Floyd Mayweather, Jr., has been stripped of the welterweight title he won after beating Manny Pacquiao because he missed a deadline to pay a $200,000 sanctioning fee from the fight and vacate the junior middleweight title he also held. (Reuters Photo/Steve Marcus)

Looking Back to 2015's Greatest Moments in Sports

BY :NIVELL RAYDA

DECEMBER 15, 2015

From dramatic matches and shocking scandals, to the rise and fall of some of the world’s biggest athletes and figures, 2015 proved to be a colorful and fascinating year in the world of sports.

The year was chock-full of moments that made us cheer, gasp and cry, but we picked those that captivated fans everywhere and will shape the world of sports for years to come.

Formula One mourns

On July 17, French Formula One driver Jules Bianchi died after spending 10 months in a coma due to critical head injuries sustained at the Japanese Grand Prix on Oct. 5, 2014. He was 25.

Bianchi was the first driver to die as a direct result of a race since Brazilian triple world champion Ayrton Senna at Italy’s Imola circuit in May 1994.

Bianchi’s death at such a young age shocked the sporting world and was a blow to his racing team, Manor Marussia. Mere days after his passing, the Hungarian Grand Prix held a silent tribute on the grid in the presence of his family.

‘Serena Slam’

AFP PICTURES OF THE YEAR 2015

World number one tennis player Serena Williams cemented her place among the sport’s all time greats when she claimed her sixth Wimbledon crown on July 11.

With 21 Grand Slam singles titles under her belt, the 33-year-old American is only one win away from German Steffi Graf’s record of professional-era majors and three behind current record holder Australian Margaret Court.

It was a spectacular comeback for Williams, who had failed to pass the  tournament’s fourth round in the previous two years.

From the very start of the year, Williams gave powerful and consistent performances, winning the US, Australian and French Open titles and later claiming all four majors in a single year – an accomplishment fans dubbed the “Serena Slam.”

The feat was last accomplished by Graf in 1988.

Spieth’s rise and Tiger’s Fall

This was a marvelous year for American golfer Jordan Spieth who dominated the 2015 PGA Tour campaign and secured two majors — the Masters and US Open — to become world number one.

At only 22-year-old, he is predicted to enjoy the same level of success next year.

In contrast, the year was a rough one for a former golf protege who once held the world number one crown for a record 683 weeks. Unable to recover from his slump,  Tiger Woods announced this month that he will not be competing in 2016.

The winner of 79 career PGA titles has been without a major victory since 2008. His world ranking dropped to 400th his year, which also saw him miss three cuts in major championships.

Bolt vs. Gatlin

World record holder Usain Bolt of Jamaica won his heat in the 100m sprint at the world athletics championships in Beijing on Saturday, and is on course for a highly anticipated final showdown with American Justin Gatlin on Sunday. (AFP Photo/Johannes Eisele)

August’s IAAF World Championship showdown in Beijing between Jamaican Usain Bolt and American Justin Gatlin was touted as a battle between “good and evil” as it came at the heel of a series of doping allegations rocking the athletics world.

Seen as the “bad guy” of the tracks,  the 33-year-old American was banned for five years due to two doping bans. Bolt, who has never failed a doping test, represented the best of the sport.

To many, the Gatlin-Bolt clash has come to represent a tangible manifestation of the sport’s woes.

To the delight of fans, Bolt reigned triumphant, defeating Gatlin at the 100 meters finals on Aug. 23 and four days later at the 200 meters semi-finals. The Jamaican went on to claim the 200-meter title, clocking the fastest time of the year with 19.55 seconds.

Athletics doping scandal

The International Association of Athletics Federations saw its credibility begin to crumble on Aug. 2 when Britain’s Sunday Times and German broadcaster ARD/WDR reported they had obtained a leaked document from two scientists working for the athletics governing body.

The two whistleblowers claimed that more than 800 athletes had tested “abnormal” in their blood work.

They accounted for 146 medals at top events, including 55 golds.

