Fightful Boxing Newsletter (12/27): Year In Review, 2018 Awards Part One

Fightful Boxing Newsletter (12/27) Table Of Contents:

  1. 2018 In Review (Page 1)
  2. Matchroom Boxing: Whyte vs. Chisora 2 (Page 2)
  3. Fightful Boxing Awards: Male Boxer Of The Year (10-6) (Page 3)
  4. Fightful Boxing Awards: Female Boxer Of The Year (10-6) (Page 4)
  5. Fightful Boxing Awards: Fight Of The Year (20-11) (Page 5)
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2018 In Review:

When looking back at this past year in boxing, where do you even begin? The sport has undergone so many changes that it almost feels like we’ve had several years’ worth of news happen in this just one year.

For starters, the number of new stars that have been made since the start of 2018. Guys like Isaac Dogboe and Jaime Munguia were pretty much relative unknowns in the sport, but have gone to impress with their fights and win world titles seemingly out of nowhere.

Women’s boxing has taken several steps forward in looking to be treated the same as the men. Not once, or twice or thrice, but four times HBO aired a women’s boxing fight live on its channel, something that is unheard for HBO. Prior to 2018, HBO had aired no live women’s boxing fights and by the end of 2018, they had a boxing card open and finish with a women’s boxing fight.

Thanks to added exposure from various broadcast channels, women like Katie Taylor, Amanda Serrano, Cecilia Braekhus, Claressa Shields and Heather Hardy have become bigger stars in the sport with potential superfights among each other being very interesting fights to watch out for in 2019. Women’s boxing may not be at the level of its male counterparts just yet, but it certainly has taken steps in the right direction to prove that the women can provide great moments just like the men do.

Speaking of HBO, of course there is perhaps no bigger story of 2018 than the slow death of the network when it comes to airing boxing. Throughout most of the year, HBO limped to its end with lackluster boxing cards and unexciting fights and that end finally came earlier this month with the final boxing card in the network’s history.

Back in September, HBO announced that starting 2019, they would no longer plan towards making boxing broadcasts. It was an incredibly sad time for boxing fans who grew up with HBO giving them some of the biggest events and stars the sport has to offer.

But the final live broadcast for HBO, which took place earlier this month at the StubHub Center, gave fans perhaps one of the weakest and least impressive shows in recent memory, resulting in historically low ratings. While the in-ring action was not exactly great or compelling, the broadcast did have perhaps the best tribute to its long history towards the end of the show with Jim Lampley making a return and the rest of the HBO crew reminiscing about their time with the network and concluding with a video package that is perhaps among the best made boxing videos of all-time.

Just as HBO’s tale with boxing has ended, a new one started with the incredibly ambitious long-term project that is DAZN. Perform Group’s big sports streaming service, DAZN launched in the United States in September with the aim being to be the premier destination for boxing in the country. While DAZN did initially acquire the rights to Matchroom Boxing shows and the World Boxing Super Series, it never really made a truly big splash to make it truly stand out from the rest of the boxing content providers in the United States.

That is until it announced that Canelo Alvarez signed a historic 11-fight contract to fight on DAZN that is worth $365 million and with that deal came Golden Boy Promotions, giving DAZN another boxing company to make fight cards with.

The first fight in Alvarez’s deal with the company just recently concluded with a major show in Madison Square Garden that ended with Alvarez knocking out Rocky Fielding to win the WBA “regular” super middleweight title and becoming a three-division world champion.

With that first fight done, Alvarez’s next fight could take place on May 4, 2019 with the possibility of a third fight against Gennady Golovkin or a unification bout against IBF middleweight champion Daniel Jacobs being the favorites to be Alvarez’s next fight.

Lastly, in perhaps one of the most unexpected developments of the year, the sport of boxing was revisited by its ancestral sport: bare-knuckle boxing. Earlier this year, commissions around the United States gave the green light for bare knuckle boxing to make a fully legal run in the country.

There are a couple of bare knuckle boxing companies around but the one that stands above all others is Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship (BKFC). That company spearheaded the sport’s return thanks in large part to promoter David Feldman and former boxer and modern bare knuckle boxing legend Bobby Gunn. Together, they were able to create a company that has enticed former boxers and MMA fighters to be a part of a growing phenomenon.

