2018 Fighter of the Year: Oleksandr Usyk
By: Jake Donovan
For the past 30 years, there has been no debate that Evander Holyfield is the greatest cruiserweight of all time.
That was until Oleksandr Usyk wrapped up his 2018 in-ring campaign.
The 31-year old southpaw from Ukraine hasn’t enjoyed the benefit of fighting at home since his final fight as a contender in Dec. ‘15. Each of his last eight starts have taken place on the road, all but one being staged in the home country of his opponent beginning with his title-lifting effort over then-unbeaten champ Krzysztof Glowacki in Sept. ’16 in Poland.
Fighting on the road is hardly a new experience for the gifted cruiserweight, who spent a healthy portion of his 350-fight amateur career away from his native Ukraine. Included among the lot were two Olympic tours, advancing to the quarterfinals of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and capturing a Gold medal during the 2012 London festivities.
It’s only fitting that every championship he’s won as a pro has come against the backdrop of a partisan crowd.
In 2018, Usyk (16-0, 12KOs) entered the lion’s den three times—twice in unification bouts and wrapping up the year with a defense versus a former champ, all taking place in sold-out arenas in packed with his opponent’s fans rooting hard for a hometown win.
His journey began with a trip to Riga, Latvia last January to face then-unbeaten titlist and local hero Mairis Briedis. It was already his third time facing an undefeated opponent in their home country, as he was the first to beat Glowacki (in Poland) and American contender Michael Hunter in the United States.
In Briedis, Usyk would receive his stiffest test as a pro, certainly a far more difficult challenge than having stopped former titlist Marco Huck in Germany the prior September in the opening round of the World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight tournament.
The first five rounds were anything but a clear-cut indicator that Usyk would even win, much less go on to enjoy a Fighter of the Year-worthy campaign. He first had to adapt to the brisk pace forced by the house favorite, then contend with a clash of heads in the 5th round which left him briefly wobbled and with reddening around his left eye.
It ultimately served as a wake-up call.
Usyk took over the fight once the second half began, his second-to-none conditioning carrying him to victory. Save for a minor scare in round nine and a final round last-ditch rally by Briedis, the second half surge was enough for the visiting Ukrainian to advance to the WBSS finals.
That led to his twice traveling to Russia: first to take in the other semifinals bout between Murat Gassiev and Yunier Dorticos one week later; then in July, for his finals meet with Gassiev in a bout that would leave the winner as the first truly undisputed cruiserweight champion in the four-belt era.
As it turned out, the hardest part in making history was getting to fight night. The unification clash itself was delayed by more than two months due to Usyk requiring elbow surgery, thus killing plans for a May clash in Saudi Arabia. The postponement worked out in Gassiev’s favor, in that the fight was relocated to his native Russia.
Home country advantage was the only edge he’d enjoy that night.
Usyk quickly took the crowd out of the equation, somehow reducing an undisputed cruiserweight championship contest into a one-sided sparring session in pitching a virtual shutout. Even before the final decision was announced, the immediate question was what the newly crowned World cruiserweight king would do for an encore.
The answer? A third road trip on the year, of course.
For months, the idea was floated of Tony Bellew challenging the WBSS winner—particularly if it was Usyk, who even entered a co-promotional pact with the Brit’s promoter Eddie Hearn. The union led to the finalization of plans for a November 11 clash in what would be a sold-out Manchester Arena in Manchester, England.
Even if Usyk opted to sit out the rest of 2018 following his win over Gassiev, he’d still serve as a leading Fighter of the Year contender. For much of the first half of his clash with Bellew, the risk of a third fight in an optional defense seemed to outweigh the reward.
That was, until the defending champ was ready to take over.
Once again displaying his superior ring smarts and conditioning, Usyk overcame a rocky start—and surprising scorecard deficit—to emphatically knock out Bellew in round eight. A textbook left hand landed flush, putting the former cruiserweight titlist down and out, a knockout loser in what would be the final fight of his celebrated career.
As for Usyk, it was merely the final moment of an unrivaled 2018 in-ring campaign. He entered the year at least a distant second in discussions of the best active cruiserweight of all time (Holyfield) and the best active boxer from Ukraine (Vasiliy Lomachenko).
Answers that were once foregone conclusions now warrant considerable discussion. Everything about the year that was for Usyk changed that mindset—while fittingly also ending any debate as to whether anyone else deserved the honor of being named the BoxingInsider.com 2018 Fighter of the Year.
2018 Knockout of the Year – Naoya Inoue KO1 Juan Carlos Payano
By Jake Donovan
Naoya Inoue’s 2018 ring campaign was the model of efficiency. In two fights, the unbeaten 25-year old from Japan needed just three total minutes of ring time and barely two dozen landed punches to stake his claim as arguably the best bantamweight in the world.
Two of those punches helped create the 2018 Knockout of the Year.
The boxing world was thrilled to learn of “The Monster” offering his services in the World Boxing Super Series bantamweight bracket. His entry was contingent upon his getting past 118-pound secondary titlist Jamie McDonnell, needing less than two minutes to accomplish the feat and claiming a title in his third weight class in the process.
Inoue’s inclusion in season two of the WBSS meant a jam-packed bantamweight bracket loaded with competitive matchups as opposed to most of the first-round serving as a foregone conclusion—at least on paper.
Juan Carlos Payano was three fights removed from his title-losing rematch to Rau’Shee Warren by the time he rolled up for his WBSS quarterfinals match versus Inoue on October 7. The two-time Olympian for his native Dominican Republic and former bantamweight titlist believed he faced enough world class competition in his boxing life to where he knew what he was getting himself into in drawing the first-round assignment versus Inoue.
He even considered it a blessing that he and his team arrives safely from his adopted hometown of Miami into Tokyo, despite the presence of Typhoon Trami which wreaked havoc in Japan, causing nearly $100 million in damage.
As it turned out, Payano wasn’t at all prepared for the level of damage that Inoue would inflict on that Sunday afternoon in Japan.
Only because he normally takes the first 0:30 or so of every bout to feel out his opponent did either of Inoue’s two bantamweight bouts last as long as they did. Payano pawed at Inoue’s parrying tactics before attempting to fire off jabs and looping left hands to the body.
Inoue never took the bait, nor did he bother to change his strategy. Circling his left hand around Payano’s extended right hand, the prodigious pound-for-pound entrant found just enough of a leak in his opponent’s defense to connect on a one-two.
The “two” was a thing of beauty.
A quick jab from Inoue caught Payano on the chin, freezing him just long enough follow up with a straight right hand. It was a shot that the Dominican southpaw never saw coming, pitching at the waist upon impact before falling back and crashing to the canvas.
