By Geoffrey Ciani: This morning, as I was browsing the web in search of boxing news, I came upon a poll asking “Who was the fighter of the year in 2006?” The poll had six fighters to choose from, some of whom had no business being there. I understand that sometimes you need to include additional options to create the illusion of choice, but sometimes the answers are all too obvious, and the extra options act only as an insult to the poll-takers intelligence.
One of the options this time around was Israel Vazquez. Vazquez had two fights in 2006, both times defending his WBC super bantamweight title against Ivan Hernandez and Jhonny Gonzalez. These were two solid defenses against former champions, and no doubt, these accomplishments speak for themselves.
Even still, when I think of the best fighter from 2006, Vazquez is not one of the names that immediately jumped to mind. In fact, I’m not even sure that 2006 was as good a year for Vazquez as 2005, when he also won two title fights, including avenging an earlier loss against Oscar Larios in impressive fashion.
Another choice on the list was ‘Sugar’ Shane Mosley. While Mosley made a good account of himself last year, it hardly warranted Fighter of the Year consideration. Mosley worked himself back into the mix with two victories over another crossroads boxer, Fernando Vargas. The first fight was very competitive, with Vargas being stopped due to a grotesquely disfigured eye caused by repeated looping rights from Mosley. There was some drama in this fight, as Vargas started coming on strong while his eye began to close. This paved the way for the rematch, which Mosley won in one-sided fashion stopping Vargas in the sixth. This was the best Mosley had looked in sometime, but his inclusion on the poll is dubious, at best.
Joe Calzaghe was another option. Calzaghe had two fights in 2006, most recently winning a unanimous decision against Sakio Biko—but that was a lackluster affair. The real reason for Calzaghe’s inclusion was the one-sided exhibition he put on against American super middleweight champ, Jeff Lacy. This victory was most impressive. Calzaghe confused and bamboozled the American with lightning-quick combos the entire fight. It was especially noteworthy that this was a unification bout, where Calzaghe’s WBO belt and Lacy’s IBF belt were both on the line. Even still, as I see things, Lacy was always a little one-dimensional and Calzaghe was always a little overrated. Frankly, I think more was made of this fight than was warranted. Let’s see Calzaghe take on Mikkel Kessler or Bernard Hopkins and then we can talk!
The poll also included a token heavyweight, Wladimir Klitschko. I guess no Fighter of the Year poll would be complete without including at least one heavyweight, and Klitschko was the obvious choice in that regard. He had two fights last year. The first was against Chris Byrd, when Klitschko captured the IBF championship. Like their first fight some years ago, Wlad represented a stylistic nightmare for the overmatched Byrd. Klitschko then went on to defend his newly won crown against undefeated challenger, Calvin Brock. These were both very good wins for the younger Klitschko, but again, I’m not sure that it was worthy of Fighter of the Year status.
Next we had Miguel Cotto, who had a tremendous 2006 which saw him fight three times. In his first two fights, he successfully defended his WBO light welterweight title against Gianluca Branco and the very scrappy, but very game, Paul Malignaggi. Additionally, Cotto would move up in weight class, where he was victorious in his fight for the vacant WBA welterweight title against Carlos Quintana. Of all the aforementioned fighters, Cotto was the most worthy of being part of a Fighter of the Year poll, but regardless, there was still another fighter who easily outperformed him.
Now it may appear as if I am belittling these fighters or attempting to undermine their accomplishments. I assure you, the readers and the fans, that this is not what I’m doing, and it’s certainly not my intention. There was an obvious no-brainer choice for the 2006Fighter of the Year; what this man accomplished so far exceeded that of his contemporaries, that it inherently undermines what they did by comparison. That’s how good of a year he had!
The 2006 Fighter of the Year was clearly Manny Pacquiao!
In my mind, this isn’t even a topic for debate, and I refuse to acknowledge any argument to the contrary. 2006 saw Pacquaio fight three times, the first of which was the highly anticipated rematch against Erik “El Terrible” Morales. When these two first fought back in March 2005, Morales won a decisive decision. In the rematch ten months later, Pacquiao proved he’s a multi-dimensional fighter when he avenged that loss in brutal fashion, mercilessly beating and battering Morales until he could no longer continue. This victory not only illustrated Pacquiao’s relentlessness and raw power, but it also exhibited his ability to adjust and improve. That Pacquiao, as good as he was, was even capable of improving was a marvel in and of itself.
In July of last year, Pacquiao would also win a one-sided decision against Oscar Larios, where Larios was dropped in both the seventh and final round. In my mind, these two victories alone would have probably been enough for Pacquiao to be declared Fighter of the Year, however, he wasn’t quite finished yet. The exclamation point would come in his rubber match with “El Terrible” where it took Pacquiao a mere three rounds to dispatch the living legend. That Pacquiao won with such ease was stunning and awe-inspiring. With that victory, Pacquiao capped off a tremendous year
Beyond any shadow of a doubt, Ciani’s choice for the 2006 Fighter of the Year Award is Manny Pacquiao!
This article was also published at East Side Boxing