The Cold Hard Truth: On Sports

Boxing’s Best of 2016 (Part 1)



Boxing’s Best of 2016 (Part 1)

By James Bell

@boxingsource2

The year in the sport of boxing had started off with a little bit of uncertainty as 2015 was coming off the news of Floyd Mayweather retiring and the PPV model changing before our eyes. Over the course of the year, we saw a few upsets, titles changing hands, some well-anticipated fights happening, and fighters showing how good they really are. We will touch on these things with each division and preview what to look forward to in 2017 for many of these divisions.

Heavyweight

This year, the heavyweight division saw the culmination of a fighter in Britain that may be the biggest star at heavyweight since Lennox Lewis. The 2012 Olympic gold medalist Anthony Joshua shot up the ranks to become the IBF champion in his 16th professional fight. He defeated Charles Martin, who won the belt in January after it was vacated by Tyson Fury to be able to rematch Wladimir Klitschko (we’ll get back to that later). In that card where Martin won the IBF belt, the WBC champion Deontay Wilder defended the belt against Artur Szpilka in Brooklyn where there was a slew of fans for Szpilka. Wilder fought against the fighter in the ring and the fans outside the ring and scored a KO win there, then was preparing for a bout with the #1 contender for his title against Alexander Povetkin in Russia when Povetkin tested positive for a trace of meldonium which was just added to the banned substance list for this year. That fight got postponed, and Wilder took a voluntary defense of his belt against Chris Arreola where he got the win but injured himself, leaving him out for the rest of the year. He will return in 2017 with a voluntary defense against Wawrzyk.

As for Joshua, after winning the IBF belt he defended it twice this year, and after his second defense it was announced that he will go up against Wladimir Klitschko in April of 2017 for the IBF, IBO, and WBA “super” heavyweight titles. How is this possible? Well, the rematch that was supposed to happen between Klitschko and Tyson Fury was cancelled due to Fury testing positive for cocaine, and the titles that Fury had (WBA “super”, WBO, and IBO) were vacated. One of those titles was won by Joseph Parker, an undefeated fighter from New Zealand who was in the rankings for many of the sanctioning organizations. He will be one to watch for in 2017 to see if he will get a fight against the WBC champ Wilder or the winner of the Joshua-Klitschko fight…although the winner there may end up fighting Luis Ortiz, who won three fights in 2016 and is considered as one of the top fighters at heavyweight.

Cruiserweight

One fighter that may be regarded as the “Newcomer of the Year” of some sorts resides in the cruiserweight division. Oleksandr Usyk came into 2016 with just nine professional fights. However, his extensive amateur background showed that he could be one of the best in the sport when he reached the professional ranks. That was proven on September when he got a unanimous decision win over previously unbeaten Krzysztof Glowacki for the WBO title. Boxing fans know of Glowacki from 2015 as he beat the man regarded as the best in the division at the time in Marco Huck. While Glowacki did defend the title against Steve Cunningham and win, he was outboxed by Usyk and now this former Olympic champion stands as the best in the division. Marco Huck has been able to get back on track with two wins this year, but will he be able to stop the momentum that Usyk has got since his win over Glowacki?

Tony Bellew won the WBC title with a TKO win in May and then defeated BJ Flores to retain the title…however, he will not be in the cruiserweight division to start 2017. He will be fighting David Haye at heavyweight in March so that belt may be vacated again. There was another title fight that occurred a few weeks ago with the WBA and IBF champion Denis Lebedev facing Murat Gassiev, and Lebedev lost by split decision but was able to keep the WBA belt. Now, there are four title holders in the division with a possibility that Gassiev and Lebedev fighting again while Usyk has a date set for him to fight in March.

Light Heavyweight

One of the biggest fights in the sport of boxing in 2016 happened in the light heavyweight division as not only were many of the light heavyweight titles on the line, but one of the top pound for pound positions were up for grabs as Andre Ward took on Sergey Kovalev in Las Vegas. This bout had been anticipated since last year when the agreement was made. Ward was formerly the ruler of the super middleweight division with wins over Carl Froch, Mikkel Kessler, Arthur Abraham, and Chad Dawson. Kovalev was regarded as the best at light heavyweight, with a win over Bernard Hopkins in 2014 as his best win. He did have KO wins over Nadjib Mohammedi and Jean Pascal, plus a decision win over Isaac Chilemba, but that did not quite prepare him for Andre Ward. He had good success against Ward in the first four rounds, scoring a knockdown in the third…Ward made adjustments after that though, and came back to get the close but unanimous decision win to get all the titles that Kovalev had. Andre Ward was considered one of the best pound for pound fighters when he was at the super middleweight division, and this win solidified his claim as one of the best.

While Kovalev is clamoring for a rematch that may come next year, there is another fighter out there that wants a piece of both of them: his name is Adonis Stevenson. He is the lineal champion of the division, and has been chasing Kovalev since the fight between those two fell through in 2014. He had a KO win against Thomas Williams in what could be regarded as Knockout of the Year, and did call out Kovalev after Sergey defeated Pascal. He may end up fighting the #1 contender for the WBC belt in Eleider Alvarez in the start of the year, and then the next fighter in line may be Joe Smith Jr. who got two knockout wins against Andrez Fonfara and Bernard Hopkins. The KO against Hopkins came as a shock to some as that was the last fight of Hopkins’s career. Bernard had a great run, but his two year gap between fights cost him against Smith and it showed in the ring. Another fighter to watch out for in this division is Artur Beterbiev, as he is known for defeating Kovalev in the amateurs and may also challenge Stevenson for the WBC and lineal light heavyweight championship.

Super Middleweight

There are two fighters in this division that have been recognized as the best in it: James DeGale and Badou Jack. They were able to be in a fight card at the DC Armory in April and they defended their titles against Rogelio Medina (DeGale) and Lucian Bute (Jack) to set up the unification fight that will be in Brooklyn on January 14th. The winner will be recognized as the best in the division, and everyone else will have to catch up to who that will be. That includes the 25 year old WBO champion Gilberto Ramirez who won the belt via decision over veteran Arthur Abraham. This southpaw is also unbeaten and may be able to get the Mexican contingent behind him as he goes into 2017 defending the WBO belt. It is unknown who that will be against, as rumblings that he could face a middleweight moving up have fizzled out.

The former middleweight champion Felix Sturm could be that guy to fight “Zurdo” Ramirez, but with the news of him being caught doping that was confirmed in November, he may not be unavailable. Sturm was the WBA champion, but gave up the belt due to the tests. Now, the fighter coming out as the WBA champion is Tyron Zeuge who is a 24 year old with just 20 fights in his career. Other fighters to look out for in 2017 are Callum Smith and George Groves, as they had a good 2016 with Smith having four wins (including winning a minor WBC belt) and Groves coming back from a loss to Jack in 2015 with four wins of his own (winning a minor WBA belt). They could be lying in wait for a world title shot.

 

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Boxing’s Best of 2016 (Part 1)
Copyright The Cold Hard Truth: On Sports

Boxing’s Best of 2016 (Part 1)

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