The year 2017 has been a stellar year in many ways for the sport of boxing. Scores have been settled, stars have emerged, women’s boxing rapidly developing and many other aspects of the sport held in a positive light. The UK circuit remains powerful, the U.S chasing the Brits and not the opposite (refreshing change if you look back on history) and overall the sport held in a much higher standing. This year has seen tremendous performances, upsets, unification bouts and the outright crazy in equal measure. The HitHardNews management has decided to launch our inaugural end of year awards to celebrate our first full calendar year (January-December) in operation following our launch in March of 2016. There are 17 award winners which we will be unveiling in this article after many hours of deliberation, some celebrating genuine excellence, some light-hearted and some not so much in a positive light.
Fight Of The Year: Anthony Joshua v Wladimir Klitschko (April 29th, Wembley Stadium)
April 29th saw history be made in front of our very own eyes in the height of spring. The world heavyweight title showdown (Joshua’s IBF & vacant WBA & WBO titles) was on the lips of not only the boxing community but on the streets nationwide in the United Kingdom. A clash of the new guard versus the apparent “old”, Olympic gold medalist versus Olympic gold medalist, east versus west but ultimately (due to the then issues with lineal title holder Tyson Fury) the number one v number two heavyweights in the world. There was a lot of promise from the promoter of the event, Eddie Hearn, who was confident in the fight playing out into an entertaining competitive contentest which had sold record ticket sales for a boxing event domestically along with UK PPV purchases. The contest had all the hype and world’s expectations resting on these two’s individual’s shoulders to deliver, and it did in abundance.
Joshua v Klitschko has gone down in history as the most entertaining modern world heavyweight title contest, which had heart, excellence, knockdowns, pride and passion throughout. You had the superior boxing technique of the elder statesman in Klitschko and rawness and heart of Joshua meeting head-on producing a thriller for the ages. Both men hit the canvas, rose, fought on through adversity as they both became swollen, sore and bruised as both men were desperate to succeed. Klitschko tasted the canvas first in round five, stepping up his workload and began seriously hurting a visibly tiring Joshua, before landing a right hand from the gods flush on the chin of Anthony at the beginning of the sixth round with Joshua sprawled across the ring virtually in the lap of promoter Eddie Hearn. From that point onwards it was battle of attrition, thunder and lightning with Joshua hanging on and on for his second wind, which came shortly after. The pair fought hard, very very very hard, putting effort after effort into every shot looking for that one finishing blow. Joshua was to hit the jackpot and victory in the eleventh round knocking down Klitschko twice, hitting him with everything he could muster in terms of power and accuracy, with Wladimir cornered, forcing the official in-charge to wave off the contest to the admiration of 90,000 people at Wembley. My words cannot give this fight justice as it really was a thrilling entity of epic proportions, which will only be topped domestically in the UK with Joshua featuring against Deontay Wilder but most importantly Tyson Fury.
UK Fighter Of The Year: Ryan Burnett
Ryan Burnett has had the year of his career to date, with the sharpest upward trajectory of any domestic UK fighter in recent times. Ryan started the year as British bantamweight champion likely to be facing Josh Wale in a mandatory defence of his British title is now IBF & WBA world champion. Ryan won these world titles back to back firstly beating Bristol’s Lee Haskins in June in a comprehensive fashion, beating Britain’s most over-looked world title holder with ease. We understand that there were claims from the Haskin’s camp that he sustained an injury during the contest of which we accept, but no-one had ever come close to beating Haskins like that it was a tremendous performance which meant a lot not only to the 25-year-old, Adam Booth also. Adam is seen by many as a father figure to Ryan such is the pair’s close bond. Following on from this Burnett took on WBA “super” world bantamweight titleholder Zhanat Zhakiyanov in October, in a much more gruelling, attritional affair which Burnett had not experienced in his pro career at that point. It was a test which Burnett passed with fly-colours claiming a unanimous decision adding back to back world titles.
