In 2006, Pacquiao avenged a March 2005 loss to Erik Morales by becoming the first fighter to stop the Mexican star -- and he did it twice! Pac Man rallied to stop Morales in ten rounds to even their score (January) and then overwhelmed the future Hall-of-Famer in three action-packed rounds in the rubber-match (November). Sandwiched in between the Morales bouts, Pacquiao found time to return to the Philippines to score a unanimous decision over former junior featherweight champ Oscar Larios in front of a wildly-enthusiastic hometown crowd (July).
Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order):
Flyweights rarely get much respect in this country but Arce's power, as well as his flamboyant style - both in and out of the ring - demands attention. Arce went 3-0 in 2006 and none of his opponents - Adonis Rivas (January), Rosendo Alvarez (April) or Masibulele Makepula (September) - were around for the final bell.
After decisioning Zab Judah (January) and stopping Arturo Gatti (July), Baldomir was just one fight away from almost certain Fighter of the Year honors. Unfortunately for Baldomir that fight was against the best fighter in the world, Floyd Mayweather Jr.. Baldomir was thoroughly outclassed but still deserves mention among the year's best for his two earlier wins.
Calzaghe's one-sided destruction of previously undefeated Jeff Lacy (March) was nearly perfect from a technical standpoint and gave the Welsh star the impressive victory he needed to win over skeptics in the United States. Calzaghe followed that up with a relatively easy win over unheralded Sakio Bika (October).
Cotto punished three opponents during 2006 and secured his place among the most entertaining (to fans) and feared (by opponents) fighters in the sport. Cotto, still in search of his first mega-fight, overpowered Gianluca Branco (March) and Paul Malignaggi (June) at junior welterweight and Carlos Quintana (December) in his first fight at welterweight.
Oscar De La Hoya
The Golden Boy only had one fight in 2006 but he made sure it was memorable. De La Hoya looked as good as he has in years in his sixth-round stoppage of Ricardo Mayorga (May) and made it clear that he's still got a lot of fight left in him.
Hopkins only fought once in 2006, but what a fight! Hopkins found time between retirements to move up to light heavyweight and - with shocking ease - dominate Antonio Tarver for 12 rounds (June). Hopkins looked great at 175 and further solidified his standing among the sport's all-time greats.
Klitschko did his best in 2006 to signal to the world that he is the best of a bad bunch of heavyweights. Klitschko showed his KO power and - just as importantly - stayed off the canvas himself in stopping Chris Byrd (April) and Calvin Brock (November). Fight fans like heavyweights that win by KO and Klitschko is the only one who is consistently providing the firepower.
Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Mayweather reinforced his status as boxing's top pound-for-pound fighter with victories over Zab Judah (April) and Carlos Baldomir (November). Mayweather dominated Judah and may have been on the verge of stopping him were it not for Judah's fouls which resulted in an ugly 10th-round melee. Mayweather nearly shut out Baldomir but critics still found fault with the performance, arguing that Mayweather should fight in a more aggressive, crowd-pleasing fashion. Roy Jones Jr. never gave in to that pressure. Don't hold you breath waiting for Floyd to change his style either . . .
Mosley showed the world that he's still an elite fighter by stopping Fernando Vargas twice during 2006 -- in ten rounds (February) and then in six rounds (July). Vargas may be nearly shot but Mosley nevertheless looked impressive in possibly sending him into retirement.
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