Inoue strolled to a neutral corner before turning around to see that the fight was already done for the night. Payano’s legs quivered upon impact, before somehow peeling his upper body off the canvas as if he were prepared to continue. The effort was in vain, as the lack of feeling in his lower body disallowed him to do more than roll over, requiring assistance from the referee and ringside physician in being seated on a ring stool.
Not since a stoppage loss to Rey Vargas in the 2009 Pan Am semifinals had Payano even failed to hear the final bell in a given fight. He entered the pro ranks as one of the most decorated amateur boxers to ever come out of Dominican Republic, claiming two Olympic tours and more than 420 wins. Even in his rematch loss to Warren—a three-time Olympian for the United States—the margin of defeat was a single round.
Inoue needed just a single right hand to stake his claim as the man to beat in the WBSS bantamweight bracket—and to earn the BoxingInsider.com 2018 Knockout of the Year.
2018 Fight of the Year – Kosei Tanaka MD12 Sho Kimura
By: Jake Donovan
From early in his career, Japan’s Kosei Tanaka was mentioned in the same breath as countrymen Kazuto Ioka and Naoya Inoue as the type of prodigious talent who warrants your undivided attention whenever he steps into the ring.
A mere 12 fights and three division titles into his career, the 23-year old from Nagoya has not only lived up to the billing but doing so while twice entering the record books. The latter entry—a 12-round majority decision victory over Sho Kimura to win the flyweight title last September—gets to make the rounds as the BoxingInsider.com 2018 Fight of the Year.
Tanaka (12-0, 7KOs) knew better than to expect a clear and easy path to his third major title in as many weight classes. A war with then unbeaten 18-0 Ryuji Hara in just his 4th pro fight was designed to brace the Nagoya-bred boxer for a historic run. His very next fight was a 12-round win over Julian Yedras to win the strawweight title in just his 5th pro fight, surpassing Inoue (six fights) and Ioka (seven) as the quickest in Japan’s history.
By the time he was lined up to face Kimura, he’d already claimed titles in two weight classes and survived the scariest moments of his career. Tanaka—just four months removed from turning back the challenge of then-unbeaten Angel Acosta—twice came off the deck to eventually stop Thailand’s Palangpol CP Freshmart in the 9th round of their Sept. ’17 war, vacating his junior flyweight title soon thereafter.
A win over countryman Kimura would give Tanaka yet another record-breaking achievement, joining Vasiliy Lomachenko in becoming the quickest in boxing history to win titles in three weight divisions. Lomachenko’s off-the-canvas stoppage win of Jorge Linares last May put the Ukrainian wunderkind in the annals of boxing history.
On the surface, Tanaka’s task seemed slightly less daunting. In countryman Kimura, he faced a defending flyweight titlist who was knocked out barely a minute into his pro debut before going unbeaten in his next 20 starts.
Among the lot was a rousing 10th round stoppage of Shiming Zou, a three-time Olympic medalist from China who was also fast tracked to the title stage. Kimura’s win at the time was considered a major upset, although his title reign has proven that the feat was no fluke.
Ironically, no greater proof came than in the 12 rounds of war he was willing to storm through versus Tanaka in his damnest effort to retain his title. The bout was Kimura’s third attempted title defense, having scored stoppage wins over former lineal champ Toshiyuki Igarashi and formidable contender Froilan Saludar leading into the September affair.
Tanaka initiated a slugfest from the start, scoring a barrage of body shots and right uppercuts in hopes of wearing down the defending titlist. There would be no such luck, as Kimura came roaring back after the first two rounds to launch a body attack of his own.
The tactic prompted Tanaka to slightly switch gears, doing his best to create some distance between the two whereas Kimura was determined to force an inside brawl. Both would ultimately have their way, with momentum swaying almost as often as punches were flying.
By the time the epic title fight reached the championship rounds, Kimura’s eyes were nearly swollen shut while Tanaka supported a mouse under his right eye. One last blitz from the challenger seemingly put the fight out of reach, but Kimura wasn’t quite ready to concede his crown.
The 12th round was nothing short of breathtaking, a slam dunk choice for Round of the Year up until Tyson Fury’s inexplicable rise from the canvas after what should’ve been a knockout blow delivered by Deontay Wilder in their heavyweight battle last December in Los Angeles.
Equally as stunning was Kimura’s ability to punch non-stop in the final round of his last fight as a defending titlist. Both boxers were dog tired by the time they touched gloves to start the 12th, but it was Kimura who initiated the action throughout the stanza. Tanaka seemed reserve to return fire only when necessary, but was forced to dig deep to find his own second wind when it was clear that the champ wasn’t about to ease off the gas.
Kimura was fighting on pure will, at one point even punching himself into a circle following a wild swing and a miss. Embodying their spirited affair was a sequence where the two simultaneously threw and landed right hand shots on three straight exchanges.
The final bell came with a two-way sigh of relief and a hearty embrace between the two warriors at ring’s center, where nearly all of the action took place with barely a clinch along the way. Judge Don Trella was stumped to declare a winner, his 114-114 card trumped by that of scores of 116-112 and 115-113 in favor of Tanaka.
With the win, Tanaka joined Lomachenko as the quickest in history to become a three-division champion. At 23 years of age, he was the third youngest ever to do so, right behind Tony Canzoneri and Wilfred Benitez.
Lomachenko led arguably the greatest amateur career ever while considered by many as pound-for-pound the best boxer in the world today. Canzoneri and Benitez have long ago gained enshrinement in the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
That’s already some incredible company for Tanaka to serve alongside, in addition to career-long comparisons to countrymen Inoue and Ioka, both of whom became three-division titlists a little bit deeper into their respective careers.
On September 24, he enjoyed some incredible in-ring company with Kimura—a historic night properly recognized by BoxingInsider.com as 2018 Fight of the Year.
Six of the Best – Unofficial FOTY 2018 Candidates
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.
Canelo Alvarez and Golden Boy Promotions Sign Historic Five Year Partnership with Global Sports Streaming Leader DAZN
Canelo Alvarez (50-1-2, 34 KOs) – the undisputed king of pay-per-view boxing – will usher in a new era in the sport by signing an 11-fight deal with global sports streaming leader DAZN. The journey begins Saturday, Dec. 15 when Canelo makes his first appearance at the historic Madison Square Garden challenging Rocky Fielding (27-1, 15 KOs) for his WBA Super Middleweight World Title. This groundbreaking deal with Canelo will be the richest athlete contract in sports history.
As part of the partnership, Golden Boy Promotions will put on up to 10 high-caliber fight nights per year that will stream live on DAZN beginning in early 2019.