International Fighter Of The Year: Terence Crawford
Terence Crawford once again showed as to why his excellence within the square circle demonstrating why it will take a hell of a fighter to defeat the Nebraska native. Arguably the worlds recognised pound for pound number one ranked fighter added a further stake to this claim, by unifying and becoming the undisputed super-lightweight world champion. Terence followed a very successful 2016 by completing and achieving what every fighter wishes to achieve by becoming an undisputed world champion. Following his capture of the WBC title last year against rival Viktor Postol to add alongside his WBO title, defeated Julius Indongo in August of this year in clinical and devastating fashion. Indongo who was fresh off the back of a comprehensive victory over Ricky Burns to claim the WBA title whilst defending his IBF title was blitzed inside three rounds. Crawford thus becoming the first undisputed world champion in the sport for twelve years, since Jermain Taylor became the undisputed middleweight world champion in 2005. Crawford has since vacated his titles and will be making the jump up to the welterweight division, where he is already the mandatory challenger to WBO world titleholder Jeff Horn.
UK Female Fighter Of The Year: Chantelle Cameron
Chantelle Cameron is in our opinion arguably the most overlooked female fighter in the country signed to a major promoter. Chantelle is overlooked by Katie Taylor and Natasha Jonas who have the power of Sky Sports and Matchroom Boxing behind them and rightly so, they are both exceptional fighters. However, our pick of Cameron we feel is justified following her transformation from the amateur game to the pro ranks. Cameron just like her former team GB teammate Jonas has had tremendous rise from obscurity to the masses to cementing her position as not only a talented fighter (which is not in question) but a popular fighter to boot. Having turned professional in May of this year with Cyclone Promotions already has the IBO world female lightweight title to her name and firmly cementing herself amongst the premier fighters in the division. Talented and exciting to watch with her naturally aggressive front foot style, is technically sound, accurate and intelligent with her ringcraft. Out of all the British female fighters to turn professional in 2017, Cameron is in our minds the pick of the bunch following a decorated amateur career and still only twenty-six years old, still has time to develop and hit the straps running in her peak in the coming years.
International Female Fighter Of The Year: Cecilia Brækhus
Cecilia Brækhus once again remains female boxings pound for pound number one ranked fighter, holding the honour and reward of excellence of being the only currently active undisputed world champion and the only woman in history to achieve such feats within the sport. Norway’s Brækhus has fought three times this year, twice against her Nordic rivals Klara Svensson and Mikaela Lauren and a shut-out points victory over former two-weight world title holder Erica Anabella Farias. Brækhus not only just a successful is making her mark in the promotional game also with her promotional firm First Lady Promotions. Now 36 years old, Cecilia is now entering towards the end of her career on paper, however, due to her excellence, ringcraft and intelligence which has seen her unscathed in many a fight could easily box on till she reaches 40 years old or longer.
Promoter Of The Year: Frank Warren
This to many can be seen as a controversial choice for many which we can understand. Matchroom Boxing and Golden Boy Promotions, for example, have promoted arguably the more glamorous headline act cards, which cannot be denied. However, we feel Frank Warren overall has had the overall stronger cards and the best progression over the past twelve months. Firstly Warren has secured himself and his stable a major network deal with BT Sport (albeit late in 2016, however, wouldn’t be launched till April 8th, 2017) which has allowed his fighters to showcase themselves on arguably if figures are to believed, Britain’s most accessible sports network. This deal has also allowed Frank to showcase fights to their ultimate potential such as Liam Smith v Liam Williams, Josh Warrington v Kiko Martinez to name but a few examples. Furthermore Frank has attracted three of Britain’s highest-profile fighters in the form of Lee Selby, James DeGale and Carl Frampton into his stable with the aid of BT Sport and their impact so far into the sport.
The card’s which have been promoted throughout the year by Warren have been strong throughout in comparison to UK rival Eddie Hearn, giving fans their money’s worth either in attendance or at home. Frank Warren has made it clear that he does not wish to rest on his laurels and is promising an even more successful 2018, with fights between Josh Warrington v Lee Selby & Carl Frampton v Nonito Donaire already close to being officially scheduled for the first half of 2018.
