2016: The Nominees

Another year is in the books and it’s time to weigh-in on the major accomplishments in boxing for 2016. In many respects this was not a great year for the sport. The divisions between the different major players and the fact that we continue to watch the clock tick as so many potentially great matches go by the wayside, still stand as the major theme, but now with something new. 2016 saw the emergence of “the mismatch superfight,” a dispiriting development that points to the continued poor health of boxing.

Could this fight revitalize the sport?
When the best fights can’t happen, the sport is in sad shape.

How long has this been going on for now? Whether it’s Bob Arum vs Al Haymon, or HBO vs Showtime, the end result is the same: paralysis in terms of the best matches taking place. The primary example is of course Saul “Canelo” Alvarez shamelessly ducking Gennady Golovkin, but that fight is not the only great match which can’t happen because of the various contractual limitations and business rivalries involved, or because certain fighters have little interest in proving themselves and facing the best competition available.

Isn’t it ironic that in the year when the sport collectively both mourns the passing and celebrates the legacy of the legendary champion that was Muhammad Ali, it fails to provide the basic conditions which allowed “The Greatest” to be great?┬áThere were competing business entities in boxing during Ali’s time too — different sanctioning bodies, promoters and television networks — but they didn’t prevent him from both staying active and facing his most dangerous rivals.

Boxing mourns the passing of The Greatest in more ways than one.
Boxing mourns the passing of The Greatest in more ways than one.

How depressing it is to scrutinize Ali’s career and fistic legacy and then put it side-by-side with that of Wladimir Klitschko, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Keith Thurman, or any number of other recent champions who evidently consider two matches a year to be a very hectic schedule. But again, it’s not the boxers by themselves who have made avoiding tough fights and competing so seldom standard operating procedure and until Haymon, Arum, et al., get ambitious and busy and actually start working together, things are not likely to change.

But we’re choosing to go positive this year, if only to fend off terminal depression. No nominees for Robbery of the Year, or for 2016’s Worst Mismatch of the Year, the latter being the easiest list to put together, no doubt. Instead we want to try and see the glass as half full and appreciate what we do get from the cruel boxing gods which, this year, is some very good fights, more than a few surprises, and, as always, a bit of controversy. And it’s important that we do recognize the best performances and the most exciting matches, if for no other reason than to try and inspire so many underachievers in pugilism, so many top boxers who don’t seem that interested in boxing.

Some see Crawford as a possible all-time great. Shouldn't he get more exposure?
Boxing needs more fighters with the ambition of Terence Crawford.

No question, we do need more ambitious fighters with the spirit and drive of “The Louisville Lip,” more boxers who want to compete regularly and take on their most dangerous rivals. And, more to the point, we need the promoters, managers and networks to let them do it. One common theme among our Fighter of the Year candidates is that all have voiced their desire to give boxing fans the fights they want to see. And yet, none of them stepped into the ring more than three times during 2016, and only two of them competed more than twice.

But let’s not get bogged down in more negativity. Herewith, our nominees, in no particular order, for the most noteworthy accomplishments in boxing in 2016. Feel free to give us your picks for the winners, which we’ll announce over the next few days.

Fighter of the Year:
Carl Frampton
Terence Crawford
Manny Pacquiao
Roman Gonzalez
Joe Smith Jr.
Vasyl Lomachenko

Fight of the Year:
Carl Frampton W12 Leo Santa Cruz
Jamie Conlan TKO8 Anthony Nelson
Andre Ward W12 Sergey Kovalev
Shinsuke Yamanaka TKO7 Anselmo Moreno
Francisco Vargas D12 Orlando Salido
Keith Thurman W12 Shawn Porter
Francis Lafreniere W10 Renan St Juste
Roman Gonzalez W12 Carlos Cuadras

Round of the Year:
Carlos Cuadras vs Roman Gonzalez: Round 5
Adonis Stevenson vs Thomas Williams: Round 4
Keith Thurman vs Shawn Porter: Round 9
Orlando Salido vs Francisco Vargas: Round 6
Dillian Whyte vs Dereck Chisora: Round 5
Francis Lafreniere vs Renan St Juste: Round 8
Thomas Williams Jr. vs Edwin Rodriguez: Round 2
Hozumi Hasegawa vs Hugo Ruiz: Round 9

Knockout of the Year:
Julius Indongo KO1 Eduard Troyanovsky
Thomas Williams Jr. KO2 Edwin Rodriguez
Jason Sosa TKO11 Javier Fortuna
Joe Smith Jr. TKO1 Andrzej Fonfara
Vasyl Lomachenko KO5 Rocky Martinez
Adonis Stevenson KO4 Thomas Williams Jr.
Joe Smith Jr. KO8 Bernard Hopkins

Performance of the Year:
Vasyl Lomachenko RTD7 Nicholas Walters
Jermall Charlo TKO5 Julian Williams
Abner Mares W12 Jesus Cuellar
Carl Frampton W12 Leo Santa Cruz
Errol Spence TKO5 Chris Algieri
Oleksandr Usyk W12 Krzysztof Glowacki

Upset of the Year:
Jezreel Corrales KO2 Takashi Uchiyama
David Peralta W10 Robert Guerrero
Jason Sosa TKO11 Javier Fortuna
Joe Smith Jr TKO1 Andrzej Fonfara
Julius Indongo KO1 Eduard Troyanovsky
Byron Rojas W10 Hekkie Budler

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