I know you’re supposed to do this at the end of the calendar year but fuck it I’m inspired today so I’m doing this today. There’s a lot of boxing ahead of us – November and December looked STACKED – but here’s some of my random thoughts from what has been an interesting and awesome year to be a boxing fan.
STREAMING IS HERE TO STAY
I don’t have cable – I watch my TV through my Roku. This is the greatest time to be a boxing fan that I can remember. Between subscriptions to YouTube TV, DAZN, Showtime and ESPN+, I’m paying like $50 and can get any fight I want. I don’t have to find a dodgy Russian website illegal stream of fight cards that give my computer an STD, and I can watch all of the fights I want and replays in glorious HD.
HBO is out of the fight game, which is a shame in the sense that their production was the best in the business – but their streaming game was fucking terrible. Their app, HBO Go, didn’t offer fights live, and on top of that, didn’t get the replays up on the app until the Tuesday after fight night. Three days later! Compare with the Showtime app: live streaming for every fight card, the full fight card up on the app the morning after if you missed it live. It’s not close, and that failure to adapt (along with other factors) showed you how uncommitted the network was to the sport and how behind they were. That’s why Showtime has my monthly subscription money, and HBO doesn’t. On that note..
DAZN HAS BEEN REALLY FUCKING GOOD
Knocking on wood that this continues, but DAZN has been AWESOME. Great quality streams, awesome shoulder content around boxing, replays immediately, high production in their live fights. They are actually showing background pieces on undercard fighters instead of just talking about the main event fights and dismissing the action in front of you. Their content is compelling, they’re making waves in terms of the fighters they’ve signed (Anthony Joshua, Canelo Alvarez, the World Boxing Super Series) and it seems like they have at least one if not more fight cards every single weekend. Easily the best $10/month I’m spending right now as a fight fan. I don’t know how they’re making money, but here’s hoping things continue and they aren’t just putting on a pretty face for their first year in business here.
MY FAVORITE FIGHTS OF THIS YEAR
Feb 3 – Murat Gassiev KO12 Yunier Dorticos
(STW Score: Gassiev 105-104 Dorticos)
I had this fight closer than most, but this WBSS cruiserweight semifinal (also a unification bout) was great from start to finish. Just two high class, skilled dudes who can also punch going at it. I don’t think there was a clinch in the entire match. Dorticos was getting work done early but Gassiev invested to the body, which made a huge difference down the stretch as the Cuban seemed to gas badly in the last few rounds. Gassiev truly looked dominant towards the end there, and the stoppage was nasty and emotional. Dorticos shed some tears after the fight, and you truly felt like he left everything in the ring. This was, for my money, the best fight in the first season of the Super Series, which has been a phenomenal addition to the sport. Gassiev would go on to get swept on the cards in the final by Oleksandr Usyk in a virtuoso performance, but as far as action goes you couldn’t top this semifinal and I came away impressed with both guys. Dorticos is returning for the second season of the tournament, and I’ll be rooting for him.
Feb 24 – Srisaket Sor Rungvisai MD12 Juan Francisco Estrada
(STW Score: Sor Rungvisai 115-113 Estrada)
Super fun fight on the back of another hugely successful SuperFly card on HBO – the third one, like the third Godfather, was trash, but this one was a worthy sequel to the first. Just a high level superfly matchup, with the big, come forward Thai destroyer against the classy, experienced and accurate Mexican. It was action from the start, and Rungvisai showed real skill to go along with his power, which ultimately made the difference in the fight. It was back and forth with both guys having moments, Estrada at one point decided he was good to take punishment as long as he got his own shots in, which made it a fun fight. Some hard rounds to score here, especially down the stretch, but I think the Thai fighter got the deserved decision here.
March 3 – Deontay Wilder TKO10 Luis Ortiz
STW Score: Wilder 84-85 Ortiz
I’ve been rooting for Deontay Wilder for years now. I think having a big, scary looking American heavyweight champion who knocks everybody out is a great thing for the sport Stateside, and though he’s crude and not graceful in there I’ve long held out hope for his punching power and personality to make him a star. He’s been building on this and has held a world title for a couple of years, but he never really had that name on his resume that truly gave him respect from hardcore boxing fans and thus he never has gotten the big push that would make him a mainstream star. His best win, prior to 2018, was his title fight against Bermane Stiverne, a decision victory that looked less and less impressive with time as Stiverne got fatter and fatter (Wilder actually wound up rematching and stopping an out of shape and demoralized Stiverne in an unnecessary rematch in late 2017).
It wasn’t through lack of trying – Wilder had lined up fights in Russia with respected heavyweight Alexander Povetkin before the Russian popped for PEDs, and then the same thing happened with Cuba’s Ortiz, an old but respected power puncher, a big dude with major pedigree and skills. Frustrated at the lack of a name on his record, Wilder signed up yet again to fight Ortiz in 2018, and came out with his signature career win and respect to boot.