Non-Televised Promoter Of The Year: Stefy Bull Promotions
Stefy Bull and his Stefy Bull Promotions outfit in our opinion has had a successful year as a promoter with the quality of his promotions at his regular haunt of the Doncaster Dome. Stefy has promoted on only four cards this calendar year however everyone has been of serious quality. His promotions this year have showcased English title bouts with Robbie Barrett, Josh Wale, Samir Mouneimne and Lee Appleyard in good competitive bouts fit for television. Furthermore alongside these Stefy also promoted Josh Wale’s British bantamweight title challenge against Jamie Wilson on his own promotion on July the 1st, without the assistance of television to finance the fight and card. The promotions throughout the year have not only shown title fights but showcasing some of his many up and coming talents from his stable such as Lewis Booth, Terri Harper, Anthony Tomlinson, Ross Blackwell to name but a few. Furthermore, Stefy has also generated opportunities for his promoted fighters to showcase themselves on television, the highlight case of Robbie Barrett featuring on Sky Sports in his previous two outing with his Sky Sports debut coming April 15th with a victory over Scott Cardle to claim the British title.
Furthermore to add, Stefy has signed more talents to his promotional stable in recent months with the likes of Harper, Maxi Hughes, Curtis Woodhouse, Muma Mweemba, Christian Kinsiona, Ross Blackwell and Kyle Yousaf who will be featuring prominently on his future promotions in the coming weeks and months.
Performance Of The Year: Billy Joe Saunders v David Lemieux (December 16th)
The performance of the year award is awarded to WBO world middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders for his performance against David Lemieux, which was not only dominating but technically superb. Billy Joe Saunders demonstrated the art of hit and not be hit and was beautiful to watch from a purist standpoint, but also entertaining to witness as Saunders played the matador while Lemieux played the bull.
The showing from Saunders wasn’t him running away from Lemieux but showing extreme skill in gauging the distance, allowing himself on the first glance to be in the apparent pocket of Lemieux. Billy, however, was just that small margin out of the reach of Lemieux along with the fainting and movements of Saunders, demonstrating the full potential that everyone on the UK circuit has heard of for arguably the first time in his career to date.
Breakthrough Fighter Of The Year: Lewis Ritson
Lewis Ritson has been awarded our breakthrough fighter of the year award due to his announcement of himself to the masses in his maiden TV outing of his career against British lightweight titleholder Robbie Barrett on October 7th. Ritson who till that point thought on the small hall circuit in the North-East of England and Scotland, was clinical and devastating, knocking down Barrett now fewer than four times inside seven rounds to claim the British title.Ultimately Barrett was withdrawn from the contest to fight another day. It was arguably most explosive and ultimately impressive TV debut witnessed in the last five years, with Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing snapping up Ritson to a promotional deal with himself the very next day. Ritson who hasn’t had the backing of the team GB amateur set-up, regular TV coverage or exposure, has been handled by Phil Jeffries superbly so far in his career. Ritson along with Rio 2016 Olympian Josh Kelly and Thomas Patrick Ward will be the main protagonists to increase the exposure of boxing in the North-East of England.
Trainer Of The Year: Shane McGuigan
Shane is often regarded as one of the best up and coming trainers in the country will surely be leaving that moniker behind him as he further solidifies his standing and reputation on the scene as a trainer. The son of Barry has had a tremendous year with the likes of George Groves who won his first world title, Josh Taylor’s continued rise to stardom captivated with his fantastic grudge match victory over Ohara Davies and Chantelle Cameron, who after turning professional in May claimed her maiden world title.
Critics will be eager to jump on the fact that McGuigan was involved with the defeats of Carl Frampton and David Haye, however his mentioned successes in our opinion outweigh the blips on the card marked for this year.
Alongside the successes above, Shane, is leading the way as a trainer to the talented pairing of Lee McGregor and Chris Billiam-Smith.
