2016 Fight Of The Year Nominations:
Carl Frampton W12 Leo Santa Cruz: Healthy contingents of both Irish and Mexican fight fans created a raucous atmosphere as Frampton and Santa Cruz went to war for 12 fast-paced rounds with the underdog, Frampton, pulling out a close points win.
Francisco Vargas D12 Orlando Salido: 12 rounds of magnificent, toe-to-toe warfare. “Though the battle ended in a majority draw, the lack of a decisive winner in no way detracted from the visceral thrills these two incredibly tough gladiators gave us.”
Keith Thurman W12 Shawn Porter: A showdown between two of the best in the talent-stacked welterweight division, Porter and Thurman gave fight fans a close, hard-fought, back-and-forth scrap.
Shinsuke Yamanaka TKO7 Anselmo Moreno: In September of last year, Yamanaka scored a decision victory over Moreno. The second time around Yamanaka needed no help from the judges in what turned out to be a thrilling shoot-out, and five knockdowns later it was all over in round seven.
Francis Lafreniere W10 Renan St Juste: In a clash of cross-town rivals on the undercard of Kovalev vs Pascal II, St Juste and Lafreniere went to war for ten intense, thrilling and bloody rounds. HBO clearly picked the wrong undercard fight to feature on their broadcast. Definitely Montreal’s Fight Of The Year.
Jamie Conlan TKO8 Anthony Nelson: In an electrifying, see-saw war that saw both men hit the canvas, Ireland’s Conlan appeared in serious trouble before he landed a hellacious body punch to put his British rival down for the count.
Andre Ward W12 Sergey Kovalev: One of the best matches in the sport actually happened and “Krusher” and “S.O.G.” delivered with a taut, tense and terrific 12 round joust, marred by some bewildering scorecards.
Roman Gonzalez W12 Carlos Cuadras: “Chocolatito” moved up to challenge for his fourth divisional world title and got one of the most punishing fights of his career. Gonzalez and Cuadras combined for 579 landed blows; only 72 were jabs.
Winner: Francisco Vargas D12 Orlando Salido
All of the above were remarkable, but Salido vs Vargas is likely to go down as one of the best tilts of the entire decade. How fitting that the first major fight following the death of Muhammad Ali was a vicious war with both Mexican warriors giving all they had for victory, just as Ali did in his legendary rumbles with Joe Frazier and Ken Norton.
Salido vs Vargas is a brawl that can stand alongside any of the great fights of the past for sheer toe-to-toe mayhem. As Patrick Connor wrote:
“In the first two rounds Vargas controlled the pace and distance with his jab while Salido had difficulty drawing in the younger man. It seemed like finally the 35-year-old may have realized his age, but then Salido surged in rounds three and four, finding a home for his patented body attack and clearly slowing Vargas down. Most importantly, Salido’s resistance signaled to Vargas that standing his ground would be necessary if he was to get past the experienced veteran.
Rounds five through seven could all be considered for “Round of the Year,” as all three offered furious back-and-forth action. Of the 204 total punches thrown in round five, for instance, only one was a jab. And both men followed up that round with more intense skirmishing before Vargas appeared to be shutting down and letting Salido have his way in round eight.
It wasn’t over, though, and Vargas made an impressive stand in rounds nine and ten before Salido did the same in 11 and 12. The rough collisions and booming punches made for swollen mugs on both men, but Vargas walked away with serious cuts near both eyes that will require time to heal. Suffice to say, both men made huge sacrifices to produce a battle worthy of inclusion in any list of great Mexico vs Mexico clashes.”
Here’s hoping there’s a rematch!