Fightful Boxing Newsletter (1/10): NYE Week Tokyo Boxing Show Review, Year-End Awards, 2019 Preview

Fightful Boxing Awards: Fight of the Year (10-1)

10. Deontay Wilder vs. Tyson Fury: Wilder had struggled throughout the entire fight to connect on any of his power punches fans have been accustomed to seeing. Fury's agility and head movement was reminiscent to when he defeated Wladimir Klitschko in 2015 to win the unified WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight titles and was the key for him throughout the fight. Even so, Fury, like all of Wilder's opponents, succumbed to the champion's power and was knocked down twice in the fight. The first knockdown came in the ninth round of the fight as Wilder pressured Fury to the corner and landed a combination of punches that ended with a left hand to the side of the head which knocked down Fury. Fury was able to barely beat the count and went on to outbox Fury in the 10th and 11th rounds. Wilder made the 12th round arguably the most exciting one of the evening as Wilder landed a stiff right hand that knocked down Fury and nearly knocked him out. Fury miraculously got up and continued to look for a way to box his way to a win, but it did not come tonight.

9. Oleksandr Usyk vs. Mairis Briedis: While the talk of the World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight semifinals was the incredible fight between Yunier Dorticos and Murat Gassiev, make no mistake. This other WBSS cruiserweight semifinal matchup is almost just as good. While not providing as much power as Gassiev vs. Dorticos, the technical mastery between the two cruiserweight champions was on full display. Up to this point, Usyk had pretty much dominated every fight in his pro career, but Briedis provided a challenge that Usyk had never encounter in the paid ranks. Not only was Briedis handling Usyk's power and jab well, but also showcasing his own power in front of a hometown crowd in Riga, Latvia, even landing harder punches than Usyk. Usyk eventually got the win, advancing to the finals where he eventually defeated Gassiev to become the undisputed cruiserweight champion.

8. Deontay Wilder vs. Luis Ortiz: The first of Wilder’s two big fights of 2018 may not have been as dramatic as the second one, but the action was higher. At the time, Ortiz was Wilder’s toughest opponent to date and knocking the Cuban down was also the WBC champion’s biggest challenge to date. The fight started somewhat slowly as the two boxers tried to find their range in the first few rounds. Ortiz was the one outboxing Wilder throughout most of the first half of the fight, which was unheard of at the time. But Wilder would eventually turn it around, throwing around his signature power shots to eventually stop Ortiz in the 10th round.

7. Srisaket Sor Rungvisai vs. Juan Francisco Estrada: Estrada got off to a solid start in the first couple of rounds, keeping Sor Rungvisai's power in check with numerous right jabs, a natural answer for the southpaw Sor Rungvisai. Estrada would later abandon the jab in favor of taking the fight up close, a decision that would result in Sor Rungvisai using his powerful left hand to turn the tide in the middle portion of the fight.

Sor Rungvisai would find himself in control of the fight until Estrada pushed back and started winning rounds late in the fight, but at that point, it was a little too late for the Mexican fighter to win in the scorecards. This comes despite the fact that the 12th and final round saw both fighters throw everything but the kitchen sink at each other in a round that is already an early Round of the Year contender.

The fight was the definition of a boxing slugfest. More than 1,500 total punches were thrown in the fight with a little more than 1,200 of those punches being power punches. Sor Rungvisai was the busier fighter in both of those categories, throwing more than 200 power punches than Estrada.

6. Murat Gassiev vs. Yunier Dorticos: In a bout that had the makings of an instant classic, the fight began with Dorticos putting his best foot forward and pressuring Gassiev from the start, preventing Gassiev from getting into an offensive rhythm early and force him to move backwards throughout the first four rounds. Gassiev may not have been the more active fighter in the early going, but he did tag Dorticos with numerous big left hooks and uppercuts. Despite Gassiev’s impressive power, Dorticos did not seem fazed by anything Gassiev threw at him, that is, until the end of the fight.

As Gassiev kept getting more confident with each punch landed on Dorticos, the Cuban’s defenses and stamina started to dwindle little by little. The 11th round saw Dorticos get visibly shaken for the first time, with his knees buckling down and almost going to the canvas before a last-gasp attempt at holding on to Gassiev’s trunks saved him from going down.

The 12th and final round was a completely different story. Gassiev’s left hooks and uppercuts knocked Dorticos down twice before a third knockdown sent Dorticos tumbling through the bottom and bottom middle rope and almost out of the ring entirely, ending the fight at that point.

