CDN Boxing Awards 2015: Knockout, upset, comeback, undercard, rising star

Ringside Seat salutes the best boxing performances among many admirable, exciting efforts in the ring for 2015.

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Saul "Canelo" Alvarez delivered the knockout of the year against James Kirkland in May, and it's held up since then. Photo: Ed Mulholland, Golden Boy Promotions

SAN DIEGO, December 29, 2015 – Before the Year in Boxing 2015 fades into history, select individual achievements that impressed Ringside Seat in the 12 months just ended deserve a last bit of attention along with our applause. People like me love the sport because boxers put it all on the line every single time they step into the ring for our entertainment.

Following are the top choices by Ringside Seat for the performances which got our attention and won our admiration and respect.

Knockout of the Year: Canelo Alvarez vs. James Kirkland, May 9, 2015

The spectacular third-round knockout of Kirkland by Alvarez was exactly what boxing needed, coming a week after the underwhelming Mayweather vs. Pacquiao fight. It came like a bolt of lightning, electrifying fans who couldn’t stop talking about it on social media well after the fight ended. Although there have been several superb knockouts since May, none were better.


See the knockout and a recap of the bout here in this video from HBO Boxing.

Boxing observers including this column predicted the fight would be a barnburner ending in a knockout. Sometimes you don’t know how right you are. From the opening bell, Kirkland went right at Canelo, but the 24-year-old blasted him with a smart variety of power shots. Kirkland went down hard in the first round, and it seemed Canelo might finish him right there. Kirkland’s toughness saw him through two more rounds.

The knockout punch came in the third round. Canelo dropped Kirkland once early, then finished him off in spectacular fashion. Alvarez threw a left jab and timed the follow-up straight right perfectly, hitting Kirkland so hard he spun around before dropping to the canvas. The referee didn’t even administer a count. “Fighting a man like Kirkland, a man who comes to fight, is the kind of fight I love,” said Alvarez after the bout. We do too, Canelo.

Honorable Mentions: Gabriel Bracero vs. Danny O’Connor, October 10, 2015; Daniel Jacobs vs. Peter Quillin, December 5, 2015.

Gabriel Bracero (24-2, 5 KOs) took out Danny O’Connor (26-3, 10 KOs) with a single brutal shot at 41 seconds of the first round. Bracero isn’t known as a power puncher with only five knockouts in 26 fights. Nevertheless, he knocked O’Connor out cold. It took Daniel Jacobs (31-1, 28 KOs) two minutes longer to blast Peter Quillin (32-1-1, 23 KOs) in the first round of their bout, another stunning KO win by a boxer not known for his one punch power.

Emerging Star of the Year: Anthony Joshua

Undefeated heavyweight Anthony Joshua of Great Britain rose above the rest to be our Emerging Star of 2015. Photo: Matchroom Boxing
Undefeated heavyweight Anthony Joshua of Great Britain rose above the rest to be our Emerging Star of 2015. Photo: Matchroom Boxing

Who knew it would end up being such a good year for the heavyweight division? British star Joshua began the year as an aspiring youngster and finished the year with the Commonwealth heavyweight title, remaining undefeated at 15 wins, no losses, and every single one of those wins coming by knockout. He fought five times in 2015, defeating former title challenger Kevin Johnson, knocking out Gary Cornish in one round for the Commonwealth title. He closed the year in a barnburner of a show against his rival Dillan Whyte for the British belt. Joshua said he’s got to “keep it cool” with a long road ahead of him. As good as he’s been, fans must be patient and allow Joshua to develop his talents. He’s only 26 years old with a mere 32 professional rounds after two years as a professional, the fewest of any heavyweight in the top 20. Compare this with Wladimir Klitschko who has 358 rounds.

Honorable Mention: Luis Ortiz

Luis Ortiz is escorted to a neutral corner after his knockout of Bryant Jennings on December 19. Photo: Ed Mulholland, HBO
Luis Ortiz is escorted to a neutral corner after his knockout of Bryant Jennings on December 19. Photo: Ed Mulholland, HBO

A product of the Cuban amateur system, Ortiz has fought 300-plus amateur bouts. He turned pro in 2010 and has been quietly working his way up the ranks. In 2015, he started the year with a first round TKO on the Lemieux vs. N’Dam undercard in June, followed by a spectacular third round knockout on the Golovkin vs. Lemiux undercard. It won him a shot against American Bryant Jennings, and the southpaw blasted Jennings with powerful body shots followed by left and right hooks, eventually stopping Jennings with a left hook.

