Eight Days, Eight Reasons to be Thankful

Pic Sumio Yamada
Pic Sumio Yamada
By Jason Pribila: On Saturday November 20, the Boxing Writers Association of America held their Annual East Coast meeting at Bally’s Atlantic City. Boxing scribes and fans alike were in town for the biggest fight to land on the Jersey Shore in 2010. Sergio Martinez was set to defend his middleweight crown against Paul Williams in a rematch of their 2009 “Fight of the Year” candidate later that evening inside of Boardwalk Hall.

One of the main points on the meeting’s agenda was to vote on a list of nominees worthy of consideration for their annual year end awards. The ballots would be complete three weeks later by West Coast members, who are able to attend a meeting in Las Vegas prior to that evening’s fight card featuring Amir Khan – Marcos Maidana. It became immediately obvious that the members in the room would be unable to fill any of the ballots.
2010 was an odd year for the sport of boxing. Injuries, cancellations, and litigations forced the sport that never sleeps to become seasonal.

Fortunately for boxing fans, their patience was rewarded with a loaded November and December. A major fight each weekend would allow rabid fans the opportunity to feast before a month long hibernation. Unfortunately for boxing writers, it was impossible to forecast how those fights would unfold. Ballots would be marked with asterisks and few names were written down with ink.

Less than six hours later Sergio Martinez landed a perfect left hand that not only put Williams to sleep, but also earned the plebiscite of the members seated in press row. With one punch Martinez entered the clubhouse as the leader in the Fighter and Knockout of the Year categories.

American families traditionally reserve the fourth Thursday in November to gather and give thanks. A “Maravilla” blast and the Marquez-Katsidis brawl book-ended an eight day span for this boxing fan to be thankful.

8. Rachael Cordingley: Sitting ringside cheering her beau Carl Froch to victory over Arthur Abraham, Cordingley became the unofficial third member of Showtime’s announcing team. When she appeared in the ring following the Froch shut-out victory, Cordingley not only proved that she was better seen than heard, but she also provided single boxing scribes a moment of clarity. Suddenly I felt justified for sitting home alone on a holiday weekend, watching half-naked men punch for pay at weights I haven’t seen on a scale since I started to shave.
Happy Holidays, Rachael.

7. Andre Berto KO1 Freddy Hernandez: Berto has rightfully received criticism for the soft opposition he has faced on HBO’s airwaves. However, he deserves credit for delivering a highlight-reel KO. More inspiring was that Berto himself said that he was done feasting on appetizers, and was ready for the main course. All will be forgiven when we see Berto in the ring against a top five welterweight or junior welterweight early in 2011.

6. Andre Ward Gets Rough: Ward earned the top-seed of the Super Six semi-finals by winning almost every round against Mikkel Kessler and Allan Green. Most thought his boxing skills would keep him out of harm’s way against the rugged Sakio Bika. To no one’s surprise Bika immediately tried to turn the fight into a foul-filled brawl. What was a surprise was that Ward returned fire and beat Bika by fighting his opponent’s fight.

Ward will be a big favorite against Arthur Abraham (or whomever he fights next). He has proven he could fight through adversity, and be successful when taken out of his comfort zone. The only thing left to prove is how he will fare when he has to fight away from Oakland.

5. Jason Litzau’s Reaction: When the “American Boy” had his hand raised in victory over Celestino Caballero, HBO cameras captured the tears of joy that are reserved for a select few. Everyone loves an underdog, but rarely does one at 13-1 odds register more than a moral victory. Mid-way through the fight Litzau’s corner asked him if he believed he could “do this”. When ring announcer Michael Buffer made it official, it was a joy to see someone experience what others deemed unbelievable. Litzau had pulled off the “Upset of the Year”.

Sports have been, and always will be the best Reality-TV has to offer. As spectators it is always more memorable when we get to witness the thrill of victory enjoyed by a person who has defeated someone who had taken their own victory for granted.

4. Super Six Tournament: When the tournament was announced it was applauded for guaranteeing several evenly matched fights being contested in a deep division. Keeping the tournament together after three of the original six had to be replaced has been even more impressive. On Saturday Night, I realized just how successful this tournament and its accompanying documentary “Fight Camp 360” have been. Prior to Froch-Abraham I had butterflies. I not only cared about the fight, but I cared about the fighters. There is a familiarity with both the “A” and “B” side of the marquee that has long been missing in many major fights.
Carl Froch dominated Arthur Abraham to once again prove that the more we think we know these fighters, the harder these fights are to predict. That is the only reason why I’m hesitant to bang my drum to skip straight to the Froch-Ward showdown.

3. Marquez – Katsidis: It was nice to finally label a fight a “can’t miss” and have it deliver. Each man showed tremendous heart and skill and put on a memorable scrap. The personal tragedy that Katsidis had to overcome in order to make it into the ring only added to the drama that poured out of the squared circle.

Marquez’ superior technique eventually overcame Katsidis’ pressure in a fight that was fought at a blistering pace for nine rounds. The career of the 37 year-old Marquez is the equivalent of boxing evolution in reverse. Unlike countryman Marco Antonio Barrera who turned from brawler to boxer as he got older for self preservation; Marquez has gone from premiere counter-puncher to an offensive force willing to give and take.
Juan Manuel made a strong case for making this the fourth year in a row that a “Marquez” is etched on the Fight of the Year Award.

2. The Martinez Knockout: When both fighters picked up where they left off in their first fight, I knew that I was about to witness something special. I never could have predicted what I was about to hear. Paul Williams threw his punch with his back turned to press row; therefore I did not see the Martinez punch land, but I heard it. The sound was the reason why I stood up, and Williams fell to the floor simultaneously with the jaws of those who were there to witness it.

1. Kelly Pavlik Enters Rehab: Yahoo Sports reported that former middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik entered the Betty Ford Center for treatment for his dependency to alcohol.

Sometimes we build our heroes up only to abandon them when they fail to meet our unrealistic expectations. Boxing, more than any other sport is full of cautionary tales. In an instant people could lose what it takes them a lifetime to build.

Pavlik will now face his toughest, most unforgiving opponent yet. He is not suffering from a disease that could be surgically removed. His addiction is not sexy, nor will it earn him any street cred., but one that could possibly alienate him from the places he felt most at home.

There is reason for hope. Pavlik entered rehab voluntarily, and is surrounded by a strong team that has his health ahead of his boxing career.
“My whole concern for him is for him is to get healthy and be a good husband, a good father, a good son, a good citizen and a respectable man,” Mike Pavlik said. “That’s what I want from him. We’re all supportive of that goal. As a father, it’s destroying me to see this. Here is somebody that God has shed His blessing on and he had everything right at his fingertips.
His battle is only beginning, but taking the first step has earned Kelly Pavlik my nod for the BWAA“Courage Award”.

Jason Pribila could be reached for questions or comments at pribs2000@yahoo.com

December 2, 2010
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