SAN DIEGO, Calif., December 31, 2019 – Every year in boxing brings us super fights, big-money deals, and head-scratching distractions. Our devotion is rewarded with the moments and significant accomplishments inside the ring we’ll remember and mark for posterity with our 2019 boxing awards.
Most athletes in boxing won’t make a fraction as much money over their lifetimes as Canelo Alvarez or money man Floyd Mayweather who still tops the sport years after he retired.
But the size of the purse isn’t always related to performance, and certainly doesn’t reflect effort. No athletes in any sport work harder than boxers or go through more for our entertainment. We salute every single man and woman who gets in the ring.
These individuals won our 2019 boxing awards in their categories.
Upset of the Year: John Riel Casimero over Zolani Tete
The easy upset choice for this 2019 boxing award is Andy Ruiz Jr.’s stunning defeat of Anthony Joshua to win three of the four heavyweight titles. It’s a good one, but many observers knew Ruiz Jr.’s skillset and didn’t see it being improbable. No, we didn’t pick him to win, but we went on the record pointing out Ruiz Jr. was a worthy opponent.
We set it aside in favor of a mind-blower no one saw coming. Thirty-year-old John Riel Casimero of the Philippines became the fourth Filipino boxer to win world champions in at least three divisions with his knockout of Zolani Tete in Birmingham, England on November 30. Tete had the fight in hand until the moment he didn’t in the third round when Casimero saw his opening and caught Tete with a right hook for a knockdown. Tete got up on wobbly legs, and Casimero finished him off with a left hook. The former IBF junior flyweight and flyweight champion is now the WBO World Bantamweight champion. Casimero’s last big wins were in 2016; Tete had won 12 consecutive fights with ease. Casimero is willing to fight on his opponent’s turf, and now he’s called out the other champions, Nordine Oubaali of France and The Monster himself, WBA/IBF titleholder Naoya Inoue. We’d love both these matchups. (H/T to Jacob Rivera, Pound 4 Pound Boxing Report panelist, for the reminder).
Honorable Mention: Andy Ruiz Jr. over Anthony Joshua Andrew Cancio defeats Alberto Machado (twice!); Julian Williams over Jarrett Hurd; Oscar Escandon over Jhack Tepora
Prospect of the Year: Vergil Ortiz, Jr.
The 2018 Prospect of the Year proved everyone right. Teofimo Lopez Jr. ended 2019 winning his first world lightweight title with a stunning knockout of tough Richard Commey. Will history repeat itself with our pick for 2019? We think so.
This choice seems unanimous. Now fighting at welterweight, 21-year-old Vergil Ortiz Jr. of Texas seems ready to tackle the big names in one of the most exciting divisions in boxing. His undefeated record boasts a 100 percent knockout rate. He faced accomplished veterans Mauricio Herrera, Antonio Orozco, and Brad Solomon among his four fights in 2019. None had ever been stopped. Ortiz Jr. drove them all to the canvas in six rounds or less.
The 21-year-old native of Grand Prairie, Texas has been boxing since he was five years old, and has seven national amateur titles behind him. He’s got impressive speed, footwork, and ring generalship, and knows how to assess an opponent before unleashing his power punching combinations to finish them off. His work ethic and quiet confidence come in part from his solid support team including his father, Vergil Sr., and trainer Robert Garcia. Ortiz Jr. is doing everything right for the long haul. A world title is surely in his near future.
Honorable Mentions: Filip Hrgovic, heavyweight; Jaron “Boots” Ennis, welterweight; Meiirim Nursultanov, middleweight; Diego Pacheco, super middleweight.
Comeback of the Year: Jamel Herring
If you didn’t get emotional watching U.S. Marine Corps veteran and 2012 U.S. Olympic Team captain Jamel “Semper Fi” Herring win his first world title on Memorial Day weekend, you have a heart of stone.