Undercard Fight of the Year: Francisco Vargas vs. Takashi Miura, November 21, 2015

Francisco Vargas (left) and Takashi Miura gave fans a thrilling fight on the Cotto-Canelo undercard. Photo: Will Hart, HBO
Francisco Vargas (left) and Takashi Miura gave fans a thrilling fight on the Cotto-Canelo undercard. Photo: Will Hart, HBO

Sensational, spectacular, action-packed, a thrill a minute. This exciting super featherweight bout between Francisco Vargas (23-0-1, 17 KOs) of Mexico and Takashi Miura (29-3-2, 22 KOs) of Japan is everything an undercard fight should be. It’s everything ANY fight should be.

Staged as the lead undercard fight on the Cotto vs. Canelo card, the lead went back and forth between the combatants like a tennis rally. Vargas stunned Miura barely a minute into the fight. Miura survived it and by the third round had taken over. In the fourth round, Miura dropped Vargas for the first time in his boxing career with a straight left down the middle. Miura and Vargas continued to trade punches, both trying to get the other to submit to the punishment. Neither would. Miura drilled Vargas at the end of the eighth round; it seemed referee Tony Weeks would have stopped the bout had the bell not sounded. Vargas knew it was now or never, especially with his right eye completely closed and bleeding from a cut. He mustered everything he could and dropped Miura to the canvas. Miura bounced up, but had no legs and was fighting on sheer instinct. Referee Tony Weeks gave Miura one last chance honoring the effort he’d put in to that point, but Vargas sealed the win with a straight right to become the new WBC Super Featherweight title holder.

Vargas was elated, fans were thrilled, and everyone watching cheered both warriors for the show. Rematch anyone? Honorable Mentions: Marco Huck vs. Krzystof Glowacki, August 15, 2015 (see Upset of the Year); and Roman Gonzalez vs. Brian Viloria, October 17, 2015

Comeback of the Year: Gabriel Rosado

Gabriel Rosado (left) got back into the win column with his decision over Joshua Clottey Saturday. Photo: Alex Menendez - HoganPhotos/Golden Boy Promotions
Gabriel Rosado (left) got back into the win column with his decision over Joshua Clottey Saturday. Photo: Alex Menendez – HoganPhotos/Golden Boy Promotions

After a year out of the ring and no official victories since 2012, middleweight Gabriel Rosado of Philadelphia needed a solid win against Joshua Clottey of Ghana on the Jennings vs. Ortiz undercard on December 19. He got it, a unanimous decision that has now opened the door for a possible fight with one of the current stars in the sport, Canelo Alvarez. It’s a head swiveling reversal of fortune for Rosado, and this is why he’s our pick for Comeback of the Year.

Rosado is never in a bad fight. He took punishing puncher Gennady Golovkin into the seventh round before the bout was stopped due to Rosado’s cuts, which in hindsight is more impressive than it seemed. His other losses were to Peter Quillin, David Lemieux, and Jermell Charlo (at junior middleweight), not a bum in the bunch. Against Clottey, Rosado stood at the crossroads. Lose, and he has little left beyond being a stepping stone. Win, and Rosado is once again a viable contender in a busy and competitive division with lots of potential matchups. Rosado says he wants a shot at Canelo, and it would make a dandy Mexico vs. Puerto Rico matchup Canelo needs to make time before an eventual matchup with GGG, so why not give Rosado his opportunity?

Honorable Mentions: Timothy Bradley, Jr. and Teddy Atlas

Timothy Bradley Jr. has his first new trainer in his 11 year professional career, veteran Teddy Atlas. Photo: Chris Farina, Top Rank
Timothy Bradley Jr. worked with his first new trainer in his 11 year professional career, veteran Teddy Atlas. So far, so good. Photo: Chris Farina, Top Rank

Timothy Bradley Jr. seemed a transformed fighter in his TKO win against Brandon Rios, aided by new trainer Teddy Atlas in his corner. It was such a good performance fans are now willing to entertain Pacquiao vs. Bradley III. Bradley showed more movement and power than he has in years. It also gave us the “We Are Firemen!” corner speech.

Upset of the Year: Wladmir Klitschko vs. Tyson Fury, November 28, 2015

Tyson Fury (right) found a way to win, defeating heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko. Photo: HBO Boxing
Tyson Fury (right) found a way to win, defeating heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko. Photo: HBO Boxing

Tyson Fury managed to crack the Klitschko Code, handing the undisputed world heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko his first loss since 2004 and blowing open the entire division with his unanimous decision victory. It knocked Klitschko off the top of many pound for pound lists, opened up fights for a half dozen legitimate heavyweight contenders, and made quite a few bettors around the world happy. Fury’s unlikely but ultimately effective game plan didn’t make for much of an entertaining fight. But it’s a fight the boxing world is still talking about weeks later. There hasn’t been this much excitement about the heavyweight division since… we aren’t sure when. We will see a rematch between Fury (25-0, 18 KOs) and Klitschko (64-4, 54 KOs) sometime in 2016, and we will find out then whether Fury is a fluke, or whether Klitschko is the true champion. Nevertheless, Tyson Fury proved a lot of people wrong with his victory and made a world champion look terrible in the process.

