Boxing of the Year
Whereas MMA didn’t have a stellar year, Boxing enjoyed its best year in a long, long time. So good that new fans are finding it, and old fans once disillusioned with the sport are returning to it.
A lot of the new fans found their way into the sport with the biggest fight of the year, McGregor vs Mayweather. Love or hate the match-up, it was the unrivaled as far as spectacle. It was a mega event, and if any of the audience tuned into that fight and found themselves enjoying the undercard, and then watching some more fights off the back of it, then in my opinion it was worth it. The more fans, the more fights, the more promoters are going to be looking for the biggest match ups. All of which is healthy for the sport.
This was the first year in a long time where it really felt like the best were being matched up with the best. Modern Boxing has a history of shielding its stars from the most dangerous opponents, but this year it felt like that had started to change. Like the fans had been heard, and more importantly, listened to.
2017 was also the year in which a large number of tremendous fighters retired, which will result in a truly stacked 2022 Hall of Fame ballot list. Here are just some of the biggest names to retire: Floyd Mayweather Jr (though how long this will last is anyone’s guess. How many times has he retired now?), Wladimir Klitschko, Andre Ward, Timothy Bradley, Miguel Cotto, Juan Manuel Marquez, and Shane Mosely. That’s some of the greatest boxers to ever do it right there, and thanks to the Hall of Fame’s voting system, only three of them will get in on their first year of eligibility. If I had to guess, it’ll be Floyd, Wlad, and Shane.
As a tribute to my favourites among them, here are some of those legends greatest fights. If you are more interested in my thoughts on this year, scroll on down, as some of these classics will eat the rest of your day.
Timothy Bradley Jr
Juan Manuel Marquez
Classic performances from future hall of famers.
And 2017 had more than a few fights to rival them.
Knockout of the Year
DAVID BENAVIDEZ VS ROGELIO MEDINA
A great fight and a phenomenal finish. Benavidez is only twenty one, but this kid is legit. The speed of that final combination is blink and you miss it level fast.
Hats off to Medina for being tough as nails, but he just had nothing to trouble Benavidez. David Benavidez is the future, and after that knockout, the future is here.
Fighter of the Year
I was considering giving this to Terence Crawford, my favourite fighter currently fighting, as this year he unified his division, capturing all of the championship belts at 140 pounds. This hasn’t been done in that division since 2001, and hasn’t been done in any weight class since 2005. It is something that doesn’t happen often, and is an accomplishment to be recognised.
But instead I gave it to Vasyl “Hi-Tech” Lomachenko. Why? Because no one is doing what he’s doing. No one has achieved what he has in only eleven pro fights. His performances are out of this world. He is the best pure boxer fighting today. I’m not talking about power, or heart, grit, or any of the other things that go into what makes a fighter. But in terms of technical boxing, who is better?
And this year he gave us that definitive answer. No one is better.
His last four opponents, and all three from this year, have quit on their stool in between rounds when fighting him. These are not from out of nowhere knockouts that surprise a fighter who up until that moment was still in the fight. These are fighters who pride themselves on being tough, giving up in between rounds because they concede he is just that much better than them. They can’t read him, time him, or trouble him. He doesn’t snatch their consciousness like a KO artist. He takes their will. He drains them of their identity as a fighter. That’s a whole other kind of brutal.
Up until this year the only other fighter Lomachenko could be compared to, in the sense of doing things no one else was doing, was the Cuban Guillermo Rigondeaux. This year, after much clamoring from fans, the two fighters with the greatest amateur records of all time met in the ring. And guess what? Rigondeaux quit on his stool between rounds.
It is hard not to descend into hyperbole when talking about Lomachenko, because we genuinely haven’t seen anything like him before. For that he is my Fighter of the Year.
Fights of the Year
5. JOHN MOLINA JR VS IVAN REDKACH
Wild, wild fight.
Both men tagged with serious shots. Both men dropped. Both men giving everything they’ve got until they’ve got no more to give.
Courageous effort from Molina to get up off the canvas after just being mauled, and then throw some bombs of his own.
