SAN DIEGO, Calif., December 28, 2018 – While a handful of superfights, big contract deals and the emergence of live streaming platforms dominated the boxing world in 2018, it’s time to set these distractions aside to talk about the significant accomplishments inside the ring which deserve the spotlight as 2018 comes to a close.
Many athletes in boxing won’t make a fraction as much money over their lifetimes as Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, who signed the largest contract in professional athletics history across all sports in 2018 when he inked a 10 fight deal with DAZN USA for a cool $365 million. Yet he wouldn’t recognized beyond a minority of fans on the streets here in San Diego where he trains, or nearly anywhere else outside of Mexico.
But we learn over and over the size of the paycheck 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 year-end honors in their categories by Ringside Seat among their peers.
Upset of the Year: Eleider Alvarez defeated Sergey Kovalev
After losing twice to Andre Ward in one clear robbery and another hotly disputed decision, former light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev was in the midst of building back up his career for one last run at unifying the division. After two relatively easy fights, Kovalev put his WBO title up for the opportunity to unify with undefeated Eleider Alvarez of Canada via Columbia.
While the fight was expected to be competitive, Alvarez only had a 45 percent knockout rate and wasn’t a big threat. Kovalev started strong and was dominating the early rounds, particularly the fourth round. But in the seventh round, Alvarez showed why he’s been so avoided by the top names. The sellout crowd at the Etess Arena in Atlantic City gasped together as Alvarez delivered the single hardest punch of his life, a perfectly placed right to the head which threw an astonished Kovalev back onto the canvas. The Russian beat the count, but as the final minute of the round ticked down, Alvarez knocked a shaky Kovalev down twice more, and referee David Fields stopped the fight at 2:45 of the round.
An elated Alvarez (24-0, 12 KOs) said, “I wanted to show him I’m strong, I have a good chin, and I’m ready for big things … We practiced that punch during training camp, and that’s how it went … I always practiced that punch in training.”
Kovalev (32-3-1, 28 KOs) went to a hospital to be checked out but told fans via Instagram he was OK, and seemed in amazingly good spirits. A rematch is set for February 2 in Fricso, Texas.
Honorable Mention: Rob Brant defeats Ryoto Murata; Ruben Navarrete over Isaac Dogboe; Callum Smith defeats George Groves
Prospect of the Year: Teofimo Lopez, Jr.
Lightweight Teofimo Lopez burst onto the boxing scene with a flashy style both inside and outside the ring. His big, brash talk was backed up with two sensational knockout performances in 2018, making him the runaway choice in this category.
The 21-year-old Brooklyn native who now lives in Las Vegas is 11-0 with nine knockouts. He has the heavy hands of a much bigger athlete, coupled with nimble footwork and speed. He celebrates his walkover wins with his signature backflip. Three of his four bouts in 2018 ended in early knockouts, including his impressive first round knockout of veteran opponent Mason Menard at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden on December 8. It was his first fight at the lightweighht division limit of 135 pounds.
Lopez loved being compared to another brash Brooklynite with heavy hands and star power, Mike Tyson. Lopez counts both Tyson and Floyd Mayweather as his influeces, but he ranks his father, Honduran native Teofimo Sr., as the source for his tough knockout punches.
Lopez calls his campaign toward becoming a unified champion “The Takeover.” Based on his performance this year, Ringside Seat will count the days until Lopez takes on the biggest names, perhaps including another fast-rising star ahead of his on the road, Vasily Lomachenko.
Honorable Mention: Katie Taylor
Comeback of the Year: Tyson Fury
It was one of the most anticipated fights of 2018, but no one anticipated the outcome. Tyson Fury of Great Britain and Deontay Wilder of the U.S. squared off in Los Angeles on December 8 with Wilder’s WBC heavyweight title on the line. While Wilder was heavily favored, the enigmatic Fury has beaten the odds before. The pair fought 12 hair-raising rounds to a split draw. Fury employed his trademark cat on a hot tin roof movement to frustrate Wilder, neutralizing his ability to land power punches for 11 rounds. Wilder found an opening in the final round and dropped Fury flat on his back on the canvas. A ten count seemed unnecessary, but referee Jack Reiss said after the fight he always gives a champion the respect of being counted all the way out. To the shock of everyone including himself, Fury got off the canvas to finish the fight on his feet. Fury’s survival secured the draw – and many observers believe he did enough to win. Fury made believers of many, and who wouldn’t want to see a rematch in 2019?
Trainer of the Year: Anatoly Lomachenko
While there will be advocates for Eddy and Chepo Reynoso, trainers of Canelo Alvarez and now also Oscar Valdez and Ryan Garcia, there is no denying the ongoing excellence of the work done by last year’s honoree, Anatoly Lomachenko.
The senior Lomachenko’s training methods are unusual in boxing, but they have worked wonders for his son Vasiliy, the best pound for pound boxer on many year-end lists. They are a mix of traditional boxing skills, cross training drills including breathing, swimming, and hand to eye coordination; and a series of mental tests and puzzles intended to develop the ability to focus and think quickly in the ring, even when fatigued.
But if his success ended there, he wouldn’t be on the list. Lomachenko has also contributed to the tremendous succdss of unified cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk and new WBC light heavyweight champion Alex Gvozdyk. There are additional young talents flocking to Lomachenko at the Boxing Laboratory in Oxnard. His training genius can’t be denied.
Honorable Mention: Eddy and Chepo Reynoso (Canelo Alvarez); Abel Sanchez (Gennady Golovkin, Murat Gassiev)
C.J. Ross Award: Judges Mike Contreras and Jeff Sinnett, Hamazaryan vs. Mattice, July 20, 2018
For the sixth year, Ringside Seat brings back 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. 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.
Surprise, Canelo vs. Golovkin 2 is only our runner-up. There was a far greater outrage in the ring. This year it came courtesy of judges on a July 20 card shown on Showtime’s prospects series “ShoBox: The New Generation. Lightweight prospect Zhora Hamazaryan blew out opponent Thomas Mattice, who went down hard in the second round, got hurt again in the seventh round, and was rocked throughout the pair’s eight round bout.
Hall of Fame announcer Steve Farhood had Hamazaryan winning by a score of 78-73. Judge Bob LaFratte (Iowa) had it 77-74 in favor of Hamazaryan. But judges Mike Contreras of Nebraska) and Jeff Sinnett of Nebraska both scored the fight 76-75 in favor of Mattice. Say what? Hamazaryan’s team, which had rushed into the ring certain of the victory, were devastated. Farhood called it the worst decision in the history of the ShoBox series. His partner Barry Tompkins said it was the worst decision he’d seen in 40 years – anywhere.
Midwest judges simply don’t develop the expertise of judges in California, Nevada, New York and New Jersey because they don’t judge as many good quality figths week in and out. But even by these standards, it was a C.J. Ross worthy blunder. Omaha native Terence Crawford must live in fear of those Nebraska judges. No wonder he doesn’t leave it in their hands too often.
Hamazaryan’s co-promoter, Artie Pelullo of Banner Promotions immediately appealed the decision, and said he’d demand a rematch. It took place two months later on September 28 in Temecula, California – where the pair battled to a split draw. Go figure!
Do you have your own winners? Did we miss calling out any other accomplishments? Tell us in the Comments section.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is a veteran boxing observer 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.
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