After a porous opening four rounds in which nothing really happened and nobody really got going (though Ortiz probably was nicking the rounds), things went down in Round 5 in a back and forth heavyweight WAR. Wilder nailed Ortiz in the fifth and dropped him, seeing the Cuban get up and survive albeit on shaky legs. In Round 7, things truly got real, as Ortiz hurt Wilder BADLY and the American looked dazed and confused and like he might go down. He stayed on his feet, but just barely – looked like he was one shot away from being ended right there and then. He took another round or so to recover, but then lands that great equalizer of his in Round 9 – a huge right hand that’s got Ortiz wobbly. In Round 10, Wilder lands that big right hand again, drops him twice and closes the show. I watched this in a room with some non-boxing diehards and they LOVED IT. Great for the sport and happy for Wilder, who takes on the gypsy king Tyson Fury in December next. Huge year for Wilder if he comes out of it with wins over Ortiz and Fury – possibly challenge Anthony Joshua for the best resume at heavyweight, and hopefully challenging Joshua in the ring in the biggest fight the sport can offer.
March 10: Oscar Valdez UD12 Scott Quigg
(STW Score: Valdez 115-113 Quigg)
LOVED this fight and the heart Quigg showed in this one. The young Mexican titleholder is an all-action, come forward fighter, but he’d never been challenged like this before. Quigg completely blew weight and came in HUGE for this ESPN-televised bout, and the weight discrepancy showed as Quigg was enormous in there and was really doing a ton of damage with his shots to the smaller Valdez. Valdez was game, even though at the end of Round 5 he got hurt bad and broke his jaw, gushing blood out of his mouth. Quigg just came forward and applied pressure, and Valdez answered back. By the middle of the fight, Quigg’s nose was broken along with Valdez’s jaw and Valdez’s corner wasn’t even removing their man’s mouthpiece in between rounds due to how much blood was leaking form his mouth. Fight of the year candidate in my opinion. Valdez showed crazy heart against a guy who could have been 2 divisions higher than him. The official scorecards were a little wide for my taste but overall damn impressive from the Mexican champ, even though he probably shortened his career by taking this one and hasn’t been in the ring since as he recovers.
April 7: Jarrett Hurd SD12 Erislandy Lara
STW Score: Hurd 116-111 Lara
Erislandy Lara is an extremely talented boxer that is either in absolutely terrible fights (he tends to be OK with boring points decisions when he has his opponent outclassed) or in awesome barnburners (his bout with Alfredo Angulo was low key extremely entertaining). In this one, Lara’s style meshed perfectly with Jarrett Hurd’s come forward terminator impression and it made for an awesome, compelling matchup. Hurd just comes forward and comes forward, and Lara had his hands full just trying to keep the huge American off him for the entire fight. Both guys had their moments and hurt each other, and the rounds were pretty close.
The championship rounds made the difference in this one. Hurd stayed busy and stayed right up Lara’s ass (figuratively), keeping him close by and mauling him while Lara tried to counter and show heart, fighting with a bad cut over one eye. With 30 seconds left, Hurd nails him with a right hand and drops him. Dramatic finish to this fight – with that knockdown, Hurd took the scorecards and the belts. Great Showtime matchup and great result for boxing (Lara as a champ had a less than inspiring reign). Hurd is one to watch moving forward – he’s huge for the division and absolutely relentless. Can’t see him in a lot of bad fights.
April 28: Isaac Dogboe TKO11 Jessie Magdeleno
STW Score: Dogboe 96-92 Magdeleno
Ghana’s Isaac Dogboe put himself squarely on the world scene with a big year this year, none bigger than this performance on ESPN where he came off the canvas after a first round knockdown to stop a tough, skilled opponent in Magdeleno. Both guys came out swinging and Dogboe really separated himself in the latter half of this one as a crazy little man who isn’t afraid of a firefight. One of the most exciting fighters to come on the scene in 2018,
May 12: Vasyl Lomachenko TKO10 Jorge Linares
STW Score: Lomachenko 86-84 Linares
Ukraine’s Vasyl Lomachenko has been touted by many as the top pound-for-pound boxer in the world, and a lot of that is due to the dominance he has exhibited in wiping away every opponent he’s faced over the past few years. Most of his fights aren’t even close, and his habit of getting seasoned professionals to get so discouraged that they quit on their stools was almost more impressive than if he had one-punch KO’d them. Linares gave him a true challenge though – despite Loma being much faster than Linares (no easy task, as the Venezuelan has fast hands himself), Linares truly held his own in this one, even dropping Lomachenko on his ass in Round 6 when the Ukrainian somewhat recklessly came lunging in. After a great back and forth and scintillating 10th round, Linares all of a sudden crumpled to the ground and couldn’t get back up. I literally thought he hurt his leg as I couldn’t see what happened live, but on replay you could see that Lomachenko landed a perfectly placed, nasty AF liver shot that just shut down Linares’ body immediately. Great, fun, high level chess match with an awesome ending.
June 23: Josh Taylor UD12 Viktor Postol
STW Score: Taylor 114-113 Postol
Josh Taylor, the great Scottish hope, is a really promising young super lightweight, a fun to watch and classy boxer who has turned heads in recent years and is one of the favorites in the upcoming WBSS season 2 tournament. Before he got into the tournament and got the respect of the boxing public at large, though, he had to get through tough veteran Viktor Postol.