Their inaugural show this past summer in Wyoming became the talk of social media, trending worldwide on Twitter and having a successful pay-per-view. I was told that the show did around 150,000 buys which is an excellent buyrate considering the unknown territory bare knuckle boxing is heading. Gone are the days of the sport being underground and away from the public eye and BKFC is looking to take the sport and make it a truly global endeavor. After just three shows in the United States, BKFC is going south of the border for their first show in 2019 when it goes to Mexico. Looking at what the company has in store, don’t expect BKFC to stay idle during this time of expansion as countries from all over the world are taking notice of the sport and looking to bring it in their lands sometime in the future.

It’s a new alternative and sub-genre for the sport of boxing, which in and of itself is enjoying its own Renaissance in the United States thanks to big television networks ESPN and FOX looking to double down on boxing and bring it back towards the mainstream media.

After everything that has happened in 2018, boxing could be heading for a make-or-break year in 2019 that will surely be an entertaining ride for pundits of the sport.

Matchroom Boxing: Whyte vs. Chisora 2 Review:

Matchroom Boxing’s final major show of 2018 featured a new world champion at 112 pounds and a thrilling heavyweight rematch between Dillian Whyte and Dereck Chisora at the O2 Arena in London.

Whyte scored another spectacular knockout in the 11th round to get another win over Chisora, ending their rivalry and potentially securing a shot at unified champion Anthony Joshua.

It was a very exciting fight, one that may have surpassed the quality of the first fight back in 2016. Only this time, Whyte definitively and emphatically ended the fight with a left hook that further cemented him as one of the division’s top contenders.

After the fight, Joshua stepped into the ring to confront Whyte. Joshua was working on commentary for the fight (something Joshua has been doing a lot more lately given that he worked on the DAZN commentary team for a few rounds of the Tevin Farmer vs. Francisco Fonseca fight) with the Sky Sports team.

Whyte told Joshua he wants a rematch next April at Wembley Stadium and Joshua simply responded by saying that his main priority was to get the undisputed heavyweight title fight against Deontay Wilder, but at this moment, that still seems unlikely. Joshua did say that he would be open to fighting Whyte in April, much to the dismay of some people at the stadium.

Joshua then took an impromptu poll of the people that are still at the O2 Arena asking if they would be interested in seeing Joshua vs. Whyte with the purpose being that if they want to see that fight, then they can’t complain if it does happen instead of the fight against Wilder. The reception was lukewarm, but overall the answer appeared to be yes. It’s amazing how at the start of the year Joshua was one of the hottest British boxing stars and even though he still is, the public perception is starting to turn somewhat sour towards him over the idea that Joshua hasn’t yet fought Wilder.

As it stands, Joshua vs. Whyte is probably the matchup most likely to headline the April 2019 Matchroom Boxing show. Their first fight in 2015 was exciting for what it was with Joshua coming out on top.

The other big storyline about the event is really one limited to the United States and that is the broadcast rights. In a major surprise, Showtime had acquired the rights to show the main event as many had expected DAZN would get the rights to broadcast the event in the United States.

This is a significant development as it is no longer the case that DAZN presumably gets the rights to many of the Matchroom Boxing shows in the United Kingdom. Even though DAZN did get the rights to 16 Matchroom Boxing shows from the United Kingdom, the streaming service pretty much has shown most, if not all the UK shows since the U.S. launch in September.

With Showtime still landing the U.S. rights to those kinds of shows, expect a secondary negotiation war between Showtime and DAZN over securing a TV deal for a potential fight between the two heavyweight champions.

Also on the card was Charlie Edwards scoring one of the bigger upsets of 2018 with a dominant and highly impressive performance over Cristofer Rosales. Edwards won the WBC flyweight title, his first world title as a pro boxer. It was a solid fight that featured plenty of action, but ultimately, Edwards proved he was the better boxer that night and joined a solid class of 112-pound champions such as Kosei Tanaka (WBO) and Artem Dalakian (WBA).

O2 Arena, Greenwich, London, England:

