The Fight Journal’s 2016 Boxing Awards:
Fighter of the Year
Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez. Chocolatito had his knockout streak end at 10 in 2016, as he won decisions over McWilliams Arroyo and Carlos Cuadras. Weight issues in the Arroyo fight led him to move from flyweight to super flyweight. However, he dominated Arroyo who should be given credit for surviving Gonzalez’s assault.
In his first fight at super-fly (I couldn’t resist), he did what only the great ones do. He immediately fought the WBC #1 guy, Cuadras in a fight of the year candidate.
Terence “Bud” Crawford. Crawford began 2016 by with a sensational stoppage of Hank Lundy. Crawford used his jab on the smaller Lundy throughout most of the fight, and landed a left in the fifth that wobbled him and sent him to the ropes. He followed up and dropped Lundy with another left against the ropes. Lundy was game, but Bud finished him with a lightning flurry causing the referee to step in. In July, Crawford fought a unification showdown with Viktor Postol. Crawford fought most of the fight southpaw and was too quick for Postol, as he dropped Ukraine’s “Iceman” twice in the fifth round. In the final quarter of the fight, you got the feeling that Crawford could end the fight at any moment if he pressed the action. Bud chose to coast to a decision win, which set the record as to who was the king of the junior welterweight division.
Crawford closed out 2016 with a dominant stoppage of Johns Molina, Jr. He made it look easy folks. What more can I say?
Vasyl “Hi-Tech” Lomachenko. Loma, like Gonzalez took on a champion in his first fight moving up to a new division. In June, he stepped up to fight Roman “Rocky” Martinez for the WBO World super featherweight title. Loma delivered a message for those critical of his amateur style, becoming the fastest to win a title in two divisions with a spectacular knockout. A big left uppercut and right hook combo closed the show.
In his next fight, he took on fearsome and undefeated knockout King Nicholas “The Axe Man” Walters. Lomachenko pitched a seven round shutout, using boxing dexterity to force Walters to quit.
Manny “Pac Man” Pacquiao. Manny began 2016 in April with a convincing win over longtime nemesis Timothy Bradley, Jr. He scored a few knockdowns and won his most convincing fight against Bradley, who was coming off a KO win over Brandon Rios. A short hook dropped Bradley in the seventh round. A nice counter left in the ninth dropped Bradley as he did a reverse somersault after hitting the canvas. Pacquiao won 116-110 on all cards to put the trilogy to rest.
Later in 2016, Pacquiao fought the dangerous Jessie Vargas. As Floyd Mayweather Jr watched ringside, Pacquiao gave him food for thought as he dominated Vargas. Notwithstanding the 114-113 Dave Moretti card, of course. A straight left dropped Vargas in the second round. Vargas got up, but the speed and angles were too much for Vargas. While Vargas landed his share of shots, some of them power punches that knocked Manny off balance- he was cut over his right eye for his troubles. Pacquiao landed 36 percent of his punches to 19 percent for Vargas. Two dominant wins in 2016 over solid opposition is just what the doctor ordered for Manny. See you in May 2017 for the Mayweather rematch.
Anthony “AJ” Joshua. Joshua is steadily climbing the charts of respectability and he had a great 2016. In April, he became the new IBF World heavyweight champion with a second round knockout of Charles Martin. The knockout crushed Martin physically, and may have even caused mental damage to Martin based on the series of videos he’s appeared in on YouTube. Here’s a sample of one below:
Joshua followed the Martin win up with his first title defense against another young, undefeated Olympian in Dominic Breazeale. Joshua, an Olympic gold medalist and Breazeale, ranked the #1 U.S. amateur, squared off in June. The fight started slowly as Joshua had to deal with Breazeale’s reach, height, and weight advantages. In the second frame Joshua sent Breazeale reeling with a big right hand and follow-up that almost caused the fight to end. Breazeale fought back in the third, but by the fifth, a huge left hook wobbled Breazeale. In the seventh, Joshua landed a flurry to drop Breazeale. Breazeale was able to get up, but was knocked down again seconds later for a referee stoppage.
Joshua ended the year with his second title defense, this time against Eric Molina from Deontay Wilder fame. Molina gave Wilder much more trouble than he gave Joshua. As a matter of fact, Molina was no trouble at all. Molina entered the fight with the wrong game-plan, which was basically to look to land something big. If that was the plan, as suggested, Molina never gave a strong effort to do so. In the third round, Joshua sensed it was time to get Molina out. He stepped up the aggression, landing to the body and throwing combinations. Molina followed with a few jabs and attempted to land a big hook. He missed. Joshua landed a WHOPPING right that dropped Molina, who kept his guard high but turned from seeing the punch. Molina went down hard but got up. Shortly thereafter, Joshua landed some brutal punches- a left hook started the damage, followed by a right, left hook, right hand, double left uppercut and the brutal assault was over. A World heavyweight title and two defenses in one year for a 27 year old who is only 18-0. The world may soon be his. Here is a nice slow motion replay of the knockdown and knockout of Molina:
Others under consideration:
Joe Smith, Jr
Errol Spence, Jr
Carl “The Jackal” Frampton. On Frampton’s upper right chest a tattoo reads Veni, Vidi, Vici. The phrase is Latin for I came; I saw; I conquered. In 2016, this road warrior did all of the above. In February, the IBF World champion took on WBA World champ Scott Quigg in a super bantamweight (junior featherweight) unification bout in Manchester. Frampton was making the third defense of his IBF belt. Quigg was making the seventh defense of his WBA title. Quigg was 31-0-2 and Frampton was 21-0. Two champions. Two undefeated. Something had to give. It turned out to be Quigg’s jaw, as Frampton fractured it during the first half of the bout. While the official scores declared the bout a split decision, it was a dominant display by The Jackal. Frampton used speed, feints, and power to outclass Quigg. Everyone blames Quigg for starting too slow and giving away the early rounds. I blame Frampton for being too good and causing Quigg’s slow start. The angles and hooks kept Quigg just enough off balance to win rounds for Frampton. Quigg made a late push, but by then he’d given away too much in the early portion of the fight. Even when Quigg found success, you always had the feeling Frampton was in control.
Later in the year Frampton went on the road across the pond and English Channel to the United States to face another undefeated champion in Leo Santa Cruz. This time Frampton (like Chocolatito) did what only the great ones do. He moved up to super featherweight (junior lightweight) to fight Santa Cruz (32-0-1), who was making his third defense. Frampton had to overcome two things in the fight: Santa Cruz’s phenomenal punch output and his seven inch reach advantage. Let me say that again. Santa Cruz had a SEVEN INCH reach advantage on Carl Frampton!
It was a great fight, with each guy having multiple moments throughout the battle. Santa Cruz threw over 1,000 punches, but it was Frampton’s controlled distance, left hooks, and power shots that won the fight.
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