Boxing’s best of 2016: knockout, upset, comeback, rising star, trainer

Our choices among many memorable moments and performances inside the ring over the past 12 months.

Joe Smith Jr. of Long Island is the new WBC light heavyweight champion, overcoming 14 to 1 odds and stopping Andrzej Fonfara Saturday in Chicago. Photo: Premier Boxing Champions
Joe Smith Jr. of Long Island is the WBC light heavyweight champion, overcoming 14 to 1 odds and stopping Andrzej Fonfara last June in Chicago. Photo: Premier Boxing Champions

SAN DIEGO, December 29, 2016 – As we look back in the Year in Boxing 2016, still colored by Mayweather vs. Pacquiao and the shifting promotional sands, boxing provided numerous individual achievements deserving of our acknowledgment, our attention and our applause. People love this sport because its athletes put everything on the line every single time they step into the ring for our entertainment.

These performance merit recognition in their categories by Ringside Seat among their peers.

Knockout of the Year: Julius Indongo vs. Eduard Troyanovsky, December 3, 2016

Not many fans expected super lightweight champion Eduard Troyanovsky (25-1, 22 KOs) to have any trouble in from of his Russian fans in Moscow against a relatively unknown Namibian boxer, WBO Africa super lightweight champion Julius Indongo (21-0, 12 KOs). Troyanovsky had stopped his last 15 opponents. It took Indongo 40 seconds to prove everyone wrong with a massive straight left to the chin off a brilliant right hand feint to the body, ending the bout. Indongo is now the IBF and IBO super lightweight champion. Indongo turned pro in 2008 after the Beijing Olympics, and was ranked 15th in the world prior to this fight. The win vaulted him to second in the division, just behind Terence Crawford. In the competitive super lightweight division, Indongo has plenty of good options in 2017.

Honorable Mention: Murat Gassiev, first round knockout over Jordan Shimmell, May 17, 2016; Hassan N’Dam, first round knockout over Alfonso Blanco, December 17, 2016; Joe Smith Jr., eighth round TKO over Bernard Hopkins, December 17, 2016

Emerging Star of the Year: Jarrett Hurd

Super welterweight Jarrett Hurd (left) wore down a tough Oscar Molina in Brooklyn Saturday. Photo: Esther Lin, Showtime
Super welterweight Jarrett Hurd (left) wore down a tough Oscar Molina in Brooklyn in June. Photo: Esther Lin, Showtime

The 26-year-old super middleweight from Maryland made the most of his opportunities, starting with an unexpected chance to fight as the co-main event on the undercard of Keith Thurman vs. Shawn Porter on June 25 on CBS. Hurd knocked down undefeated Mexican Olympian Oscar Molina and dominated the rest of the fight, scoring a tenth round TKO with seconds remaining in the bout. Hurd then took on Jo Jo Dan on the Danny Garcia vs. Samuel Vargas undercard on November 12. Hurd stopped Dan in six rounds with his speed and skills. The junior middleweight division is one of the most competitive in boxing going into 2017, and Hurd should have an opportunity to test himself against top talent including Julian Williams, Erickson Lubin, Austin Trout, Demetrius Andrade, and the Charlo brothers, most in the PBC stable which makes matchmaking easy peasy.

Honorable Mention: Erickson Lubin, Joseph “JoJo” Diaz, Claressa Shields

Undercard Fight of the Year: Dillian Whyte vs. Derek Chisora, December 10, 2016

Derek Chisora (right) and Dillian Whyte gave the fans a show in Manchester, England in December. Photo: Sky Sports

It seemed impossible for the bout between British heavyweights Dillian Whyte 20-1, 25 KOs) and Derek Chisora (26-7, 18 KOs) to live up to expectations. Fans around the world were elated as they watched a legitimate Fight of the Year unfold on the Anthony Joshua vs. Eric Molina undercard, and it stole the show on a busy day of boxing around the world.

There was little finesse involved in this fight. Both men brought their heavy artillery, fired and reloaded round after round. With the exception of a moment when Chisora seemed to slip and verge on dropping to the canvas, the two managed to take every bit of punishment while dishing out an equal amount. Both mixed up punches to the head and body nicely and both had sensational moments. Observers had the scores all over the map going into the final round. The scorecards were as narrow as it gets. Whyte won a majority decision with scores of 115-113 and 114-113, with the third judge scoring it for Chisora, 115-113.

Fans would love to see a rematch, but Whyte has other business first. He is now the number one WBC challenger, putting him in the path of the WBC title holder, American Deontay Wilder. The stock of both Whyte and Chisora went way up. There were no real losers here.

