Originally written on Boxing Watchers  |  Last updated 11/6/14

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 21: Andre Ward celebrates after defeating Mikkel Kessler of Denmark during their WBA Super Middleweight Championship Bout at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on November 21, 2009 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

Other top ranked boxers had more victories during 2011. Certainly, quite a few produced more explosive wins. But if fulfilling long-held expectations and proving your class against some of the best competition out there means anything - and it really should - then Andre Ward enjoyed a better year than anyone else practicing the sweet science at its highest level

Ward's two in-ring performances came in the semifnals and final of the Super Six World Boxing Classic, and he was simply too much for his opponents. He breezed through former middleweight titleholder Arthur Abraham in dominant fashion in May, then proved too fast and too tricky for Carl Froch a few weeks ago. Though critics will point out that he won't have a definitive claim to the title of super middleweight king until he faces Lucian Bute (something that apparently won't be happening in the near future), Ward is correctly being thought of as a top five pound-for-pound fighter.

It's been a long journey for Ward to get to this point, and by that we mean more than just the twists and turns he experienced in the Super Six. Injuries caused him to be brought along more slowly than many fans would have liked, and even when he was able to accelerate his career with three victories in 2009 before the start of the tournament, there was still some doubt about whether he would capitalize on all the potential he showed during his outstanding amateur career.

He's pretty much erased those questions now. We've learned that Ward possesses a rare blend of physical and mental gifts, plus the grittiness to get tough when necessary. He lacks top end power, but he hits more than hard enough to keep opponents honest, and there are no other obvious holes in his game.

Among American boxers, Ward is now uniquely positioned to take another step forward in 2012. He's sort of the anti-Floyd Mayweather in terms of personality, and right or wrong, that may hinder his marketability. If nothing else, you can now point at Ward and say, "That is the guy who will be the standard bearer for American boxers over the next few years." At 27, and age where he should just be entering his prime, he should be up to the task.

For all of those reasons, Ward is our 2011 Fighter of the Year.

 

Other fighters we considered: Saul "Canelo" Alvarez lived up to his hype by going 4-0 with three KOs, and perhaps even more importantly, started to become known by his nickname alone. That's some swag. His hit list wasn't all that impressive, though. Next year could belong to him... Nonito Donaire outshined his more famous Filipino countryman with his nasty knockout of Fernando Montiel. He added a second victory in 2011 but wasn't nearly as impressive against Omar Narvaez... Staying busy and packing fans in to see him fight, Lucian Bute was 3-0 with a pair of stoppages. Through no fault of his own, he didn't have a win as impressive as Ward's was against Froch... One of the feel-good stories of the year was Miguel Cotto getting his long desired revenge against Antonio Margarito. He also took out Ricardo Mayorga, but even his most ardent supporters have to admit that those were fights against faded or fading boxers.

 

Previous winners:

2010 - Sergio Martinez
2009 - Manny Pacquiao
2008 - Manny Pacquiao
2007 - Kelly Pavlik

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