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The 2000 Year End CBZ Awards

by the CBZ Staff

Fighter of the Year: Felix Trinidad
Even up until the end of last year, the greatness and aura of Felix Trinidad, Jr. was a question mark in the minds of most observers. Though Trinidad won a close, if not controversial decision over Oscar "The Golden Boy" de la Hoya last year in one of the most significant duels of our time, Trinidad's name had always been cast aside when mentioning the premier fighters on the planet. That was until now.

If his victories over former United States gold medallists, Pernell "Sweet Pea" Whitaker and de la Hoya did little to enhance your opinion of the native of Puerto Rico, then his two systematic thrashings of previously unbeaten champions, David Reid and Fernando Vargas must have awarded Tito your stamp of approval. For if you deny that he is not the finest or one of the finest fighters on the planet, then surely his accomplishments in year 2000 must have opened your eyes.

As being one of the most driven competitors in the sport today, Trinidad, unbeaten in 39 professional fights and holder of the designation, "world champion" since June of 1993 grew into the jr. middleweight this year. Some say he grew into a 154-pound frame years ago but brutalized his body to make the welterweight limit in order to secure mega fights with the Whitaker and de la Hoya, the division's top and most established stars. After beating both of them last year, Trinidad began his tirade in March when he met another gold medallist, David Reid, then the holder of the WBA jr. middleweight title. After picking himself up from a flash knockdown, Trinidad turned Reid's American dream into a living nightmare by dropping the 1996 Olympian several times en route to a unanimous decision victory.

Trinidad followed the win over Reid by nearly maiming Mamadou Thiam, his number one challenger and winner in all but one of his previous 34 starts. After three one-sided rounds, Thiam's rearranged facial features made Quasimodo look like Tom Cruise. Had only Quasimodo been around to ring the bell to end the round before Thiam's surrender.

Unsatisfied, Trinidad decided to gun down another U.S. Olympian, "Ferocious" Fernando Vargas, the IBF champion who turned back the challenge of former welterweight champion, Ike Quartey in impressive fashion this past spring. Had Vargas defeated Trinidad, he most certainly would have been the subject of this award. As predicted by most, Trinidad prevailed via convincing 12th round knockout in one of the most action packed slugfests of the year. In his awe-impressive finish of Vargas, Trinidad closed a year that could have been defined by Lennox Lewis or "Sugar" Shane Mosley's impressive achievements. Whether Trinidad plans on continuing his march toward greatness or not, you have to applaud him on a job well done in 2000.

Runner-Up: Shane Mosley

Fight of the Year: Erik Morales W12 Marco Antonio Barrera

When great marquee match-ups like Mosley-de la Hoya and Trinidad-Vargas exceed expectations and aren't named the "Fight of the Year," one can only come to one conclusion: that the Erik Morales-Marco Antonio Barrera was truly one of the greatest fights of all time.

The war that was Morales-Barrera was to be a battle that was to determine the best 122-pounder in the world. Fight fans were fortunate enough that two out of the three best Mexican fighters in the world fought at the same weight class. Morales-Barrera was an engagement of epic proportions for nationalistic pride. What those auspicious enough to behold in their meeting was the second Mexican Civil War.

The clash of the unbeaten Mexicans had more machismo than any crossroads battle either fighter has ever encounter. Not a round was taken off for either champion who fought twelve straight rounds without any sense of defense. Each stanza was as vicious as the next one as Morales of Tijuana, the holder of the WBC title and Barrera, of Mexico City, the WBO champion took turns raking head snapping shots from bell to bell.

In the end, only those who were strongly opposed with the split verdict favoring Morales were disappointed. True purists of the sport who wait a lifetime for a Morales-Barrera match know that those who saw this fight were the real winners.

Runner-Up: Felix Trinidad KO12 Fernando Vargas

Knockout of the Year: Arturo Gatti KO2 Joey Gamache

Though Arturo Gatti's knockout of Joey Gamache spurred a heap of criticism on the New York State Athletic Commission, you cannot deny the destructiveness of Gatti's three punch salvo that inevitably retired the former two-time champion. Gatti's two round massacre of Gamache showed what happens when a washed-up middleweight fights a washed up jr. welterweight. It was another clear sign of the dangers of not having the weigh-in on the day of the fight.

Whether Gatti actually came in at the 140-pound limit and gained 20 pounds within 24 hours or not, this frightening knockout was as much an example of poor regulations as it was a frightening display of what fists can do to a cranium. Flawed rules or not, Gatti's first punch, of the three-punch combination could have felled most middleweights, if he could have landed them of course.

Runner-Up: Naseem Hamed KO4 Augie Sanchez

Round of the Year: Round 5 of Erik Morales vs. Marco Antonio Barrera

In the great 12 rounds that made up the Morales-Barrera fight of the year, most fans would have got their money's worth if they had just sat through one of those rounds. But if any round painted a clearer picture of what Morales-Barrera was all about, it was the fifth round. For if the Morales-Barrera fight was only the fifth round, it still would have been regarded as one hell of a fight. It was one of those rounds where you couldn't understand how there were rounds that followed it. To put it frankly, round five was the best round to one of the best fights. What does that tell you? In the words of our own Chris Bushnell, who reported on the fight for the CBZ, this is how he saw (which means this is how it really went down) the unforgettable fifth.