UK Upset Of The Year: Caleb Truax v James DeGale (December 9th)
The largest upset victory to take place on UK shores has been awarded to American Caleb Truax for his victory over James DeGale to claim the IBF world super-middleweight title as a huge underdog against all the odds. Fighting overseas is always a daunting proposition for fighters as it is a trip into the unknown, Truax, however, took everything in his stride and fought fire with fire taking the initiative against DeGale. Truax made DeGale fight “his” fight and made life extremely uncomfortable in a gritty, attritional and imposing nature against DeGale. People have decided to discredit Truax for the showing insisting that James is still not “injury free” or “fight ready” which in our mind is extremely harsh on the American. A rematch is likely to take place at some time in 2018 between the pair following the discovery of a rematch clause between the pair if DeGale was to have been defeated.
International Upset Victory Of The Year: Srisaket Sor Rungvisai v Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez (March 18th & September 9th)
The international upset victory of the year award has been awarded to Thailand’s Sirsaket Sor Rungvisai following his two victories over previously world acclaimed number one ranked pound for pound fighter Roman Gonzalez. Rungvisai was on both occasions a huge underdog in both contests, with the WBC world super-flyweight title on the line on both occasions. Rungvisai claimed a majority decision points victory over Gonzalez in March in a battling, gutsy and at times bloody encounter to shock the world. In the rematch in September, Rungvisai, produced a career-best showing by dominating the rematch and knocking out Gonzalez in four rounds.
Knockout Of The Year: Mikey Garcia v Dejan Zlaticanin (January 28th)
Mikey Garcia has been awarded knockout of the year with his powerful but technically brilliant 3rd knockout of then WBC world lightweight champion Dejan Zlaticanin in Las Vegas. Garcia who for the opening two rounds demonstrated why he is highly regarded and a previous two-weight world champion, speed, accuracy, variations and always one step ahead of Zlaticanin. The third round with 45 seconds remaining saw Garcia produce a moment of pure technical brilliance to produce this unanswered six punch finish.
Disappointing Fight Of The Year: Saul “Canelo” Alvarez v Jullio Chavez Jr (May 6th)
Cinco De Mayo is usually the Mexican bank holiday of all Mexican battles inside the squared circle. Time after time we have some of Mexico’s greatest fighter produce the goods in epic affairs, sadly Canelo v Chavez Jr wasn’t them fights. In fact, it is hard to remember anything about the fight itself other than how the hell did Chavez Jnr get down to the agreed weight limit of 164lbs (despite regular inactivity, weight issues and having boxed as high as light-heavyweight in recent years). It was a shrewd move by promoters Golden Boy Promotions of which sold big numbers of PPV’s, tickets, merchandise and international tv rights for the fight. However, after its much-publicised hype, it simply was a one-way procession with Canelo dominating from round one to twelve.
Embarrassing Figure Of The Year: David Higgins
Duco Events very own David Higgins has had a stellar year as the promoter of WBO world heavyweight titleholder Joseph Parker. He has backed his man with his cheerleading and singing his praises at every opportunity possible, making himself a media sweetheart because he is always good for a quote. However, his behaviour in the public eye is simply cringeworthy. Hastily held press conferences held in “Broom Cupboards”, public negotiations for fights, criticism of fighters, criticism of fellow promoters, criticism of fans of Anthony Joshua, turning up to press conferences under “some” influence at his own fighter’s press conference and being escorted out of the building in five minutes, creating a lovely video monologue of apparent exclusive footage of Anthony Joshua sparring when in fact nothing new had been inserted. Those are just some of our personal highlights.
Our good mate Higgo is certainly a character however he is like that embarrassing uncle who just keeps rambling on and on with drivel at a family wedding or family occasions. The uncle who you only see on special occasions for a reason, he just gets under your skin just a little too much. However, as much as we can criticize he has done a tremendous job so far with Parker, virtually securing a career-high payday with Anthony Joshua for 2018.
What The Fuck Moment Of The Year: Adalaide Byrd’s Golovkin v Canelo scorecard & Andres Guiterrez TKO via shower.
The HitHardNews what the fuck moment of the year is a joint award, as we could decide which moment above made us go WTF the most. One is a serious issue and one is a lot more tongue in cheek.
