Not to be overly negative, but before I get to a rundown of my 20 favorite fights of 2009, I thought I'd take a mind-numbing, stomach-turning look back at the 15 worst fights I saw. This feature will be shorter than the other one (which I'll probably break up into sections, five fights at a time or so), and it's mostly just for kicks.
Let's all remember some of these stinkbombs before we close the book on '09, which was a great year for boxing. And for the record, I saw plenty of low-level fights that I don't really put in the same class, fights we won't remember at all. I mostly tried to limit this to at least mid-level stuff or higher.
15. Carl Froch v. Andre Dirrell - October 17
Mostly remembered for the controversy in the scoring, with many clearly taking one side or the other. Though I fall in the Dirrell camp for this one, that's not why it stunk. It stunk because Dirrell reverted to the guy that put on an all-time horrible TV fight against Curtis Stevens a couple of years back on HBO, and had seemingly left that behind. Stevens has some pop; so does Froch. Is Dirrell afraid of getting hit? Perhaps he is, and you can make a compelling case based on those two awful fights.
Froch came out with the decision win on his home turf, and whatever, I'm willing to let that go and not really make a big issue of it. But it was a sloppy, dirty, lousy fight overall, and perhaps most awfully, it got boxing fans and writers and commentators the world over to not just latch on to this "positive/negative" gibberish, but to go tremendously overboard with it all. This fight had all the makings of a good one, and it stunk out the joint something fierce. Between Froch's constant rabbit punches and Dirrell's flat-out running at various points, clean, effective shots were a scarcity, and the fight was one of the great disappointments of '09.
14. Floyd Mayweather Jr. v. Juan Manuel Marquez - September 19
Was this fight good for boxing? I suppose so, on some levels. It was a wonderful PPV success, and it has brought about the demand for and seeming inevitability of Mayweather-Pacquiao, the biggest and most important fight boxing has had in over two decades. But it also showed that people can still be easily conned if the marketing is right.
Marquez, in his mid-30s and pushing it at 135 pounds, never had a chance. Not with the 144-pound catchweight, which Mayweather blatantly blew off and just paid for (no matter what he says). A fight between these two, prime-versus-prime, at 130 pounds might be very interesting, but frankly I think this is always a crap matchup for Marquez, great as he is.
Marquez was never in this fight, never won a single second of it, and at the end of the night, it felt like we were seriously duped out of money, even those of us that didn't really think JMM had a hope in hell. I didn't really; but I thought he'd make a fight of it. He did not. Great a warrior as Marquez is, he cashed in with this one, and there's nothing more to it. A rusty Mayweather put on a sparring clinic out there, and the fight thrilled few of the million that ordered.
13. Troy Ross v. Michael Simms - June 19
Ross, 34, had won the fourth and apparently (and hopefully) final season of the sham that is "The Contender," bowling over four guys in Singapore to the delight of Tony Danza and the show's 12 remaining viewers. There's no denying that Ross has some real talent, and in a competitive but hardly blowaway cruiserweight division, he's a top 10 guy now. But this fight with Simms on Versus was a total bore, one of those fights you know going in is going to stink so you try to prepare yourself, but it's such a chore to watch that nothing can really help you. The Versus commentary team bemoaned the fight's lack of competitiveness, as Ross easily cruised, with such comments as, "Not what I expected."
Simms, 35, had come into the fight having lost six of his last seven. So what exactly were they expecting? A tremendous dust-up? A barnburner? We got exactly what anyone should have expected, an easy Ross decision that nearly put the audience to sleep before Adrian Diaconu and Jean Pascal woke us all up.
(Simms would later lose in September to Matt Godfrey, and in all of his 12 losses, he's yet to be stopped.)
12. Wladimir Klitschko v. Ruslan Chagaev - June 20
I got excited for this one. The vacant Ring Magazine championship was on the line, meaning that I'd have someone (surely Wladimir) to call "world heavyweight champion" after the fight. And I did, but I wouldn't really call this a fight. Chagaev, like most Klitschko opponents, seemed happy enough to just be there, to cash a big check for fighting a titan money man in Germany, and when it got a bit too painful to keep getting punched by him, he went ahead and decided that was enough after nine boring, one-sided rounds. Stop me if you've heard that story before, or if you think you'll hear it again on this countdown.
11. Roy Jones Jr. v. Omar Sheika - March 21
On a truly awful night of fights (two more 3/21 bouts coming), Roy Jones Jr. picked up an obnoxious victory over a shot fighter who had fought twice since 2005, and wasn't even very good at his best. Sheika came into "March Badness" best-known as a sacrificial lamb against Joe Calzaghe way back in 2000, though he'd lost to other names as well (Jeff Lacy, Scott Pemberton twice, Markus Beyer, etc.)