"The fifth round was as exciting as it gets. As both men picked up the pace again, Barrera punched Morales back to the ropes and then unloaded with a left hook that rocked Morales. Shaken by the punch, Morales suddenly came alive, letting his hands go. Adjusting his straight right hand, Morales now hooked the punch around Barrera's tight guard and landed repeated shots to Barrera's right ear. Barrera stopped throwing as Morales walked him down, punching and landing all the way. Referee Mitch Halpern began moving in close to the action, as Morales was teeing off on Barrera while Marco only rarely returned a punch. But Morales could not put Barrera away, and after over a minute of nonstop punching, Morales needed to stop and take a breath. When he did, Barrera took his turn. Firing back some wild left hooks, Barrera caught Morales flush on the face, sending him back to the ropes on stiff legs. Barrera now let his own hands go, savagely beating Morales with perfectly timed power punches. Blood was pouring out of Morales' nose as Barrera punished him. When the bell rang to end the round, the crowd screamed their delight. It was boxing nirvana."


Runner-Up: Round 12 of Shane Mosley- Oscar de la Hoya

Upset of the Year: Virgil Hill KO1 Fabrice Tiozzo

Had it not been for Virgil "Quicksilver" Hill's unlikely one round bludgeoning of Fabrice Tiozzo, then finding a suitable recipient for this category would have been a tedious task. Not because there weren't significant upsets this year. The year was full of surprises that merited consideration. You had a 37 year old Venezuelan, Leo Gamez winning his fourth world title in five different weight classes in knocking out Japanese champion Hideki Todaka. There was also Glen Catley getting knocked out by a washed up former lightweight world champion for the WBC super-middleweight title. No, that former lightweight champion wasn't Roberto Duran or Vinny Pazienza, two fighters who have been fighting at or around the 168-pound limit for over six years. It was just 34 year-old, Dingaan Thobela of South Africa, a newcomer to the division and someone you may have not heard about since he lost his lightweight crown to Orzubek Nazarov 7 years ago.

In neither case however, would you have found a more improbable outcome. Hill of North Dakota had come into his rematch with Tiozzo having fought only once in two years. Entering the fight, Hill was also a 15-1 underdog fighting in the backyard of his French nemesis, Tiozzo who lost a close decision to Hill in a 1993 title defense. That same year was the last time in which Hill scored a knockout in a championship fight. With a virtually non-existent knockout reputation, Hill hadn't scored a first round knockout in a title fight in over 11 years. How could Hill pull this one off? With his right hand of course, a weapon that wasn't even a rumor in the three-time champion's arsenal. With less than a minute remaining in the first round, Hill unleashed with a quick right hand over a lazy jab thrown by Tiozzo. Tiozzo collapsed in a heap and never recovered upon returning to his feet. Hill used a two-fisted attack in dropping the champion on two more occasions prompting the referee to enforce the three knockdown rule. At 36, the former 1984 Olympic Silver Medallist became only the 5th former light-heavyweight champion to win the cruiserweight title and is the oldest title holder in the division's history.

Comeback of the Year: Virgil Hill

Hill is the undisputed choice. In November of 1996, Hill gained consensus status by many (including the CBZ) as the lineal light-heavyweight champion of the world when he traveled to Germany and dethroned long-reigning champion Henry Maske. Shortly after defeating Maske, Hill returned to Germany to meet its other favorite son, WBO title holder, Dariusz Michalczewski. For 12 rounds, Michalczewski dominated Hill who was recovering from an ankle injury. Aside from the injury, it appeared that Hill would never attain the peak he had reached when defeating Maske.

A year later, Hill was given that opportunity to attain status, but Roy Jones Jr., arguably the sport's finest fighter stood in his path and uncharacteristically knocked out Hill with a thudding right hand to the body. The shot broke two of Hill's ribs but not his incorrible will to compete. Hill tried to prepare his body for one last run but had to postpone his matches due to recurring injuries, injuries that often emerge at the tail end of a fighter's career. On two occasions, the Tiozzo-Hill rematch was postponed due to Hill's failing body. On December 9th however, everything seemed to fall into place for Hill who was able to win his third world title under the most unlikely of circumstances. Though it may be Hill 's "final countdown," his victory over Tiozzo was perhaps the most fulfilling triumph of his great career.

Runner-Up: Dingaan Thobela

Manager of the Year: Jack Mosley

In most situations, father/son relationships in boxing are ridiculed and for logical reasons. Too often you hear about fathers mentally abusing their sons or overprotecting them in fear that their son will suffer an earth-shattering loss. It is a fear of embarrassment because most of the time, the father feels that his son isn't capable enough to compete at a certain level, a level where others feel that they can. Not only do the fans lose out under these circumstances the fighters do themselves. One father who believes in his son's abilities and has every right to is Jack Mosley, the dad of "Sugar" Shane. Though Felix Trinidad Sr. has commendably guided his son in a direction that has led Trinidad to superstardom, Mosley has done so without the benefit of Don King or a major promoter behind him. If you check out Shane's impressive resume, you will notice the steady progression, a progression that has led him to become a million dollar fighter and one of the best fighters in the world pound for pound. With the decisive win over de la Hoya, Mosley may have the drawing power of Trinidad who has been around the game much longer Mosley. Needless to say, the Mosley tandem have been a great one thus far and it has much to do with Jack Mosley's admirable devotion to his son.

Trainer of the Year: A Worldwide tie for all Trainers

I don't mean to veer off and get all teary eyed, but when there are literally hundreds of men and women out there who commit their time to struggling yet aspiring youth, there can't be a definitive winner. Sure, some know more than others do and others have the ability to reach certain individuals with greater ease.

A trainer or one that teaching the science of boxing is a saint. They are the ones who are there for the children to see to it that they lead an honest living, one that promises more than what the streets can offer. What 's more compelling about their extensive labor is that they usually do it for free. In the words of the wife of John Curran, a longtime boxing trainer based in Somerville, Massachusetts, "If you worked as much at McDonalds as you did those kids then we would have been rich."

Thanks for keeping their hopes and our favorite sport alive!

Happy Holidays to all of our good readers!

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