What a year we have had so far in the world of boxing! The best in the business have finally taken the plunge and decided to fight each other. In the last 7 months we have had 7 mega fights with still more to come.
Ok so not all seven were magnificent but at least the top fighters are finally stepping into the ring against one another. I made a point on the Billy C Boxing show that we have not had it this good since 1997. Daxx Khan rightly mentioned that 2012 was a great year for big fights but I believe 2013 was even better than that. I believe this year has almost surpassed both those years and we’re only just over half way through it. So the question is will 2017 be better 1997? Well here’s a run-down of the seven mega bouts with some notable mentions and my picks for fight of the year, shock of the year and KO of the year plus more.
DeGale vs Jack
It seems like an age since James DeGale and Babou Jack kicked off 2017 with a bang, when they fought out a majority draw in the Barclays Centre, New York on January 14.
The IBF and WBC super-middleweight titles were on the line as both fighters attempted to become unified champions and cement their status as the king of the division. A majorly draw was probably the right result in the end after both fighters touched the canvas in a decent scarp.
Jack has now moved up light-heavyweight and is eyeing a world title bout against Welshman Nathan Cleverly who currently holds the WBA strap. DeGale decided against taking part in the World Series of Boxing at super-middleweight which begins later this year. Maybe DeGale should wait in the wings and take on the winner of Anthony Dirrell and David Benavidez, who will scrap it out on September 9 for the WBC title that Jack vacated.
Frampton vs Santa Cruz II
After an excellent first encounter which I considered to be the fight of the year in 2016, the rematch was set at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas on January 28.
The rematch was not as action packed as the first and that was mainly due to the style that Santa Cruz adopted. This time the Mexican used his height and reach to his advantage and kept the Irishman at bay. Even when they did exchange on the inside the challenger was getting the better of the champion.
In the end it was Santa Cruz that came out victorious the second time around and won the fight by majority decision. The rubber match will surely be in the horizon but for now both fighters will be headlining in front of their own adoring fans on home soil.
Thurman vs Garcia
On March 4 the Barclays Centre, New York was the venue yet again but this time for another unification fight between Danny ‘Swift’ Garcia and Keith ‘One Time’ Thurman in the glamour division. The WBC and WBA welterweight titles were up for grabs but more importantly it was time for one of these guys to establish themselves as one of the best in the division.
The fight was a little disappointing as a spectacle but it was a decent technical match up. Thurman showed he had the power over Garcia in the early exchanges and almost got the early knockout victory. After the exciting start, the fight slowed down and One Time established a healthy lead. Thurman took his foot off the gas for the last couple of rounds but luckily still managed to win by split decision.
Golovkin vs Jacobs
The historic Madison Square Garden in New York was the venue for Gennady Golovkin against Daniel Jacobs. It was a unification of sorts with two different versions of the WBA strap up for grabs plus all of the other titles Triple G holds WBC, IBO & IBF.
It was a cagy start by both fighters with Jacobs hitting and moving well but in the fourth round he was caught by a short right hand that sent him down to the canvas. It was no more than a flash knockdown but the 10/8 round paid dividends as Golovkin ended up winning by a unanimous decision on March 18.
The general consensus was that Triple G deserved the victory but only just although some believe Jacobs should have got the nod. A lot of unfair criticism was written about Golovkin after the fight because he didn’t win by knockout but I feel he proved once again that he is still the man to beat.
Joshua vs Klitschko
Mega fight number five was for the IBF & WBA heavyweight titles at Wembley Stadium, London. IBF champion Anthony Joshua stepped into the ring on April 29 in front of 90,000 passionate fans to take on future Hall of Famer Wladimir Klitschko.
It was a pretty even fight for the first four rounds until Joshua sent the big Ukrainian down in the fifth. AJ emptied the tank in hope that he would close out the fight but his resilient opponent turned the tide in what has to be one of the best rounds of heavyweight boxing in years.
Klitschko responded in the sixth and put AJ on the deck for the first time in his short career. It was looking bleak for the Londoner but he showed heart and true grit to withstand his challenger’s pressure.
The fight was stopped in round eleven after Klitschko was put down twice and in danger of touching the canvas for a third time the referee stopped the contest. AJ retained his IBF strap as well as capturing the WBA heavyweight title.
Wladimir Klitschko deserves huge kudos for pushing his younger opponent all the way and almost pulling off a shock. After such an epic battle in the capital a rematch is looking likely in November with Las Vegas being the preferred destination. Klitschko still needs to give the go ahead but it will be interesting to see what that fight may have taken out of the veteran former champion.
Brook vs Spence Jr
Back to the welterweights for an intriguing matchup between IBF Champion Kell Brook and the new kid on the block Errol Spence Jr at Bramall Lane, Sheffield on April 27.
Once again Brook was stopped due to a damaged eye socket but this time it was his left eye and not the right that Triple G damaged back in September 2016. Frustratingly for the Sheffield-based fighter it was close on many score cards including mine before referee Howard Foster waved it off in the eleventh round.
Brook believes he will be back again this year after a successful surgery and many British boxing fans including me hope it will be against Amir Khan-Dashian. Spence Jr should now be looking at unification fights against either Pacquiao conqueror Jeff Horn or Keith Thurman. That being said the Aussie may have to commit to a rematch and Thurman looks likely to face Shawn Porter again once fully fit.
Ward vs Kovalev II
After the controversy surrounding Andre Ward’s victory over Sergey Kovalev last year the rematch was set at Mandalay Bay Casino, Las Vegas on June 17.