The historic deal marks a major change in the boxing landscape, where its biggest stars traditionally fought on pay-per-view. Now, sports fans can view Canelo’s fights and the deep Golden Boy Promotions stable for a low monthly subscription cost. These fights will be available in all DAZN markets, including the United States, Canada, Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Japan.
“I’ve always liked a challenge, and this is yet another challenger in my career,” said Canelo Alvarez. “Being part of this historic deal will require me to prepare myself even more and offer fans even better performances. At the same time, I am humbled to be selected to lead this new vision for the sport of boxing, which will without a doubt be for the benefit of the fans.”
“This is easily one of the best days in the growing history of Golden Boy Promotions,” said Oscar De La Hoya, Golden Boy Promotions Chairman and CEO. “We are committed to making this sport as accessible as possible and at an affordable price for all the fans. My dream has been to make boxing a sport for all. DAZN has the perfect platform to make this dream come true, and with the biggest star in the sport at the helm of this journey, I have no doubts that we will succeed in unimaginable ways.”
“We are thrilled to be exclusive partners with Golden Boy Promotions and Oscar De La Hoya,” said John Skipper, DAZN Group Executive Chairman. “By bringing Canelo’s fights to DAZN, we will turn his pay-per-view success into a growth engine for subscribers – a truly transformational moment for our business and the entire industry.
Alvarez is coming off the biggest win of his career in September, a thrilling majority decision victory against Gennady “GGG” Golovkin to become the WBC, WBA, Lineal and Ring Magazine Middleweight champion. His 50-win career also boasts victories over Miguel Cotto, Amir Khan, Erislandy “The American Dream” Lara, Austin Trout, “Sugar” Shane Mosley, among many others. Now Alvarez will seek to join a small and illustrious list of three-division world champions from Mexico as he steps up to 168 pounds to challenge Fielding.
DAZN burst on to the scene just over two years ago, debuting in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Japan. Its early success across Europe and Asia was followed by launches in Canada (2017), Italy (2018) and the United States (2018), where DAZN announced blockbuster deals with Matchroom Boxing and Bellator MMA to deliver a stacked slate of fight sports content upon entry into the market.
The DAZN-Golden Boy deal includes a large production element, which places Oscar De La Hoya as Executive Producer of the 12 live fight nights annually. The live productions will be a collaboration between DAZN and Golden Boy Media and Entertainment, De La Hoya’s in-house production arm, and will push the boundaries of traditional boxing shows by incorporating new features with virtual graphics and social media interaction.
Oscar De La Hoya’s 7,000-hour library of fights spanning his career as a boxer and a promoter are included in the partnership and these classic bouts will be available on DAZN. Additionally, Golden Boy Media and Entertainment will produce volumes of shoulder programs for the DAZN platform, including live studio shows such as “Between the Ropes” and its award winning “Mano a Mano.” De La Hoya has had a vision for the sport of boxing, and part and parcel to that vision are new approaches to telling the stories of the fighters for a global audience through live, scripted and social media programming. The new partnership between DAZN and Golden Boy allow this vision to flourish and to create narratives that appeal across demographic categories worldwide.
Globally, DAZN is a live and on-demand sports streaming service created by fans, for fans, that is leading the charge to provide access to sports anytime, anywhere. DAZN guarantees no long-term contract, no bundles, just one affordable price for access to all the service’s sports on connected devices including Smart TVs, smartphones, tablets, games consoles and PCs. DAZN is currently available in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Japan, Canada, Italy and now the U.S. at just $9.99 per month after a one-month free trial – where it is set to become a must-have service for fight fans, with 100+ fight nights already lined up from Matchroom Boxing, Bellator MMA, the World Boxing Super Series, Combate Americas and the newly announced Golden Boy Promotions.
About Golden Boy Promotions:
Los Angeles-based Golden Boy Promotions was established in 2002 by Oscar De La Hoya, the first Hispanic to own a national boxing promotional company. Golden Boy Promotions is one of boxing’s most active and respected promoters, presenting shows in packed venues around the United States on networks such as HBO, ESPN, ESPN Deportes, EstrellaTV and the newly announced partnership with DAZN.
Darren Reay: Looking For Three More Fights Before Year’s End
By: Oliver McManus
Up in the North East fight fans are passionate and knowledgeable about their fighters right from the debut-makers all the way to the top with the likes of Lewis Ritson and Josh Kelly and over the past two-three years there’s been an exponential boom in the level of talent showcased on cards up over there; beforehand going to Newcastle used to be considered “experimenting in an untapped market” but it’s becoming a rite of passage, almost, and guarantees an electric atmosphere.
Darren Reay is a man looking to capitalise on this with the super-lightweight appearing on his second Matchroom Boxing card just two weeks away on June 16th – having been out of the ring for 51 weeks, exactly, Reay wants to expedite his career with three fast-track wins this year ahead of a big 2019 and there’s nowhere better to reignite his career than in front of a passionate, loyal, sold-out Metro Radio Arena.
I caught up with him yesterday to talk about his expectations and, trust me, this guy is going places – a top bloke, too, so how can you NOT want him to do well?
We are 2-3 weeks away from fight night, how are you feeling – any nerves?
No nerves yet, really excited to be honest to finally get in the ring after a frustrating period out the ring.
You’ve been out of the ring for almost 12 months for a whole host of reasons – explain it to us mate…
After my fight I had a holiday, and had a little hamstring niggle, that kept me from getting back into the ring in September. Then I had another little set back leading up to my December fight, after a clash of heads in sparring and decided not to risk it, with a big opening to 2018 expected.
Then there was talk of a BoxNation show coming to the North east early part of the year which got postponed which left me unable to get matched up on shows in the North East at short notice. It has been a hard time for myself, but at the same time I have never been out the gym and have learnt a hell of a lot in that time.
And because of such a lengthy absence does it almost feel as though you’re starting from the beginning again?
Not really because I have been training and sparring all this time so I have learnt a hell of a lot, but at the same time I need to be busy for the rest of the year.
Come June 16th then what can we expect from you?
Excitement, I’m buzzing to finally get back in the ring and show all the improvements I have made in the last 11 months. And on such a massive stage show what I can do!
You’re fighting on a Matchroom card too, you’re second time, – you looking to impress Eddie Hearn or just get the job done?
I obviously want to win, but winning well is key when you have such an opportunity like this. Put on a great fight and show my skills and impress all the crowd so people remember my name.
After this fight how many are you looking to get under your belt before the turn of the year?
I would really like to fight another 3 times minimum to finish off this year, my recent link up with MTK is massive for my career and to really help me push on to finish the rest of 2018 strong
At this stage of the career is it all about just staying busy UNTIL the big fights arrive?
