The following appeared in this week's edition of the Fightful Boxing Newsletter, which publishes each Thursday at 6 AM ET.
Male Boxer Of The Year: Terence Crawford
This year was a very tough one to decide a male boxer of the year. For most, it was a two-man race this year between Crawford and Vasyl Lomachenko. For me, what made me decide Crawford over Lomachenko mainly lies with my personal criteria for boxer of the year. I value a fighter’s wins and what he has accomplished in those fights. Crawford’s 2017 boiled down to one thing: unification.
I had mentioned earlier in 2017 how important unification fights are to the sport and there is greater unification than one that has one boxer holding all four main alphabet world titles (WBA, WBO, WBC and IBF). Crawford accomplished that when he knocked out Julius Indongo, who held two of the four titles, on ESPN. Many like to applaud Lomachenko's ability to finish off opponents in a way that forces them quit before getting knocked out people forget Crawford has that same devastating power that many in the 135-pound division feared for so long.
Crawford is on a path to achieve true greatness as a boxer after it seemed like HBO gave up on Crawford becoming a mega star when Crawford's lone pay-per-view main event did an abysmal buyrate. Since then, Crawford made title defenses against overmatched opponents. When the fight against Indongo came, many had thought that this fight had the potential to be a great fight, the first since Crawford's excellent fight against Yuriorkis Gamboa. Instead, Crawford made the fight non-competitive and quick with a demolition that resembled a Goldberg squash match in World Championship Wrestling in the 1990s.
Although a common criticism regarding Crawford is that he's not a media friendly athlete and is his own worst enemy in getting to the point where he becomes a household name. Mild mannered outside of the ring, but an absolute animal inside the ring, Crawford accomplished something only a handful of men throughout boxing's history has done: become the true, undisputed champion of the world. Such a title deserves to be awarded with Boxer of the Year.
Other boxers, such as Keith Thurman, Errol Spence Jr. and Andre Ward, didn’t get my honorable mentions list due to them having only fought once, one of my criteria to be eligible (you need to have fought at least twice within the calendar year), but they do deserve at least some mention due to having big wins (Thurman beating Danny Garcia, Spence beating Kell Brook and Ward beating Sergey Kovalev).
Honorable Mentions (In No Order):
- Vasyl Lomachenko: Perhaps raised his stock the most out of anyone not named Anthony Joshua in 2017. Got the biggest win of his career on December 9 when he beat Guillermo Rigondeaux to the point he had to surrender after six rounds. There is the caveat that Rigondeaux had to move up two weight classes for the fight, but it still is an incredible win over someone many had tabbed as a top 10 pound-for-pound boxer.
- Srisaket Sor Rungvisai: Sor Rungvisai shocked the world when he beat Roman Gonzalez back in March in a “Fight of the Year” candidate that resulted in a controversial decision. Sor Rungvisai emphatically proved doubters wrong by knocking Gonzalez out in a brilliant performance on HBO’s “Superfly” card back in September to retain the WBC super flyweight title.
- Mikey Garcia: Garcia returned to prominence in a big way by winning the WBC lightweight title by knocking out Dejan Zlaticanin in January. Garcia didn’t defend the title but followed the win up with a move to 140 pounds and soundly beat Adrien Broner in one of the more intriguing matchups in the summer of 2017. Garcia was dominant in both of those fights, solidifying himself as a top 10 pound-for-pound boxer in the world.
- Anthony Joshua: Joshua perhaps picked up the signature win of 2017 when managed to knock out Wladimir Klitschko in front of 90,000 people at Wembley Stadium to unify the WBA and IBF heavyweight titles, becoming a megastar in the United Kingdom and effectively put himself as the top heavyweight in the world. Joshua then beat Carlos Takam on short notice back in October after Kubrat Pulev, Joshua’s original opponent got injured weeks before the fight was scheduled to take place.
- Gennady Golovkin: Golovkin faced the stiffest test of his career in March at that point when he barely beat Daniel Jacobs on pay-per-view. The extremely close decision didn’t stop Golovkin from getting the super fight he so desperately has been chasing for years against Canelo Alvarez (who beat an out-of-prime and apathetic Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in May which is why he’s not listed as an honorable mention). The fight against Alvarez was very good, but ended in a draw that most feel like Golovkin should have won.
- Ryan Burnett: A little more than four years after starting his pro career, Burnett won the IBF bantamweight title by beating Lee Haskins in June. Burnett then became the top bantamweight boxer in the world when he unified the IBF and WBA titles when he beat Zhanat Zhakiyanov in October in Northern Ireland.
- George Groves: Groves’ quest to championship glory finally came when he beat Fedor Chudinov in May to win the WBA super middleweight title in one of the feel-good moments in British boxing from this past spring. That win earned him the top seed in the World Boxing Super Series’ super middleweight tournament where he displayed incredible power in a knockout win over heralded British contender Jamie Cox in the quarterfinals.