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Mayweather is ESPN.com's Fighter of the Year

Floyd Mayweather, left, solidified his Fighter of the Year status by knocking out Ricky Hatton. Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

Pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr. didn't just win two massive fights in 2007, he did it with the whole world watching, setting box office records, becoming a mainstream figure and the face of boxing he's always wanted to become.

It's why Mayweather, who backed up his considerable boasts with victories against Oscar De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton, is the 2007 ESPN.com Fighter of the Year in a year that had several quality candidates -- Miguel Cotto, Kelly Pavlik, Juan Diaz and Joe Calzaghe -- and was one of the toughest years to pick in ages.

Outside the ring, Mayweather starred in a pair of "24/7" reality shows on HBO that undoubtedly helped build the huge audiences for his two fights. He also danced his way into millions of homes during a high-profile run on the popular ABC reality series "Dancing with the Stars."

But inside the ring, Mayweather also took care of business in two of the biggest fights in years -- two of the biggest fights in several years, really.

"It was a great combination with me and my team," Mayweather said, talking primarily about advisers Leonard Ellerbe and Al Haymon. "They said, 'Listen Floyd, let us take care of the business outside of the ring and you take care of the business inside of the ring, and we'll be unstoppable.' Guess what? It worked. It was an amazing year. All I tried to do is just focus on my job; get the victories. I was trying to fight the biggest and best names out there. And that's what I did. I said to my team, 'Put me in the biggest fights out there and I will take care of the rest and win.'"

On May 5 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Mayweather culminated a marathon five-month promotion by moving up to junior middleweight to win a decision and a title from Oscar De La Hoya, perhaps the only active boxer with more mainstream recognition than Mayweather these days.

The fight destroyed all boxing revenue records, including blowing away the all-time pay-per-view record by selling 2.4 million subscriptions.

For his encore, Mayweather, 30, returned to welterweight on Dec. 8 and defended his title against Ricky Hatton, the brawling junior welterweight champion who brought what seemed like half of England to the MGM Grand, which was again sold out. Mayweather (39-0, 25 KOs) didn't just skate to a decision victory either, like he had done against De La Hoya.

Instead, Mayweather turned aggressive, lured previously undefeated Hatton in and knocked him out in the 10th round of a dominant performance to answer the critics who said he played things too safe in big fights.

Mayweather, known more for his smooth defense than his underrated offense, made a statement with the way he finished Hatton, which was enough to tip the fighter-of-the-year race in his favor.

The fight generated 850,000 buys. Sure, it wasn't close to what the fight with De La Hoya did, but Hatton was a relative unknown in the United States and had never before appeared on pay-per-view. Still, it became the biggest selling fight ever not involving De La Hoya or famous heavyweights Mike Tyson or Evander Holyfield.

Mayweather, who earned about $50 million for the pair of victories, may not yet be the all-time great that he and his uncle and trainer Roger Mayweather insist he is. But in 2007, no one was better on the big stage.

Other contenders:

Also coming: awards for knockout, prospect, round and fight of the year

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.