Column: Y2K not a great year for boxing

It's not been a good year for boxing so for this last column of the year 2000, a quick look back before I give you my choices for "Fighter of the Year," as well as for "Fight of the Year" and "Promoter of the Year," plus a few more.

In the heavyweight division, the glamour division of boxing, not much exciting happened other than Mike Tyson's return to action - and each of his fights was controversial, to say the least.

Heavyweight champ Lennox Lewis dominated the division and we'll get to him in a second.

First, Tyson ... It began in January when, despite protests from women's groups in England, Tyson was allowed to come over and fight unknown Julius Francis. Tyson finished off the inept Francis in round two of a nothing type of fight.

Then in June he fought Lou Savarese in Glasgow, Scotland, and had that fight won before the first bell ever rang. Savarese was scared and petrified by Tyson and was gone in just 38 seconds.

But that wasn't good enough for "Iron Mike," so he went after the referee and knocked him down before they could get Tyson to stop. He was fined $187,500 by the British Boxing Board for that.

Next came Tyson's fight against Andrew Golota and when Golota unexpectedly quit after round two, he was booed, hissed and showered with debris by the unhappy fans in a fight that took place in Michigan. That one wasn't really Tyson's fault, but just more controversy regarding one of his fights.

There were some good lower weight fights, but they were few and far between. Most of the fights were mismatches or contenders and champions fighting stiffs as the public lost interest in the sport except for a fight or two during the year.

Pay-Per-View sales were way down not only for the Tyson fight against Golota, but for most PPV fight cards during the year. The exceptions were the Oscar De La Hoya fight against Shane Mosley, which drew 588,000 buys, and the Felix Trinidad fight against Fernando Vargas, which drew 520,000 buys.

Anyway, it was not a great year for boxing including the Olympics where I'd bet not many people can name even one Olympic boxing champion from this year.

FIGHTER OF THE YEAR - Only three possible choices. Felix Trinidad and "Sugar" Shane Mosley in the junior middleweight and welterweight divisions and Lewis in the heavyweight division.

My choice is Lewis. He did all that was asked of him, handled it well and was never in any serious trouble during his three title defenses after he unified the heavyweight titles by whipping Evander Holyfield twice last year.

Lewis stopped both Michael Grant and Frans Botha in round two and Lewis dominated and toyed with then-No. 1 contender David Tua last month in winning an easy unanimous decision over him.

You can make a case for Mosley and Trinidad but Trinidad gets knocked down too much for my taste and I truly believe he fouled Vargas on purpose in round four of their fight after he was knocked down by Vargas. That foul gave Trinidad time to recover and he went on to capture the victory but that act, and the fact that David Reid knocked him down before Trinidad won, makes it hard for me to pick him.

Mosley is a good fighter who moved up in weight to beat De La Hoya and win the welterweight crown by decision, although some think Oscar won that June fight. But other than that fight, Mosley hasn't done much this year and calling him Fighter of the Year is a stretch.

Lewis truly deserves to be named Fighter of the Year and I hope he gets it!

FIGHT OF THE YEAR - That would have to be the Erik Morales fight against Marco Antonio Barrera which took place in February. That was a war from the opening bell to the end - Morales won a close decision - and anyone who saw it (on HBO) will never forget it.

My gut feeling is they'll give Fight of the Year to the Trinidad fight against Vargas, but it wasn't as good a fight and with all the stoppages for low blows and other fouls, it wasn't the action-packed fight that the Morales fight was. But because the Trinidad fight took place earlier this month, it's still fresh in the voters minds and that may sway them.

I guarantee if the Trinidad fight against Vargas took place in February and the Morales fight took place this month instead of the other way around, there would be no question which would be voted Fight of the year.

The Morales-Barrera fight may still win it and I hope it does ...

PROMOTER OF THE YEAR - Who else but Don King? Not only did he manage to stay out of jail, nobody shot him and that alone should be enough.

King somehow got his fighters undeserved title shots, manipulated the rankings to get Julio Cesar Chavez a No. 1 ranking and a title shot after Chavez was well-beaten by unknown Willy Wise and he got Evander Holyfield the WBA heavyweight title after King got it stripped from Lewis.

King couldn't lose because Holyfield fought John Ruiz for that vacant title and Ruiz is a Don King fighter, too.

Also helping was the fact that rival promoters Bob Arum of Top Rank and Cedric Kushner of Kushner Promotions both admitted to paying bribes to the IBF for "favors in the rankings" regarding fighters they promoted. Not that King doesn't do the same but until its proven in a court of law or he admits it, you have to give him the benefit of the doubt.

By the way, both Arum and Kushner were penalized by the Nevada State Athletic Commission for their actions and both were fined substantial amounts for those bribes. Arum was fined $125,000 and Kushner $175,000.

BUM OF THE YEAR - Andrew Golota. No contest here. I can't even think of anyone else who comes close, although Savarese might qualify, but that's about it!

FLOP OF THE YEAR - Women's boxing. There was not a good fight all year long and other than promoters building a record for Laila Ali and Freeda George Foreman by feeding them stiffs in non-competitive fights, nothing much happened on the women's side of the sport.

In fact, if Ali and Foreman were not daughters of former champions, I doubt they would be fighting at all. I'm certain you would never have heard of them if their names were Smith and Jones instead. Neither can fight much but they'll build up to a match between the two of them and it will probably sell although it shouldn't ...

Have a safe holiday and we'll see you here next year!

Alan Rogers is the Nevada Appeal boxing writer.


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