Boxing is a sport that can thrill fans and crush them, often within a few minutes of each other. For every feel-good story like Daniel Jacobs beating cancer and then returning to the ring to knock out Peter Quillin in the first round, there are dozens of ugly stories involving corruption, fixed fights and sleazy people making money at the expense of the people in the ring.
So picking the five biggest disappointments of 2015 is not easy. For one thing, I have to avoid the temptation to list the five ways that Floyd Mayweather Jr. disappointed boxing fans and decent human beings. He still gets one spot, but that means leaving out his camp throwing Rachel Nichols and Michelle Beadle out of his fight with Manny Pacquiao, the way he used Arizona Cardinals coaching intern Dr. Jen Welter to try to show he wasn’t a misogynist – he is – and his choice to end his career by fighting a stiff like Andre Berto.
But let’s get the list started, and yes, Floyd, you are No. 1.
1.Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao, Linear Welterweight Title
The “Fight of the Century” turned out to be about a decade too late. In the mid-2000s, when Pacquaio was beating Hall of Famers like Marco Barrera, Erik Morales and fighting his first battles with Juan Manuel Marquez, this fight might have lived up to the hype. It would have been fought at lightweight instead of welterweight, and we would have seen the Mayweather who could still knock people out, not the late-career version who bored people to death with his brilliant defense and occasional combinations.
In 2015, we didn’t get those fighters, we got two old men who couldn’t convincingly beat boxers they would have destroyed in their primes. Pacquiao at his best would have never given Tim Bradley a chance to steal a decision, much less keep a second fight close. Mayweather would have never needed two fights to turn back the challenge of Marcos Maidana.
Those were the fighters we got, though, and it was dreadful. Pacquiao, a 36-year-old fighting 40 pounds above his debut weight, was old and slow and couldn’t have hurt Mayweather with a chair. At 38, Mayweather still had enough to avoid any danger and he was able to land enough tippy-tappy punches to win an easy decision.
The excuses are still flying – Pacquiao couldn’t fight because of a shoulder injury and Mayweather might have scammed the drug-testing system – but it is hard to care because no one in their right mind should want to see them fight again.
2. Wladimir Klitschko vs. Tyson Fury, Linear Heavyweight Title
The Klitschko family reign over the heavyweight division was bound to end someday, but no one expected it to end like this. Wladimir turned into an old man before our eyes, fighting like Oz’s Tin Man without his oil can.
For 12 rounds, he had his lethal right hand – the one that had knocked out more than 50 opponents – cocked and ready at his side, but it never left the holster. Fighting a man he would have destroyed a decade ago (are you sensing a theme here?) all he could do was flick a soft left jab a few times around. Even when Fury, who possesses all of the taunting ability of Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard without any of the in-ring talent, started openly mocking the champion by putting his hands behind his back and daring Klitschko to hit him, the champ just stared at him.
At the end of 12 rounds, having done nothing particularly useful, Tyson Fury became the heavyweight champion of the world. It might have been the least inspiring performance to win the belt since Primo Carnera “knocked out” Jack Sharkey in 1933.
To make things worse, the heavyweight title has passed from a PhD interested in helping the world to a homophobic misogynist. Fury is such an offensive excuse for a human being that, when he was nominated for the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year award, at least one finalist had to be talked out of boycotting the ceremony.
Luckily, he didn’t win, but having the heavyweight title will give him a platform to spread the kind of hatred that Donald Trump brings to the other side of the Atlantic. Hopefully, 2016 will see the title taken off him in decisive fashion.
3. Andre Ward vs. No One, Linear Super-Middleweight Title
Four years ago, Andre Ward won a unanimous decision over Carl Froch to win the Showtime Super Six 168-pound tournament and take his place among the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. He was 27 with a perfect 25-0 record and he reigned over a division loaded with talent.
Since the Froch fight, Ward has fought three times. He stopped a very good fighter in Chad Dawson in 2012, he won a unanimous decision over overmatched Edwin Rodriguez in 2013 and he knocked out Paul Smith earlier this year in a light-heavyweight fight. Smith’s qualification? Losing his last two fights to Arthur Abraham.
There have been promotional issues and injuries, but more than anything, there has been a complete lack of Ward getting in the ring with anyone interesting. Even Dawson wasn’t much of a challenge – Adonis Stevenson knocked him out in the first round of his next fight, and he’s since lost to the immortal Tommy Karpency.
Ward dropped out of a fight on the Cotto-Alvarez undercard, and is now rumored to be negotiating with Cuban light-heavyweight Sullivan Barrera. If that leads to an eventual fight with No. 1 contender Sergei Kovalev, it would make Ward’s 2016 a lot better than his last four years combined.
4. Roy Jones Jr. vs. Enzo Maccarinelli
Roy Jones Jr. is now a Russian citizen, reduced to doing appearances for Vladimir Putin in order to keep his boxing career alive. Hopefully, Putin will also take care to keep Jones alive, but that’s not really the big guy’s number-one concern at the moment.
It has been 11 years since Jones’ last meaningful victory, a majority decision over Antonio Tarver in 2003, but he can’t give up the ring. That’s led him to Russia and becoming a poster boy for Putin as he destroys Ukraine and protects Bashir Assad in Syria.
Of course, after being knocked out by Maccarinelli in brutal fashion – Jones went down on his face and didn’t move for minutes – he’s not much of a PR asset at the moment. He did announce after the loss that he plans to move into managing and opening boxing gyms across Russia … but he also intends to keep fighting.
5. Ricardo Mayorga vs. Shane Mosley II
This was a pretty good fight the first time, back in 2008. With the decision in the balance, Mosely knocked Mayorga out with one second left in the fight. It wasn’t even for an alphabet championship – both fighters back then were already losing their big fights.
This year, though, they tried to recreate the magic despite a combined age of 83. The promotion would have embarrassed Vince McMahon, including an “assault” by Mayorga on Mosely’s girlfriend that was obviously scripted.
Maybe they could redeemed themselves with a great fight, but that didn’t seem likely after Mayorga weighed in at 165 pounds for a junior-middleweight match. Mosely, likely not feeling any need to diet, came in at 159 and knocked the flabby Nicaraguan out in the sixth round.