Honorable Mentions: Thomas Williams vs. Edwin Rodriguez, June 3, 2016

Comeback of the Year: Abner Mares, December 10, 2016

Abner Mares and trainer Robert Garcia celebrate his victory Dec. 10 at the Galen Center at USC in Los Angeles. Photo: Stephanie Trapp, Showtime Boxing

After a year out of the ring following his loss to Leo Santa Cruz, Abner Mares badly needed to deliver a solid victory in his lone 2016 fight against Jesus Cuellar in December. Otherwise, he’d risk falling out of the top tier of a competitive featherweight division. Not only did Mares get the win, he fought one of the best bouts of his career. Mares did exactly what he and new trainer Robert Garcia planned to do, and it delivered his fourth division title with a split decision. He starts 2017 as the WBA world featherweight champion. Mares (29-2-1, 15 KOs), 31, controlled the action and showed his skills as a boxer and brilliant counter puncher. Cuellar (28-2, 28 KOs), 29, who said he wanted to knock Mares out, had good moments, but he was often caught by Mares’ speed and power. Who’d like to see a rematch between Mares and Leo Santa Cruz in 2017? Count me in.

Honorable Mention: Dillian Whyte, Hassan N’Dam

Upset of the Year: Joe Smith Jr. vs. Andrzej Fonfara, June 18, 2016

The easiest award to call all year, the part-time boxer and full-time union construction worker Smith Jr. was intended as a tune-up fight for light heavyweight Fonfara enroute to a big matchup later in the year. Smith Jr. had other plans, and knocked out Fonfara in the first round. It set up another sensational performance by Smith Jr. over Bernard Hopkins in December, proving he is no fluke. Ringside Seat looks forward to seeing more of Smith Jr. in 2017.

Honorable Mention: Julias Indongo vs. Eduard Troyanovsky, December 3, 2016; Sullivan Barrera vs. Vyacheslav Shabranskyy, December 17, 2016

Trainer of the Year: Shane McGuigan

Carl Frampton (left) works with trainer Shane McGuigan prior to his bout with Leo Santa Cruz in July. Photo: Ed Diller, DiBella Entertainment/PBC

In most years, the director of the film that wins the Oscar for Best Picture also wins an Oscar for its director. In a similar manner, we give the nod to Shane McGuigan, trainer of IBF lightweight and WBA featherweight world champion Carl Frampton of Ireland, the predominant choice for 2016 Fighter of the Year.

Son of British boxing legend Barry McGuigan, Shane McGuigan is just 27 years old, two years younger than two division champion Frampton. For a trainer so young to have developed a world champion is a remarkable achievement. McGuigan feels his age gives him an advantage by being able to relate to his athletes, allowing him to get in the ring and be active with his fighters. McGuigan relies on building strength, paying attention to nutrition, and shunning the traditional road work as ultimately too wearing. Whatever his approach with Frampton, it’s worked to perfection.

See this 2015 interview with McGuigan for a look into his story.

Honorable Mention: Manuel Robles (Oscar Valdez, Jesse Magdoleno, Jason Quigley), Abel Sanchez (Gennady Golovkin, Murat Gassiev, Denis Shafikov, Andy Ruiz)

Darleys Perez (right) was the clear winner over Maurice Hooker, but was only given a draw. Photo: Ed Mulholland, HBO Boxing
Darleys Perez (right) was the clear winner over Maurice Hooker, but was only given a draw. Photo: Ed Mulholland, HBO Boxing

C.J. Ross Award: Maurice Hooker vs. Darleys Perez, November 19, 2016

For the third year, Ringside Seat presents its award for the worst decision 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. Thankfully her final call was a good one. The Ross Award goes to the boxer who most got worked by an unfair decision.

Surprise, it’s not Kovalev vs. Ward. It’s a fight on the undercard, Maurice “Mo” Hooker’s draw with veteran Darleys Perez of Colombia. Intended as a coming out party for the young American lightweight Hooker, Perez did enough to spoil the festivities with a solid performance over Hooker. Nevertheless, thanks to one even card by Glen Feldman, and an outrageous 97-93 card by Robert Hoyle for Perez, balanced by the reasonable 97-93 card by Adelaide Byrd, Perez didn’t get the victory he richly deserved. Perez landed far more punches by percentage and more power punches. He hit Hooker clean repeatedly. The only consolation is that it wasn’t an outright loss, but it was still a robbery.

Honorable Mention: Andre Ward vs. Sergey Kovalev, November 19, 2016

Do you have your own winners? Another category? Tell us in the Comments section.

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego, and hear her weekly on the Pound 4 Pound Boxing Report podcast.

Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities Digital News when quoting from or linking to this story.

Copyright © 2016 by Falcon Valley Group




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