  • Dillian Whyte defeated Dereck Chisora by KO, round 11 to retain the WBC Silver and WBO International Heavyweight Titles: This fight was one of the best heavyweight fights of the year. Chisora started off well, outworking Whyte and landing numerous body shots. Whyte struggled in the first few rounds to land any of his power punches, but proved he was the stronger puncher in the few moments he did land punches in the first several rounds. As the fight got deeper, Chisora would start to tire out and eventually threw illegal punches, some to the back of Whyte’s head, below the belt and even some headbutts. Despite multiple warnings from the referee, Chisora continued with the fouls and was later deducted a point. By the time the second half of the fight started, Whyte was able to land the right hand and hurt Chisora at times. In the 11th round, Chisora was exhausted, but still did enough fouls to warrant a second point deducted from him thanks to an elbow from below that landed on Whyte’s chin. It ultimately did not matter as Whyte connected with a vicious left hook to Chisora’s chin and promptly knocked him out for good.
  • Charlie Edwards defeated Cristofer Rosales by unanimous decision to win the WBC Flyweight Title: Edwards had spent the fight outboxing Rosales in the first half of the fight, utilizing the jab while Rosales tried to work the body. Edwards suffered a cut in the seventh round and Rosales sought to overwhelm the Brit with barrages in the ninth and 10th round as well. Edwards managed to weather the storm and emerged victorious. It was Edwards' second world challenge as he was unsuccessful when he fought John Riel Casimero for the IBF flyweight title in 2016. While there is no word on when Edwards will defend his title or against whom, the WBC already made steps to produce a mandatory challenger for Edwards' new championship. The company "Clase y Talento Boxeo" won a purse bid to host a title eliminator between Andrew Selby and Julio Cesar Martinez, the top two flyweights in the WBC rankings.
  • Ryan Walsh defeated Reece Bellotti by split decision to retain the BBBofC British Featherweight Title
  • Joshua Buatsi defeated Renold Quinlan by TKO, round 1 to retain the WBA International Light Heavyweight Title
  • Carlos Takam defeated Senad Gashi by TKO, round 7
  • David Price defeated Tom Little by TKO, round 4
  • Linus Udofia defeated Pavol Garaj by PTS
  • Fabio Wardley defeated Phil Williams by TKO, round 3

Fightful Boxing Awards: Male Boxer Of The Year (10-6)

10. Jarrett Hurd:

  • 2-0 record in world title fights
  • Unified the WBA and IBF junior middleweight titles
  • Knocked down and defeated Erislandy Lara in May

Given the incredible amount of performances a lot of boxers had in 2018, it’s almost hard to forget that Jarrett Hurd not only became a unified champion at 154 pounds, but narrowly beat Lara in one of the best fights of 2018. It was unfortunate that Hurd went down for most of the year due to surgery after the fight against Lara, but would come back in a big way earlier this month. Hurd was a part of the Deontay Wilder vs. Tyson Fury pay-per-view, knocking out Jason Welborn in quick order to retain his unified titles. There was a lot of hype about a potential fight between Hurd and Jermell Charlo, but after Charlo lost his WBC title to Tony Harrison, it’s unlikely that fight even takes place in 2019, robbing Hurd of a potential career-high payday and one of, if not the best junior middleweight fight today.

9. Terence Crawford:

  • Moved up in weight to win WBO welterweight title
  • 2-0 record in world title fights
  • Defeated Jeff Horn by TKO to become a three-division world champion

This may seem like a very harsh placement for Crawford, who is in the top five of most people’s “Boxer of the Year” lists and was arguably the best boxer in 2017, but hear me out. Yes, Crawford did become a three-weight champion earlier this year in dominant fashion and has continued his run as a pound-for-pound superstar, but his level of competition this year was subpar. Even though he dominated Jeff Horn, who was the WBO titleholder heading into their fight, Horn was one of the least respected 147-pound champions in recent memory. Instead of following the win with a big fight, he fights Jose Benavidez Jr. Credit to Benavidez Jr. for turning a mismatch into a near-must see fight with his actions during the build to the title bout, but Benavidez was still viewed as a moderately big underdog against Crawford. It’s no knock on Crawford’s skills as a fighter, but after becoming the first-ever undisputed junior welterweight champion in 2017, Crawford’s 2018 was lackluster and somewhat anticlimactic. Again, no fault on his part as all the other welterweight champions are with PBC and the chances of Crawford fighting any of them seem low at this point. But a potential clash with Amir Khan in March 2019 could be the first of many big welterweight fights for Crawford moving forward, even if Crawford will be viewed as a massive favorite.

8. Josh Warrington:

  • 2-0 record in world title fights
  • Won the IBF featherweight title by defeating Lee Selby
  • Defeated Carl Frampton in first world title defense in December

No one, and I mean no one, expected Warrington to have the kind of year that he did. He would have had a banner year with the upset victory over Lee Selby alone back in May. The sight of Warrington getting the IBF world title in front of his hometown fans in Leeds did provide with one of the most memorable images in British boxing in 2018, but Warrington had bigger plans than letting his time as champion take a long and easygoing path. Warrington looked towards former featherweight champion Carl Frampton as his first title defense and that is about as big a first title defense as you can get excluding unifications. Warrington was a minor underdog against Frampton, but Warrington was aggressive and exciting to watch, giving Frampton a tough time just to even keep up, let alone making the fight competitive. The result was a brilliant featherweight fight that saw Warrington retain the title and give him the biggest win of his career. A unification fight against Oscar Valdez for 2019 is a mouthwatering matchup that could end up being a “Fight of the Year” contender by this time next year.