Postol, a solid, tall and awkward fighter from Ukraine best known for falling short in a matchup against Terence Crawford, is a real challenge. He doesn’t have popularity and thus Taylor had much more to lose than gain in taking him on, and Postol proved to be really tricky in this one. It was a close fight, in which Postol did well when he kept a medium distance, whereas Taylor did better on the inside and at range. While Taylor won his rounds more impressively as the harder hitter, Postol stayed in the fight by controlling the tempo behind a consistent jab. Taylor got a huge knockdwon in Round 10 from a a big left hand counter shot, but the veteran Ukranian stayed in it and surprised Taylor with his aggression after being hurt. While maybe not the fight of the year, a high level chess match and great performance from a young prospect make this fight worthy of watching. On my scorecard, the knockdown made the difference and broke a 6-6 tie in rounds, but the judges disagreed as they all had Taylor winning widely. Watch it for yourself and decide.
July 28: Dillian Whyte UD12 Joseph Parker
STW Score: Whyte 114-111 Parker
After a long string of less than inspiring performances and horrendous-to-watch bouts, including a snoozer of a unification fight against Anthony Joshua in the spring, I had given up on Joseph Parker as a fighter worth watching. He’s skilled and talented but his spoiler style and lack of true power does not make for exciting TV. Well, this one was sloppy and fun and then some, as Whyte managed to draw Parker into more of a war than he was used to. Knockdowns, point deductions, action, drama and momentum swings – this fight had it all. Parker almost erased a big deficit by winning the last few rounds, including hurting Whyte in Round 12 and forcing the big Brit to barely hang on to survive to take a decision. Maybe not Lomachenko-level artistry on display in this one, but it sure was fun.
August 4: Eleider Alvarez TKO7 Sergey Kovalev
STW Score: Alvarez 55-59 Kovalev
I am biased on this one as I was there live in Atlantic City to watch it go down, but this fight was maybe the upset of the year and a total blast. Kovalev, the Russian destroyer who had only been defeated by one of the greats in Andre Ward, was expected to blow past longtime contender Eleider Alvarez on his way to a unification matchup with young puncher Dmitry Bivol, fighting on the co-feature bout this same night. Alvarez wasn’t having it. Though Kovalev won the first half of the fight on the cards, Alvarez was taking Sergey’s best shots and kept coming, gambling that Kovalev’s famed lack of conditioning would catch up to him if he didn’t finish the fight early. He gambled correctly. A huge shot in the 7th Round put Kovalev on queer street and though he tried to get up, Alvarez was accurate and merciless on the finish. Well worth a watch for sure, and it’s tough to think of a bigger upset this year than this one, especially as Alvarez was not thought of as a power puncher coming in.
September 14: Jose Ramirez UD12 Antonio Orozco
STW Score: Ramirez 116-110 Orozco
Look, this wasn’t the highest level of talent in a boxing match that you’ll ever see, and it wasn’t even really a close fight or ever in doubt. But what it was, was a tremendous display of action and balls. The two guys came out swinging and never stopped, and Ramirez had Orozco seriously dropped and hurt as early as Round 4. Somehow, Orozco survived to give a great account of himself. Not a fight that was close, but one in which I came out impressed with both guys. Orozco’s got a lot to be proud of in this loss, and I’d love to see either of these boxers fight again. Ramirez has talent and potentially could be seen in some higher level matchups – I don’t think he’ll ever top pound-for-pound lists but I do think he’ll be in some fun fights.
September 15: Canelo Alvarez MD12 Gennady Golovkin
STW Score: Alvarez 114-114 Golovkin
Ah yes, the big one. The biggest fight of the year was also one of the best, as Alvarez and Golovkin went toe-to-toe in their rematch and delivered on the sport’s biggest stage. Neither guy backed down, both landed huge shots, and it was a fight deserving of its billing. They are both greats and future Hall of Famers.
Some notes in terms of the scoring, here, since that seems to continue to be a hot topic of conversation. I’m a Golovkin fan boy (just look at these blog archives). I scored the first fight a draw, but thought if you had to pick a winner, you’d have to pick GGG. I wouldn’t have a problem if you gave the first one to GGG, I would have had a hard time seeing any more rounds for Canelo than the ones I gave him. In this second fight, I felt the other way. I also scored it a draw, but felt like Canelo was the deserving one here. Canelo changed the script and came forward all night, leading the dance and building up a big lead on the scorecards. Unlike the last fight, it was GGG who came on strong to close and make this a close fight. In my mind, a draw was a fair result the first time around (marred by the criminal 118-110 scorecards judge Adelaide Byrd gave Canelo) and a draw would’ve been the fairest the next time around, but I don’t have qualms in Canelo being given the decision by a hair here. Either way, we spend too much time talking about judging and scorecards, and not enough time talking about just how high-level, action packed and dramatic both of these fights were. These are two guys who left it all out there. Respect to both men here.
There’s 12 matches that I found compelling this year. If you missed any of them, they’re worth going back to see. If the last few months of the year lives up to its billing, 2018 will truly be remembered for a great year (and I’ll have to write an addendum to this in January).
Did I miss anything? Disagree with any of these? Let me hear about it.