It has been said many times but cannot be overstated; 2017 was one of the best years in boxing in some time. To help you sort it all out myself & two other regular contributors to the BOXRAW Blog have joined me to break down the high spots.
Henry Valerio AKA @ironscribe on instagram. When he’s not chasing down the bad guys this busy husband and father is a boxing historian. He’s spent a lifetime training and studying the sweet science.
Vaughn Smith is @thewhitecollarwarrior on IG Vaughn works in The Big Apple NYC, when he’s not making money with money he trains folks from all walks of life in the sweet science and brings a coach’s perspective to the blog.
And yours truly, Jason Goldstein you can follow me @whatstherumpass on your favorite social media platform. I have trained for nearly 20 years in Boxing/MMA and been a fan all my life.
Now, Henry, Vaughn & I agree 99% of the time, however we all took a little something different from this great year in the sport we love.
Let’s start at the bottom though & work our way up.
The 2017 Helmet of The Year
There are three real contenders for this one.
First Guillermo Rigondeaux. Arguably the best amateur boxer ever and for a time some claimed the true pound for pound best boxer on the planet. His impeccable defense, precision counter punching and aura of invincibility made him one of the most feared and avoided fighters in the sport. He agitated for more than two years for a match with Vasyl Lomachenko with accusations of ducking coming fast & furious from team Rigo. When they finally met in early December it was a whitewash, Rigo learned it was not just hype.
Rigo talked himself into the biggest fight of his career & let everyone down including himself.
For your next contender I submit Adrien Broner. The Ohio native has had some very public meltdowns over the last few years. However, 2017 supposedly gave us a new and improved AB. He swore to being a changed man (again) and began the 2017 campaign in the first quarter against former mate, Adrian Granados. The fight was contracted for 12 rounds at Junior Welterweight. However just a couple weeks before the fight Broner’s team had the fight changed to a 10 round bout & the weight would now be 147 - Broner was unable to make the weight professionally and since he was the “A side” had the leverage to change the rules. What followed was a mediocre performance that elicited boos from Broner’s own home town crowd when the scores were read awarding AB the SD win. He followed that up with a mailed in performance against Mikey Garcia in July in which he lost nearly every round convincingly - the only fight Broner did win without doubt was a during an outburst two months later in Vegas when he attacked a couple, knocking the woman down & delivering a one-punch KO to the gentleman. Then in late November a warrant was issued for Broner’s arrest for failing to appear for a procedural hearing.
It’s becoming clear that AB ain’t About Boxing, he’s just About Bullshit.
Your final contestant for Helmet of the Year is The Golden Boy Oscar de La Hoya. After repeatedly denying fans the Canelo/GGG showdown we all wanted most fans had given up on Oscar as anything other than a carnival barker. Canelo however, has a rabid fan base and deservedly so. Yet, instead of giving us the middleweight fight he promised we got a glorified sparring session between Canelo & Chavez Jr., at Canelo Weight. It was sold to fans as a battle for Mexican Pride - what it was- just a commercial for the fight we really wanted all along. Oscar virulently attacked the money fight between Conor McGregor and nemesis Floyd Mayweather only to claim he’d gladly come out of retirement to fight McGregor himself. Oscar again looked the fool when Adalaide Byrd handed in the worst score card in recent memory. Three months after the fact and “negotiations are still on going” for GGG/Canelo II.
I think the winner has to be Oscar. As much for past transgressions as current ones. The technique and ability Oscar displayed as a fighter is missing in his new trade as promoter & chief bullshit artist.
Instead of jumping on the bandwagon of May-Mac, harnessing it for his own brand he took to Twitter like a petulant child only to reveal his true motivations were jealousy, revealing himself to be a hypocrite. Many believe Canelo is a protected fighter (as many argued Oscar was early on) but Canelo gets a pass because he delivers entertaining fights & has shown real growth as a boxer. Instead of giving us Canelo/GGG when it should have happened he squeezed as much juice out of the berry as he could and yet we paid. We all bought in to Hagler-Hearns 2.0 and while it didn’t quite live up to that classic (what could) it was a solid entertaining scrap that brought the best out of each.
And then the cards were read.
Of course Oscar bares no direct blame for Byrd’s scorecard but Oscar made sure his fighter had everything his way, the house fighter while not the champion was the “A side” and the outrageous finish to what was otherwise a very good fight had the stink of corruption on it and proved to be a far bigger insult to boxing than what Oscar had claimed May-Mac to be.
Prospect of the Year
There are several fighters to have in mind for 2018 folks, yet I can think of no one who had a more outstanding breakout 2017 than PBK the Pretty Boy Josh Kelly. Kelly’s fights have been a highlight reel from bell to bell.