Jones was set to declare himself "back" after the November '08 shellacking at the hands of Calzaghe, and he did so after this pointless win over Sheika, which featured a lame stoppage and everything. Sheika was taking no more punishment at the time referee Tommy Kimmons more or less randomly called a halt to the fight in the eighth than he had in the rest of the fight, but overall he did us a favor. Jones was going to jab, dance, taunt and delight the hometown crowd in Pensacola as long as he wanted, and Sheika didn't have the legs to get to him and pop him in the chin for it. All in all, I guess we should thank Kimmons for ending this.
10. Breidis Prescott v. Humberto Toledo - February 20
The Tale of Breidis Prescott's Career in Video.
Prescott beats Amir Khan in 54 seconds, September 2008:
Prescott's career continues, 2009:
This was the first major slash in the armor of Prescott's myth. Nicknaming yourself "Khanqueror" because of one win is a bit of a dopey thing to do, and he never appeared to be very good before Khan, either. 2009 proved he isn't. He really did nothing with Toledo before the journeyman bit him to cause a DQ in the final round, and then he lost to Miguel Vazquez (who was not even on the map) and Kevin Mitchell to close his year. He's been thoroughly debunked, and this fight was laborious to boot.
9. Vitali Klitschko v. Juan Carlos Gomez - March 21
Another Fighting Klitschko Brother entry. Vitali was so incredibly stiff to start this fight that it felt as though Gomez, a talented veteran, really had a shot at the upset. But instead of engaging a man who almost could not move, Gomez allowed Vitali to loosen up that creaky back, get his legs moving, and eventually beat him down something awful.
JCG came into this fight with the idea that he could stink it up and win an ugly one. He got the first part right, but the second part, not so much.
8. Andre Ward v. Henry Buchanan - February 6
Andre Ward had a great year, going 4-0, beating Edison Miranda in his first real step up in competition, and then kicking the door down and joining the elite ranks with a dominant disposal of Mikkel Kessler in November. So that makes it a bit easier to forget his excruciating February Shobox main event against "Sugar Poo" Buchanan, a Maryland fighter whose tag is that he's never been knocked down, even on the streets.
Buchanan seemed exuberant that after 12 terrible rounds, that fact remained, and for what it's worth, Andre Ward deserved a good handshake from "Sugar Poo" for allowing him to keep that bit of publicity going for him. Ward showed no desire to finish a fight against a clearly inferior opponent, who hadn't the size, speed, strength or skill to come close to bothering him.
7. BJ Flores v. Jose Luis Herrera - March 21
The main boxing co-feature on March Badness saw notably boring cruiserweight contender BJ Flores do away with Herrera, a bomber whose record coming in was 16-5. JLH (Jennifer Love Hewitt?) had all 16 of his wins by way of knockout, and four of his five losses were inside the distance, too.
So guess how it turned out with ol' Beej over there. Of course it went the full 10 rounds, with Flores never really letting his hands go, perhaps a tactic designed to put Herrera into a bit of a trance. It worked, I guess. Flores easily won the fight, but considering March Badness had the intent of bringing boxing and MMA fans together with a night of good fights, this became even worse, as it felt like the more boxing-heavy side of the fanbase almost had to apologize for this brutally dull bout. Thankfully we also had that horrible Bobby Lashley-Jason Guida MMA fight on the show, so tit for tat.
6. Steven Luevano v. Bernabe Concepcion - August 15
I got married on August 15, so I didn't see either the Pinoy Power PPV (this show) or the Jones-Lacy PPV until after. Brickhaus went ahead and ordered the Pinoy Power show, and I feel there's nothing quite like the account of someone who's seen a fight in real time. I watched this disaster knowing it was bad. Brick put up with it without being able to know he could pause and go make a sandwich or anything. Here are his words:
Luevano continually popped out range finding jabs (landing absolutely nothing) to keep Concepcion off of him, while Concepcion danced around on the outside, and maybe two of three times a round, would try to pop in and rip off a quick combo (mostly missing). After seven rounds, the two fighters COMBINED to land 100 punches, and frankly, that seemed generous. Finally, with about 15 seconds left in the 7th round, a fight broke out. Concepcion lunged in and nailed Luevano, who then fired back, and the two exchanged bombs. With about a second left in the round, Concepcion appeared to hurt Luevano with a right hook. The bell then rang, and with Luevano looking hurt and the referee not stepping in quickly, Concepcion ripped off a 1-2 combo that knocked Luevano out. It seemed to me that it was a bit of an acting job that Luevano stayed on the ground for 3 minutes, but it was clearly a legitimate knockdown punch. With Luevano unable to continue, referee Jay Nady was forced to call a disqualification. Shameful, shameful Bob Arum, after the fight, said he'd schedule a rematch "with both fighters getting a raise" in December. Personally, I'd rather have sex with a sandpaper tube than watch those two go at it again.
