The year that wasn’t started off slowly last January, gaining little momentum as the months passed by, terminating in December with 51-year-old Bernard Hopkins being knocked out of the ring in his "farewell bout" by an obscure Long Island laborer named Joe Smith Jr. The "Executioner" of boxing was nearly executed.
Along the way, the unthinkable, the event of this year or any other.
The death of The Greatest, Muhammad Ali.
It’s been more than six months since the passing of the GOAT and our dwindling boxing community is still deeply mourning the loss of Ali; a once-in-a-lifetime boxer, American, and man. If it’s true what some fans and media are saying about the decline of boxing in 2016, Ali’s network televised funeral procession in Louisville, Kentucky served as a tragically apt metaphor for that very morbid notion.
Are things really that bad today? Ali’s funeral was seen by some keen insiders as boxing’s funeral.
Care to argue with them after this past year?
We now ring a final, memorial ten-count for those in the world of boxing lost in 2016:
|Ali & Bingham
Bingham was 77.
Aaron Pryor: "Hawk Time" ended on October 9 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The former junior welterweight champion was 60-years-old when he left the neon world he once set ablaze with a windmill boxing style reminiscent of the great Henry Armstrong. Best remembered for a pair of knockout victories over Alexis Arguello, Pryor will almost certainly also be remembered for drinking from a "special" bottle, one "mixed" by his infamous cornerman and trainer Panama Lewis in 1982. Born into a life of pain, that wasn’t the only dark bottle Pryor drank from. At the time of his death though, Pryor was living a sober life and working with troubled youth, teaching them to box. In the end, Pryor’s turbulent high life was one of recovery and redemption.
The "Hawk" soared, crashed, and rose again before sailing home.
|KOJO in action
|Chacon was loved by all, even "Boom Boom"
Hurry home early, hurry on home
Boom Boom Mancini’s fighting Bobby Chacon...
In his Hall of Fame career, Chacon, 59-7-1 (47) also battled warriors Ruben Olivares, Danny "Little Red" Lopez, Alexis Arguello, "Bazooka" Limon, and Cornelius Boza-Edwards. Sadly, Chacon lost his money and his health before passing on last September 7 at the age of 64.
|RIP Iron Mike
Tony Burton: As the actor who played Rocky movie trainer Tony "Duke" Evers, Tony Burton was well known to boxing fans for his reoccurring role on the big screen in the 1976 Rocky film, all the sequels, and in 2006’s Rocky Balboa where Evers trains Rocky one more time, imploring the Italian Stallion to "start buildin’ some hurtin’ bombs" while cracking his neck in a dusty gym. What you might not know about Burton is that he was once a fighter himself in real life. In the late 1950s, Burton went 4-3-1 as a heavyweight boxer hailing from California. Knocked out in his final two bouts, Burton chose the "reel life" instead, becoming a successful Hollywood actor. Burton was 78 when he died of pneumonia on February 25.
In addition to Rocky films, Burton also appeared in The Shining and The Toy.
Alex Stewart: This London-born heavyweight "Destroyer" was only 52 when he died on November 16 from a blood clot in his lung. Seen as shy with puppy dog eyes, Stewart began his boxing career in 1986 and quickly amassed an impressive 24-0 (24) record before stepping up to challenge Evander Holyfield in 1989. Stewart was beaten by "The Real Deal" in a brutally bloody encounter in Atlantic City. The technical knockout loss turned out to be the highlight of Stewart’s career. Losses to Mike Tyson, George Foreman, and Michael Moorer further defined Stewart as being a step behind the elites but almost always right there in the mix with them on fight night.
|Harlib working with The Truth Spence Jr.
Kimbo Slice: Revered more for his backyard brawls and UFC cage fights than for any displays of pugilistic technique, Slice (real name Kevin Ferguson) was undefeated as a heavyweight boxer, going 7-0 from 2011 to 2013. After dropping the gloves, Ferguson found his calling as Kimbo. Slice was just 42 when his overtaxed heart failed on June 6 in Margate, Florida. During his troubled times, Ferguson somehow managed to grab a slice of the good life through his participation in combat sports. Ferguson is survived by his six children.
|RIP Brown KIA in Chiraq, USA
Jose Becerra: Mexican world bantamweight champion was 80 when he passed on August 6 in his hometown of Guadalajara. Becerra defeated Alphonse Halimi in 1959 to grab the title After being knocked out by the unheralded Eloy Sanchez in a non-title bout, Becerra retired as world champion.
Sean Curtin: Best remembered as the longtime overseer of amateur boxing in Chicago, Curtin was an Irish Jack of many trades in both amateur and professional boxing, a ring historian, and an author. Curtin died on August 11. The Army Veteran was 74.
Written by Jeffrey Freeman, KO Digest
Originally Published on The Sweet Science