2017 was one of the best years in boxing history. There was a plethora of great fights, and many fighters took strides in building their legacy.
Of these great fights, which was the best? Of these fantastic fighters, who had the best year? The answers to these questions, and more, can be found below.
Fight of the year:
Anthony Joshua vs Wladimir Klitschko
What a fight this was. It was the kind of fight that gets people into boxing, and the kind of fight that reminded lifelong boxing fans why they love the sport. The fight was an action packed, back and forth affair that was the best heavyweight title fight in over two decades.
It also served as the official end to the nearly decade long Klitschko reign, and signaled what many believe is the beginning of the Anthony Joshua era. 90,000 fans packed in to a sold out Wembley Stadium to see these two warriors slug it out.
Klitschko was dropped and looked as though he would be stopped in the 5th round, only to answer back and seriously hurt Joshua that same round. Joshua was later dropped and also appeared to be on the verge of being knocked out. However, showing tremendous heart, Joshua ultimately was able to survive and stormed back to stop Klitschko.
It isn’t often that I immediately watch a fight again, but I did just that the morning after this epic battle. While nothing is certain in boxing, as any fight can end with one punch (especially with heavyweights), it appears that Anthony Joshua took the first step into what will be an all-time great career.
Fighter of the Year:
One of the two best fighters alive pound for pound, Crawford did something not done in boxing for over a decade, become the undisputed champion of a weight class. In boxing, the term undisputed champion is bestowed upon a fighter when they collect all of the major belts in one division (currently the WBC, WBO, WBA and IBF belts are acknowledged as the major belts in each weight class). Crawford accomplished this when he demolished unified champion Julius Indongo in August.
The last time a boxer was an undisputed champion was when Bernard Hopkins became the undisputed middleweight champion after defeating Oscar De La Hoya in 2004. This feat is truly impressive, and a testament to how dominant Crawford is. While his reign as undisputed champ didn’t last long (he recently announced he will be moving up to welterweight), it is still an incredible accomplishment.
His other win this year came against 2008 Olympic Gold Medalist Felix Diaz in May. Crawford is in the prime of his career and looks special.
If he dominates the welterweight divison the way he dominated junior welterweight and lightweight, he will have as good of an argument as anyone to win fighter of the decade for the 2010’s.
Runner Up: Vasyl Lomachenko
Lomachenko showed the world he is in a very elite class in terms of skills, capping of a great year by making fellow two-time Olympic gold medalist Guillermo Rigondeaux look like an amateur. Although Rigondeaux was moving up two weight classes, he was viewed by most as a top 10 fighter pound for pound, and the matchup was the first in boxing history between two, two-time Olympic Gold Medalists.
However, the fight quickly became a mismatch as Lomachenko’s skills seemed to be on another level. Lomachenko went 3-0 in 2017, and all 3 of his opponents quit, bringing his streak to 4 consecutive opponents quitting. In lieu of his opponents quitting, he has given himself the nickname ‘NoMasChenko’.
Lomachenko, like Crawford, is in his prime and appears to be special. It is going to take an equally special fighter, or a fighter with a noticeable size advantage to defeat him.
KO of the year:
Sor Rungvisai KO Roman Gonzalez
The one punch knockout alone was absolutely devastating, but the implications also were enormous. Coming into their first fight, Roman Gonzalez was the number one fighter pound for pound on almost everyone’s list. When he lost a very disputed decision to Sor Rungvisai, a rematch was demanded by almost everyone.
Signing up for a rematch would prove to be a terrible decision for the great Gonzalez. From the first round of the rematch, it was clear the Gonzalez seemed uncomfortable. He was badly cut in the first fight from head-butts, and when he was head-butted again in the rematch, it seemed to impact him negatively.
He was off his game the entire night, and Rungvisai was capitalizing. Winning the first three rounds, Rungvisai delivered an absolutely devastating one punch knockout in the 4th round that left Gonzalez motionless on the canvas. The punch alone was worthy of being KO of the year, but this punch also had significant impact on the sport of boxing.
It signified the end of Roman Gonzalez’s reign as pound for pound king, and probably the end of his time as a truly elite fighter. The four weight division champion appeared to be aging, and probably was fighting in a division too high. A comeback to the elite ranks of the super flyweight divison isn’t unfathomable, but doesn’t seem likely.
It is a shame that as soon as he was finally was getting the recognition he deserved, he was brutally knocked out on HBO for all to see. However, that is boxing, and that is why we watch. While much of the focus has been on the apparent end of Gonzalez, Rungvisai deserves enormous praise, he is a very good fighter who has a chance to have a great reign as champion.
Runner Up: Deontay Wilder KO Bermane Stiverne
Round of the year:
Anthony Joshua vs Wladimir Klitschko, Round 5
This was the best round in the Fight of the Year, so it is no surprise that it serves as the round of the year.