Kelly was a Bronze medalist in the European Games in 2015 and signed with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing. One thing about Eddie’s stable of fighters - when they are breaking out they are busy! Kelly fought five times this year! Beginning in April, Kelly scored a wide points decision of Jay Byrne. One month later in May stopped Joey Vina in four rounds. Six weeks later came the highlight reel stoppage of Whitfield in June. Kelly unleashed that barrage of left hooks after watching highlights of his hero Roy Jones Jr. before he walked out. After a four month break Kelly demolished Jose Luis Zuniga in two rounds this October, then saved his most sublime performance for his last of 2017 little more than two weeks ago destroying Jean Michel Hamilcaro.
PBK definitely reminds me of his hero RJJ… what do you think fam? We’d love to hear from you!
Knockout of the Year
Surprisingly this is where Henry, Vaughn and I disagreed the most.
For me I like the purity of the complete erasure, the suddenness the finality of the stone cold KO. This is boxing often at its most compelling and frightening, especially as we learn more and more about the dangers of CTE and the unfortunate injuries that take place every year in the squared circle.
That said I have to go with David Lemieux’s left hook - one punch KO of Curtis Stevens. David Lemieux who just turned 30 on the 22nd of December didn’t end 2017 on a high note but for me provided the KOTY in round three against Curtis Stevens back in March.
Vaughn saw it differently and I believe it was the skill, timing and technique displayed by Jermell Charlo that most impressed Coach Vaughan, he wrote:
WBC Jr. Middleweight champion Jermell Charlo’s first round KO of Erickson Lubin October 14th. I knew Charlo would win his big matchup this year, but I was shocked at how he won! with a dramatic one punch KO of what was thought to be the best or one of the best fighters he had faced in his career.
Henry Valerio expressed a similar notion in his pick for KOTY. It’s not just the manner of the KO but the back story and significance of it that matters which is why Henry chose our pick - Andre Ward vs. Sergey Kovalev 2 He wrote:
In this writer’s humble opinion, no knockout was as unexpected nor as important as Andre Ward’s KO over Sergey Kovalev in their highly anticipated rematch this past June. After the controversial decision that went Ward’s way in the first match, many in the boxing world believed that Kovalev would win the rematch in convincing fashion.
Looking back at the lead-up to this fight, it’s easy to see why some (including yours truly) picked Ward to win by KO. The body-language & behavior of both fighters were giving us a prelude of what was to come.
Sergey Kovalev, who is normally a man of few words; was constantly voicing his discontent at the decision in the first fight, as well as accusing Ward of being a dirty fighter. Andre Ward for his part, was training like a man possessed and displaying a level of stoicism that would’ve made Seneca proud. This pattern went on throughout the build-up, what happened on June 17th however is now boxing history.
From the opening bell, it was clear this was a different Andre Ward. Gone was the ring rust…replacing it was a combination of beautiful boxing, mixed with a devastating body attack. As the fight wore on the pattern became evident, Kovalev simply couldn’t deal with Ward’s multi-faceted game plan… then came the eighth round.
At the opening bell for the eighth round, Kovalev looked like a mentally beaten fighter. As Ward continued his onslaught to the body, the “Krusher” complained of low-blows. Referee Tony Weeks informed Kovalev they weren’t low and allowed the fight to continue. With 1:15 left in the 8th, Ward landed a HUGE right on Kovalev’s chin that hurt him badly. Andre Ward, knowing he had his man hurt, followed up with a vicious attack to the head & body. Sergey Kovalev, attempting to survive tried his best to clinch Ward, to no avail. Ward would punish Kovalev into a corner, and after a series of brutal shots to the body that left Sergey doubled over, Tony Weeks would step in and waive the fight off with 34 seconds left in the round.
The significance of this knockout cannot be overstated. First and foremost it erased any doubt that first fight had left. Second, the fact that Ward stopped Kovalev, left a lot of eyes wide-open, along with a lot of mouths dropped. Heading into this fight, many believed that if there was to be a KO, it would be Kovalev delivering it. And last and certainly not least, it solidified Andre Ward as the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world. His reign at the top of the pound-for-pound list would be short lived however, as Ward would shock the boxing world by announcing his retirement on September 21st.
Round of the Year
The choice here was unanimous and an easy one; Klitschko vs. Joshua round 5.
It would have been hard to believe the fight would not be entertaining as the legend, dominant former heavyweight champion Dr. Steelhammer Wladimir Klitschko faced Anthony AJ Joshua on home soil. For AJ to be considered the heir apparent he had no choice but to beat Klitschko in convincing fashion. Vaughn Miller picks up the narrative here:
Klitschko looked like he was being marched to an inevitable defeat having been dropped early in the fight, but then all of a sudden round 5 happened and Klitschko almost finishes off the young champion!
The fact that Joshua was able to climb off the deck and ultimately finish the living legend answered any questions about AJ’s mettle and positioned him in the eyes of many as the real heavyweight champion in spite of the current fractured landscape.