100% I want to stay busy and keep learning , I’ve had 2 decent learning fights so far and want to continue that. I’m the first to say I have a lot to work on but I’m always in the gym and am always ready.
Boxing in the north east has had a bit of a boom recently, what do you make of the scene?
It’s fantastic, to be coming up and getting these chances at this time in my career is unreal for myself. We have Lewis Ritson and Josh Kelly flying the flag and that is what the North East has craved for a while someone to build these shows around. And I’m looking to make a big impression on these shows and keep being added to these cards as I see both lads going on to big things with massive nights in the North east and allowing the talent that is definitely here to come through.
When you perform in front of the home crowd does it add a bit more pressure to really perform?
Not really for myself because I would never of thought at this stage in my career I would be boxing on a stage like this, so I want to really enjoy myself soak up the atmosphere and use the home crowd to push me on and bring out a big performance.
Final question mate, this time next year, what’s the world looking like for Darren Reay?
Well I would have just been married to my lovely fiancé. So that will be a big thing in my life. But boxing wise, I would really like to be in a position for some big fights English title level would be ideal scenario but as long I’m busy winning and most of all improving that’s all I can ask for.
Is Vasyl “Hi-Tech” Lomachenko 2017 Fighter of the Year?
By: Ken Hissner
The two-time Olympic Gold Medalist Ukranian Vasyl “Hi-Tech” Lomachenko, 10-1, living in Oxnard, CA, moved up from holding the WBO Featherweight title to defeating WBO World Super featherweight Roman Martinez in June of 2016, and defeating in his first defense the former WBA Super World featherweight champion Jamaican Nicholas “Axe Man” Walters, 26-0-1 by stoppage in 7 rounds.
In Lomchenko’s second defense in 2017 in April defeated WBA World Super featherweight champion (his title not at stake) Jason “El Canito” Sosa, 20-1-4, of Camden, NJ, stopping him in the 9th round at the MGM National Harbor, in Oxon Hill, MD, stopping Sosa’s 17 fight winning streak.
In Lomachenko’s third defense in August he stopped Colombian Miguel Marriaga, 25-2, in the 7th round, at the Microsoft Theater, in Los Angeles, CA.
In December Lomachenko in his fourth defense stopped the former two-time Olympic Gold Medalist, WBO World Super bantamweight and WBA Super World bantamweight champion Cuban Guillermo “The Jackal” Rigondeaux, 17-0, in the 6th round.
Lomachenko was 396-1 in the amateurs while Rigondeaux was 463-12. This was a major event having a pair of two-time Olympic Gold Medalists meeting one another.
Lomachenko is now considering seeking moving up the lightweight to gain his third division world title. Egis Klimas is his manager who also has WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev, of Russia, living in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, among many other boxers and promoted by Top Rank.
Another considered for “Fighter of the Year” was Anthony “A.J.” Joshua, 20-0, in April, defending his WBA Super world heavyweight title stopping former Super World heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, 64-4, and stopping Carlos Takam, 35-3-1, in a not too impressive defense.
Also considered was IBF, WBA and WBC middleweight Gennady “GGG” Golovkin, 37-0-1, of KAZ, living in L.A. who in March defeated former WBA World Middleweight champion Danny “Miracle Man” Jacobs, 32-1, at Madison Square Garden, in NY and in September getting robbed being held to a split decision draw by former WBO World Super welterweight champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, 49-1-1, at the T-Mobile Arena, in Las Vegas, NV.
The Real Fight of 2016
by B.A. Cass
The fight between Francisco Vargas and Orlando Salido, which seemed to be just about everyone’s pick for 2016 fight of the year, was certainly a good fight. But thirty seconds into Round One and the two men were already in their first clinch, something that turned into a bizarre twirl. A minute later, Vargas was walking Salido back as if they were partners in an intermediate ballroom dance class. Yes, there were moments of intense onslaught by both men, and yes, the majority of the fight was brutal and entertaining. However, it was nowhere near as thrilling as the best fights of the past.
Over the week I watched nineteen fights, both female and male, from 2016. I had originally intended to watch twenty-four, but five of the female fights were not available online. (Click this link to get the full list of the fights I watched: http://bit.ly/2x65wKk.) I had two criteria for judging these matches. The first was that the opponents had to be well matched, meaning no early round knockouts or clear domination. The second was that that the fight had to be thrilling from beginning to end. This, unfortunately, disqualified Amanda Serrano, who KO’d Olivia Gerula in the first round of their fight. And while it was a pleasure watch the skilled Jelena Mrdjenovic, she was the more talented fighter in both her fights that I watched. On the male side, I was impressed by all of what I saw except by the Dillian Whyte vs. Dereck Chisora fight, which seemed to me just like two really big guys punching each other in slow-motion.
And while I was deeply impressed by the Carl Frampton vs. Leo Santo Cruz bout (I gave it runner up), one fight stood out from all the rest. And that’s Heather Hardy vs. Shelly Vincent, my pick for “2016 Fight of the Year.”
The public animosity between these two fighters has been well-documented. Vincent spent years trying to secure a fight with Hardy, going so far as to show up at Hardy’s fights to taunt and ridicule her. Their fans exchanged vicious words. Hardy’s mother may have even been involved in a physical altercation with Vincent at The Roseland Ballroom, though that has not been confirmed. In other words, this was the real deal, an epic fight three years in the making.
But put aside all that, and put aside the historic nature of the fight. (It was the first female boxing match televised in the US in over 20 years.) In fact, put aside everything and anything that didn’t take place in the ring that night at Coney Island’s Ford Amphitheater because it was, from beginning to end, a spectacular fight. There was no clinching, not a single moment when either fighter tried to save energy. Hardy and Vincent simply gave everything they had from the first bell to the last.
The New York based Hardy won by split-decision, which didn’t surprise Vincent, who had traveled from Providence to take the fight. “It being in New York, I knew from the gate that unless I knocked her out, I wasn’t going to get a W over there,” Vincent recently told me. “I had it six rounds to four. And two rounds she beat me. I admit that. She beat me those two rounds. But clearly I dominated. I kept moving forward.”
Devon Cormack, Hardy’s trainer, obviously doesn’t agree with Vincent’s analysis: “At no point did I feel Heather was losing the fight,” he told me over the phone. “She made the adjustments as the fight went on, more than Shelly did.” Still, Cormack acknowledges that it was close. “It wasn’t a perfect thing having a split decision, but I didn’t think it was that far removed, which is why I thought it made for an excellent fight.”
Vincent’s trainer, Pete Manfredo Sr., can’t figure out why there hasn’t been a rematch. All he knows is that it should have been done already. “It was the fight of the night, and it even had Errol Spence on the card that night. I thought Vincent/Hardy was a much better fight for the crowd, even the television crowd.”