The World Anti-Doping Agency launched an investigation and on Nov. 9   accused Russian state officials of widespread corruption in destroying drug tests results and intimidating laboratory staff.

It also identified “systematic failures” by the IAAF and threatened Kenya with a four-year ban unless it improved its efforts in preventing cheating.

PSSI suspension

Members of the Bandung Student Forum hold a rally in front of Bandung City Hall in West Java on May 25 to show their support for the Sports Ministry in its feud with the Indonesian Football Association (PSSI). (Antara Photo/Agus Bebeng)

For years, cases of unpaid salaries in Indonesia’s world of football, allegations of match fixing and even the formation a rebel league were overlooked by the sport’s world governing body FIFA.

Yet when the government decided in April to take control of the Indonesian Football Association (PSSI), FIFA suspended the organization, effectively banning the country from participating in international matches.

According to FIFA regulations, a country’s football association must be free from government intervention, but the Sports Ministry’s move to meddle with PSSI  had garnered the support of fans who were fed up with the appalling state of Indonesian football.

Paquiao vs. Mayweather

It was touted as the “Fight of the Century,” but most fans ended up disappointed with the May 3 welterweight showdown between Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. and Manny “PacMan” Pacquiao.

Pacquiao showed he was there to do what he loved most: fight, show ferocity and tenacity. Mayweather, meanwhile, went on the defensive, hugging and often running away from the fight.

It was ultimately a match between a man passionate about the sport and one hellbent on outscoring his opponent through tactics and tricks, disappointing those who expected a far more action-packed battle.

Mayweather claimed victory through a unanimous decision, but observers say to this day that Pacquiao won the hearts of boxing fans.

Rossi vs. Marquez

Honda MotoGP rider Marc Marquez (front) of Spain and Yamaha MotoGP rider Valentino Rossi of Italy ride during the Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix at Sepang International Circuit near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, October 25, 2015. (Reuters Photo/Olivia Harris)

No showdown this year was as divisive as the battle between Italian great Valentino Rossi and Spaniard Marc Marquez at the Malaysian MotoGP Grand Prix on Oct. 25.

Footage of the race seemed to show Rossi kicking his opponent, an allegation the Italian denied as he accused Marquez of trying to sabotage his title hopes by giving the advantage to fellow Spaniard Jorge Lorenzo — who happened to be Rossi’s Yamaha team mate. Rossi was penalized and was forced to start last in Valencia.

Lorenzo eventually won the title with Marquez and another Spaniard Dani Pedrosa finishing second and third respectively. Rossi angrily accused Marquez of helping their compatriot by purposely losing.

Fans of Rossi quickly lashed out at Marquez, calling his alleged attempt to sabotage Rossi’s shot at the title unsportsmanlike. Meanwhile Rossi’s detractors, including Marquez, called him a sore loser for making such accusations.

The prime ministers and media of both countries got involved in the row, while Marquez filed a legal complaint after allegedly being assaulted by Italian journalists.

FIFA scandal

Fans and observers have long suspected that world football’s  governing body FIFA is rife with corruption, but confirmation finally came in May when US federal prosecutors revealed they had indicted 14 current and former FIFA officials for fraud, racketeering and money laundering.

The investigation revolved around suspicions of bribery and collusion between the football bodies of South, North and Central America (Conmebol and Concacaf) with several sports marketing executives to control media and marketing rights for international football competitions, including the World Cup and Copa America.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter looks on as fake dollar notes fly around him, thrown by a British comedian during a press conference at the FIFA world-body headquarter's on July 20, 2015 in Zurich. (AFP Photo/Fabrice Coffrini)

The magnitude of the cases quickly sent FIFA into a firestorm with pressures mounting for top officials, including chairman Sepp Blatter, to resign.

Blatter, who was re-elected shortly after the investigation came to light, has promised to resign in a special congress in February next year.

Even as the year draws to a close, prosecutors continued to expand the case, announcing a sweeping indictment this month that include “an array of broadcasters and advertisers” for paying off football officials.

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