Upset of the Year
Again, an easy decision: Srisaket Sor Rungvisai going over Roman Chocolatito Gonzalez twice last year. Though many began to see cracks in Chocolatito’s armor he was still considered by many to still be the #1 pound for pound best fighter on the planet.
Sor Rungvisai positioned himself as the mandatory for Chocolatito’s WBC Super Flyweight title that the latter had won from Carlos Cuadras in a fight of the year quality bout in September of 2016.
Sor Rungvisai was not considered a walkover, but most felt when the two men met in March at MSG Chocolatito would come through setting up a potential rematch with Cuadras. However, Sor Rungvisai ruined the script shocking Chocolatito with body shot that earned the Thai fighter a knockdown in the very first round. A back and forth war of attrition in another fight of the year contender performance - to be sure Chocolatito is never in a boring fight!
At is often the case in southpaw vs orthodox matches head clashes are commonplace and Sor Rungvisai perhaps due to lack of skill or more likely accidentally on purpose headbutted Chocolatito over and over again cutting the champion. Chocolatito does himself no favors with his come forward style in the same vein of Henry Armstrong. It was not pretty but most believed Chocolatito had done enough to hang on to his title - more shock and awe when the scores were given and Sor Rungvisai won a majority decision.
Six months later in September on HBO’s inaugural Superfly I Card in Los Angeles Chocolatito would have an opportunity for revenge. However, during press week Chocolatito seemed disconsolate, detached and vacant. That notion was magnified as he pensively walked out to the ring appearing genuinely nervous.
Sor Rungvisai with the confidence of a champion pounced on Chocolatito as soon as the bell rang! He scored two knockdowns in round four - the final one a brutal right hook that Chocolatito never saw coming leaving him supine on the canvas. Sor Rungvisai scored a dramatic and emfatic 4th round KO removing all lingering doubt from the performance six months prior.
Now Sor Rungvisai will once again defend his title, this time early in 2018. Scheduled to take place on Super Fly II Juan Carlos Estrada a familiar opponent to Chocolatito and the former champion Cuadras whom Estrada beat at Super Fly I will battle at the legendary Forum in Inglewood, CA.
Fighter of the Year
Finally we come to the final column. Who do you think turned in the best overall performance of 2017?
There seem to be three strong contenders here and either would be a fine selection and the two runners up deserve mention.
Terence Bud Crawford. The former undisputed Light Welterweight champion, the last fighter since Jermain Taylor to completely unify a division.
Anthony AJ Joshua - the IBF and WBA heavyweight champion. Essentially risen to be the world wide face of pro boxing. Able to draw many tens of thousands to live boxing, something not done in more than a generation.
Vaughn Smith gives a short succinct answer, he wrote:
I've gotta give that to Vasyl ‘Hi Tech’ Lomachenko, yeah Crawford is only the fourth man to capture all the belts, but Loma put on displays of otherworldly skill every time he fought and made Rigo quit on the stool…on the stool!
Hard to argue with a well schooled coach like Vaughn or Ring magazine in fact, who just days ago selected the 29 year old Ukranian magician as the fighter of the year for 2017.
With dazzling footwork, unabated pressure, fast accurate combination punching and underrated defense Lomachenko seems very near the perfect fighter.
And just as important - a legit draw. Lomachenko knows how to entertain, his antics are not for everyone granted but he has a real sense of the crowd he wants to feel them pop, their cheers and audible ohs and sighs lift the young man to deliver impressive performances with each outing.
In April he put on such a performance toying with the rugged New Jersey slugger Jason Sosa who was pulled by his trainer after a one sided beating after round nine. Next came Miguel Marriaga who moved up a weight class for the opportunity to face Loma. He ran out of answers inside a round and shelled up for the remainder of the bout until he too retired after the seventh round. Marriaga had never been stopped before that night in August.
The clincher for though for Lomachenko claiming the Fighter of the Year was his destruction of pound for pound boogeyman Guillermo Rigondeaux! Many felt the size disadvantage would spell defeat for Rigo and still others believed Rigo’s ‘superior’ technique would make Loma easy work for the Cuban.
Those groups were both wrong. The size advantage - such as it was played no role as Lomachenko seemed the only one who wanted to fight! From the first round on Rigo clutched, held & grappled Lomachenko who wanted to disengage and actually box!
The conclusion at this point is well known.
Claiming an injury to his left hand - that feared weapon Rigo surgically employed so often was rendered impotent as Rigo never landed more than 3 punches in any round. No subsequent x ray revealed a fracture. Rigo simply quit, leaving his zealous apostles gobsmacked.
With that victory Lomachenko has been anointed by many in the boxing world the best pound for pound boxer on the planet and we here at the BOXRAW family could not agree more.
So there it is.
What was your favorite fight, crazy moment or performance from 2017?
What are your personal goals for boxing in 2018?
Let us know.
Feel free to message any of us on the blog or the BOXRAW family!