September 16th saw boxing’s most anticipated fight globally take place for many a year. Golovkin v Canelo was a fight which everyone was expecting, it got to the stage where there were tribes of Golovkin fans and Canelo fans similar to what Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao both had. The fight lived up to expectations of its competitiveness and everyone who witnessed the fight on TV or at the venue enjoyed it but claimed Golovkin a very very worthy winner. No-one told judge Adelaide Byrd the script, however, scoring the fight 118-110 in favour of Canelo. Ourselves and you know a few things about boxing and after watching the contest back several times cannot come up with a scorecard which even comes close to Mrs Bryd’s scorecard. We might sound bitter or be classed as fanboys of Golovkin, but a scorecard that bad begs the question to Mrs Byrd “Are you inept at your role or are you corrupt, you cannot be both.”
Our second WTF moment of the year is Argentinian featherweight Andres Guiterrez’s notorious battle with a Belfast hotel room shower on July 28th. Guiterrez who earlier that day had done all the hard work by correctly making the agreed weight limit of 126lbs to face Carl Frampton. Seemingly all that he had to do was remain on his feet, refuel, relax and wait till fight night the following day on the 29th. Well taking a shower can be a little bit tricky dropping bars of soap or various products entering the eyes such as soap, gels and shampoo affecting the vision. Guiterrez who still hasn’t explained of how the event happened in detail, fell in the shower, breaking teeth and causing injury to his nose, jaw, cheeks along with severe bruising and cuts on his facial features.
The injuries were so bad he was declared medically unfit to fight Carl Frampton, added insult to injury saw promoters Cyclone Promotions cancel the whole promotion which was due to take place the following day.
The Most Shameful Moment Of The Year: Leon Lawson (May 20th, Uzcátegui v Dirrell)
This year’s most disgusting and shameful moment came courtesy of the trainer and uncle of Andre Dirrell, Leon Lawson. This individual thought it was acceptable following his nephew’s DQ victory over Uzcátegui (wrongly) to assault the defenceless Uzcátegui with a volley of punches and causing a brawl inside the ring. We feel that should explain why Mr Lawson has been picked.
The Sauerland Brothers for helping to bring the world boxing super series, we would have had the WBSS as the promoter of the year however due to its “Tournament” status and not a promoter, is the reason why it could not have been awarded to the WBSS or Sauerland.
Josh Wale for achieving his childhood dreams and becoming a worthy British title holder and getting his career back on track after a frustrating couple of years.
Vasyl Lomachenko for being Lomachenko and displaying excellence once again this year.
Tony Bellew for proving once again that bodies dont win fights, fists do with victory over David Haye to silence his critics who claimed it would a two fight beat-down in favour of Haye.
Mark Bateson for continuing to promote boxing at the Elland Road Pavillion following stricter licencing requirements from Leeds City Council regarding tickets and security following an out-of-town white collar promoter promoting a show at the venue..with a riot breaking out enforcing the new measures onto Bateson. However, Bateson and his promotions continue to flourish in the Leeds area.
BT Sport for investing into the sport of boxing with their hook-up with promoter of the year winner Frank Warren. The platform allowing Frank to further attract interest from fighters into fighting on the BT Sport platform.
Tom Loeffler for the creation of the Superfly series, which showcase the top fighters from one of the most intriguing divisions in the whole of boxing.
Robbie Barrett for his impressive upset victory over Scott Cardle to claim the British lightweight title in April away from home in Glasgow. This despite being on the floor twice to win a convincing points victory and ensure celebrations which lasted long into the night (The editor’s head still hurts from that night).
Edward Hearn of Matchroom Boxing for delivering the biggest fight in British boxing history with Anthony Joshua’s epic encounter with Wladimir Klitschko.
Hughie Fury who for many of us, won his WBO world heavyweight title clash with Joseph Parker with ease. How it was never awarded to Hughie will remain a mystery to many.
Tyson Fury for sorting his issues out with UKAD as a return to the sport looks nailed on.