Fight Club: Boxing's new champions

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New superstar: Canelo Alvarez.

This was the year the boxing landscape changed dramatically. As one era came to an end in the first half of 2015, another sprang into life towards the end of it.

– FIGHT CLUB: McGregor completes UFC takeover with Aldo knockout
– FIGHT CLUB: Pacquiao snub opens door for Khan vs Brook
– GALLERY: Rousey to St. Pierre – The UFC’s biggest upsets

Overall, there’s been a tremendous change after we finally got what we wanted with the long-awaited ‘Fight of the Century’ coming together.

With boxing’s two biggest stars in Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather either retired or close to doing so, the major turnover began. The spotlight moved from the welterweight division and saw the dawn of a mouthwatering middleweight division with Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin tipped to hit the big payper-view numbers in 2016 following hugely successful years. But they weren’t alone.

Top stars were born and belts changed hands in other divisions, all leading to what could be an exciting new era for boxing. For now, we take a look closer look at the fighters who came out on top this past year and celebrate some of the highlights that got fight fans everywhere out of their seats.

Fighter of the Year: Canelo Alvarez

Given the candidates, selecting Fighter of the Year is challenging. Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s 2015 may have been thin but he gave yet another demonstration of his utter superiority with wins over hall-of-famer Manny Pacquiao and the capable Andre Berto.

Roman Gonzalez, flyweight champion from Nicaragua, took over the pound-for-pound crown with his thrilling blend of technical skill and sheer offensive firepower, but El Chocolatito’s three KO wins were against less-than stellar opposition.

Tyson Fury delivered the most earth-shattering result with his disciplined performance against Wladimir Klitschko. But there are only two candidates. Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez are the future. They provided the excitement and action in the ring this year and both provide compelling arguments to take the mantle. 

Kazakh KO king Golovkin recorded three wins all by knockout to further enhance the Triple G image. However, they all came against second-tier fighters in Martin Murray, Willie Monroe Jr. and David Lemieux.

By contrast, Alvarez not only showed he’s becoming a more complete fighter but did so against impressive opposition. He dispatched the dangerous James Kirkland in May before delivering a mature and disciplined clear-decision win over future hall-of-famer Miguel Cotto.

For years a preordained superstar, Alvarez is now the face of boxing. With an amiable personality, good looks and an endearing style, Alvarez is our Fighter of the Year.

Young Fighter of the Year: Anthony Joshua

Few fighters possess the potential of Joshua. The 26-year-old has a massive 2016 ahead of him and closed out this year with an impressive performance against bitter rival Dillian Whyte.

From Jason Gavern to Gary Cornish, Joshua had barely been tested, demolishing each one before taking on the only man to beat him in the amateur ranks.

Against Whyte he answered two key questions: he can take a punch, against a determined and dangerous opponent, and he can deliver them deep into a fight.

He headlined a pay-per-view card and that’s likely where he will remain in the New Year. As his promoter Eddie Hearn likes to remind everyone, he is a “genuine superstar”.

Fight of the Year: Jorge Linares vs Kevin Mitchell, May 30

Kevin Mitchell was brave but battered and bloodied he was more. This was a bloodbath in which Venezuelan Jorge Linares stopped the British fighter in the 10th round of their WBC lightweight championship clash in London.

Mitchell floored the champion in the fifth round of a relentless fight but he took monster punches either side of that. By the 10th a severe haematoma practically closed shut Mitchell’s eye and despite a brave and at times impressive display – he was up on two of the judges’ scorecards – that damage caused him huge problems.

When he fell to his knees after taking a pounding in the corner, the referee halted what was our fight of the year.

KO of the Year: Gabriel Bracero vs Danny O’Connor, October 10

Gabriel ‘Tito’ Bracero is a light puncher. He had four knockouts from 24 fights leading up to his rematch with local favourite Danny O’Connor in Lowell, Massachusetts, who himself is not a big puncher.

It’s fair to say then that few people expected a KO of the Year candidate to come from this one. But 41 seconds into the fight, that’s exactly what we got. As O’Connor threw a lazy left hook, Bracero bobbed to his left before unleashing a bomb of a right that exploded off the veteran fighter’s chin.

O’Connor was out cold and the landing just made things worse. Fortunately, he eventually got up and we had ourselves a KO of the Year.

Round of the Year: Krzysztof Glowacki vs Marco Huck, Round Six

This was a fight that provided a strong candidate for Fight of the Year, KO of the Year and Upset of the Year all in one. Ultimately, it will settle for Round of the Year because no three minutes have been more thrilling this year than the sixth in Newark.

It was supposed to be a coronation for Huck who had come to the US for the first time hoping to set the all-time cruiserweight title defence record at 14. The stage was set but the unknown Pole stole the show with an 11th round TKO.

It could have been much different, though. The German landed a sledgehammer left hook to the temple one minute into the sixth stanza to knock Glowacki down. There looked no way back but somehow he beat the count and immediately stormed back to fight his way out of trouble, landing big shots in a wild action round.

Upset of the Year: Fury vs Klitschko, November 28 

Fury poked, prodded and pecked his way to what was clearly the upset of the year as the Manchester native wrestled world glory away from a stale Wladamir Klitsckho. Never, though, has a performance in the ring juxtaposed the man out of it.

New heavyweight champ: Fury (right).

Fury can come across as unhinged in public, but against the heavyweight king he was tremendously disciplined if a little aesthetically unappealing.

As far as a spectacle there was no sustained offense from either fighter, no real ebb and flow in action and in fact there was very little action throughout. But credit to Fury. He fought the right fight, which included a lot of feints and head movement, nullifying Klitschko’s long-range power from the start of the first bell to the last.

Klitschko is the better boxer but he fought the poorer game plan. He simply had to do more during the 12 rounds to keep onto his belts and he didn’t.

Still, no one anticipated the unbeaten Fury getting the decision, especially in Germany, but he did and will aim to repeat when they meet again next year. 

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