7. Maurice Hooker:

  • 2-0 record in world title fights
  • Defeated Terry Flanagan in England
  • Won both fights as an underdog

Hooker entered the year as the clear underdog for his fight against Terry Flanagan for the vacant WBO junior welterweight title. Hooker shocked the world when he traveled to the United Kingdom and outboxed Flanagan to win his first world title. To say one that it wasn’t one of the biggest shockers for the first half of 2018 would be a lie. After forgoing the World Boxing Super Series, Hooker moved on to defend his title against mandatory challenger Alex Saucedo on ESPN. Despite Hooker proving himself to be a solid world champion in his own right, some viewed Saucedo as the favorite. Hooker recovered from an early knockdown to eventually stop Saucedo and retain his title. With the rest of the other junior welterweight champions in the World Boxing Super Series or with Top Rank, it’s hard to envision Hooker fighting in a unification fight in 2019 now that he’s committed to DAZN, but it still doesn’t take away from a fantastic year for the Texas native, who has proven that he is a force to be reckoned with in the 140-pound division.

6. Deontay Wilder:

  • 1-0-1 record in world title fights
  • Defeated Luis Ortiz in March in a “Fight of the Year” candidate
  • Fought Tyson Fury to a draw in a “Fight of the Year” candidate

If putting Crawford at No. 9 sounded wrong, then putting Wilder at No. 6 almost seems blasphemous. There’s no denying that Wilder’s year inside the ring was about as good as any boxer in 2018 with two “Fight of the Year” candidates, but the performance is a big part in the criteria of this list. Even though he performed well in his two fights this year, the fight against Tyson Fury had many believing (including myself) that Wilder actually lost the fight. With the fight ending in a draw and a lot of people thinking Fury should have won, it hurt Wilder’s chances of being in the top five. As with some of the fighters on this list that didn’t make the top five, their ranking is not a knock on their abilities, but to be in the top five, winning all your big fights and providing memorable moments is a must and Wilder only did one of those things. Had Wilder decisively beaten Fury or even knocked him out, Wilder could have been looking at a top three, maybe top two spot.

Fightful Boxing Awards: Female Boxer Of The Year (10-6)

10. Delfine Persoon

  • 3-0 record in fights (2-0 in world title fights)
  • Won her last fight by TKO
  • Has not lost a fight since 2010 (33 consecutive wins)

Very few boxers start their career at such a relatively old age as Persoon (24 years old) and made a tremendous career out of it. After a career in competitive Judo, Persoon quickly ascended to title contention in just a couple of years, winning the EBU European and WIBF titles before becoming the IBF champion in 2012. Persoon has been the WBC champion since 2014 and has been on a massive win streak for years. The 33-year-old Persoon continued fighting in her native country of Belgium for 2018 and successfully retained her title twice. Her most recent title defense saw Persoon get a big TKO victory in the final round against Judy Waguthii. What hurts Persoon’s case is that the combined record of her opponents at the time of their fights is 30-25-7.

9. Tina Rupprecht

  • 2-0 record in world title fights
  • Became WBC Minimumweight champion in June
  • Opponents’ combined record heading into their respective fights were 22-1.

Tina Rupprecht had a tremendous amateur career, but her pro career only saw her fight seven times from 2013 to 2017, winning the interim WBC minimumweight title. She had big plans in 2018 and delivered in a big way, winning her first world title in June when she defeated Yokasta Valle by close unanimous decision on a loaded boxing card in Munich, Germany. Rupprecht didn’t want to end the year without a title defense and had another close fight against Niorkis Carreno back on December.

8. Tenkai Tsunami

  • 2-0 record in world title fights, won the WBO light flyweight title
  • Won both title fights inside the distance
  • Is on the longest win streak (three fights) since the early 2010s

In the early 2010s, Tenkai Tsunami was an impressive super flyweight world champion, but ever since she lost her WBA title against Naoko Yamaguchi in 2011, Tsunami’s in-ring performance took a noticeable drop with her losing five straight fights and then a 6-8 record since that loss to Yamaguchi. After a win in November 2017, Tsunami got back to title contention and scored a major win over the previously unbeaten Chaoz Minowa in March to win the WBO light flyweight title at Korakuen Hall. Tsunami retained her title with a big fourth-round stoppage win over longtime contender Gretchen Abaniel.

