2010 will go down as one of my all-time favourite years in combat sports, mainly because it was the year of the good guys.
I grew up in a time when you could tell the difference between the John Waynes and Lee Van Cleefs of the world.
That line has become blurred in the last 20 years especially with our friends to the south, and their worship and fascination with the anti-heroes of their culture.
However, thanks to the likes of Georges St. Pierre, Manny Pacquiao and Cain Velasquez that line has become far less blurry and we have remembered that, good guys can finish first.
In 2010 St. Pierre took on two classic villains in Dan Hardy and Josh Koshcheck.
Hardy, the brash Englishman, talked about as much trash as person could before his March fight with St. Pierre, but when it came time to fight it was the welterweight champion who did all the talking, dominating Hardy from start to finish enroute to a unanimous decision win.
St. Pierre’s fight with Koshcheck had the perfect hero-villain build-up as they opposed each other as coaches on the Ultimate Fighter reality series.
Koshcheck’s antics, immaturity and attempts at getting under the Canadian’s skin helped paint him solidly into that villain’s role.
While St. Pierre, who retained his white hat throughout, never once let the American phase him, as his team dominated Koshcheck’s to the point of shutting them out in the final.
Their fight on Dec. 11 would go much the same way, as the Quebec fighter would dominate from start-to-finish in all aspects of the game, closing Koshcheck’s eye and continually rocking him with jabs, left hooks and straight rights.
Afterwards we found out that St.Pierre fractured Koschcheck’s orbital socket.
St. Pierre has received some criticism for not stopping his recent opponents, but that criticism has come from people who do not have a true understanding of the sport. The goal of martial arts is to hit without getting hit, to inflict damage without receiving damage. St. Pierre is the consummate professional, and the epitome of this philosophy.
He is a true artist. Muhammed Ali, the greatest combat sports athlete to ever live, was not a knockout artist, but he was an artist extraordinaire in the ring.
After the fights both Hardy and Koshcheck were extremely humble, having learned valuable lessons in their own humanity and humility, and as ever St. Pierre was gracious and humble in victory.
Pacquiao was never able to confront his designated bad guy Floyd Mayweather in 2010, as Mayweather avoided the Phillipino fighter, like dads avoid the shopping mall at Christmas.
However, Pacquiao was able to find another villain in Antonio Margarito. Margarito, was best known as a juggernaut of fighter with non-stop action and stamina, until he was caught with loaded hand-wraps before his fight with Shane Mosely and was subsequently suspended from boxing for a year. He further cemented his villain persona when he was caught on tape mimicking the voice of Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach, who suffers from Parkinsons, prior to their Nov. 13 fight.
Before the fight, people, including myself, were concerned that Margarito would be just too big for Pacquiao, but it only took minutes into the fight to relieve those fears as the welterweight champion peppered the Mexican with shots from all angles, and then would move away giving little opportunity for his opponent to answer back. Margarito had his moments, but they were few-and-far-between. The smaller fighter took him to school and punished him for his comments, closing his right eye and fracturing Margarito’s orbital socket. Margarito took such a beating that by the 10th round Pacquiao began to implore the referee to stop the fight. In an act of class and kindness the new super-welterweight champion took his foot off the gas in the twelfth round, allowing his opponent to survive the fight.
Again, Pacquiao was extremely kind and humble in victory, calling his battle with Margarito the toughest of his career.
As for Mayweather he would lose to his biggest opponent, himself, as he now has a plethora of outstanding criminal charges he will have to face in 2011.
Former UFC Heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar was the prime example of the highly worshiped American anti-hero. He was known for taunting his opponents in defeat, fingering the crowd, and announcing what he was going to do with his wife after the bout. Before his October fight with Velasquez, Lesnar commented that after he beat up his opponent he would go for a burrito, a derogatory reference to Velasquez’ Mexican heritage.
However, when it came to the actual fight it was Lesnar who took the beating. Velasquez took the larger man down, caught him with a left hook that sent the anti-hero stumbling across the octagon, and then ground and pound him, forcing the referee to stop the fight, 4:12 into the first round. That fight had me jumping out of my chair in celebration. Velasquez is one of the good guys. He did not trash talk leading up to the fight, and he was extremely humble after the bout stating that he did not perform as well as he could have.
Other highlights for 2010 include: Red Deer boxer Arash Usmanee (another good guy) going 6-0, including winning the North American Boxing Association Super-featherweight title on Dec. 3 in a gritty unanimous decision victory over tough Mexican Pedro Navarette . . . Anthony Pettis’ Matrix-like kick to defeat Ben Henderson in WEC’s last fightcard before being absorbed by the UFC . . . Montreal’s rise as one of the top two or three professional boxing centres in the world, led by world champions, light-heavyweight Jean Pascal and super-middleweight Lucien Bute.