Pass the Envelope or Push it-On Second Thought, Shove It!

By Michael Katz


Pass the Envelope or Push it-On Second Thought, Shove It!

Jose Sulaiman gets elected to the hall of fame, the heavyweight division remains as fragmented as Iraq, but the clearest way to tell that 2006 has hardly been vintage could be the realization that the fight of the year was between two guys whose names you can't spell, or pronounce, in a thriller that almost no one saw except on the Internet.

This is no knock of what, I'm told, was a terrific matchup wherin Somsak Sithchatchawal of Thailand knocked out the Iran-born Mahyar Monshipour of France to capture the WBA version of the junior featherweight title - which he promptly lost on a third-round TKO by Celestino Caballero. In other words, we're not talking superstars here.

What is more pertinent, however, is that the year had its usual share of terrific fighters, but not terrific fights - and when sparks do fly, there's no one there to watch. Instead, we get Nikolay Valuev and Monte Barrett or Joe Calzaghe and Sakio Bika or, worse, guys unable to make their contracted weights.

Boxing's ever-shrinking sphere of influence will not deter us from our appointed rounds (15, like in the good old days) and making our annual year-end awards. Pay no attention, of course, to the Boxing Writers (sic) Asses of America or any tiny-circulation magazine's three-man panel or website dandies. These are the only official Wolfman compilation and you heard it here first.

By the way, I have decided to think outside the bun and give boxing a full regalia of awards.

IGNOBLE PIECE PRIZE: Don King, of course, and obviously not because he is 150 percent behind the War President, but because no one in boxing knows better how to share. For example, he's got a piece of Nikolay Valuev (I believe he's got 7 feet, Willie Sauerland 3 inches). He's got a piece of both Samuel Peter and James Toney and he's got all of Shannon Briggs. It was ever thus.

BOOBY PRIZE: Evander Holyfield wins deserves this one, as would any boxer who allows Murad Muhammad to promote him.

FIGHTER OF THE YEAR: Little thought or consideration is needed to choose Manny Pacquiao, who sandwiched two stoppages of Erik Morales around a competent and workmanlike decision over Oscar Larrios, no chopped liver he. It was the way Pacquiao did it that was so captivating. He unquestionably is the most exciting fighter in the world and I will am open to all arguments that he has passed Floyd Mayweather Jr. as the No. 1 in all aspects. Mayweather wasn't even in the running for 2006 honors. Two 12-round decisions over the flawed Zab Judah and the impossibly slow Carlos Baldomir was his yearly output.

My runnerup would be Wladimir Klitschko, he of the questionable chin and stamina who seems ready to run out of the ring whenever an opponent menacingly raises a fist. Klitschko still managed to establish himself as the tallest midget of the heavyweight division with stoppages of Chris Byrd and the previously undefeated Calvin Brock.

Miguel Cotto closed the year with an impressive knockout of the previously unbeaten Carlos Quintana, but his prior work in 2006 consisted only of beating up Italians Gianluca Branco and Paul Malignaggi.

There were a couple of one-hit wonders, though. Bernard Hopkins was at his most brilliant when, with the help of conditioning guru Mackie Shilstone, he moved up to light-heavyweight and gave Antonio Tarver a spanking. Joe Calzaghe had an equally one-sided victory over Jeff Lacy, but in his only other start of the year, the Welshman lacked luster in outpointing the forgettable Sakio Bika.

JENNY CRAIG AWARD: A three-way tie between Jose Luis Castillo, Diego Corrales and James Toney for those who need her help dieting.

EUGENIA WILLIAMS PRIZE for worst decision goes to the International Boxing Hall of Fame for electing Jose Sulaiman. Years ago, when the idiots allowed in Don King, one writer quit voting in protest. I said I'd give them one mistake. They voted in Bob Arum the next year and I too quit. Sulaiman's selection warrants a complete housecleaning, starting with matches. He, with King's urging of course, was responsible for the Twin Towers of Deceit, the main reasons why boxing has completely lost the public's faith. First, he attempted to rule that James (Buster) Douglas did not knock out Mike Tyson and second, it was his judges who somehow came up with Julio Cesar Chavez getting a draw with Pernell Whitaker. Then he had the gall to say, upon passing the Alamodome, site of that egregious decision, "This is where they did that terrible thing to Julio." No one man is more responsible for boxing's downfall. King is King and Arum is Arum - Sulaiman is supposed to be supervising them. And let's not get into cutting 15 rounds to 12 or open scoring. The man is a blight. It's a good thing I kind of like him.

