2017 Mid-Year Awards
By Donavan Leonard: Boxing ain’t what it used to be. Although fans do not truly long for a revisit of the “bum of the month” tour, more activity by the top fighters would certainly be appreciated. As recently as 2013 Gennady Golovkin fought four times in one calendar year.
So far in 2017, only one champion has fought three times, with two of those being title defenses; Chayaphon Moonsri, the WBC mini-flyweight champion. He could very well squeeze in five bouts this year, which is extraordinary by modern standards. Between the low number of times a fighter steps into the ring, and the move toward “money” bouts (such as Canelo Alvarez vs Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr.), it makes it truly difficult to name a fighter of the year. It becomes more of a gut feeling toward how the biggest win on the ledger played out, rather than comparing the gauntlet that each fighter traversed. As for the other categories, high volume is not needed when viewing a highlight-reel knockout or a head-scratching upset. If the calendar stopped on June 30th, the trophies would go to:
Fight of the Year: Anthony Joshua-Wladimir Klitschko This fight exceeded expectations in every realm. Klitschko’s previous bout, a loss to Tyson Fury, had been justifiably derided as one of the most boring fights to take place in recent memory. The clutching, feinting, and grappling from that fight became a distant memory by round three, as these two heavyweights started to let their hands go. Round five saw Klitschko crumble from a Joshua combination, to not only survive the onslaught but to turn the tables for the remainder of the round. In round six Klitschko dropped Joshua, and for a spell it appeared that England’s hope had indeed bitten off more than he could chew. He was able to survive those moments and end the bout in round eleven, dropping Klitschko twice and battering him on the ropes when the bout was ended. Eighty thousand screaming fans, great two-way action, both fighters hitting the canvas and getting back up to stake their claim as the best heavyweight on the planet, and an uppercut that will be replayed for years to come. Many bouts can have a great atmosphere and intensity, with the bout failing to deliver. This fight had it all.
Fighter of the Year: Anthony Joshua. The events of the bout speak for itself. Joshua had the weight of the nation on his shoulders and carried it. With the opportunity to fall short within his grasp, he rose from the ashes and staked his own claim as “baddest man on the planet”. The grip he has on the trophy is loose, and to keep it from slipping from his fingertips, he will need to win a rematch with Klitschko.
Others with a shot:
Andre Ward. With a win over Sergey Kovalev under his belt, a possible fight with Adonis Stevenson has been mentioned. A win over Stevenson could very well propel Ward into the top spot.
Canelo Alvarez: Although his win over Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. is not noteworthy, a victory over the favored middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin in September could be the biggest win on any fighter’s resume this year.
Gennady Golovkin: He already has the scalp of Daniel Jacobs in 2017, and a victory over Alvarez would give him two wins over top talents.
Errol Spence: Spence battered the respected Kell Brook in England to take his title, and a win over a meaningful welterweight (Shawn Porter or Keith Thurman) could wrap up a big year for the exciting southpaw.
Julius Indongo: He has an easy win over Ricky Burns this year, but a unification bout with pound-for-pound Terence Crawford is supposedly in the works. If this bout happens and Indongo can manage a win, he will most likely be the claimant to both fighter of the year and upset of the year.
Mikey Garcia: He claimed a 135-lb title with his win over Dejan Zlaticanin, and has a bout with Adrien Broner at 140 pounds already scheduled for July. If he beats Broner as expected and can get fellow titlist Jorge Linares in the ring with him before 2017 is over, he will have a strong case for fighter of the year.
Knockout of the Year: Mikey Garcia KO 3 over Dejan Zlaticanin. There have been so many incredible knockouts over the years that it is unfair to use superlatives. This knockout was simply brutal. After a savvy sidestep to set up an uppercut that caused Zlaticanin to momentarily lose his senses, Garcia wound up his right hand and unloaded on an already discombobulated target. Zlaticanin was out before he hit the canvas, where he lay for several moments. Thankfully he appeared to be fine afterward. This was a “Hello-and-where-have-you-been” moment for Garcia, and will be very difficult to top.
Honorable Mention: David Lemieux KO 3 Curtis Stevens. A classic one-punch knockout, as a vicious left hook ended the night. This bout had been billed as a potential slugfest and like 2017 so far, it delivered.
Upset of the Year: Robinson Castellanos KO 7 Yuriorkis Gamboa. Gamboa quit on his stool between rounds. It is sad to see the end of a career, especially one that at one time held such promise. Gamboa won gold at the 2004 Olympics, but his career fell well short of expectations. Losing was not entirely unexpected, but not to a 23-12 (13 KOs) fighter who was supposed to be the next step on the comeback. Much as Roberto Guerrero’s loss to literal taxi-cab driver David Emanuel Peralta, this was a result that was not seen coming.
Honorable Mention: Srisaket Sor Rungvisai W12 Roman Gonzalez. If the scorecards of the judges felt legitimate, this would be the winner by a landslide. As it is, Gonzalez seemed to do enough to many observers to win at least eight rounds. His two-fisted, volume attack was on display as usual, but a gutty effort by an opponent who both dropped “Chocolotito” and did not wilt under his relentless firepower was rewarded when Rungvisai tallied more points on two of the judges scorecards. Gonzalez was number one on many pound-for-pound lists, and although his opponent was 40-1 since 2010, (with his only loss a technical decision to Carlos Cuadros, who gave Gonzales a spirited tussle in 2016), Rungvisai was expected to have little chance of besting Gonzalez. If he wins the rematch in September of this year, Rungvisai should gain the top spot for upset of the year.
Disappointment of the Year: Gennady Golovkin W12 Daniel Jacobs. In a fight that featured two knockout artists (a combined 35-knockout streak coming into the fight), fireworks were expected. Not only was this for middleweight supremacy, but the winner would most likely have the inside track to a huge payday against Saul Canelo Alvarez, as the expectation was that Alvarez would soon have to move up to middleweight. Unfortunately, there seemed to be little passion in the bout, with Jacobs content to stay out of range, and Golovkin not appearing to press the fight per his usual modus operandi. Although Golovkin did knock Jacobs down, the bout never appeared to be heading to any conclusion other than a decision. For the first time in years, the Big Drama Show, wasn’t.