The race is over. If any Fighter of the Year award for 2008 goes to any fighter besides Manny Pacquiao, it's bogus. Let's recap Pacquiao's incredible 2008:
- March 15: Pacquiao beats Juan Manuel Marquez in a thrilling rematch via split decision, capturing the vacant Ring Magazine crown as junior lightweight world champion. I scored it razor-thin for Marquez, but it was a toss-up fight and a Fight of the Year candidate. The fight did phenomenal PPV numbers, coming in with around 400,000 buys, an astonishing mark for a card headlined by 130-pound boxers.
- June 28: Pacquiao moves up to 135 pounds for the first time, dismantling David Diaz and knocking him out in the ninth round. Pacquiao uses the extra five pounds well, looking stronger and even faster than ever. The world agrees David Diaz is no world-class fighter, but also not a pushover. And he was never in the fight.
- December 6: "The Dream Match" arrives, and Pacquiao makes it a nightmare for Oscar de la Hoya. Pacquiao embarrasses and humbles de la Hoya, forcing the Golden Boy to quit after eight rounds of punishment. Moving up to 147 pounds has no effect on his speed whatsoever. He is a fighting machine that has no peer in the sport, pound-for-pound.
The most likely fight now for Pacquiao is a shot at Ricky Hatton and the junior welterweight championship of the world, a fight that will do bonzo business the world over. I figure it'll land in Vegas, even though they could do a huge gate somewhere in England, maybe even Wembley Stadium.
But don't yet count out ol' Money Mayweather smelling the allure of the cash register. I think it's more likely for late 2009, if ever, but you never know.
One thing is for certain: Manny Pacquiao is the best boxer in the world, and nobody has a case against him as the Fighter of the Year. End of story.