TRAINER OF THE YEAR: I sometimes wish Emanuel Steward would shut up. It's one thing to rebuild the improbable career of Wladimir Klitschko, but to pronounce that Chicken Kiev could be one of the great heavyweights in history is another. Now he's saying Jermain Taylor could be one of the great middleweights. Please. Stick to training, Emanuel. He had a good year - Klitschko was not his only success, he reshaped Kermit Cintron. I do not give him much credit for Taylor, though. I have not seen any improvement since he took over from Pat Burns. And he did lose the Kronk Gym, though he promises to open it elsewhere after they raze the old brick building named after an otherwise forgotten Detroit councilman.

If you vote for Freddie Roach, who has almost miraculously improved a three-time world champion in Pacquiao, there will be no great argument here. James Toney should have gotten the decision against Samuel Peter. The question is whatever happened to Buddy McGirt - his two biggest stars, Tarver and Arturo Gatti, had worse years than the Republican Party.

Speaking of which, THE HARRY HOUDINI AWARD for greatest disappearing act goes to Judd Burstein.

IGNOBLE PRIZE FOR ECONOMICS: Murad Muhammad offered Wladimir Klitschko a mere $20 million to fight Evander Holyfield, just as the erstwhile boy promoter's checks were bouncing all over Texas following Holyfield's thriller against Fres Oquendo.

TONY AWARD: James did not win a fight in 2006. There was the controversial draw with Hasim Rahman, who should have beaten him easily, and the controversial split decision loss to Sam Peter. Yet I still hold him ahead of Tony Margarito and Tony Tarver.

OSCAR FOR SUPPORTING ACTOR: Tarver, who went against type and played a fighter in "Rocky Balboa."

MANAGER OF THE YEAR: Tony LaRussa for his work in the post-season comes to mind, especially since he was passed over for the Tony Award. Alas, I remain restricted. There may not be such a thing as a "manager" in boxing any more. To honor Fred Kesch for bringing Oleg Maskaev to a title and then a nice safe payday in Moscow would be to deprive Dennis Rappaport, the promoter, of his due. Same with Scott Hirsch, and Don King, with Shannon Briggs. Thus, I am reduced to choosing the obvious - the man who "manages" both Manny Pacquiao and Wladimir Klitschko, among others, Shelly Finkel. Forgive the lapse in originality.

FIGHT OF THE YEAR: No, it was not Sergei Liahkovich against Lamon Brewster, Pacquiao-Morales III or any such mediocrity. The fight of the year has just begun. It is over Pacquiao - between Bob Arum and his old protégé, Oscar de la Hoya. That's where we are in boxing 2006-07, not in a ring but in court.

MEDAL OF HONOR: Who else but our very own Colonel, Bob Sheridan? He has worked for Don King about 250 years and has never said one bad word against his employer. But at the same time, his calls of fights are as honest as boxing ever gets. He is, without doubt, not only the best (go listen to his broadcasts of Whitaker-Chavez and Tyson-Douglas), but the most honorable.

KNOCKOUT OF THE YEAR: Paula Patton, whom I just saw opposite Denzell Washington in "Déjà Vu."

GRAMMY: There were no Joe Maffia performances this year, though we can wish to hear a hit parade of songs, starting with ditties about Sulaiman and his alphabet cohorts. This award is sponsored by the letter "F."

PENTHOUSE: Kassim Ouma, who refused to quit against Jermain Taylor, though clearly outgunned. His handlers better not listen to him about staying at 160, but get him a deserved title shot at 154.

OUTHOUSE: Greg Leon told me about this some days ago, and I was flabbergasted. There are talks, he has finally written, about having Antonio Tarver face Elvir Muriqi on HBO in February. Maybe even on pay-per-view. R.I.P. No amount of Pacquiao fights could revive the game if this were to happen.

Happy Chanukah, and a Happy 236th birthday to my man Ludwig von.


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