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Last Updated: Monday, 20 December, 2004, 11:59 GMT
Silver lining for talented Khan
By Alex Trickett

THE YEAR IN PICTURES
All the key fights from 2004

It says something about the frail state of British boxing that 17-year-old Amir Khan stole the show in 2004, but it says even more about his talent.

The Bolton prodigy punched his way to silver at the Athens Olympics, losing only to Cuban legend Mario Kindelan.

And he convinced observers from around the globe that he could be the next big star of lower-division boxing.

A nation continues to hold its breath to find out how long Khan will resist financial gain by turning professional.

Domestically, Danny Williams came closest to upstaging Khan, shocking the world by knocking out a determined but diminished Mike Tyson.

Credit should go to Williams - branded by many a coward - for having the courage to face his toughest challenge.

And he immediately put his reputation on the line by taking on WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko.

Although the Ukrainian humbled him on 11 December, Williams has been an unlikely hero in 2004 - boxing needs more like him.

For all Williams' heroics, boxing's heartbeat - its heavyweight division - remained at a low ebb.

An underwhelming title double-header at Madison Square Garden saw Chris Byrd edge past Jameel McCline and John Ruiz controversially beat Andrew Golota.

My aim is to retire as undisputed heavyweight champion of the world
Evander Holyfeld

Despite promoter Don King's bravado, it was hard to believe that these fighters could give a bright future to the sport.

And there is a pressing need for someone like Klitschko to retore credibility to the top weight by unifying the belts.

Worst of all, the heavyweight division bore witness to one of the saddest and most reluctant declines in history.

The once great Evander Holyfield was battered by journeyman Larry Donald and still refused to quit the ring.

"My aim is to retire as undisputed heavyweight champion of the world and as long as I don't quit I'll reach my goal," Holyfield told BBC Sport.

His delusion is worrying in a sport that pays no dues to old age and his fans must pray that sanity prevails.

Bernard Hopkins

On a brighter note, fighter of the year was America's middleweight king Bernard Hopkins, who knocked out Oscar de la Hoya in the most hyped contest of 2004.

Fearless and nearly flawless at his weight, the "Executioner" chopped down a brave De la Hoya at the MGM Grand.

And he then hinted that Briton Howard Eastman could finally get a title tilt.

Mexican Marco Antonio Barrera pushed Hopkins close for the award, winning the third of an epic trilogy against super featherweight champ Erik Morales.

There were other stirring bouts in 2004, as US fighters took risks on unification bouts for handsome paydays.

Winky Wright beat Shane Mosley in a Las Vegas cracker and then Cory Spinks got the better of Zab Judah.

But the formerly untouchable Roy Jones Jr lost twice in 12 months to Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson.

His demise was partially offset by the return of Puerto Rico's prodigal son Felix Trinidad, whose impressive comeback suggested more was to come.

Arguably the most fascinating division continued to be light welterweight.

Just when it looked as though long-time champion Kostya Tszyu might be ready to hang up his gloves, he fought back with a stunning win over Sharmba Mitchell.

Throw in Floyd Mayweather, Miguel Angel Cotto, Vivian Harris, Arturo Gatti and of course Britain's Ricky Hatton, and tempting contests must surely follow.

And then there is Bradford's ever-green Junior Witter, who did enough in 2004 to show he deserves his shot.

Britain's most disappointing fighter was Welshman Joe Calzaghe, who laboured to beat unknown Kabary Salem.

With some experts even calling for him to quit, the pressure is on Calzaghe and promoter Frank Warren to step up.

Scott Harrison's career went smoothly in 2004, while Irish fans hope that the two Magees - Brian and Eamonn - rediscover their form after lay-offs.

But English heavyweight Audley Harrison remained an enigma and has disappeared to America to make good his reputation.


WATCH AND LISTEN
Danny Williams reflects on his win against Mike Tyson



SPORTS REVIEW 2004

 

Highlights of 2004


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