Let’s be honest, though: if a rivalry like this occurred between two male boxers and their much-anticipated, widely-viewed fight ended in a close, split-decision win, the rematch would have already happened.
Still, Hardy remains hopeful for the future of women’s boxing. “If you put Holly Holm with someone like a Katie Taylor, or one with Cecilia Brækhus, that would be a huge money fight—maybe not in America but it would be a huge money fight because so much of the country follows MMA. Even when I had my first MMA fight, I got tens of thousands of new followers. I was on the MMA radio show with Ariel Hawani and like a hundred people had tweeted it out. And so the more public demand, the more popular it gets, the easier it will be.”
Let’s hope Hardy is right. Let’s hope that the gods of the boxing world come together and align the stars to make this rematch happen. In the meantime, you can see Shelly Vincent fight in person at the Fox Theater at Foxwoods Resort Casino on September 15th. (Buy your tickets here: http://bit.ly/ShellyVincent). And, though her opponent has yet to be announced, Heather Hardy is set to return for her second Bellator fight on October 20th at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
Follow B.A. Cass on Twitter @WiththePunch
Why People Are Still Talking About The Hagler-Leonard Fight 30 Years Later
Why People Are Still Talking About The Hagler-Leonard Fight 30 Years Later
By: Sean Crose
In all honesty, I’m surprised the fight is still such a big deal. As the media of the time pointed out, it wasn’t the most thrilling affair. What’s more, the bout occurred just before the zenith of the Mike Tyson era. And while it’s true Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Sugar Ray Leonard were the two biggest names in boxing at the time, the magnificent age of pugilism they represented was clearly on the way out when the two men finally met in the ring on April 6th, 1987. Upon some retrospection, however, it makes sense that the Hagler-Leonard middleweight championship fight remains alive and well in the public consciousness to this day.
For those who don’t know, Sugar Ray Leonard was the darling of the boxing world, if not the entire sports world, from the late seventies, through the early eighties. A former Olympian with a winning smile and a skill set to burn, the man epitomized what it meant to be an all American success story. After winning the welterweight title back from the meanspirited Roberto Duran in classic stand up to the bully fashion, Leonard said he was happy to win the championship for America. He meant it. And in an era where patriotism wasn’t confused with xenophobia, that sort of thing meant something to the public.
Leonard’s polar opposite was Marvelous Marvin Hagler. The word Marvelous was actually part of his legal name. He put it in there himself (apparently Marvin Hagler simply wouldn’t do). A gritty product of Brockton, Massachusetts (which gave him a kinship with one Rocky Marciano) Hagler had to come up the hard way, through grueling affair after grueling affair. When the man finally won the middleweight title strap, the British audience who witnessed the fight live and in person tossed bottles into the ring. But Hagler wasn’t to be denied. He wasn’t showered with accolades, he earned them.
Yet it wasn’t until Hagler actually bested a rejuvenated Duran in a fifteen round war that attention was finally paid. And, after beating former Leonard nemesis and all time legend Tommy Hearns in what is still the greatest single sporting event I’ve ever seen, it was Hagler, not Leonard, who was on top of the boxing world. Where was Leonard? Well, eye problems had taken him out of the sport – at least for a while. For it’s said that after Leonard watched Hagler struggle against the valiant John Mugabi a year after the epic Hagler-Hearns bout, Leonard realized he could beat the man.
And beat Hagler Leonard did, in one of the biggest upsets in the history of boxing and also of sports in general. Yet that’s not why the fight is still such a hot topic all these years later. There’s a lot more to the story than just that.
For many people feel Hagler got robbed that night, that the 12 round decision victory went to the wrong man. Yet that’s still not why the fight is such a hot topic in 2017. The real reason Hagler-Leonard resonates as it does three decades later is because a golden child bested a working class Joe in a way many found to be unfair. And that sort of thing can hit home.
Had Leonard knocked Hagler out, the bout would remain a classic – but it wouldn’t be seen as the giant enigma it remains to this day. Look at it this way: If Hagler had been awarded the decision that night instead of Leonard, the fight would still have been controversial, but it wouldn’t have irked as many people as it does now.
The fact that the match consisted of Hagler chasing Leonard around the ring while Leonard fired off quick bursts naturally made it open to interpretation.
In a lot of ways, a person’s opinion of the contest could very well be based on his or her preferred style of fighting. Those who like aggression would be inclined to give the nod to Hagler.
Those who like stylists, on the other hand…
This is simply one of those cases where a real consensus will most likely never be reached. Hagler retired after the bout, denying Leonard the chance to erase any question marks. In a sense, both Hagler and Leonard will forever be seen as they are in still photos from that night – frozen in time, engaged in combat, equals in all ways, save for individual opinions, the golden child and his blue color nemesis. It wasn’t a great fight, but it was most certainly a memorable one, in large part because many feel it was emblematic of life itself, a thing where the golden child forever emerges victorious, deservedly or not.
More Boxing History
ShoBox Results: Baranchyk and Ramos Deliver a Ten Round Thriller, Fernandez and Williams Victorious
ShoBox Results: Baranchyk and Ramos Deliver a Ten Round Thriller, Fernandez and Williams Victorious
By: William Holmes
The Buffalo Run Casino and Resort in Miami, Oklahoma was the host site for tonight’s ShoBox card live on Showtime and featured a main event between Ivan Baranchyk and Abel Ramos.
Jon Fernandez (10-0) and Ernesto Garza (7-1) opened up the telecast with a bout in the super featherweight division.
Fernandez and Garza are both young professionals with a good amateur background that fought like they knew this fight was a good opportunity for exposure for them.
Garza was a southpaw, but was a good head shorter than Fernandez. Fernandez landed his overhand rights early on, and had Garza stunned with a hard right uppercut. He connected with another combination that dropped Garza. Garza was able to beat the count and put up a good fight for the remainder of the round and landed some heavy body blows, but Fernandez was more accurate puncher.
Garza opened up the second round aggressively and attacked to the body, but Fernandez remained calm and connected with clean shots of his own to the head of Garza. Garza appeared to tire as the round progressed and Fernandez was more easily avoiding the rushes of Garza.
Fernandez turned up the pressure in the third round and hammered Garza by the ropes and landed several hard unanswered shots. Garza looked dazed and confused while hanging on the ropes and the referee stopped the fight.
Jon Fernandez wins by TKO at 1:39 of the third round.
The next bout of the night was between Lenin Castillo (15-0-1) and Joe Williams (10-0) in the light heavyweight division.
Castillo was the more decorated amateur boxer as he competed for Puerto Rico in the 2008 Summer Olympics.
Castillo was the taller boxer and his jab was causing Williams problems in the first round. Williams was a little wild early and had to deal with Castillo holding on when he got in close.
