Fightful Boxing Awards: Best Upset And Prospect Of 2017

The following appeared in this week's edition of the Fightful Boxing Newsletter, which publishes each Thursday at 6 AM ET.

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Upset Of The Year: Caleb Truax defeating James DeGale to win the IBF super middleweight title

Boxing had many noteworthy events take place in 2017. From a record-setting crowd attending Anthony Joshua vs. Wladimir Klitschko to a UFC champion fighting Floyd Mayweather in a boxing fight, this past year had no shortage of noteworthy moments inside the squared circle.

One reason fans tune in to watch boxing is because anything is truly possible. Time and time again, upsets have defined boxers’ career, for better or worse. In this case, it was for the better for Caleb Truax, who ended the year as a world champion when he was supposed to be an afterthought, a tune-up for James DeGale in order to prepare himself for bigger fights in 2018, likely against whomever finishes as the winner of the World Boxing Super Series.

Truax was a 16-1 underdog heading into the fight against DeGale. Historically speaking, it’s uncommon for Americans to travel overseas to fight British world champions and leave victorious, although we saw that happen earlier this past spring. Truax defied the odds by not shying away from DeGale in the fight, hurting the former champion multiple times throughout the fight while DeGale had to play catchup for most of the bout.

From Fightful's live coverage of the fight:

Round 5: Truax throws a hard right hand to DeGale, who blocks it. Truax has DeGale on the ropes and lands a left hook and Truax lands a right hand, hurting the champion. Truax lands another hard right uppercut to DeGale. Caleb Truax continues to land more shots and hurts DeGale again. Blood is coming out of DeGale’s mouth. Truax still has DeGale on the ropes and goes to work on DeGale. DeGale comes back and lands a left hook to Truax’s body. Truax’s best round of the fight thus far.

Fightful scored round 5 for Truax 10-9

Of course to many, the obvious choice for this award would be Jeff Horn’s shocking win over Manny Pacquiao. Although that upset had a bigger mainstream impact because we’re talking about Pacquiao, one of the best boxers of this generation. But that fight ended in a dubious decision that many, including ESPN’s own broadcasters, didn’t believe Horn was the rightful winner. The same could be said when Srisaket Sor Rungivsai defeated Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez back in March. Some people, including myself, believed Gonzalez should have won the fight, but there is no doubt that Sor Rungvisai deserved the win just as much as Gonzalez did.

But for DeGale vs. Truax, there was no doubt whatsoever who the rightful winner of the fight was. Although the fight ended in a majority decision, it was obvious just by looking at both fighters after the dust settled who would ultimately reign supreme. Truax was a massive underdog but did not look the part. He was solid through the entire fight and did everything needed to exploit DeGale’s ring rust after being away from the ring for almost a year due to injuries sustained in his excellent fight against Badou Jack last January that ended in a draw.

Truax sent the entire 168-pound division into chaos since DeGale was figured to be the centerpiece behind a lot of big fights in 2018. DeGale had possible fights against Chris Eubank Jr., George Groves and David Benavidez lined up for him, but now all of that is basically out the window, for now at least, thanks to this upset.

Pacquiao’s loss was certainly shocking and prevented some intriguing matchups from taking place, but the welterweight division still had others such as Errol Spence Jr., Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter to fall back on as key figures in the division.

Truax’s impact on the super middleweight division remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain: This type of upset is not one that you see every day. It may not Buster Douglas beating Mike Tyson levels of unbelievable, but Truax’s win can be put on a level just below it.

Honorable Mentions (In No Order):

Prospect Of The Year: Diego De La Hoya

This may be a somewhat controversial pick because Diego is related to Golden Boy Promotions’ Oscar De La Hoya and has given Diego many opportunities to fight on the big stage, whether it is on ESPN in the main event or on the card for one of the biggest pay-per-views of the year.

But no one can deny that Diego has taken advantage of every time he steps into the ring. Diego started his career about five years ago with a lot of promise and a standout amateur career. Diego has had more than 250 amateur fights and was a member of the Mexican national team, meaning he had a lot of potential but a massive target on his back due to his family name. Nevertheless, Diego has thrived under the spotlight and under the immense amount of pressure he must feel every time he steps into the ring.

At just 23 years old, Diego is poised to challenge for a world title at some point in 2018 or 2019 after a 4-0 record in 2017. Last year alone, Diego captured the WBC Youth World, NABF and WBO-NABO super bantamweight titles and competed on the Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin pay-per-view card, dominating then-undefeated former bantamweight titleholder Randy Caballero throughout 10 rounds.

It’s hard to say what his future holds or how good he can really be. But at the very least, Diego could provide a substantial challenge to the towering figure of WBC super bantamweight champion Rey Vargas, who retained his title in December with a relatively easy victory over Oscar Negrete.

If there was one thing that could hurt his case would be the fact that he was set to headline a Golden Boy Boxing on ESPN card in December but missed weight and had his fight pulled.

Honorable Mentions (In No Order):

  • Ryan Garcia
  • Josh Kelly
  • Daniel Dubois
  • Jamie Munguia
  • Vergil Ortiz
  • Teofimo Lopez
  • Josh Taylor
  • Jon Fernandez
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