Herring put in a brilliant tactical performance fighting for his fellow veterans, for those like him suffering from PTSD, and for the memory of his late daughter Ariyanne who died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome on what would have been her 10th birthday. He fought with determination against heavy-handed WBO junior lightweight champion Masayuki “The Judge” Ito of Japan, winning what turned out to be a wide unanimous decision.
After two losses in 2016 and 2017, Herring eventually found his way to Omaha. Working with trainer Brian “BoMac” McIntrye for his last three fights, who also trains world champion Terence Crawford, Herring’s performance has improved, especially his defensive posture. From the southpaw stance, Herring uses an excellent right jab to set up good left hooks to the body and head, while pivoting to avoid right-hand counterpunches from orthodox fighters like Ito.
Herring has thoroughly enjoyed his newfound fame, enjoying the spotlight while also using it to call attention to many causes. He’s also a lot of fun to hit up on social media during fights, where he always provides his own commentary. Well done, Sgt. Herring.
Honorable Mentions: Manny Pacquiao, Andrew Cancio, Julian Williams
Trainer of the Year: Eddy Reynoso
Eddy and Chepo Reynoso made our shortlist last year. With another 12 months to work with their stable of fighters including Oscar Valdez, Ryan Garcia, and new flyweight titleholder Julio Cesar Martinez, along with multi-division world champion Canelo Alvarez, the results speak for themselves. Not a single loss among their top names in 2019, and significant accomplishments for superstar Alvarez including an impressive knockout win over former light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev.
The Reynosos have trained Alvarez since he turned pro at age 15, and the results show what loyalty and trust can do for an athlete. The Reynosos are a powerhouse team standing above many other great trainers, which has new talent like emerging Cuban heavyweight Frank Sanchez flocking to their compound in San Diego, California.
Honorable Mention: Brian McIntyre; Jay Deas and Mark Breland; Manny Robles; Derrick James
C.J. Ross Award: Referee Robert Byrd, Briedis vs Glowacki
For the seventh year, we present this award to the worst decision making in boxing, named for the infamous Nevada boxing judge who generated outrage over her rotten decisions in high profile fights in 2014. Following the uproar over her scoring, Ross decided to retire. We are grateful her final call was a good one. The Ross Award goes to the boxer who most got worked by an unfair decision.
This year, the award goes to a referee for multiple botched decisions in a single championship fight. They were so egregious, an immediate rematch was ordered even though the damage was irreversible. This year, Robert Byrd gets the 2019 C.J. Ross Award for making a mess of the World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight semifinal between Marius Briedis of Latvia and Krzysztof Glowacki of Poland.
In the fight on June 15 in front of Briedis’ hometown fans in Riga, he hit Glowacki with an elbow to the jaw, knocking him down. Byrd deducted a point for the foul but didn’t give Glowacki any recovery time. Briedis swarmed his hurt opponent with the crowd roaring. Referee Byrd missed hearing the bell ending the round, and Briedis knocked Glowacki down well after the end of the round. Glowacki couldn’t recover during the break, and Briedis dropped him again to end the fight 27 seconds into the third round to win the WBO title.
In the post-fight interview, Briedis admitted he know he’d fouled Glowacki, knew the round was over and kept fighting anyway. Glowacki and his team were furious and demanded the result be overturned. It took several months and put the WBSS tournament final on hold, but the WBO eventually did the right thing in October and ordered a rematch be scheduled within 120 days, approximately February 26, 2020. If Briedis does not, he will be stripped of the title and Glowacki will fight in the WBSS final.
Meanwhile, finalist Yunier Dorticos has been on ice waiting for the ruling and will continue waiting until this mess is resolved.
Recall a few additional “WTF” moments in this wrap-up provided by DAZN. One thing never changes about boxing: it is the theater of the unexpected.
Do you have your own 2019 boxing awards choices? Did we miss calling out any other accomplishments? Tell us in the Comments section.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities Digital News” when quoting from or linking to this story.
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