7. Dina Thorslund

  • 2-0 record in title fights
  • Won the Interim WBC and WBO super bantamweight titles in 2018
  • Started 2018 with a win over former world champion Alicia Ashley

Dina Thorslund made her case as the best super bantamweight in women’s boxing by first beating Alicia Ashley in a very competitive fight that saw Thorslund pick up an interim title by a very close decision. But instead of gunning for the WBC title, Thorslund decided to challenge for the vacant WBO super bantamweight title that was previously held by Amanda Serrano. Thorslund had a great showing, defeating once-beaten Jessica Arreguin Munoz by unanimous decision (winning all rounds on two of the three judges’ scorecards). The new WBO champion now has her sights set on a title defense against former world champion Alesia Graf in Denmark on January 19, 2019.

6. Jessica McCaskill

  • 1-0 in world title fights
  • Won the WBC junior welterweight title on the inaugural Matchroom Boxing USA show on DAZN
  • Won her 140-pound debut against Erica Anabella Farias

McCaskill was unsuccessful in pulling off the upset against Katie Taylor when the two fought in late 2017, but that did not stop McCaskill from fighting for another title. After nearly 10 months out of the ring, McCaskill decided it would be best for her to make a career move to 140 pounds and it has paid off in a big way. On the first-ever Matchroom Boxing USA show streamed on the DAZN streaming service, McCaskill fought Erica Anabella Farias, whose resume is impressive and lengthy, having held the WBC lightweight and junior welterweight titles for several years. Regardless, McCaskill created one of the feel-good moments on that card by defeating Farias and winning her first title in front of her hometown fans in Chicago and putting herself in the conversation as the best woman at 140 pounds.

Fightful Boxing Awards: Fight Of The Year (20-11):

20. Mikey Garcia vs. Sergey Lipinets

  • March 14, 2018
  • IBF Junior Welterweight Title fight
  • Garcia emerges victorious by unanimous decision in a surprisingly competitive and solid effort from Lipinets

19. Vasiliy Lomachenko vs. Jorge Linares

  • May 12, 2018
  • WBA Lightweight Title fight
  • Lomachenko knocks out Linares in the 10th round after suffering a knockdown earlier in the fight

18. Gary Russell Jr. vs. Joseph Diaz Jr.

  • May 19, 2019
  • WBC Featherweight Title fight
  • Russell gets an impressive win after the two go back-and-forth in an exhilarating bout on Showtime

17. Hiroto Kyoguchi vs. Vince Paras

  • May 20, 2018
  • IBF Minimumweight Title fight
  • In Kyoguchi's final fight as the 105-pound champion, he gives Japanese fans a memorable final title defense that ended up being one of Japan's best fights of the year

16. Dillian Whyte vs. Dereck Chisora 2

  • December 22, 2018
  • WBO International and WBC Silver title fight
  • The heavyweight rematch was just as good, if not better than their 2016 encounter only this time, Whyte scored a "Knockout of the Year" contender in the 11th round

15. Henrri David Polanco vs. Hector David Saldivia

  • March 31, 2018
  • IBF Latino Junior Middleweight title
  • Polanco wins the regional title in one of the most bizarre and chaotic fights in recent memory that has both men go down multiple times throughout the fight

14. Akira Yaegashi vs. Hirofumi Mukai

  • August 17, 2018
  • In what was perhaps the best fight at Korakuen Hall in 2018, Yaegashi scored a seventh-round TKO victory after both men trade big shots throughout the entire fight

13. Oscar Valdez vs. Scott Quigg

  • March 10, 2018
  • WBO Featherweight Title fight
  • After Quigg missed weight the day before, Valdez opted to keep fighting and the two had a bloody skirmish that saw Valdez not only retain his world title, but leave the StubHub Center with a broken jaw that put him out of action for the remainder of the year.

12. Jessie Magdaleno vs. Isaac Dogboe

  • April 28, 2018
  • WBO Super Bantamweight Title fight
  • Dogboe's introduction to the United States boxing market saw him score an 11th round knockout victory in one of the best fights of the first half of 2018 that included Magdaleno knock Dogboe down in the first round

11. Miguel Berchelt vs. Miguel Roman

  • November 3, 2018
  • WBC Super Featherweight Title fight
  • On paper, this looked to be one of the most competitive and eye-pleasing fights of the year. Although it wasn't completely competitive, the fight still delivered on its promise of fast hands and hard punches being thrown throughout the entire fight. Berchelt emerged victorious after taking down a very tough Roman, who gave Berchelt one of the hardest fights of his career.
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