The 35-year-old Argentine outpointed Kelly Pavlik for the lineal middleweight title in April and defended it with a highlight-reel knockout of pound-for-pounder Paul Williams in the second round of their November rematch. No fighter at any weight made more substantial gains in 2010.
Sarmiento (right) was the architect of Sergio Martinez's destruction of Kelly Pavlik and his sensational one-punch knockout of Paul Williams. He spotted the holes in Pavlik's defense and hammered home the importance of the overhand left against Williams, the same shot that knocked Williams out cold in the second round. Though the competition was stiff -- Freddie Roach deserves consideration for his work with Manny Pacquiao and Amir Khan -- Sarmiento gets the nod for his influence in two competitive, meaningful fights.
There's knocked out and there's knocked-out-like-Paul-Williams-was-knocked-out. After banging each other around for 12 rounds in their first fight, both Williams and Martinez expected a war the second time around. However after a competitive first round, Martinez brought down the curtain with a devastating overhand left that Williams never saw coming. The shot sent Williams down and rocketed "Maravilla" to superstar status
The class of Golden Boy's burgeoning young stable, Alvarez got his first taste of the spotlight fighting on the undercard of May's Floyd Mayweather-Shane Mosley bout. Alvarez looked shaky at times in a win over Jose Cotto but rebounded in spectacular fashion in September, when he knocked out iron-chinned former welterweight champion Carlos Baldomir. Alvarez closed the year with a one-sided win over ex-junior welterweight champion Lovemore N'Dou, setting the stage for a potential breakout year in 2011.
A heavy underdog, Litzau (right) was seen as little more than a tuneup for Caballero, whom HBO had penciled into a spring fight with Yuri Gamboa. He treated it that way too, while Litzau came out aggressive, flustering Cabellero with his aggression and pressuring the lanky champion all night. The win resuscitated Litzau's fading career and likely ended Caballero's, at least in high-profile fights.
There were rounds with more action -- Round 3 between Juan Manuel Marquez and Michael Katsidis, Round 12 between Hugo Cazares and Nobuo Nashiro -- but few had more suspense. Mayweather has long been a master at avoiding the heavy shot and Mosley buckled him with two that had the slippery Mayweather hanging on for dear life. In the context of the fight it meant little; Mosley did nothing after that round and Mayweather cruised to an easy decision. But for one fleeting moment the most gifted fighter in the world looked vulnerable
Back in 2001, Wonjongkam was an electrifying flyweight. He won 55 straight fights between 1996 and 2007 but appeared to be at the end of the line when he lost his title to Daisuke Naito in '07 and couldn't win them back when he fought Naito to a draw in 2008. But Wonjongkam slowly pieced his career back together and in March regained the WBC belt with a win over unbeaten Koki Kameda. Wonjongkam won two more fights in '10 and is back on track.
Martinez's rise to elite status has been sudden, thanks in large part to wins that were both significant and entertaining, emphatic and suspenseful. He climbed the middleweight ladder for a shot at Kelly Pavlik and as the unified champion was willing to cut a couple pounds to lure Paul Williams back in the ring. The words "I'll fight anyone" are uttered often in boxing, but no fighter backed them up in 2010 more than Martin