Castillo’s jab was on point in the second round and was able to block most of Williams’ punches. Castillo’s range was firmly established by the third round and was landing the cleaner, sharper combinations, though Williams was not making it easy for Castillo.
The action remained consistent in the fourth and fifth rounds, with Castillo being the more effective fighter on the outside and Williams doing some damage on the inside, but Castillo was landing the more noticeable punches.
Castillo was the more active boxer in the sixth round but never had Williams in any real trouble. Williams pressed the action in the seventh round and may have won it due to Castillo constantly tying up and not throwing enough punches.
The fight could have been scored for either boxer going into the final round, and even though Castillo started the fight off strong, Williams ended the fight the busier boxer and who was pressing the pace.
The judges scored the bout 76-76, 78-74, 77-75 for Joseph Mack Williams Jr. by majority decision.
The main event of the night was between Ivan Baranchyk (13-0) and Abel Ramos (17-1-2) in the Super Lightweight Division.
Baranchyk entered with a very elaborate entrance, especially by ShoBox standards.
Baranchyk was aggressive early and throwing wild left hooks and very wide punches. Ramos was connecting with his jab and took a hard right uppercut by Baranchyk well, but it was a close round and could have been scored either way.
Baranchyk was able to briefly trap Ramos by the corner early in the second round and land some hard body shots, but was missing when he threw his wild shots to the head. Ramos’ jabs were landing at a high rate in the second round.
Ramos has control early in the third round and was controlling the action until Baranchyk landed a thudding right hand that sent Ramos down. Ramos was able to beat the count and get back to his feet and score a stunning knockdown with a counter left hand.
Ramos went back to his jab in the fourth round and was connecting with good straight right hands. He had Baranchyk hurt in the fourth, but Baranchyk landed another hard left hook that sent Ramos down to the mat. Ramos got back to his feet and looked fully recovered by the end of the fight.
Ramos had a very strong fifth round and was landing hard shots at will from the outside. It was an action packed round, but a clear round for Ramos.
The sixth round was an incredible round that featured both boxers throwing and landing the hardest punches that they could throw, and somehow, amazingly, neither boxer scored a knockdown.
Ramos, inexplicably, decided to stay in fierce exchanges with Baranchyk in the seventh round even though he did better when boxing from the outside and boxing smartly. Baranchyk’s punches were doing more head snapping damage than the shots of Ramos.
Amazingly, both boxers were still standing and throwing a high volume of power shots in the eighth round. Ramos, however, had some bad swelling around both of his eyes and looked like he was wearing down and slowing down. Ramos took some very heavy shots at the end of the round and his face was badly swollen.
Ramos’ faced looked badly disfigured at the start of the ninth round but he was still throwing a large number of punches and fighting back in extended spurts, but Baranchyk was landing the far more brutal punches.
Baranchyk and Ramos both looked exhausted in the final round and spent most of the final round doing something we didn’t see most of the fight, exchange mainly jabs. Baranchyk was able to buckle the knees of Ramos in the final seconds of the final round, but Ramos was able to survive the fight.
This was an incredibly exciting fight.
The judges scored the bout 97-92, 99-91, and 97-93 for Ivan Baranchyk.
2016 Fighter of the Year Anyone But Andre Ward!
2016 Fighter of the Year Anyone But Andre Ward!
By: Ken Hissner
In looking over the new and defending world champions WBC/WBO super lightweight champion Terence Crawford, 30-0 (21), out of Omaha, NEB, was 3-0 with a pair of ko’s in 2016.
The only other “champion” with 3 fights was Andre Ward who won a disputed decision over Sergey Kovalev who also had 3 fights. A fair decision and Kovalev would be a shoo-in for Fighter of the Year. This should never get “Fight of the Year” for Kovalev got hugged more (46x) by Ward then he does by his wife.
IBF super welterweight champion Jermall Charlo, 25-0 (19), out of Houston was 2-0 winning a close decision over former champion Austin Trout and stopping previously unbeaten Julian “J-Roc” Williams.
New WBC Super flyweight champion Roman Gonzalez, 46-0 (38), of NIC, had his toughest fight of his career stepping up a division winning a hard fought decision. He was 2-0.
Gennady “GGG” Golovkin, 36-0 (33), holding the WBA, WBC and IBF middleweight titles stopped a pair of unbeaten boxers with records of 36-0 and 18-0 to expend his knockout streak to 23.
In the cruiserweight division there were 3 new champions. Tony “Bomber” Bellew, 28-2-1 (18), won the vacant WBC title and was 2-0.
Murat “Iron” Gassiev, 24-0 (17), of Russia, won the IBF title over Denis Lebedev who didn’t have his WBA title on the line.
Oleksandr Usyk, 11-0 (10), of UKR, won the WBO title and went 2-0.
Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, 48-1-1 (34), the WBC/WBO Super welterweight champion went 2-0 but pushed back his bout with GGG a year.
So who do you think should be awarded “Fighter of the Year?”
Why Carl Frampton Is Not My Fighter Of The Year
Why Carl Frampton Is Not My Fighter Of The Year
By: Sean Crose
Okay, first things first – there’s something a bit misleading about the title of this article. The truth is that I don’t have a FIGHTER OF THE YEAR, per se. Indeed, you won’t find me listing the greatest fights, fighters, knockouts, and whatever else here at Boxing Insider. Not that I mind writers bestowing such honors. To the contrary, I often find the whole exercise fascinating. Again, though, you won’t see me engaging in it here – at least not this year. Still, I don’t feel Carl Frampton is worthy of the honor anywhere – even though I like the guy.
There’s no doubt the Irishman has had a hell of a year for himself. First, he defeated Scott Quigg for various superbantmweight titles last winter. Then , in a terrific display, the 22-0 slugger went on to defeat fellow undefeated pugilist – and WBA super world featherweight champion – Leo Santa Cruz under the bright lights of Brooklyn. Furthermore, Frampton is now set to face off against Santa Cruz again, this time in Vegas, next month. And, as a cherry to place atop the sundae, Frampton also comes across as a polite and likeable guy. To be sure, there isn’t much not to like.
Still, I can’t think of Frampton without the name of one Guillermo Rigondeaux popping into my head. To be sure, Frampton and superbantamweight Rigondeaux now operate at different weight classes. That wasn’t always the case, though. Indeed, there has been interest in having the two men meet over the years. Sadly, however, team Frampton clearly wants nothing to do with the Cuban stylist. Indeed, Sky Sports quoted Frampton’s manager, Barry McGuigan, last March referring to Guillermo as “negative.” Uh-huh. “What do we gain by fighting him?” McGuigan asked.
