SAN DIEGO, January 2, 2016 – Choosing a Fighter of the Year for 2015 came down to a judgment call defined by an informed but admittedly personal definition of excellence.
These athletes made the short list: Roman Gonzalez, Gennady Golovkin, Canelo Alvarez, Tyson Fury and Floyd Mayweather.
No other boxer generated conversation and media coverage of the sport of boxing to the general fan base than Floyd Mayweather. Even when the fight in question ended up disappointing many people, better there’s a lot of chatter about boxing than none. No other boxer, no other athlete for that matter, made as much money as Mayweather in 2015. Mayweather has been the highest paid athlete for three years running. Like it or not, we live in a capitalist society in the U.S. Money does have measure.
We can admire Mayweather’s business acumen. We can admire his technical skills in the ring, which are superb. I do admire both. Mayweather only takes calculated risks weighted in his favor. I don’t blame him for it. Mayweather embodies little of the passion of the sport, the desire to fight the best at their best. Sports Illustrated picked Mayweather as its choice for 2015 Fighter of the Year. It’s a generalist’s magazine, and there it makes some sense. Not here.
British heavyweight Tyson Fury also generated tremendous conversation and spurred excitement for the first time in years about the glamour girl division of boxing thanks to his improbable victory over the dominant heavyweight of this era, Wladimir Klitschko. Suddenly everyone among the top 20 in the division is in legitimate play. One win does not a Fighter of the Year make. If Fury can defeat Klitschko n their rematch tentatively planned at press time, as bonkers as he seems he’ll get serious consideration for 2016.
Flyweight Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez of Nicaragua stormed into the spotlight in the U.S. after building an impressive undefeated record under the radar. He became the ambassador for a wave of boxing stars in the smaller weight divisions such as 22-year-old super flyweight sensation Naoya Inoue of Japan, super bantamweights Carl Frampton and Scott Quigg of the U.K., featherweights Nicholas Walters, Leo Santa Cruz, and Vasyl Lomachenko, and lightweights Jorge Linares, Terry Flannigan, and American Terence Crawford, our 2014 Fighter of the Year. Serious fans find boxing’s best action here. Casual fans are sitting up and taking notice. As good as he is, ‘Chocolatito’ needs to rise to a main event fighter and beat champion opposition to win this honor. We have no doubt it will happen.
The remaining candidates are the boxers poised to become the popular face of the sport in the wake of Floyd Mayweather’s retirement. Both had exceptional years. Mexican middleweight star Canelo Alvarez fought twice in 2015. In May, he scored our Knockout of the Year against American James Kirkland. He capped the year with a solid unanimous decision fight over Puerto Rican great Miguel Cotto. Admittedly, Cotto is not a middleweight and is nearing the end of his own impressive career. It still solidified Canelo as a star and a big name draw, all good news for boxing. He is only 25 years old and should be a main event attraction for many years.
Our choice is the single most feared boxer on the planet, to the point promoter Tom Loeffler battles to get opponents to step into the ring with him. He still managed to fight three times in 2015. Gennady Golovkin of Kazakhstan fought a legitimate top 10 opponent in Martin Murray, who battered former lineal champion Sergio Martinez but failed to get the decision from judges in Argentina. Murray was crushed in the end by an unrelenting assault.
The same happened to a strong young opponent, Willie Monroe Jr. in front of 12,000 plus fans at the Forum in Los Angeles. The fight could have ended early with Monroe down in the second round. Instead, “Triple G” decided to have some fun and entertain his fans, taking a few punches over a couple of rounds before closing in for the kill. “Muchas gracias everybody … uno mas for my fans. I show him who’s number one, who’s real champ. I gave him a chance, here, come on, big drama show, let’s go.”
Golovkin’s third fight of the year, an eighth round TKO of Canadian IBF champion David Lemieux. turned out to be the most significant win, more valuable in the long run to his career than another demolition derby. He showed versatility and crafty calculation, a sophisticated skill set behind a jab thrown with the heat of a power shot snapping back the opponent’s head. As he said after his TKO of David Lemieux, “I am a little waiting, not crazy attack, not crazy style, like street fight. Not this time. David’s a strong guy. Today for David, he went to school, boxing school. Now he understands difference in boxing.” Now we see a relentless puncher with a 21 fight knockout streak who can also box and jab when it’s to his advantage. Yikes.
His fan base is growing, won over by skill, drive, and sheer pugilist entertainment. It includes the biggest boxing fans on the planet, Mexican and Mexican-American fans who proudly wear “Mexicans for GGG” t-shirts declaring their admiration for a guy from an Eastern European country most of them couldn’t find on a map. He sold out Madison Square Garden. It sounded like every one of the 20,000 plus fans was cheering “Triple G, Triple G.” The Garden set a merchandise sales record the night of the bout. Even Donald Trump came backstage to meet him.
Outside the ring, he looks like the neighbor who would loan you his lawn mower. Inside the ring, he turns into an assassin. Trainer Abel Sanchez (Ringside Seat’s 2015 Trainer of the Year) shakes his head and laughs when he describes the Jekyll and Hyde persona of this guy. “Gennady is on a different level,” said Sanchez after the Lemieux fight.
For all these reasons, our choice for 2015 Fighter of the Year is Gennady “Triple G” Golovkin. We look forward to another exciting year watching GGG in the ring. And if you haven’t been watching, now’s a good time to start. Make it your 2016 Fight Fan New Year’s Resolution.
Got a different opinion? Vote in our poll, and tell us why in the Comments.
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. Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
Copyright © 2015 by Falcon Valley Group
CORRECTION: An earlier version of the story stated the incorrect year for the death of Gennady Golovkin’s father. It was 2014, not 2015.