|INTRO | REVIEW BY SPORT | GALLERY | VOTE | LEGENDS REMEMBERED | 2002 CALENDAR|
By Sanjeev Shetty
In many ways, it was a good and bad year for boxing.
The good was encapsulated in Bernard Hopkins’ unification of the world middleweight titles and Lennox Lewis’ sparkling performance against Hasim Rahman in November.
But the bad was seeing Lewis lose his belts to Rahman seven months earlier, as well as Naseem Hamed’s defeat to Marco Antonio Barrera.
Hamed, one of boxing’s most charismatic figures, has not been seen since, with some wondering whether the world has seen the last of the Sheffield fighter in the ring.
His loss to Barrera was so emphatic that there have been few calls for a rematch, while the Mexican has a date with countryman Erik Morales in March 2002.
Lewis essentially started the year as he ended it, with his World Boxing Council and International Boxing Federation heavyweight titles around his waist and a fight with Mike Tyson in the near future.
His fifth round knockout defeat by Rahman in South Africa in April was so emphatically avenged in Las Vegas that Lewis should start a favourite if and when he fights Tyson.
With Lewis due to retire at some point in the coming year, expect fighters such as Ricky Hatton, Danny Williams, Howard Eastman and Richard Williams to become the new British boxing superstars.
Hatton, already a top light-welterweight, should be the first of that quartet to engage in a bona fide world title fight, perhaps with undisputed champion Kostya Tszyu.
And 2002 should see Audley Harrison step up his bid to emulate Lewis as the dominant heavyweight of the generation.
But last word goes to Hopkins, the 36-year-old who dominated unbeaten Puerto Rican Felix Trinidad in September to become the first unified middleweight champion since Marvellous Marvin Hagler.
Hopkins, one of boxing’s most engaging characters, is targeting a fight with Oscar de la Hoya in the next 12 months.