The long and twisting road to the super fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao began, in earnest, in the early morning hours of Nov. 15, 2009, in Las Vegas.
Hours earlier, on Nov. 14, Pacquiao had stopped Miguel Cotto in the 12th round of a bout at the MGM Grand Garden. It was the sixth sensational performance in a row against elite opposition for Pacquiao.
View gallery . There wasn't a whole lot of excitement in the Mayweather-Pacquiao bout. (AP) He’d drubbed Marco Antonio Barrera on Oct. 6, 2007, and followed that with an exciting victory over Juan Manuel Marquez. He won a lightweight title from David Diaz, and then became a full-fledged superstar when he knocked out Ricky Hatton in the second round of a junior welterweight bout.
There wasn't a whole lot of excitement in the Mayweather-Pacquiao bout. (AP)
It was at that point that those who believed Pacquiao might be Mayweather’s superior began to extend outside his native Philippines.
Then there was the move up in weight, to welterweight, which was Mayweather’s class, and the match against Cotto. And when Pacquiao utterly dominated Cotto, it was clear that the next fight had to be Pacquiao against Mayweather.
The topic, of course, came up at the post-fight news conference. When it ended, I pulled Top Rank chairman Bob Arum aside. He was promoting Pacquiao, but had signed Mayweather out of the amateurs and promoted him for the majority of his career, until a final, bitter split in 2006.
I asked Arum if a Mayweather-Pacquiao fight were realistic, given the feelings between the sides
“Of course,” he said, annoyed by the insinuation that it might not be.
The next day, I phoned Leonard Ellerbe, the CEO of Mayweather Promotions, and asked the same question, receiving the same response.
It wasn’t so easy, and the storyline hung over the sport for years, but eventually, Mayweather and Pacquiao fought on May 2, 2015.
It was a lousy fight, not the least bit entertaining, and it was obvious it should have occurred years earlier. It was important, though, and established Mayweather unquestionably as the greatest fighter of his era.
The bout smashed every record conceivable, including nearly doubling the old pay-per-view record. Mayweather’s 2007 win over Oscar De La Hoya sold 2.48 million pay-per-views and seemed virtually untouchable.
But Mayweather-Pacquiao did 4.6 million in sales, with each fighter making more than $100 million.
And so it’s only fair that the 2015 Yahoo Sports Boxing Personality of the Year be someone responsible for making the fight.
It was a complex, difficult negotiation, and things were so contentious between the teams that tickets didn’t even go on sale until two weeks before the fight as the sides battled over who would get what seats, and where.
Because it was such a massive undertaking, more than one person needs to get the honor.
View gallery . Bob Arum has played a role in both Floyd Mayweather's and Manny Pacquiao's careers. (Getty) So in this case, the Personality of the Year becomes the Personalities of the Year, and the winners are the two fighters and four members from each of their teams.
Bob Arum has played a role in both Floyd Mayweather's and Manny Pacquiao's careers. (Getty)
So in addition to Mayweather, and on his side, are Leslie Moonves, the CEO and president of CBS; adviser Al Haymon; Ellerbe; and Stephen Espinoza, the executive vice president and general manager of Showtime Sports.
In addition to Pacquiao, and on his side, are Arum, HBO CEO Richard Plepler, now former HBO Sports president Ken Hershman and adviser Michael Koncz.
Those 10 are the 2015 Yahoo Sports Personalities of the Year for boxing.
They are the ones who made the fight the world wanted to see happen. (Reminder: Be careful what you wish for, because you just may get it.) And though the bout didn’t play out the way the fans had hoped, at least it occurred and removed that dark cloud that hovered over the sport for so long.
With that, let’s wrap up 2015 with a few other honors:
Prospect of the Year: Let’s establish the criteria of what the qualifications are. It must be someone who has never fought for a recognized world championship, who was born on or after Jan. 1, 1990, and has 25 or fewer pro fights.
There are two fighters who meet that criteria and stand out from the crowd: welterweight Errol Spence Jr., the 2012 U.S. Olympian; and lightweight Felix Verdejo, the 2012 Puerto Rican Olympian.
Spence, though, gets the nod. He has earned comparisons to Sugar Ray Leonard and has the ability to dominate the sport for years.
Verdejo is an elite talent and will be a major force within the sport, perhaps as soon as the second half of this year.
But if you’re looking for a guy who can win multiple world titles and reign atop the sport like Mayweather and Pacquiao did for so long, Spence is your guy.
Trainer of the Year: Just as there was no obvious choice for Fighter of the Year, there is no slam-dunk pick for Trainer of the Year. But Abel Sanchez, who handles 2014-15 Yahoo Sports Fighter of the Year Gennady Golovkin, is the man. He’s turned Golovkin into a star and has a pipeline of young talent on the way.
Knockout of the Year: There were many to choose from, but I’m going to split this in two. I’m giving Canelo Alvarez the KO of the Year for his third-round beatdown of James Kirkland on HBO on May 9 in Houston. Alvarez battered Kirkland for much of the fight before knocking him cold with a brutal right hand to the chin. But KO 1A of the Year, which we’ll call the One-Punch Knockout of the Year, was by Yenifel Vicente, whose out-of-nowhere right hand knocked Juan Dominguez cold in a Fox Sports 1-televised bout from Trenton, N.J.
Upset of the Year: Hands down, it’s Tyson Fury’s victory on Nov. 28 over Wladimir Klitschko in their bout for the IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight titles. Klitschko had enjoyed a nearly 10-year reign as champion, and Fury wasn’t particularly highly regarded. He’d been knocked down by Steve Cunningham, who isn’t a big puncher and is a small heavyweight. But Fury dominated Klitschko and earned recognition as the man in the heavyweight division with his one-sided win. Nothing else comes close.