Many believed Kovalev was robbed of a decision and deserved another shot at the WBA, IBF & WBO light-heavyweight titles. Kovalev promised a lot before the fight but he put in a disappointing performance, although I did have him slightly ahead on my score card before the eighth round stoppage.
I feel that referee Tony Weeks made a rash decision by stopping the fight after Ward landed three hooks to the lower body which appeared to be either borderline low blows or low blows. A standing eight count would have been the correct decision but looking at the Russians body language he looked disinterested. Even when the fight was waved off he didn’t put up much of a protest.
I have to say through gritted teeth that Andre Ward probably deserves to be number one on the pound of pound list at the moment but he won’t be by the end of the year. There is no doubt Ward like Mayweather gets the results but in terms of entertainment the pair of them bore the pants off me.
Other fights that deserve a mention…
- January 28, Mikey Garcia knocked out Dejan Zlaticanin in three rounds to win the WBC lightweight title.
- February 2, Veteran Luis Collazo finished Sammy Vasquez Jr with a clean knockout in the sixth round.
- March 25, Jorge Linares defended his WBA lightweight title when he won a unanimous decision against Anthony Crolla for the second time.
- April 8, Vasyl Lomachenko stopped Jason Sosa in the ninth round to retain the WBO super-featherweight title.
- April 22, Shawn Porter defeated Andre Berto in the final WBC welterweight title eliminator by a ninth round TKO.
- May 20, All on the same night; Terence Crawford retained his titles when he beat Felix Diaz by tenth-round stoppage. Gervonta Davis defeated Liam Walsh to defend his IBF super-featherweight title & Daigo Higa beat Juan Hernandez by sixth-round stoppage to become the WBC flyweight champion.
- May 27, George Groves finally captured a world title at the fourth attempt when he stopped Fedor Chudinov in the sixth-round to claim the WBA super-middleweight title.
- July 2, Jeff Horn beat Manny Pacquiao by unanimous decision to become the WBO welterweight champion.
- July 15, Chris Eubank Jr retained his IBO super-middleweight strap when he defeated Arthur Abraham by unanimous decision. Lee Selby also won a unanimous decision over Jonathan Victor Barros to keep his IBF featherweight title.
Fight of the Year
We have had some excellent fights this year already but my clear winner has to be the heavyweight matchup between Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko. The last time I was this excited about a heavyweight fight was when Lennox Lewis knocked out Mike Tyson in 2002. But I think this fight overshadowed that because they both delivered after all the hype. This will go straight into my top ten greatest heavyweight fights in boxing history, at number six behind Riddick Bowe vs Evander Holyfield I in 1992.
A notable mention has to go to Miguel Berchelt and Francisco Vargas for their monstrous battle in Fantasy Springs Casino, California on January 28.
Domestically Jahmaine Smyle vs Darryll Williams first fight was a terrific encounter and one of my British Fights of the Year so far.
Shock of the Year
The biggest shock of the year has to be Srisaket Sor Rungvisai when he won a majority decision against unbeaten Roman Gonzalez to win the WBC super-flyweight title. After watching the fight a few times I feel Gonzalez should have got the victory but all credit to Rungvisai for being the first to beat Roman and end his 12-year, 46-fight win streak.
Jeff Horn’s victory over Manny Pacquiao in Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, Australia is my second pick. Although the result may have been controversial to many I felt that the Aussie did enough to deserve the victory by the narrowest of margins.
The biggest shock domestically goes to Tony Bellew for his eleventh round stoppage over David Haye. I was dead against this fight from the start but I have to admit for pure entertainment value it was great to watch.
Knockout of the Year
David Lemieux’s brutal third round knockout over Curtis Stevens at the Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, New York is my pick. If you haven’t seen it I suggest you take to YouTube after reading this as Lemieux completely wipes out Stevens with a devastating left hook that sent the 32-year-old to sleep.
My domestic knockout of the year goes to Sam Eggington when he sent Spaniard Ceferino Rodriguez through the ropes to win the EBU European and WBC International welterweight titles in front of his home crowd in Birmingham.
Fighter of the year
For me the fighter of the year so far goes to Gervonta Davis who has been excellent and deserves all the accolades he is getting at the moment. On January 14 he beat Jose Pedraza by seventh-round stoppage to win IBF super-featherweight title. He then successfully defended his crown against Liam Walsh to win by third-round stoppage at the Copperbox Arena, London. The 22-year-old has all the tools to be a huge star but let’s just hope that his promoter Mayweather doesn’t derail his career before it has even begun.
First up we have three-weight world champion Mikey Garcia moving up to light-welterweight (140lbs) to meet former world champion in four weight divisions Adrian Broner on July 29 at Barclays Centre, Brooklyn, New York.
On August 19 at the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska we have the first unification fight since Jermaine Taylor defeated Bernard Hopkins in July 16 2005. The WBA, WBC & WBO light-welterweight king Terence Crawford will face unbeaten IBF champion Julius Indongo for what maybe his last at 140Ibs.
Then on September 16 at the T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Saul Alvarez and the WBA, WBC, IBO & IBF middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin will finally touch gloves.
It’s been a long time coming and I personally did not think it would ever happen. Maybe Canelo has got his timing just right as the 35-year-old might just be on the slide. Or maybe this will be Triple G’s last hurrah and victory will cement his legacy as one of the best middleweights in history. Either way I think this one could be the best of the lot!
P.s. Floyd Mayweather vs Conor McGregor is not real boxing, just an exhibition…