My boxing awards 2018
By Gav Duthie: A little bit late in the boxing awards this year but last night there were several big fights and late claims for awards both in the UK and the US. Dillian Whyte and Josh Warrington made claims for fighter of the year with Whyte racking up wins over Lucas Browne, Joseph Parker and Derek Chisora two of them knockouts and Warrington defeating Domestic and world level rivals Lee Selby and Carl Frampton. Tony Harrison is a shout for upset of the year with his win over Charlo and maybe even for poorest decision as most observers feel Charlo did enough to retain his 154lb WBC super welterweight title.
Fighter of the year – Oleksandr Usyk
How could it be anyone else. A fighter who has become the unified undisputed cruiserweight champion and defended his titles in the same calendar year. His fight against Murat Gassiev was seen by me and many others as 50/50. It is rare to get such a one sided contest between two top fighters. Earlier in the year he took the WBC title in a really tough fight against the previously unbeaten Meiris Briedes. What Usyk showed in 2018 was that the likes of Gassiev and Tony Bellew may be top fighters but Usyk is elite. He won practically every round against Gassiev and was punch perfect bar one shot he took that staggered him in round 4. He called out Bellew immediately a man riding high after success in the Creed movie and two wins over ex heavyweight champion David Haye. Bellew boxed a little better than Gassiev but met his demise in round 8 when he got a little bit too ambitious. Watch out heavyweights in 2019. Usyk is coming.
Fight of the year – Vasyl Lomachenko v Jorge Linares
There would be better fights for pure action of course but this was a battle between two masterclass fighters which any true boxing fan will appreciate as a joy to watch. Lomachenko’s movement and defence was in fine display but Linares has great speed and timing and landed a perfect right hand early on to knock Loma down. The fight was even going into the late rounds where Loma landed a perfect body shot that Linares couldn’t recover from.
Comeback – Tyson Fury
There are no other contenders for this. He wins this in two ways. One in coming back from a near 3 year hiatus battling depression and weight gain and secondly for getting up in the 12th round after seemingly looking knocked out against Deontay Wilder. His wins over Sefer Seferi and Francesco Pianeta were not exactly epic but for someone who was walking around weighing over 400 lbs only a year ago it was amazing just to see him in the ring. I felt he would have 5 or 6 fights before attempting a big one so was shocked to hear him announce he was facing Deontay Wilder. I kept waiting for the pull out to happen, it never did and for the lost part Fury boxed a masterclass with Wilder requiring every part of his freakish power to earn a draw. Tyson Fury is most certainly back.
Upset – Eleider Alvarez v Sergey Kovalev
It probably shouldn’t be a shock because Alvarez is a top class fighter but he has never really been given any attention. Credit goes to Kovalev for giving him a shot when nobody else would. Alvarez started the year angry after the WBC were trying to make him fight a 4th final eliminator to get a WBC title shot. He had enough and finally said no. Adonis Stevenson had been ducking him for a while but Kovalev stepped up and gave him a chance. Alvarez landed big shots all night on Kovalev and stopped him in the 7th.
Knockout – Naoya Inoue v Juan Carlos Payano
This is one boxer who really does live up to his name ‘The Monster’. The Japanese power puncher only moved up into the bantamweight division recently and has already knocked out two top fighters in the first round in Jamie McDonnell and Payano. Payano is the kind of fighter that eats, breathes and sleeps boxing. He knows where he has came from and works so hard. What Inoue did to him with one punch is scary. Now he is in the semi final against Emmanuel Rodriguez and I hope to see him in a final with Zolani Tete later on in the year.
Performance of the year – Callum Smith v George Groves
I thought Callum Smith put in a punch perfect performance against George Groves. He used all the advantages he had with his reach advantage and 6″3 size. Groves boxed well but any tiny mistakes he made Smith punished him. His jab was class and when George tried to go to the body he countered with precise left hooks. Usually when a fighter loses I have criticisms like anyone else but I Literally can’t see what George could have done. This is off the back of Groves win over Eubank Jr. which was another performance of the year contender. The win gave Smith the WBA belt, Ring magazine champion and huge potential fights in 2019.
Prospect – Michael Hunter
It may seem a bit strange to call a 30 year old boxer a prospect but I just figure what he has done this year has went under the radar and he deserves recognition. Hunter’s story is one that really needs to be told and it proves how low boxing in America has gone that he is not a bigger name. His father Mike Hunter was a talented heavyweight himself and would have been a bigger name if he didn’t fight in the 90s which was one of the best eras in heavyweight boxing. Hunter defeated the likes of Dwight Muhammad Qawi, Pinklon Thomas, Tyrell Biggs and ex world champion Oliver McCall. Hunter Sr. had issues with drugs though and was killed in 2006 by undercover police after a sting operation went wrong. Hunter allegedly drew a gun on police and was shot twice and killed. Despite all this going on Hunter Jr. became US amateur champion in 2007. Hunter went to the Olympics and 2012 and his only professional loss was to Oleksandr Usyk at Cruiserweight. This year Hunter decided to try his luck in the heavyweights and took a very risky fight against Martin Bakole in London who had been knocking everyone out in the first round. Hunter stopped him late and then fought only 6 weeks later against former world title challenger Alexander Ustinov and destroyed him in the 9th round.
Worst decision – Golovkin v Canelo 2
Let’s be honest bad boxing decisions happen every week all over the land. It’s not until a fight is for a world title that anyone actually really cares. Even twice this months some boxers, media and fans are up in arms at Tyson Fury not winning the WBC heavyweight world title and Jermell Charlo losing his to Tony Harrison. The actual worst decision I witnessed this year was a win for former WBA Super middleweight champion Fedor Chudinov against Nadjib Mohammedi. He was constantly beaten to the punch, out jabbed, countered and got absolutely nothing going all night and somehow won a split decision in Russia surprisingly enough. However, the winner has to be Golovkin v Canelo 2. These big nights shape boxing. For me they were both great fights but Golovkin should be 2-0 vs. Canelo, but he is 0-1-1. Over time people will forget just how good Golovkin was because of these fights. He is 35 now and will unlikely have the time for a great career defining win this was his chance and the judges robbed him of it.
Our thoughts with
Once again we have been reminded several times throughout the year that boxing is a brutal sport. Not even Adonis Stevenson dubbed Superman a champion for a number of years is immune to the dangers. Adonis Stevenson has just emerged from a coma and is now awake but the long term prognosis is still unknown. The worst thing about boxing at times as that there is just nobody to blame other than the pure nature of the sport. It was the 11th round Stevenson was arguably winning, he had hurt Oleksander Gzvozdyk a few times. The referee stopped the fight at the right time but still we have this horrible outcome. Humans are not designed to be punched in the head and the risks are so great. Earlier this year we had a fatality in the UK. Scott Westgarth fell ill after a fight he had actually won on points and didn’t survive. 49 year old Italian boxer Christian Daghio died in Thailand and there have been many more instances where families have had to deal with tragedy.
2018 has been a action packed year in boxing with many highlights but we also need to remember the risks that every fighter takes when they step into the ring and the respect they have from this writer is immense.