In a year characterised by venomous politics and the passing of cherished global icons, boxing in 2016 was every bit a microcosm of the wider world.
Rival promotional camps splintered the sport with there being precious few elite match-ups to reflect upon, while the loss of Muhammad Ali in June was felt deeply across the globe.
Meanwhile, Floyd Mayweather surprisingly stayed retired, Manny Pacquiao predictably returned, and the legacy of their overripe 2015 ‘Fight of the Century’ manifested in a slump in pay-per-view buys from an apathetic American audience choosing instead to gorge on a feast of MMA.
Just one ‘superfight’ came to fruition, in the shape of Andre Ward’s razor-thin decision over Sergey Kovalev in the light-heavyweight division in November, while we watched welterweights Amir Khan and Kell Brook step up and get knocked out by Saul Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin, respectively, as a blockbuster between the two middleweight stars continued to evade us. If 2016 was the year of anything, it was the year of mismatches.
Yet boxing fans aren’t without hope. The signs are increasingly positive that Canelo and Triple G will meet in September, and the first quarter of 2017 is already looking extremely healthy.
Rising star Anthony Joshua is booked to face heavyweight stalwart Wladimir Klitschko for the WBA and IBF titles at Wembley in April, while Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia will unify welter- weight belts in March.
Before that, James Degale and Badou Jack will put their 168lb crowns on the line on January 14. Two weeks later Carl Frampton and Leo Santa Cruz will rematch after their explosive clash last July – and that brings us nicely to our first order of business.
Fighter of the Year
1. Carl Frampton
He may have only fought twice, but those two victories came against previously undefeated world champions and saw Frampton unify a division before subsequently becoming a two-weight belt holder.
February’s success in a super-bantam- weight unification against UK nemesis Scott Quigg alone would have made it a vintage year for Frampton, but to then move up and immediately turn over Leo Santa Cruz – the best fighter in the division above – makes him the outstanding candidate for this award.
2. Vasyl Lomachenko
The Ukrainian made a successful move up to super-featherweight with dominant wins over WBO champ rocky Martinez and then Nicholas Walters.
It was undoubtedly a breakthrough year for ‘Hi-Tech’ as a much wider audience cottoned on to his mind-blowing skills – 2017 should see him become a household name.
3. Terence Crawford
Three wins from three. Okay, Hank Lundy and John Molina were soft touches, but there was also a masterful win over Viktor Postol as Crawford unified belts at 140lbs.
Breakout Fighter of the Year
1. Joe Smith Jr
Few would have heard of the New Yorker 12 months ago, but two headline-grabbing victories have propelled him right into the mix at the top of the ultra-competitive light-heavyweight division.
Lined up as cannon fodder for top contender Andrzej Fonfara in June, Smith spectacularly turned the tables and destroyed the Pole in just one round in Chicago. The 25-year-old followed that up by ruining Bernard Hopkins’ 64th and farewell fight by sending ‘The executioner’ clean out of the ring with a brutal combination in the eighth round in Oakland.
2. Oleksandr Usyk
The Ukrainian took apart the top-ranked cruiserweight in the world, Krzysztof Glowacki, to capture the WBO title in just his 10th fight before successfully defending it on his American debut against Thabiso Mchunu.
A heavyweight title fight is on his radar.
3. Joseph Diaz
The 2012 Team USA Olympian won a perfect four from four in 2016 to go 23-0 and push himself into featherweight title contention.
At 24, he has time on his side but is already ranked inside the top five by one organisation and is one to watch for 2017.
Trainer of the Year
1. Abel Sanchez
Sanchez continues to expertly guide the career of Golovkin (below) but has had other notable successes in 2016.
Murat Gassiev picked up a cruiserweight title with a superb win over veteran Denis Lebedev in Moscow, while Denis Shafikov stayed in the hunt at lightweight with a gritty victory over Richard Comney.
Andy Ruiz impressed but fell just short of claiming the WBO heavyweight title as he dropped a split decision to Joseph Parker in New Zealand.
GGG leading and teaching at The Summit. pic.twitter.com/dTiKOPl0Xv— Abel Sanchez (@abelthesummit) October 24, 2016
2. Manny Robles
Robles has enhanced his reputation by steering Jesse Magdaleno to the WBO super bantamweight title – beating Nonito Donaire via unanimous decision –and Oscar Valdez to the WBO featherweight crown.
3. Shane McGuigan
Is just 28, having hung up his gloves as a promising amateur aged just 21, but McGuigan is making a real name for himself.
His standout work came with Frampton, while he also helped rejuvenate super middleweight George Groves.
Fight of the Year
1. Francisco Vargas v Orlando Salido
With the boxing world reeling from the death of Ali just 24 hours earlier, the two Mexican super featherweights paid tribute in the only way they knew – a ferocious toe-to-toe war.
Both were hurt numerous times as they stood and traded big shots. They combined to throw more than 2,000 punches, with Vargas connecting on 386 (32 per cent) to 328 (34 per cent) for Salido. An astonishing 615 of the 714 shots landed were power punches and the judges couldn’t separate them on the cards.
2. Leo Santa Cruz v Carl Frampton
Technical brilliance and a furious and unrelenting tempo made this a captivating watch.
Ultimately, Frampton’s precision power punching trumped Santa Cruz’s indefatigable workrate. They do it again next month.
3. Derrick Chisora v Dillian Whyte
The two British contenders produced a throwback heavyweight slugfest as the most tempestuous of build-ups – Chisora threw a table at Whyte – came to a boil in Manchester.
Whyte edged a split decision but expect a rematch in 2017.
Knockout of the Year
1. Vasyl Lomachenko v Rocky Martinez
You’ll see heavier one-punch KOs but this was a thing of beauty. Lomachenko landed a huge left uppercut to pop Martinez’s head back and in the blink of an eye a devastating right hand finished the job.
2. Murat Gassiev v Jordan Shimmell
Fearsome Russian Gassiev (think Zangief on ‘Street- fighter 2’) could vie for this award every year.
He hit Shimmell so, so hard with a left hook in- side the first round, there was no count.
3. Saul Alvarez v Amir Khan
If you disregard that Khan is a welterweight with a questionable chin then this KO is a masterpiece.
Canelo was bigger and stronger but his feints are a lesson to any boxer and here he hoodwinked Khan, naturally the quicker fighter, into eating a massive overhand right.
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