Round 5 started with Joshua landing a great 2 punch combination that dropped the veteran Klitschko. While Klitschko got up, he was cut and visibly hurt. Many thought this would mark the end of the fight, as Joshua looked to be in a great position to go for the kill.
The only problem with this was that Joshua appeared to have punched himself out, and the veteran Klitschko was able to recover somewhat quickly. Picking himself up off the canvas, Klitschko was able to collect himself, and then land massive shots on the clearly fatigued Joshua, and turn the tides in the fight. Joshua seemed to be one punch away from being dropped, however he managed to hear the bell and return to his corner.
The round started with Klitschko on the canvas, but ended with Joshua holding on for his life. This is the type of back and forth action that boxing fans yearn for.
Upset of the year:
Caleb Truax defeats James DeGale via Majority Decision
DeGale, the IBF super-middleweight champion, came in as a 1/100 favorite over challenger Caleb Truax. It was a homecoming of sorts for DeGale, his first fight in England since 2014. However, Truax did not come just for a payday, he came to win.
DeGale was viewed by many as the best super middleweight in the world. His fight before Truax was an excellent fight with TMT fighter Badou Jack, a hard fought draw which saw DeGale lose multiple teeth. An easier fight after such a brawl was warranted, however, DeGale appeared to have overlooked his opponent.
Caleb Truax, the 16/1 underdog, came in relatively unknown to the majority of boxing fans. Viewed by most as career journeyman, his most notable fights are TKO losses to Danny Jacobs and Anthony Dirrell, virtually no one thought he presented any sort of challenge for DeGale. Apparently, DeGale shared that line of thought, and appeared to overlook the Minnesotan, something no fighter should ever do, no matter what they think of their opponent.
It was clear that Truax did not take this fight for a payday, he expected to win and fought the type of fight he wanted to from the beginning. After pulling off the upset, Truax was asked about his confidence, and he said “they (Truax’s team) thought this was a guy I could beat! He was ripe for the picking after a lay-off … I came over with 100% confidence that I would be returning home with the belt.”
Clearly Truax and his team saw something that the rest of the world did not, as he earned a majority decision win and became the IBF super middleweight champion. As easy as it is to say that the upset happened because DeGale overlooked Truax, to say that is the only reason would discredit Truax. Truax fought a great fight, sticking to his gameplan and earning a win in the Champion’s hometown, very impressive.
DeGale is a very good fighter, and will likely bounce back, but this is a huge bump in the road for him. As for Truax, hopefully he gets a title defense for a large pay day, something he definitely earned.
Runner Up: Sadam Ali defeats Miguel Cotto
Comeback fighter of the year:
Plagued by inactivity for roughly 2 years, Mikey had only one return fight in 2016, simply to shake the rust off. After this warm up fight, Mikey showed why he is a pound for pound talent in 2017.
Returning to a world class level of opposition, Garcia brutally knocked out WBC lightweight champion Dejan Zlatičanin, becoming lightweight champion as well as making a case for knockout of the year. To follow up, Mikey decided to move up to junior welterweight and fight Adrien Broner.
Despite moving up in weight, Mikey completely outclassed Broner, winning a near shutout and showing the world he is among the best boxers pound for pound. It’s great to have Mikey back and fighting at the top level, as he is one of the best talents in the sport of boxing. Hopefully 2018 sees him in the ring with the likes of Jorge Linares and/or Vasyl Lomachenko.
Event of the Year:
Floyd Mayweather vs Conor McGregor
While this fight was viewed as a mismatch and a circus to boxing fans, the amount of buzz it generated cannot be understated. Mainstream sports media along with sports fans with limited to no boxing knowledge were intrigued by the matchup. All they saw were the faces of two combat sports fighting, one of which in their prime and the other coming out of a brief retirement.
In their minds, the old and inactive Mayweather was ripe for the picking. The press tour was an event in itself, as crowds in 4 cities packed in to see trash talking between two of the best trash talkers alive.
There is no point in talking much about the actual fight, Mayweather landed at will, and put on a show for fans. However, the fight generated 4.3 million PPV buys, the second most in the history of boxing. Love him or hate him, Mayweather showed he still is the face of boxing, and combat sports in general.
This event took over the sports world, it was the talk of every sports fan during the seemingly endless buildup. Here’s to hoping Mayweather stays retired, and McGregor stays in his own sport.
Runner Up: Anthony Joshua vs Wladimir Klitschko. 90,000 tickets were purchased, selling out Wembley Stadium. Joshua is a superstar in the U.K. and hopefully his popularity will carry over to this side of the pond.
2017 was nothing short of special for boxing. It delivered an abundance of amazing fights, many of which will be talked about for years to come. All boxing fans can hope for is for 2018 to pick up where 2017 left off.
As for some fights to look forward to in 2018, or at least fights to hope for, check out my boxing wishlist for 2018.