5. Nikolai Valuev v. David Haye - November 7
After all the big talk, former cruiserweight champion David Haye grabbed a heavyweight trinket in Germany against Nikolai Valuev in a fight that ranks up there with Valuev's worst, and that's saying plenty. I really don't blame Haye. I still want to see David fight, and what he did might not have been attractive, but it was plenty intelligent. He clearly had no desire to get in and risk trading with the lumbering giant, and when it was all over with, I was glad Haye had won and gotten Valuev out of the picture for the immediate future. But my God, what an awful fight, and on the heels of Froch-Dirrell, UK fans who take great pride in their own were forced to explain this one after all that "positive/negative" crap they threw out to explain Froch's victory a couple of weeks prior. Most of them forfeited that cause, and rightly so. We all know the fight was horrible and that Haye made it as unexciting as possible, but at least Valuev didn't win.
4. Alexander Ustinov v. Monte Barrett - December 12
After big, slow Ustinov knocked down professional opponent Barrett in the opening round with a right hand, it seemed we'd get a short, ugly win for the former kickboxer, and yet another devastating and quick loss for Barrett, who once was a solid contender and is now just a punching bag.
Instead, Barrett regrouped after spending the remainder of the first round literally diving at Ustinov's legs to keep himself from getting hit again, and though he clearly lost the fight, it inexplicably went all 12 rounds. Barrett's chin and legs are absolutely gone, so it meant that Ustinov basically had to never connect with another good punch for the rest of the fight. And he didn't.
3. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. v. Troy Rowland - November 14
This slapfight was positioned just prior to the Cotto-Pacquiao superfight on PPV. When the fight was signed, we groaned. Chavez has a fanbase, but the diehard boxing public at large ain't it. Still, Chavez has put on some good fights partially because he doesn't have a ton of natural talent, and while Rowland (a Michigan club fighter who had no business on this show) was no name at all, maybe he'd scrap.
Rowland did the best he could do, but he wasn't even near good enough. His complete lack of power meant that Chavez could just go through him, but once Junior got in range, he did very little. A hot crowd that came to see a great main event booed this fight heartily at its conclusion, and rightfully so. A few weeks later, Chavez's post-fight drug test came back failed due to a diuretic that is commonly used as a masking agent for more serious drug offenses.
2. Vitali Klitschko v. Kevin Johnson - December 12
Ustinov-Barrett was hideous. Then came this fight on the same card. The tremendously cocky and obnoxious Johnson mostly made an ass of himself for 36 minutes, putting in what I felt was without question the worst single performance of 2009. Johnson landed 65 of 332 punches thrown, and all of five power shots out of 54 in the entire bout. He mugged a lot, made faces, offered his chin, and leaned back on the ropes so that Klitschko couldn't reach him.
But he also looked like a completely unprepared fighter, an unfit challenger who was thrown into the fire and slowly burned alive. Klitschko-Johnson was a lot like Mayweather-Marquez, except Klitschko wasn't very accurate either, the fight was much slower overall, and instead of lots of stutter-steps like Marquez took, Johnson rarely even considered throwing a punch. Vitali was wide open all night for a counter right hand, and Johnson just stood there. Johnson and his corner had words at several points, as they seemed a bit dismayed that he was there purely to go all 12 rounds. He had no intention whatsoever of fighting, and the bout was tragic.
I read an article this morning wherein Thomas McDonagh proclaimed that in 2010, he's getting serious. Oh good.
This junior middleweight thriller peaked during Small's entrance, as many of his fights do. Small did his usual "look how entertaining I am" schtick, while McDonagh attempted to counter that gameplan with occasionally throwing punches. McDonagh jumped out to a healthy lead early in the fight, but as Small eventually started throwing any shots of his own, the fight went the other way. Small won in the end.
Combined, the two of them landed 78 punches -- 39 apiece. Both are to blame for the worst fight of 2009. It was one of those bouts that seemed it would never end, that they'd go on forever. Sometimes I think it's not the brutal wars that require 12 rounds being the longest a fight goes anymore, but rather fights like this. Another three rounds of this and I may have sworn off boxing for two months.