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Boxing’s 10 Biggest Stories of 2009


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Boxing’s 10 Biggest Stories of 2009

By Corey T. Willinger


2009 will go down as one of boxing’s most talked about years of the last decade for several reasons. Unfortunately, as is the case with most news, not all of them are good reasons. In fact, some were grave disappointments; others, even tragic.


But it is what goes on inside the ring that ultimately defines boxing to the real fans. And in that sense, amid the black eyes the sport suffered this year, boxing is perhaps stronger than it’s been in a decade.


Let’s break down the biggest headlines for boxing in 2009.



Boxing’s Biggest Stories of 2009


10. Roy Jones Jr.-Bernard Hopkins Falls Apart…Again


Now that both are in their 40s and in need of a big fight, it looked like Hopkins and Jones would finally square off in a rematch that was talked about for nearly the entire decade. But the 1993 result (a unanimous decision for Jones) will have to stand as the fight has been scrapped yet again – this time, after Roy was knocked out by Danny Green in a tune-up fight earlier this month.


9. Oscar De La Hoya Retires


Oscar flirted with retirement before his fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2007 yet fought twice more. But after being thoroughly dismantled by Manny Pacquiao in a fight most thought De La Hoya would win, there was no reason to add any more blemishes to a fantastic career. Boxing will miss seeing its greatest cash cow in action, though his presence continues to be felt on the promotional scene.


8. Antonio Margarito Banned for Attempting to Use Illegal Hand Wraps


Before heading to the ring to defend his welterweight title against Shane Mosley, Margarito was discovered to have doctored hand wraps, including plastic inserts, in his gloves. As a result, he not only lost the fight by knockout but had his license suspended by the California State Athletic Commission for the entire year. Margarito is weeks away from a hearing to determine if he will be reinstated, but a cloud of suspicion now hangs over him and threatens the validity of all his accomplishments.


7. Vernon Forrest Murdered in Attempted Mugging


Boxing lost three great fighters in 2009, all within the same month. Vernon Forrest, a former welterweight and junior middleweight champion, was considered one of the top fighters in the world after twice beating Shane Mosley in 2002. On July 25, Forrest pursued a man who had attempted to rob him, only to be shot to death by a second man. Three men have been arrested for Forrest’s death, each playing a different role in the tragic end of a great champion.


6. Alexis Arguello Allegedly Commits Suicide


Long considered one of boxing’s greatest warriors in the ring and kindest hearts outside of it, Arguello – a former three-division champion – allegedly took his own life on July 1. At the time of his death, he was the mayor of Managua in his native Nicaragua but was said to have become disenchanted with the political progress of his country. Reports now suggest foul play may have been involved in the death of this legendary fighter.


5. Arturo Gatti’s Mysterious Suicide


There was no bigger modern-day warrior in boxing than Arturo Gatti, who was found dead on July 11 in a hotel room in Brazil. Gatti’s wife, Amanda Rodrigues, was initially held for questioning and eventually charged with first degree murder. But Gatti’s death was later ruled a suicide by hanging after more autopsies were conducted. Gatti had already carved his name into boxing history with some of the greatest battles ever fought long before his retirement in 2007.


4. The Return of Floyd Mayweather Jr.


When Mayweather walked away from a lucrative rematch against De La Hoya and declared his retirement in the summer of 2008, everyone knew he would be back eventually. Not even a year later, he was announcing a fight against Juan Manuel Marquez. Mayweather’s presence is a shot in the arm for the sport and now makes possible the biggest money superfight of all time against Manny Pacquiao in 2010.


3. Pacquiao-Mayweather Negotiations Going South


The last few weeks have thrust boxing to the forefront of the sports world with the news that the most important fight of the last quarter century may not come to fruition. A vicious debate over drug testing procedures has both fighters threatening to walk – especially Pacquiao, who refuses to consent to random blood tests and instead wants set dates about when he can be tested for the presence of steroids or other performance-enhancers. The reality is it’s too big a fight for either to be too rigid with demands, unless of course he doesn’t really want the fight after all.


2. The Super Six World Boxing Classic Kicks Off


The wish of all fight fans is a simple one: that the best fight the best. And thanks to Showtime’s Super Six World Boxing Classic, that is now a reality. The first round was full of excitement and included a dramatic knockout, a controversial decision and a big upset. The continued success of the Super Six could reshape the boxing landscape.


1. Manny Pacquiao Wins Title in Record Seventh Weight Class


Pacquiao is one of those fighters who helps to keep the focus of the sport on what goes on between the ropes. His energetic style and his ambitious goals draw fans to him – and not just those of his native Philippines. Pacquiao had a historic 2009, knocking out Ricky Hatton to win his fourth linear divisional title and then Miguel Cotto to grab a title in a record seventh weight class. There is only one fight left out there for Manny to seal his legacy as one of the very best ever, and it will be his next fight against Mayweather in 2010.


Behind the podium addresses, the scandals, the whispers of attempts to cheat and the posturing during negotiation periods, great fights were made in 2009 and continue to be made going forward into the next decade. Perhaps the sloping economy from 2008 is to thank – by forcing fighters to take on the best opponents available and give fans their money’s worth.


Margarito-Mosley in January was the most attended event in Staples Center history. The Super Six pitted the best in a division against the best in order to determine a king. Mayweather’s fight with Juan Manuel Marquez drew over a million pay-per-view buys. Pacquiao’s fight with Cotto drew even more. And Pacquiao-Mayweather, when it is finalized, will be the highest-grossing fight in boxing history.


As long as the fights the fans want to see continue to be made, boxing might not always be in the headlines, but it will surely be ahead in the long run.



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