Honorable Mention: Marco Huck vs. Krzystof Glowacki, August 15, 2015

Kryzstof Glowacki left) scored the upset victory over champion Marco Huck. Photo: Lucas Noonan, Premier Boxing
Kryzstof Glowacki left) scored the upset victory over champion Marco Huck. Photo: Lucas Noonan, Premier Boxing

German cruiserweight champion Marco Huck was expected to have little trouble in his 14th title defense against Polish fighter Kryzstof Glowacki, whose undefeated record didn’t have many big names on it. Huck knocked Glowacki down in the sixth round for the first time in his career. Glowacki survived the round and came back to return the favor, knocking down Huck in the 11th round. The difference: Glowacki closed the show with a TKO win. His explanation: “I’ve always had a thing against bullies and Huck was trying to bully me in there. So I brought it to him.” Huck is now the WBO cruiserweight champion.

Trainer of the Year: Abel Sanchez

Abel Sanchez works with Gennady Golovkin at his training facility in Big Bear, California. Photo: Gayle Falkenthal, Communities Digital News
Abel Sanchez works with Gennady Golovkin at his training facility in Big Bear, California. Photo: Gayle Falkenthal, Communities Digital News

In 2014, Abel Sanchez narrowly missed winning in this category for turning middleweight Gennady Golovkin into a fighter so feared few will dare test themselves against him. This year, Golovkin and Sanchez continued their murderous through the middleweight division with stoppage wins over Martin Murray, Willie Monroe Jr., and David Lemieux. In the Lemieux fight, considered the first “real” test of GGG, Sanchez had Golovkin show a different style to his opponent and the fans, patiently working behind a vicious jab that took Lemieux apart in an ugly fashion. No one can dismiss Golovkin as a simple power puncher after this performance, as if there needs to be any more excuses for challengers to avoid Golovkin. Sanchez was pratically retired when Triple G came knocking on his door a few years ago. He’s more than earned this recognition, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him repeat next year. Honorable Mention: Peter Fury (trainer of Tyson Fury)

C.J. Ross Award: Yunieski Gonzalez vs. Jean Pascal, July 25, 2015

Yurieski Gonzalez (right) made a good showing in his HBO debut, but lost a close decision to Jean Pascal. Photo: Will Hart, HBO
Yurieski Gonzalez (right) made a good showing in his HBO debut, but lost a close decision to Jean Pascal. Photo: Will Hart, HBO

This is our second year giving out Ringside Seat’s own award, named for the 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.

Cuban light heavyweight Yunieski Gonzalez appeared to have an impressive victory over Haitian born Canadian Jean Pascal in hand. He outworked and outpunched Pascal. He hurt Pascal several times in a thrilling fight. Fans were salivating at the idea of a matchup with Sergey Kovalev… until the scorecards gave a unanimous decision to Pascal. Gonzalez and his promoter Joe DeGuardia were livid; Gonzalez was so frustrated and angry he ended up in tears. It was his first loss as a pro and it was a flat out robbery. The offenders were Richard Ocasio, Eric Cheek, and John McKaie, all 96-94.

Honorable Mention: Nicholas Walters vs Jason Sosa, December 18, 2015

Nicholas Walters (right) was the clear victor over Jason Sosa, but was awarded a draw by the judges. Photo: Alex Menendez, Hogan Photos/Golden Boy Promotions
Nicholas Walters (right) was the clear victor over Jason Sosa, but was awarded a draw by the judges. Photo: Alex Menendez, Hogan Photos/Golden Boy Promotions

Lightweight Jamaican star Nicholas Walters was on the end of an equally bad decision after dominating his fight against New Jersey journeyman Jason Sosa. No disrespect to Sosa who fought above his skill level, but he was no threat to Walters. Inexplicably, the fight was scored a draw. Small consolation that it wasn’t the first loss on Walters’ record. It left everyone with a big fat question mark floating above our heads. Judges Don Ackerman and Wynn Kintz scored the draw, but Tom Schreck scored it 96-94 for Sosa. This is why you never let it go to the judges if you can help it.

How do our choices match up against yours? Tell us in the Comments section and make your case for your own winners.

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.

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