With the end of the year fast approaching, we'll be seeing a lot of "best of" awards coming out soon, including our very own "best of" awards. I like knowing the best of the year as much as the next guy, but what about the worst? For the truly ignominious, I now present to you the second annual "Bricky" awards for the worst in boxing in 2010.
Sven Ottke Award for Worst Robbery of the Year
Winner: Beibut Shumenov SD-12 Gabriel Campillo - As one of the first fights of the year, it's semi-forgotten at this point, especially after Shumenov's domination of Vyacheslav Uzelkov, but that's still a crying shame. Shumenov throws lots of punches - very hard. He exerts maximum effort with every single punch he throws. While he's exciting, there probably isn't a less fluid prominent fighter in the sport today. Campillo was exactly the opposite, able to use Shumenov's telegraphed punches to his advantage, exhibiting solid slickness, avoiding most of Shumenov's shots, landing tons of effective counterpunches and all around schooling the kid. One judge, Levi Martinez, got it right with a 117-111 score in favor of Campillo, but the fight really was that wide. While the 117-111 Shumenov card was easily one of the worst of the year, even respected judge Jerry Roth's card of 115-113 for Shumenov was absurd.
Devon Alexander UD-12 Andriy Kotelnik - The only thing that keeps this one from winning is that a number of people I respect still managed to score this one for Alexander. This was the epitome of a hometown decision. Alexander threw nearly twice as many punches as Kotelnik, but through the entire fight, Kotelnik was the one who landed the hard, effective counters, while very few of Alexander's blows landed clean, and the ones that did had little effect.
Paul Williams TD-4 Kermit Cintron - For three rounds, Paul Williams fought tentatively, landed little and let Kermit Cintron control the ring. After a mishap described below, the fight went to the cards midway through the fourth. The only reason there was a decision at all was because of a California state technicality, but the fact that Williams was ahead on two of the cards, including by shutout on one of them, is offensive. So not only did Cintron undeservedly end up with a loss on his record, but the fans were also robbed of what was finally starting to turn into a decent fight.
Jean Marc Mormeck UD-12 Fres Oquendo - Poor Fres just can't catch a break. A few cards in his career break the other way, and it's possible he could have been viewed as a top 10 contender. While he very clearly beat Mormeck in France (not long after clearly beating James Toney and getting robbed in that one as well), he also showed he's not quite the fighter he used to be, losing a close (but relatively uncontroversial) decision to Oliver "Methuselah" McCall to close out the year.
Not quite robberies, but close: Marco Huck SD-12 Denis Lebedev; Jean Pascal D-12 Bernard Hopkins; Pablo Cesar Cano SD-12 Oscar Leon; Jorge Arce D-10 Lorenzo Parra; Darren Barker UD-12 Affif Belghecham; Matthew Macklin UD-12 Ruben Varon; Vanes Martirosyan UD-10 Kassim Ouma; Luis Alberto Lazarte D-12 Ulises Solis.
Eugenia Williams Award for Worst Scorecard of the Year
Winner: Daniel Van De Wiele 114-114 draw for Pascal-Hopkins - I personally had this fight scored about as close as any non-judge, non-Quebecois that I've seen. But how the hell do you get to a 114-114 score in a fight with two knockdowns and at least six crystal clear rounds in Hopkins' favor? In order to stretch things as far as humanly possible for the hometown fighter, Van De Wiele, whose reputation as a bad judge is as well-deserved as is reputation as a good referee, scored not one but two draw rounds. No matter how you do the math, that means that he scored at least one clear Hopkins round a draw or for Pascal to arrive at his decision. While this isn't the most blatant bad card of the year, and it was probably only a few points off from what it should have been, ending up with a card like this calls into question the veracity of his scores as a whole.
All of the judges in Alexander-Kotelnik - One card of 116-112 might have possibly been defensible; it still would have been a bad card, but you can make a contrived argument that Alexander won most of the rounds if you score on aggression and forget that the criterion is supposed to be effective aggression. But all three? That's just crazy talk.
Venciclav Nikolov 119-110 for Darren Barker vs. Affif Belghecham - If you're coming in as the opponent, sometimes there's the occupational hazard that a judge or two will fill out his scorecards before the fighters ever enter the ring. While Barker did well in this fight early, he completely gassed out in the second half of the fight while Belghecham used a strong body attack to consistently pound and pressure the European champ. Most watching the fight scored it as a toss-up, but there was more than one round where Barker was nearly out on his feet due to sheer physical exhaustion. How any of those rounds could possibly have been scored for Barker is well beyond my pea-brained comprehension.
Marty Sammon 120-108 for Andre Ward vs. Sakio Bika - This is a big part of the reason why some are starting to call Oakland "West Berlin". It's great to see a fighter build a legitimate fan base in what is normally not a strong fight city, but managing to get hometown judges and hometown referees, and ending up with clearly erroneous cards, is just going to hurt Ward in the long run. Even the other two cards of 118-110 were way too wide, but there literally is no way in Hell that Andre Ward won every round of this fight.
Juergen Langos 120-108 for Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. vs. John Duddy - Chavez may have clearly won the fight, but the fight was spirited, and there's just no possible way to have scored every round for Chavez when nearly half of the rounds were toss-ups. The other two scores of 117-111 and 116-112 were much more appropriate.
