Best Professional Athlete (Individual Sport) - 2001
In his native Kazakhstan, International Boxing Federation cruiserweight champion Vassily Jirov learned to develop his boxing footwork by being forced to outrace angry police dogs down a narrow hallway. By comparison, facing a 190-pound pugilist in the boxing ring has to seem like a snap. Sure enough, the self-proclaimed Russian Tiger -- who moved to Scottsdale in 1996 after winning a gold medal at the Atlanta Olympics -- has cruised through his unheralded weight division like it's just a preliminary to some anticipated main event. That main event would be either a heavyweight title shot or a step down to take on light-heavyweight king Roy Jones Jr. But, with his unmatched knockout percentage and relentless body-attacking style, Jirov might continue to be a victim of his own success, scaring away opponents unwilling to tangle with a tiger.