With the last days of 2005 winding down, it's time to present the Nevada Appeal's year-end boxing awards:
Fight of the Year: Diego Corrales TKO 10 Jose Luis Castillo.
Arguably the best fight since Marvelous Marvin Hagler stopped Thomas Hearns in three action-packed rounds in 1985, Corrales-Castillo featured 10 rounds of momentum-swinging, toe-to-toe mayhem.
After getting blasted with ferocious left hooks, "Chico" rose from the canvas two times in the 10th round and somehow caught Castillo off guard, stunned him with a barrage of punches and pummeled him along the ropes.
His hands having dropped by his sides, the helpless Castillo was rescued by referee Tony Weeks, whose wise intervention brought a dramatic halt to the best action of the year.
Runner-up: Jorge Arce TKO 10 Hussein Hussein.
If not for Corrales-Castillo and the fact that Arce and Hussein weigh only 112 pounds, these little warriors put on a heart-pounding show that would've been a sure-fire Fight of the Year just about any other year. It was bloody, brutal and everything a boxing fan could want.
Fighter of the Year: Ricky Hatton.
The scrappy Englishman showed that all good things aren't necessarily made in America. Hatton's upset stoppage over the previously dominant Kostya Tszyu and his follow-up devastating knockout over WBA titlist Carlos Maussa set up possible 140-pound superfights with Floyd Mayweather, Miguel Cotto, Castillo, Corrales and Arturo Gatti.
Knockout of the Year: Diego Corrales TKO 10 Jose Luis Castillo.
For sheer dramatic effect, this award has to go to Corrales, whose late rally was reminiscent of Jake LaMotta's 15th-round knockout against Laurent Dauthuille in 1950 and Mike Weaver's one-punch kayo of Big John Tate in the 15th round of their 1980 encounter.
Unlike LaMotta and Weaver, who were both well down on the scorecards when they pulled it out in the final round of their respective fights, Corrales - if he survived the 10th - was ahead on the cards.
But Castillo - who later in the year knocked out Corrales in a rematch - looked as if he was ready to stop Chico, which made Corrales' incredible comeback all the more exciting.
Worst Fight of the Year: Chris Byrd W 12 DaVarryl Williamson.
After 12 rounds of pecking away at each other good friends Byrd and Williamson fought perhaps the most boring championship bout in any weight division in history - and it had to happen in Reno. Byrd should be nicknamed the Ambien Man, for putting more fans to sleep with his negative style than he does opponents.
Most Disappointing Event of the Year: Jermain Taylor W 12 Bernard Hopkins Part II.
Credit to Taylor, who in his first fight with "The Executioner," ended the reign of Hopkins, whose 20 title defenses set a division record. But their second encounter was an insult to anyone who paid to watch it live or on HBO Pay Per View. Taylor fought defensively, but Hopkins, having promised to bring the fight to the young champion, inexplicably refused to let his hands go and probably tarnished his legacy in defeat.
Runner-up: Vitali Klitschko's retirement
By leaving the sport the way he did--following knee surgery and after postponing four times his fight with Hasim Rahman--Klitschko did himself and boxing fans a disservice. He left no legacy at all. Who's going to remember him in five years, much less 20 or 30?
Best Fight Not Aired on TV: Joey Gilbert W 6 James North.
So what if North was only 7-7-1 coming into the fight. So what if Gilbert took more punishment than he should have. The pair fought as if a world title were on the line and went toe to toe throughout the contest, which was on the undercard of Jeff Lacy-Scott Pemberton at Caesars Tahoe on Nov. 5.
How many walkout bouts keep the fans in their seats after the main event and then cause them to jump out of them in excitement throughout the entire fight? This one did and it's all the more reason to watch Gilbert and see if he can continue his success in a rematch with Jimmy Lange for the NABO middleweight title on Feb. 18, in Fairfax, Va.
Flop of the Year: Mike Tyson
In giving up after getting pushed to the canvas in his fight with inept Kevin McBride, Tyson effectively brought an ignominious ending to a simultaneously exciting and controversial career. If Tyson can't knock out his foe within the first four rounds, he'll just quit, which is a cardinal, unforgivable sin in boxing.
Old School Award: James Toney.
He may be only 5-foot-9, but the slick-as-an-eel Toney has shown he is indeed a force to be reckoned with in the heavyweight division. His 12-round victory over Dominick Guinn on Oct. 1 in Reno saved the show - which also featured Byrd-Williamson - from being a total bust.
Toney fought inside, outside and upside down in defeating the 6-foot-2 Guinn, who could do nothing with "Lights Out," whose dominant victory over "The Southern Disaster" proved he is worthy of a title shot.
Best Prospect of the Year: Nonito Donaire Jr.
If you were unable to see the 115-pound Donaire in Reno (Oct. 1) or Stateline (Nov. 5), catch him in 2006 on Showtime. "The Filipino Flash" will also be featured in The Ring magazine soon.
Donaire has incredible hand speed, good power and can make his opponent miss by a half-inch while standing right in front of him. The mega-talented 23-year-old looks like a future world champion.
n Contact Mike Houser at email@example.com