4. CANELO ALVAREZ VS TRIPLE G
One of the most anticipated match ups in years. Two of the greatest fighters on the planet, and the two greatest middleweights looking to prove who truly is the top dog. It did not disappoint.
It was contested, back and forth action, with moments of finesse and skill interspersed with grit and heavy blows. Whenever one man seemed to take control of the fight, the other came right back to stake his claim.
It was everything you’d want from a big time fight. Except the judging. Unfortunately, this fight will probably always be remembered for Adalaide Byrd’s shocking scorecard. In a close fight where many gave the slight edge to Golovkin, Byrd somehow scored ten rounds for Alvarez. But despite the controversy, the fight itself lived up to expectations and the rematch is expected to take place this year. Hopefully without Adalaide at ringside.
3. MIGUEL ROMAN VS ORLANDO SALIDO
Orlando Salido has been one of the most entertaining all action fighters for years now, as well as being the only man to beat Vasyl Lomachenko in the pros, but in his last professional fight, the wars finally caught up to him.
He gave Roman one hell of a test, and made him work for it every step of the way, but his body could no longer take the punishment. When he went down for the third time, he did not get back up. He wanted to, Salido’s will was never going to give, but his body betrayed him. Still, for a fighter like Salido, going out on his shield is exactly how he’d want to go. Giving the fans one last war. One more reason to chant his name.
2. SRISAKET SOR RUNGVISAI VS ROMAN GONZALEZ
Annoyingly I cannot find any edited highlights of this fight… so here’s the whole thing!
Going into this fight Gonzalez was many pundits pound for pound number one fighter. He was a champion in multiple weight classes, coming in with a record of 46 and 0. But it was also widely considered that he had gone up one weight class too many, and had his all action style didn’t work as well against the bigger, heavier fighters. Still, it hadn’t failed him yet, and always, and I mean always, resulted in entertaining fights.
But against Rungvisai he just wasn’t the same destroyer we were used to seeing. He was dropped in the first round. And then a clash of heads caused a cut that flowed freely for the entire fight. Despite all of this he battled it out round after round, throwing punch after punch with his usual ferocity.
What was different this time is Rungvisai threw right back at him. He wasn’t intimidated, and the volume Gonzalez brings didn’t overwhelm him. Rungvisai proved to be the perfect foe for Gonzalez.
These little dudes provided us with 12 rounds of non-stop, high speed action.
Many thought, myself included, that Gonzalez did enough to win, even with the first round knockdown against him. But the judges didn’t see it that way. This resulted in a rematch where Rungvisai silenced the doubters with a brutal fourth round knockout that ended Gonzalez’s days as a pound for pound perennial.
1.ANTHONY JOSHUA VS WLADIMIR KLITSCHKO
90,000 fans. The new heavyweight king vs the greatest heavyweight of the last era. A heavyweight clash for the ages. An instant classic.
Things started slowly. Tentatively. Both men feeling each other out, finding their range, getting their timing down. Then in the fifth Joshua decided Balls to that, and instead charged at Klitschko and battered him for half a round. Wlad went down but was not finished. He climbed to his feet, summoned the fire we haven’t seen from him in a long time, and went on the attack. He finished the round looking like the better man. He wobbled a visibly drained Johsua and chased him around the ring until the end of the round. The round of the year.
Then in the sixth they picked up right where they left off, and Klitschko silenced 90,000 fans by dropping Joshua with a thunderous punch. Now it was Joshua’s turn to pull himself off the mat, which he did, and back to work he went.
In the eleventh Joshua had fully recovered and he charged Klitschko again. This time the pressure was too much and Wlad was dropped twice, and then the ref intervened before he had a chance to fall again. The crowd went wild. The atmosphere was electric. A star was born.
Klitschko may have lost, but he should be proud of his performance. He was the best heavyweight of his generation, and he gave the young gun one hell of a battle to show the world he still had it. I was happy to see that after his listless performance against Fury a few years ago. Great effort from both men to give us one of the biggest and best heavyweight fights in years. It’s the premier division in boxing, and it is back.