensive moment came when he tackled Klitschko. He did everything he could to not let Klitschko hit him, which essentially amounted to him just not fighting. There were only four rounds where Ibragimov connected on at least 10 punches, and in all of them, he hit 10 right on the head.
So shameful and God awful boring was this "fight" that it has all but taken Ibragimov out of the title picture, and it was his first career loss. He's really a better fighter than he showed that night, but it also wasn't his first dreadful performance. Ibragimov-Ray Austin, anyone? We'll take a shot every time it sucks.
When desperately attempting to land the one fight fans are clamoring to see you partake in, here's a solid rule of thumb. Don't take a fight with a hungry kid and then turn in a lackadaisical performance, because it shoots your best laid plans all to hell.
Witter's loss to Timothy Bradley wasn't uncompetitive or anything, but he was supposed to win. Long touted as the only credible threat to Ricky Hatton at 140 pounds, the Witter camp had been barking for years that Hatton was ducking them, that Hatton wanted nothing to do with them, blah, blah, blah. Now, Hatton-Witter would have been an excellent fight with both men at their best, and Junior would certainly have given Ricky a lot of trouble stylistically. I still firmly believe that.
But it's damn sure never going to happen now, because there's absolutely no reasonable way that a Witter fight can guarantee competitive money for Hatton as compared to a truck load of other fights he could take. Witter wants a rematch with Bradley, but even if he gets it sometime in '09 and wins, it really won't matter. The dream of fighting Ricky Hatton is dead.
Left out to dry by Mikkel Kessler and Co., the trash-talking, hard-punching Miranda was faced again with former foe Arthur Abraham for a hotly-anticipated rematch, a few months after Miranda memorably knocked David Banks through the ropes on ESPN2.
The Kessler fight wasn't the first one to fall through on Miranda, either. ESPN was trying to build up a Miranda-Jean Pascal fight that never came off, too.
Miranda has lost three times in his career, twice to Abraham and once to Kelly Pavlik. The first Abraham fight was a decision that could've gone his way, perhaps, but the latter two have featured a couple of guys that ignored Miranda's reputation, didn't back down, and simply bullied the bully. Abraham's vicious beatdown of Miranda this year ended the mystique of Edison Miranda, really. It was put up or shut up time, and King Arthur shut him up. He'll always have a puncher's chance, but against world class fighters, he should be considered the heavy underdog from here on out.
It's so hard to say goodbye to yesterday. Roy Jones was a special, special fighter in his day, but his day is long gone. He is now just another pug that is hanging on way too long. Like former rival Tarver, he hasn't had a truly impressive performance in years, and when matched up with someone that can still fight, he was embarrassed.
Not only was his in-ring performance against Calzaghe brutal and but a shadow's shadow of what he was in his prime, but his just off the ground promotional company (Square Ring) took a hit with the gross failure of the pay-per-view as a business venture. Given this massive bungling and memorably awful card, it'll be a while before HBO or anyone else wants to support another Roy Jones pay-per-view fight. Back to the likes of Prince Badi Ajamu and Anthony Hanshaw?
I'd like to hope not, but it won't surprise me when it happens.
Despite great skill and an unbeaten record, Joan Guzman is a fighter boxing fans in large part haven't warmed to over his start-and-stop sort of career. General inactivity and style are the biggest reasons -- while he can make an exciting fight, he often chooses not to, because he's so good that he doesn't have to.
TV networks have never been huge on him, and his level of talent has made him a fighter avoided by other top names. He was to get a crack at Nate Campbell's three alphabet lightweight titles in September, moving up to 135 pounds for the first time, and main eventing on Showtime. The network even put the card head-to-head with Golden Boy's Casamayor-Marquez pay-per-view, and for boxing fans, having a fight as good as Campbell-Guzman on "free" TV seemed a better option than paying 40 bucks for a fight of similiar stature.
Instead, Guzman's failure to make weight aborted the fight, forcing Showtime into going with a one-fight show, main evented by the stay-busy mismatch of Tim Bradley defending his 140-pound strap against Edner Cherry. Guzman's unprofessionalism cost Showtime money, cost the venue in Biloxi money, cost promoter Don King money, and cost his opponent, Campbell, money that he desperately needed. Campbell would file bankruptcy shortly after, and has all but completely lost the career momentum he had after upsetting Juan Diaz in March.
2. Oscar de la Hoya
We've said it all, and said it recently. I think this photo is an instantly iconic snapshot of a fighter who knows he's met his end:
1. Sergio Medina
I'm not putting his photo on here again, and I'm not going to go into a long thing about this. But in short, Sergio Medina attempted to slander the integrity of the sport, seriously damage the reputation of the man he fought, and even though he admitted to lying about taking a dive due to "death threats," you can't un-ring that bell. There are people will believe that for the rest of time. In one interview, this guy blackballed himself out of boxing.