Breaking down Pacquiao’s 2nd ESPY Fighter of the Year Award

(Tihs appears in my column)

Manny Pacquiao doesn’t need more accolades; however, this will not stop entities from showering the best pound-for-pound fighter with more entries for his already loaded résumé. Pacquiao, for the second time has been voted as ESPY’s Fighter of the Year.

Since its inception in 2007, only Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather have won this award. This year Pacquiao was up against two other boxers and two MMA fighters.

Pacquiao didn’t have the best year of his career. He had a tremendous performance against Antonio Margarito but had a lackluster win over Shane Mosley, though the lackluster part was no fault of Pacquiao. When he last won the same award in 2007, it was because of three huge knockout wins over David Diaz, Oscar de la Hoya, and Ricky Hatton. This was, without a doubt, the best stretch of Pacquiao’s career.

The other contenders for the award were WBC light heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins, former middleweight champion Sergio Martinez, UFC Welterweight champion Georges St.-Pierre, and UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones.

Now let’s break down the accomplishments of the other four competitors to see why Pacquiao won the award.

Hopkins’ last two fights were both against Jean Pascal. The first fight was ended in a draw and the second was a win for Hopkins which also put him in the record books as the oldest fighter to even win a championship.

Martinez defeated both Kelly Pavlik and Paul Williams in the past 12 months; the former by unanimous decision and the latter via a devastating knockout victory. Both were impressive wins and the second was even named as Ring Magazine’s Knockout of the Year.

St.-Pierre was his usual dominant self, defeating Josh Koscheck and Jake Shields. However, what hurt his chances of winning was that he failed to give exciting fights. He was dominant but he didn’t appear to be going in for the kill at any point in those fights.

Among all the contenders, only Jones fought three times in the past 12 months and he clearly had the most devastating results. He knocked out UFC veteran Vladimir Matsyushenko in a single round, submitted Ryan Bader via guillotine choke in round 2, then won the UFC light heavyweight title by dominating Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and stopping him in the third round.

Although cases may be made that the other fighters had better years than Pacquiao, the Pacman will be tough to beat when it comes to these awards. The UFC is slowly gaining a following, but boxing is still the bigger sport worldwide and Pacquiao is, quite simply, the most well-known fighter in the world today.

Pacquiao-Mosley may have been a dud but the fact is that Pacquiao is still the most visible fighter out there. The fight sold more than a million pay-per-views and received a lot of attention from mainstream media. What Hopkins did was impressive but people are not inclined to support a fighter as old as him and Martinez, as good as he is, is still a relative unknown outside boxing circles.

As long as Pacquiao keeps winning, accolades such as the ESPY Fighter of the Year award will continue to go his way. Pacquiao has built a huge fanbase and it will take a herculean effort for someone not named Floyd Mayweather to take this award from him. Even though the ESPY Fighter of the Year award should be judged solely on the performance of fighters in the past 12 months, fans who flock ESPN’s website to vote still take the fighters entire career into consideration.

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