Perhaps not much more than a loss, Barry. Rigondeaux is exceedingly skilled, after all. Still, ducking one of the world’s top talents shouldn’t be taken lightly. Yes, Rigondeaux can be boring and no he hasn’t endeared himself to a strong fan base. What’s more, Rigondeaux may cause Frampton to lose out on future pay days, should he make Frampton look bad. Make no mistake about it, avoiding Rigondeaux is understandable, especially when one is repeatedly willing to face the likes of Santa Cruz, as Frampton is. Yet there are consequences for such actions, as well. At least there should be.
There’s no doubt that Frampton is an impressive talent. It should not be forgotten, however, that he has avoided a perhaps even greater talent on his way to earning accolades.
Pacquiao Remains Dominant In 2016
Pacquiao Remains Dominant In 2016
By: Sean Crose
An interesting article appeared in this publication the other day wherein Matthew N. Becher ran through a list of top candidates for 2016s Fighter of the Year. All candidates were worthy, but I won’t focus here on which one I felt was the years’ very best. I simply want to focus on one of the fighters mentioned – Manny Pacquiao. For, believe it or not, Pacquiao remained dominant in 2016. Just how dominant? Well, he bested potential Hall of Famer Tim Bradley – for the second or third time in a row, depending on how you look at things – then made easy work of rising star Jessie Vargas later in the year.
This, frankly, requires a degree of reflection. For, let’s face it, many if not most fight fans want the Mayweather-Pacquiao era to be over. Sure, they’d pay a ton to see Manny and Floyd go at it again, or even Floyd and white mainstream media fave, Conor McGregor of the UFC (I disdain political correctness, but let’s face it, if McGregor weren’t Caucasian there would be collective head shaking at his behavior rather than winks and smiles). Still and all, people are tired of Floyd and Manny being the faces of the sport.
Here’s the thing, though – Manny doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Here’s something else – the man is still dominant. I can’t say with any certainty that there’s a welterweight or junior welterweight out there who can beat the guy. His pay per view numbers may be down, he may not be what he was, but man, Pacquiao is still something else. To be sure, he still seems to puzzle his opposition, just has he has for ages now. This ability to confuse has been evident with every major opponent he’s faced in the past eight years or so with the exception of Floyd. Furthermore, the Filipino icon remains in great shape, even for his advancing age.
Make no mistake about it, boxing is in a transition period. Old names like Bernard Hopkins are leaving and new names like Vasyl Lomachenko and Bud Crawford are stepping up to the plate. A fighter who is still in top competitive form, however, can’t simply be rushed off the stage. Up and comers like Crawford and perhaps Errol Spence Jr may indeed be able to best Pacquiao, but that’s no guarantee – not even at this late stage of Pacquiao’s career. Like many others, I want to move on from the Manny-Floyd era. If this year convinced me of anything, though, it’s that Pacquiao is going to stick around for a bit longer.
And at the moment at least, there’s no guarantee anyone can do anything about it.
Best 10 Boxing Fights of 2016
Best 10 Boxing Fights of 2016
By: Jordan Seward
With the new year approaching it’s time to reflect on the best boxing action of 2016, so in no particular order….
Orlando Salido vs Francisco Vargas
The two Mexicans treated us to a classic right up to the final bell for Vargas’ (23-0-2) WBC World Super Featherweight title. Vargas, coming off the back of Fight of the Year for 2015 faced a true, steely warrior in the 36-year-old Salido (43-13-4). It was a back-and-fourth slug fest between two champions who don’t know when to quit. In the end the pair couldn’t be separated and the judges correctly scored it a draw.
Tony Bellew vs Ilunga Makabu
The real life rocky story that saw Bellew (28-2-1) finally crowned a world champion. Just after starring in the new rocky film ‘The Bomber’ got his third bite at the cherry facing a dangerous and feared Congolese who had chalked up 18 knockouts in 19 fights. A packed crowed inside his beloved Everton football club’s stadium were stunned when Makabu (19-2) sent Bellew rolling over at the end of the first. The Everton man climbed off the canvas Balboa esque and rallied to stop Makabu in the third with a flourish of heavy punches to claim the vacant WBC World Cruiserweight strap.
Dillian Whyte vs Dereck Chisora
This one had it all. Filled with controversy from the start these two Heavyweights threw everything but the kitchen sink. A table was thrown though. At a press conference. Which, as a result meant the British title wasn’t on the line. But after all the talk, the bad mouthing and the attempted scrapping Whyte (20-1) and Chisora (26-7) done it properly in the ring and fought out a clean and action-packed-12-rounder. Both men were rocked and absorbed a lot of punishment, but Whyte’s superior stamina was just about enough to nick it for him on the judges’ scorecard by split decision.
Keith Thurman vs Shawn Porter
Thurman (27-0) was getting in the ring with probably the best opponent he’s faced. The only man to previously have defeated Porter (26-2-1) was Kell Brook, but, in a fierce competitive fight, Thurman successfully defended his WBA World Welterweight title dishing out Porter’s second loss of his career with a 115-113 unanimous decision. Although the announcement was greeted by booing, the stats suggested Thurman deservedly had his hand raised at the end, landing 43.6% of his punches while his opponent made 35.6%.
Andre Ward vs Sergey Kovalev
The fight that everyone scored differently. It was a fight we all wanted as soon as Ward made the jump up from Super-Middleweight. The defensive suave of Ward (31-0) met the aggressive power of ‘The Krusher’ (30-1-1) at the T-Mobile Arena, in Las Vegas. The American, fighting on home turf, was put down in the second round for only the second time in his illustrious career. But Ward, as Ward does, after falling behind on the cards managed to take the second half of the fight and claim Kovalev’s WBO, IBF and WBA Super World Light Heavyweight titles by unanimous decision.
Carl Frampton vs Leo Santa Cruz
After unifying his IBF super-bantamweight title by outpointing Scott Quigg, the Northern Irishmen capped off his impressive year by adding Leo Santa Cruz’s (32-1-1) WBA Super World Featherweight belt. ‘The Jackal’ (23-0) jumped up a weight division and battled it out with the Mexican champion in an absolute barn burner. After a hard and punishing 12 rounds it went to the judges’ scorecards and Frampton, was given the nod. Now, just for us, they’re doing it all again at the MGM Grand on the 28th January. Not a bad way to start the new year.
Hosea Burton vs Frank Buglioni
Words were exchanged between the pair in what was a heated build up to this Light-Heavyweight contest for the British title. But when the fighting started it quickly turned in to a very watchable and enjoyable scrap. Both Burton (18-1) and Buglioni (19-2-1) continuously plowed forwards, in attempts to assert their dominance. They were both taking serious damage and in the twelfth-round Burton’s chickens came home to roost. The 28-year-old was slowing down and deserved to hear the final bell but with just one minute left in the bout Buglioni landed some hurtful blows and the ref waved it off.
