Upset of the Year Nominations:
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
Winner: Joe Smith Jr TKO1 Andrzej Fonfara
Going into his match with Smith, Andrzej Fonfara was viewed as a major threat for anyone in the light heavyweight division. In Montreal in 2014 he had given Adonis Stevenson one of the toughest fights of his career, courageously rising twice from the canvas to battle back and score a knockdown of his own in round nine. While he never threatened to prevail, the 7 to 1 underdog exceeded expectations and impressed many by lasting the distance with one of the most powerful punchers in the game.
Three victories followed, two of them dramatically raising Fonfara’s stock: a stoppage in nine of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and a hard-fought decision win over highly ranked Nathan Cleverly. At the time of his showdown with Smith Jr., Fonfara was universally regarded as the light heavyweight division’s top contender.
Who was Joe Smith Jr.? A New York club fighter, pure and simple, a pug who had never competed outside of his home state, a soft touch for Fonfara to fatten his record on. There was absolutely no reason to think he was a threat to the boxer now viewed as the next logical challenger for either Stevenson or Sergey Kovalev, a top contender with some serious momentum behind him, a fighter who was being groomed now for bigger and more lucrative matches. This was a tune-up, a gimme, another PBC mismatch to keep Fonfara busy and put some money in his pocket. Almost no one foresaw Smith Jr., an unknown who had never faced a ranked contender, presenting any degree of risk whatsoever.
So imagine the shock when two minutes into the opening round Smith snapped home a vicious right hand to Fonfara’s temple that sent him straight to the canvas. The more experienced fighter then made the rookie mistake of getting up too fast from the knockdown and stumbled across the ring before almost falling again. After taking the eight count, a stunned Fonfara found himself in a world of trouble as Smith demonstrated power, accuracy and excellent finishing instincts. The underdog connected with at least 11 clean punches, toppling Fonfara again and prompting the referee to halt the contest.
It was sudden, shocking and wholly unexpected and thus the perfect choice for 2016’s Upset of the Year.
Runner Up: David Peralta W10 Robert Guerrero
— Michael Carbert