Boxing’s Fight of the Year 2016: Vargas makes it dos with Salido

Mexican warriors Francisco Vargas and Orlando Salido gave boxing fans reason to cheer after the death of Muhammad Ali.

Orlando Salido (left) and Francisco Vargas battled for 12 brutal rounds in June, to a majority draw. Photo: Tom Hogan, Hogan Photos/Golden Boy Promotions
Orlando Salido (left) and Francisco Vargas battled for 12 brutal rounds in June, to a majority draw. Photo: Tom Hogan, Hogan Photos/Golden Boy Promotions

SAN DIEGO, January 1, 2017 – Boxing began 2016 with anticipation for several significant matchups: the Klitschko-Fury rematch, the Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin showdown, super flyweights Roman Gonzalez and Naoya Inoue, and Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev vs. Andre Ward (or Adonis Stevenson, we wouldn’t be picky).

Only one of these came to pass, just six weeks ago. Discussion hasn’t died down yet over the hotly disputed outcome of Kovalev vs. Ward, but it didn’t disappoint due to its significance and a few surprises.

We may never see Tyson Fury fight again, but as 2017 gets underway the rest of these bouts are still on the table, along with showdown matchups we’d like to see for Keith Thurman, Terence Crawford, and Vasyl Lomachenko.

The past 12 months gave fans plenty of moments to celebrate with exceptional performances and numerous good choices for the 2016 Fight of the Year. Before we get to the list, let me set out the Ringside Seat criteria for selection.

  • I appreciate tactical contests, but they don’t launch me out of my seat and make me cheer. Show me a willingness to engage. Great boxing must entertain.
  • Proficiency within the action. Smart, not foolhardy aggression. Well-placed, effective punches, not volume for volume’s sake. Hand and foot speed. Strength and endurance. Smart defense and the ability to take a shot.
  • Great fighters have heart and the will to fight on. Boxers can’t help but bring relationships and emotion into the ring.
  • Never discount the element of surprise, the knockout from nowhere, the boxer who rises to the occasion when it really counts.

These are the bouts that made my shortlist for 2016 Fights of the Year list in calendar date order. You can read my original coverage of each bout.

Jesus Soto Karass (right) and Yoshihiro Kamegai were rarely farther apart than this for 10 blistering rounds in Los Angeles Friday. Photo: Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, Communities Digital News
Jesus Soto Karass (right) and Yoshihiro Kamegai were rarely farther apart than this for 10 blistering rounds in Los Angeles in April. Photo: Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, Communities Digital News
Francisco Vargas (left) and Orlando Salido delivered a Fight of the Year performance in June. Photo: Tom Hogan, Hogan Photos / Golden Boy Boxing
Joe Smith Jr. had a breakout year in two fights against Andrzej Fonfara and Bernard Hopkins. Photo: Tom Hogan, Hogan Photos / Golden Boy Boxing
Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez becomes the first Nicaraguan boxer to win titles in four weight divisions Saturday in Los Angeles. Photo: HBO
Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez becomes the first Nicaraguan boxer to win titles in four weight divisions this September in Los Angeles. Photo: HBO
The most significant fight was the light heavyweight bout between top unbeaten boxers Sergey Kovalev and Andre Ward in November at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Photo: Ed Mulholland, HBO Boxing
Dillian Whyte celebrates his narrow majority decision win over Derek Chisora. Rematch, please. Photo: Sky Sports

Honorable Mention 2016:

Dillian Whyte vs. Derek Chisora, December 10, 2016

Heavyweights Dillian Whyte and Derek Chisora put on an exciting competitive show in Manchester, England that for once lived up its hype. Photo: Sky Sports

If not for the winner, this bout would have been an easy choice as 2016 FOTY. British heavyweights Whyte and Chisora set up the fight with epic trash talk including a physical altercation involving a flipped table at the final pre-fight news conference. It is rare the actual fight lives up to this sort of verbal sparring, but this pair lived up to their own hype. (The rest of you, don’t try this at home).

There was little finesse involved in this fight. These big men fought like nimble middleweights. Both men brought their heavy artillery, fired and reloaded round after round. Chisora grabbed the early momentum, burning so much energy it seemed sure the veteran would gas himself out. Chisora had Whyte in trouble in the third round. But Whyte had youth and stamina on his side. He withstood the early onslaught and began to pour on the offensive himself. Whyte and Chisora exchanged some of their best punches in the fifth round, but it didn’t end there.

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.

With a minute to go, it wasn’t a given either man would get to the final bell, but what a shame it would have been to get to this point of a wildly entertaining fight and not give both men the privilege of ending the fight on their feet. 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. Rematch please!

Fight of the Year 2016: Francisco Vargas vs. Orlando Salido, June 3, 2016

As with last year, there is consensus on the Fight of the Year choice. Super featherweights Francisco “El Bandito” Vargas and Orlando “Siri” Salido of Mexico made it a slam dunk choice.

It is the second year running for Vargas, who was also in the consensus Fight of the Year in 2015 against Takashi Miura of Japan. It is also the third year out of five the Fight of the Year on a majority of lists took place at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.

Pull every adjective you can out of your thesaurus for this contest. Hellacious. Blistering. Fierce. Crazy. Amazing. They barely do this bout justice. Salido (42-13-4, 29 KOs) and Vargas (24-0-2, 17 KOs) seemed to be on the verge of being stopped multiple times each, yet neither ever suffered a knockdown despite trading wicked body shots and head snapping hooks and upper cuts.

Vargas landed 386 of 1184 total punches (32.6%), Salido 328 of 939 punches (34.9%). The pair landed 615 power punches out of 714 combines total punches. Salido threw only 12 jabs the entire fight.

On an evening that began with a touching final ten-count tribute to the late Muhammad Ali who died 24 hours prior to this bout, the fight seemed a fitting expression of the beauty and brutality of boxing. The combination of the bravery and strength on display with the emotion and elation of the crowd under the summer Southern California sky put it all into focus. Even in June, fans knew it couldn’t be topped.

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.

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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