5. Dereck Chisora vs. Carlos Takam: As described in the “Event of the Year” section of this issue, this fight was an absolute delight to watch. Unlike the other heavyweight fights on this list, this fight featured non-stop action from start to end. Chisora and Takam found ways to attack each other since the opening bell and the action simply never stopped. Chisora's hard shots helped him get to an early lead, but Takam was the one outworking Chisora. Chisora would receive more and more punishment and was starting to fall behind in the cards once the first half of the fight ended. The eighth round was when everything changed when Chisora landed a mean right hand to knock down Takam. Chisora used the newly-found momentum to his advantage, connecting on a similar punch later in the fight, eventually stopping him with one minute remaining in the round. It was two heavyweights throwing punches like they were middleweights and it was the division's best action fight of 2018.

4. Alex Saucedo vs. Lenny Zappavigna: As the shortest fight on this list, one would think that something special had to have happened in order for this fight to be ranked this high. All it takes is one look at the fourth round of this bout to see why many believed this fight to be the best one of the year at the time. To say this was non-stop action would be putting it lightly. But what really put this war over some of the others on this list was the pure brutality both men had to endure. This fight wasn't for the faint of heart, as there was more blood spilled in this brawl than an Extreme Championship Wrestling event from the 1990s. The two men were pouring out blood left and right, a visual reminder of how this sport can treat its warriors. This fight was amazing and the most gruesome one in the top 10, so it is not for anyone that doesn’t like to see a lot of blood on television. For those that can stomach it, do watch this fight.

3. Jarrett Hurd vs. Erislandy Lara: After the disappointment that was Lara's last fight prior to this bout, there was some skepticism about whether or not this bout, for the unified WBA and IBF junior middleweight titles, would amount to anything good. Well both men answered that question and that answer was an outstanding, ultra-competitive fight with some late drama to boot. The two boxers traded blows throughout the entire fight, with Hurd getting a slight edge in many of their exchanges. Hurd had never been pushed around as a world champion as much as he had in this fight, but proved he was up to the challenge. Despite Hurd seemingly ahead only slightly in the fight, he was actually behind on the official scorecards. Only a very late rally would end things favorably for Hurd. He manage to get that rally by knocking Lara down in the final round, the catalyst for Hurd's split decision victory in what was one of the most enjoyable fights of this past year.

2. Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin 2: The rematch between the two middleweight stars promised to be more exciting than the first one, which was a tall order in and of itself. After all, the first fight was already a 2017 "Fight of the Year" contender. Despite the high expectations, both men did battle for 12 more rounds with neither man being the clear winner. The fight was back-and-forth and Golovkin looked to once again establish the jab and outwork Alvarez. Both fighters constantly exchanged power punches with Golovkin coming forward with the jab to Alvarez’s head and Alvarez tagging Golovkin’s body with multiple left hooks. Starting in the second half of the fight, Golovkin looked like he was starting to tire out a bit. But Golovkin caught his second win in the last few rounds of the fight, landing right hands to the Mexican star which stunned him and even in one instance in the 11th round, hurt Alvarez. But it was Alvarez who got the win, seemingly ending their rivalry.

1. Sho Kimura vs. Kosei Tanaka: If anybody has seen my social media for the past few weeks, they would know that this fight was going to be awarded the “Fight of the Year” award.

Both Kimura and Tanaka wasted zero time getting to the action as the first round had both men throwing dozens of power punches. Tanaka initially overwhelmed Kimura with combinations starting with the left jab and ending it with a big right jab. Tanaka, on the other hand, established an offense that saw him primarily try to take down Kimura with hundreds of body punches and uppercuts.

It was Tanaka who initially had the upper hand, hurting Kimura in the second round with a right jab, but the champion quickly bounced back and continued working the body. Over the course of the next few rounds, Kimura would start breaking down Tanaka with the aforementioned body shots. Despite getting slowed down just a bit by Kimura’s body shots, Tanaka continued to press forward, still throwing vicious combinations. While Kimura tried to fight Tanaka at close range, the challenger wanted to keep his distance a bit and throw the lead right to Kimura. The fight never slowed down with neither fighter taking a round to rest up or simply play defense. At most, the fight had only a couple of clinches and the referee stopping the action at times with Kimura leaning forward and almost headbutting Tanaka, though no foul was ever committed.

The last couple of rounds saw both fighters still throwing every punch imaginable at each other with both faces swelling up from the constant punishment. In the last round, there was a moment where both men threw a single right jab to each other four straight times simulated which sent the crowd at the Takeda Teva Ocean Arena in Nagoya, Japan in a frenzy. By the end, both men were exhausted and unsure of who won the fight.

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