Thomas Williams Jr. vs Edwin Rodriguez
A fiery, hard fought contest… while it lasted. At the StubHub Center, on the undercard of Andre Berto’s knockout win against Victor Ortiz, Rodriguez, (28-2) displayed courage, grit, determination, and, a chin. In this two-rounder, it was Williams Jr (20-2) who was landing the more powerful and hurtful shots but a number of times Rodriguez remained upright and proudly came firing back. In the end, it took a monster left hook to knock the resolute 31-year-old out.
Gennady Golovkin vs Kell Brook
As far as unexpected fights go, this one took the biscuit. You couldn’t have called it. This was not a fight many had in mind, but, when it was made it was all the talk. The IBF World Welterweight champion, Brook, jumped up two weight division to face the feared Middleweight kingpin at the O2 Arena. Looking in great shape and as confident as ever the Englishman made a great start to the fight. However, as the fight went on we began to realise Brook wouldn’t be making history as Golovkin’s power started to take its toll and Brook’s trainer, Dominic Ingle threw in the towel stopping proceedings in the fifth round.
Anthony Crolla vs Ismael Barroso
After prizing away the WBA World Lightweight title from Darleys Perez in their second meeting, Crolla, (31-5-3)made his first defence against the man who, effectively, sent world title challenger Kevin Mitchell into retirement. As expected, the Venezuelan (19-1-2) started strong and, typical of a Joe Gallagher fighter, Crolla did not. He absorbed some early punishment and probably lost the first five rounds. It became clear after six though, that Crolla’s tactics were spot on, as the challenger noticeably began to tire. He had thrown all he had and was on empty, Crolla seized his chance and overwhelmed his opponent, eventually stopping him in the seventh.
2016’s Fighter of the Year is?
2016’s Fighter of the Year is?
By: Matthew N. Becher
Another boxing calendar is coming to an end and that means year end award conversations are taking place. In a year that has seen a lot of craziness, from PED use at an all-time high, to the Heavyweight champion being stripped of his belts, a year with 0 Floyd Mayweather Jr. fights and sharp decline in the Pay per view format, 2016 did still have a number of great boxers deserving of the title “Fighter of the year”. Here are a few who may have had what it took.
Manny Pacquiao: Pacquiao started the year off in April by taking on pound for pound lister and all around top welterweight challenger Timothy Bradley Jr. in what would be their rubber match. Pacquiao announced it would be his final fight in his hall of fame caliber career and that he would retire after the fight, win or lose. Pacquiao entered the fight as an underdog, since he would be coming off nearly a year layoff after his loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. and a shoulder surgery that followed. Pacquiao not only beat father time in this fight, but he beat Timothy Bradley as sure handedly as he ever has. He was able to knock Bradley down twice in the fight, and won by Unanimous Decision. After deciding rather quickly that he couldn’t stay away from the sport he loved for very long, Pacquiao then targeted the WBO Welterweight champion Jessie Vargas. Vargas who only has one loss in his career to Tim Bradley Jr. had the age advantage but nothing else. Again Pacquiao became a world champion and with 59 wins in his career, it seems that he is ready to attempt to get number 60 early next year against, hopefully a high quality opponent.
Andrew Ward: Ward is on the list mainly because of the win against Sergey Kovalev last month. He fought 3 times in 2016, which is the most active he has been since 2009. The opponents he defeated, Sullivan Barrera, Alexander Brand and Sergey Kovalev rank from unknown to contender to one of the very best fighters in the sport. Ward is on the list, again, solely for the fact that he had a win over Sergey Kovalev and became the Unified Light Heavyweight champion. Regardless of controversy on the scorecards, he beat an undefeated, top 5 pound for pound champion. He will receive votes, but may be a longshot to actually win the award.
Joe Smith Jr.: Smith is a late addition after last weekend’s win over Bernard Hopkins. Sure, he beat a 51 year old Hopkins, but he is still the first person to ever knock Hopkins out and the way he did so was impressive to say the least. This was Smith’s third win of the year, with an April TKO of Fabiano Pena and a follow up first round KO over Andrzej Fonfara, which is a very heavy favorite for upset of the year. Smith fought two marquee fights in which he was the underdog and winning both of them by show stopping Knock outs.
Terrence Crawford: Crawford will try to follow up his 2014 FOTY award with another ceremony this year. Crawford fought three times in 2016. He knocked out Hank Lundy at the Theater in Madison Square Garden and then unified the division against the top Jr. Welterweight, Viktor Postol. Though the fight did not do great pay per view wise, and was deemed a boring fight, Crawford displayed talent that showed why he is one of the best fighters in the world, completely unarming the very tough and until then, undefeated, Postol. Crawford ended the year back home in Omaha, against a C-level opposition in John Molina Jr., who did not put up much of a fight and Crawford outmatched in every single category. Terrence Crawford will be a Fighter of the Year finalist for many years to come.
Carl Frampton: Carl Frampton is a very big favorite to win the BWAA Fighter of the year award for 2016. Frampton fought twice, both against undefeated fighters, Scott Quigg in Manchester and Leo Santa Cruz in Brooklyn. Frampton beat Quigg by Split Decision to unify the Jr. Featherweight division and ended up breaking Quigg’s jaw in the process. Five months later, Frampton decided to move up in weight to take on the WBA Featherweight champion Leo Santa Cruz, and in what many may say was a “Fight of the Year” candidate, was able to defeat the hard nose Santa Cruz. Frampton became a two division champ in 2016, already has scheduled a rematch with Santa Cruz for January 28th in Las Vegas and looks like a man who is ready to take on the toughest guys he can.
Vasyl Lomachenko: Lomo fought twice this year, the 7th and 8th fights of his career. The first fight was against the very tough Rocky Martinez at the Theatre in Madison Square Garden. Lomachenko made easy work of Martinez with a “Knockout of the Year” candidate performance. Martinez had only been knocked out 1 time in his career and that was to a young, prime Mikey Garcia, some good company for Vasyl to be a part of. This win would make Lomachenko a 2 division world champion in only 7 professional fights, which is extremely impressive. He followed that win up with the highly anticipated showdown against undefeated former champion Nicholas Walters. Not only did Lomachenko put on a display of overall boxing brilliance, he made Nicholas Walters, one of the top fighters, if not the top in the division say “No Mas”. Going into the ring and completely beating a man is one thing, but to make a top level fighter quit is something else. Lomachenko is taking the boxing world by storm, and who knows what is next for the 2x Olympic Gold Champion.