Patricia Morse Jarman 117-111 for Beibut Shumenov vs. Gabriel Campillo - With a scorecard like that, you almost have to wonder if she just didn't know which fighter was which.
Andrew Golota Award for Foul-Fest of the Year
Winner: Andre Ward UD-12 Sakio Bika - Like last year's winner (Cristobal Cruz vs. Jorge Solis), this one was actually a fun dirty fight, if you can appreciate dirty fights. Both men are known for their dirty tricks, and the referee decided to be very laissez-faire about it, letting both men do their dirty, dirty thing. Whenever one fighter pulled a dirty trick, the other soon retaliated. With tons of holding and hitting, rabbit punching, elbows, headbutts and hitting off the break, the referee mostly let the fight go on with its normal flow, choosing not to penalize the fighters. By the end of the fight, Ward took control, but Bika didn't let it be pretty.
Gumersindo Carrasco SD-10 Juan Manuel Bonnani - In a dirty, hard-fought all-out brawl, both men resorted to whatever tactics they could use to gain an edge (although Carrasco was certainly the primary offendor). You had low blows, headbutts, holding and hitting, and just about everything else, all in a pretty blatant and unartful manner. But the biggest foul, which probably would have resulted in a disqualification anywhere outside of Carrasco's hometown, was when a member of Carrasco's corner actually rolled into the ring under the bottom rope and pulled down Bonnani by his ankles while Bonnani had Carrasco in trouble. A brawl within a brawl broke out between the two corners. We'll have more on this one in part two.
Bernard Hopkins UD-12 Roy Jones Jr. - This was probably to be expected, but the geriatric edition of Hopkins-Jones was easily one of the dirtiest, ugliest, most unwatchable fights of the year. Unlike the version of Hopkins who looked downright spry against Jean Pascal, this version of Hopkins was in pure spoiler mode. The elbows and headbutts were flying. For rounds on end, Hopkins would throw one punch and then jump immediately into a clinch. Three separate times, Hopkins took time after low blows, and it was pretty darn obvious that at least one of them was completely faked so he could catch some wind. Hopefully this is the last time I ever need to mention this farce of a fight.
Brandon Rios DQ-9 Anthony Peterson - Okay, so the fouls were all on one side of the equation, but I can't ever remember seeing so many blatant low blows in one fight before. Fortunately, as it turns out, the world is probably better off if Rios can't reproduce anyway.
Alfredo Garcia Perez Award for Worst Refereeing of the Year
Winner: Arthur Mercante Jr. in Miguel Cotto vs. Yuri Foreman - There's been a fair measure of debate around these parts as to how big of a role the referee should take in protecting the health of the fighters in the ring. What's undisputed is that the referee at least plays a small part in making that determination (and at worst makes the decision on whether to honor the corner's wishes), and that Mercante completely abdicated those responsibilities in this fight. In the seventh round, Foreman blew out his knee. It was clear to anyone that his knee had blown out, and he was just taking tons of punishment from Cotto. Foreman's corner threw in the towel - Mercante threw it back. Foreman's corner jumped on the ring apron - Mercante refused to disqualify the fighter. Instead, the fight went on for two more rounds while Foreman took a completely unnecessary beating, simply because Mercante didn't have the common sense to end the fight.
Joe Cortez in Amir Khan vs. Marcos Maidana - Only a few days after getting inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, Cortez once again proved why his best days are long past him. In the most over-refereed fight of the year, Cortez consistently broke the fighters up, issued warnings and just generally made himself the opposite of invisible, all of which could be viewed as being to the advantage of the house fighter. In a move that's somewhat understandable but should be well below a venerable referee like Cortez, he deducted a point from Maidana (without a warning) when Maidana threw his elbow back, (probably inadvertently) hitting Cortez during one of his many undue breaks of the fighters. It didn't end up being the deciding factor, but Maidana would have won on one of the cards without the seemingly unnecessary deduction.
Robert Howard in Abner Mares vs. Vic Darchinyan - This one was almost equally over-refereed to Khan-Maidana, while taking place on the same night, but is slightly less offensive because (a) Howard isn't actually supposed to be one of the top referees in the world and (b) Howard's actions probably favored the fighter who ended up losing the fight. Howard made his presence known to both the fighters and the fans, marring what was otherwise one of the best fights of the year. To top it off, Howard made a bad point deduction for a very borderline low blow on a punch where Mares was being pulled down anyway. In a way, Howard might have made the fight better, because it made it seem like the cards were even further stacked against Mares, who managed to pull off the well-deserved come from behind victory.
Michael Griffin in Bernard Hopkins vs. Jean Pascal - To be fair, Griffin mostly did a fine job refereeing a fight that was uncharacteristically clean for a Bernard Hopkins fight. But special attention deserves to be paid when a bad call by the referee directly leads to one fighter being robbed of a win. In the first round, Bernard Hopkins was knocked down at the end of a round he was otherwise winning on what can only be described as an extremely blatant rabbit punch. This isn't a situation that should have been a judgment call - Hopkins wasn't ducking below the belt, he wasn't pulling Pascal down, and it wasn't a split-second, inadvertant decision. Hopkins was off balance from a punch, and Pascal threw a downward right hand to the back of the head that sent Hopkins to the mat. Even in real time, it's not a call that the referee should have missed, and it's all that more unfortunate when the bad call changes the outcome of the fight.
More to come in the next few days....