By: Ste Rowen
Isn’t it funny how quick the year goes when it’s packed with fights the fans want to see? Though with a few exceptions, the best have fought the best, therefore 2018 is wide open for fight of the year. Here we run through just six of the potential winners, starting with…
1. Murat Gassiev vs. Yunier Dorticos – February
It was arguably the most exciting World Boxing Super Series semi-final to call. Gassiev had cut down veteran, Wlodarczyk whilst Dorticos had vanquished the much feared, Kudryashov in the quarters.
The Cuban boxed brilliantly through the first half of the fight, testing the iron chin of Murat multiple times, but Gassiev remained stable where his fellow Russian, Kudryashov, had come apart. Having regained earlier lost rounds, the Russian began to overcome Dorticos’ best moves, which forced Yunier to put it all on the line in search of a knockout, which in turn led to the openings.
In the final round the IBF champ proved his quality, firstly with a perfect left-hook counter that sent Yunier down; then the second knock down with 60 seconds to go and finishing him off with a final 30-second assault that sent the Cuban through the ropes, and Gassiev into the WBSS final.
2. Sor Rungvisai vs. Juan Estrada – February
February gave us another FOTY candidate as WBC super-flyweight champion, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai took on Juan Francisco Estrada on ‘Superfly 2’ in Inglewood, California. In his first fight after dispatching of legend, Roman Gonzalez for the second time, Thailand native, Srisaket came out swinging in his usual rough and ready style whilst Mexican, Estrada went in search of neat openings. Within two minutes of the 12 rounds, a brawl had broken out in the ring.
The action was uncompromising as the two superfly warriors failed to let up for almost all of the 36 minutes they were in the ring. Much like GGG/Canelo 2 (we’ll get to that), Rungvisai and Juan Francisco were at times, able to punish the other, but unable to drop their foe. The action was non-stop throughout, but the Mexican threw much more than he landed in the final three rounds, although the final 60 seconds of the 12th is awards worthy on its own.
It all led to a majority decision in favour of champion, Sor Rungvisai. It’s probably a result of this bout that both boxers have taken two relative walk-over fights to end the year and hopefully setup a rematch for 2019.
3. Deontay Wilder vs. Luis Ortiz – March
One of the biggest criticisms labelled at WBC champion, Deontay Wilder is that his reign as champion has lacked named fighters, or dangerous opposition, then along came Luis, the supposed bogeyman of the heavyweight division, and the ‘Bronze Bomber’ showed the world his best to let everyone know he wasn’t just here to take part.
Ortiz proved he wasn’t all hype in the early rounds as he landed numerous counters and not even a slip could deter him from attacking. At the end of the 5th, despite being on the back-foot, Deontay wobbled and eventually dropped his Cuban foe with a pin-point right hook, that halted the momentum Ortiz had built up. Towards the end of seven, Ortiz landed simultaneous shots that forced the American to lean heavily and nullify his opponent’s onslaught, rather than execute his own.
The WBC champ somehow survived Luis’ blitz for another two rounds before a knockdown and finish in the 10th. The first was sloppy, and more of a push, but the conclusion was conclusive as the ‘Bomber’ just unleashed hook after unanswered hook before the Cuban eventually fell.
4. Jorge Linares vs. Vasyl Lomachenko – May
It started beautifully and ended brutally. With the WBA & Ring Magazine titles on the line, in his first fight at lightweight, Lomachenko looked to dethrone the Venezuelan in Jorge’s 5th defence of the title.
The Ukrainian enigma in Vasyl undoubtedly overtook the early to middle rounds of the fight. Linares was probably coming up against the only boxer who could outdo him for style. The sheer speed of the fight proved difficult even for the most hardened of boxing fans to keep up with.
Though Loma was on top, in the 6th Jorge hit his opponent with a flash knockdown that briefly turned the tied of the bout. Vasyl regained his momentum and eventually got the champion out there, before the final bell with a cruel body shot in round 10, to finish an early candidate for fight of the year.
5. Alex Saucedo vs. Lenny Zappavigna – June
A world title eliminator that became a classic. Alex Saucedo and Lenny Zappavigna went to war immediately. ‘Zappa’ seemed to have the speed whilst Saucedo of Mexico had the thudding accuracy. Not even the greatest boxing writers can do the action justice from round 2 to 5.
Whilst on the offense in the third, Lenny was dropped by a swift hook to hit the canvas for the first time. Testament to the Australian for not only surviving the round but also firing back with fearsome intent.
And then the 4th happened, a full two minutes where it felt like Lenny started and didn’t stop throwing up until the bell rang for the end of the round. It was Saucedo surviving this time, but survive he did, flicking a switch to steadily dominant proceedings into the 7th where the opposition corner threw in the towel to end their fighter’s ordeal.
6. Gennady Golovkin vs. Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez 2 – September
What more can be said about the repeat of Golovkin and Canelo’s 2017 Fight of the Year contender, this time with added needle – not that it needed it – due to Alvarez’s failed drug test at the end of last year.
It was a sensational 12-round back and forth. Both fighters pushed themselves forward and both were forced back. The magnitude of the event was matched with the relentlessness of the action.
Who won? Well, unlike the first fight where it seemed most picked GGG, this time round it was a lot closer, but it was the Mexican who took the split decision in a fight that had almost everything.
So there is, this writer’s, top six fights of the year. Special shout outs to Sho Kimura vs. Konsei Tanaka and Dereck Chisora vs. Carlos Takam that just missed out on this list, but don’t worry, FOTY is essentially meaningless in the grand scheme of things.
Just go watch them again to really appreciate your favorite fights of 2018.