By Alex Beard (@alex_beard17)
2016 is quickly coming to a close, and for many it’s been a polarizing year in the sport of boxing. While there are those who view the year as a breath of fresh air that has brought us new star attractions, there are many who see the past 12 months as largely devoid of elite match-ups and filled with promotional mollycoddling.
Your point of view on the above will alter your perception on the scale of the following fighter’s achievements. However, there are a few boxers whose annual performance was head and shoulders above their peers. Let’s take a look…
Many people’s pick for fighter of the year, Frampton has enjoyed a spectacular 2016. The Jackal outboxed Scott Quigg in February in a huge super-bantamweight unification fight, before moving up in weight to relieve Leo Santa Cruz of his WBA featherweight title in July.
The fight with Quigg was a dud, while his war with Santa Cruz was a fight of the year contender. But it’s the quality of the opposition as much as his performances which separates Frampton from the rest. No other fighter has two wins of this magnitude this year. To beat two world class competitors in two different weight classes back to back is a phenomenal achievement.
When moving up in weight, many fighters take a tune-up fight in order to acclimatize to their new division. Frampton, however, picked a then-unbeaten Mexican who had defeated all comers over multiple weightclasses. The Northern Irishman rose to the occasion, and will attempt to do so again on January 28 when he and Santa Cruz run the tape back.
Win, and a whole host of doors open for him. Frampton is now firmly entrenched in many pound-for-pound top ten’s, and another year like this will see him knocking on the door of the number one spot.
The challenge for Ward this year was to have his unbeaten record intact by year’s end. That he did. S.O.G faced the most fearsome foe of his career (no I’m not talking about Sullivan Barrera or Alexander Brand), and did what he always does, win by any means necessary.
Although there are those who feel the American was fortunate to get the nod against Sergey Kovalev last month, the fact is he did. Ward can now count the Russian among a list of victims that includes former world champions Carl Froch, Mikkel Kessler and Arthur Abraham. His inclusion on this list rests solely on the strength of that win, one which no one else in boxing can compete with this year.
In the win over Kovalev Ward showed character to go with his unrivalled skill. He got up from an early knockdown against the heaviest hitter in the weightclass and outpointed him with an impressive display of timing and inside-fighting. He showed his dominance at super-middleweight could translate up to light-heavyweight, even against the division’s elite.
He is now arguably the best boxer in the sport, and possibly the fighter of the year.
Has there ever been a boxer as talented as Lomachenko? The footwork, the angles he creates, the sheer variety of his punches, Lomachenko is something completely unique in the sport of boxing. While his prodigious talent has been obvious for anyone with eyes for many years, 2016 was the Ukrainian’s coming out party.
Just two of Lomachenko’s eight professional fights took place this year, but his mesmerising performances in those bouts earned him a spot on this list. First he brutally dealt with veteran Roman Martinez in five rounds in June, before he forced the previously unbeaten Nicholas Walters to quit on his stool after six dominant rounds last month.
Those aren’t bad fighters by any means, in fact they’re world class, Lomachenko just made them look that way. His options are thinning already, who can you put in with this man who won’t get completely and utterly outclassed? He’s now a two-weight world champion and may need to try and conquer a third to find decent opposition.
Moving forward, Lomachenko’s toughest fight will be finding opponents to even remotely test him. As for us fans, let’s enjoy him while we can. We’re witnessing something special.
Another year, another series of dominant performances from Terence ‘Bud’ Crawford. The Nebraska native went 3-0 this year, maintaining his unbeaten record while knocking off a trio of overmatched foes.
Hank Lundy and John Molina were stopped as we knew they would be, surviving a combined 13 rounds, but Viktor Postol was supposed to provide Crawford his stiffest opposition to date. Instead, the Ukrainian was knocked down twice as he fell to a wide decision loss. Like Lomachenko, Crawford makes excellent fighters look like they have no business sharing a ring with him.
He now holds two belts at light-welterweight and is the division’s lineal champion.
‘Bud’ may well move up to welterweight in 2017, as he searches for fights lucrative enough to satisfy his financial and sporting ambition. He has all but cleared out his current weightclass, proving as much this year, and will surely find things tougher at welterweight. The potential match-ups for him at that weight are intriguing to say the least.
Who wouldn’t want to see Terence Crawford vs. Keith Thurman? Or Tim Bradley? Or Errol Spence Jr.? Let’s keep our fingers crossed.
One half of the Charlo twins ruling the roost at light-middleweight, Jermall scored two huge wins in 2016, besting Austin Trout in May before ruthlessly stopping Julian Williams this past weekend. Trout is an extremely tricky customer, tough to figure out and undoubtedly still one of the best in the division, while Williams was considered the favourite in some circles going into their fight.
The uppercut that brought Williams to his knees shortly before the stoppage was one of the best punches of the year. The speed and the precision of the shot, not to mention the power, was exquisite and showed just how good Charlo is. The American is a future star of the sport. He has the look, he has the skills, and the level of opposition he’s beaten to date shows he has the legitimacy.
Jermall holds the IBF belt, with his twin brother Jermell in possession of the WBC strap. The Charlo brothers could be in line to create a legacy similar to that of the Klitschko’s up at heavyweight. First, they’ll have to deal with the likes of Demetrius Andrade, Erislandy Lara and Canelo Alvarez.
It was undoubtedly Jermall who stood out this year, though. Two wins over the cream of the crop at 154 pounds is enough to earn Charlo a place on this list and in the discussion for fighter of the year.by