Best Still Yet to Come: The TSS 2018 Mid-Year Awards & Review

While some of the biggest and most important fights in boxing continue to get pushed to the back burner of 2019 and beyond by greedy promoters and selfishly avoidant fighters, calendar year 2018 came out swinging with some excellent results inside and outside the ring.

In March, World Heavyweight Champion Anthony Joshua added another belt to his growing collection, decisioning Joseph Parker in a unanimous affair to claim the Kiwi’s WBO title in Cardiff. AJ is in shaky negotiations for an undisputed unification showdown with American WBC champ Deontay Wilder. That’s a MEGA FIGHT if it happens, preferably at Wembley Stadium.

Wilder did his part in March at Barclays in Brooklyn, beating down undefeated Cuban boogeyman Luis Ortiz over ten compelling rounds but not before proving his own championship resolve in a rough and stumble seventh round scored 10-8 for Ortiz by all three ringside judges.

According to ESPN, talks between the camps hit a wall on Wednesday, June 27 (the 30th anniversary of Tyson-Spinks) with both sides expressing bitter disappointment on Twitter. If nothing changes, Joshua looks to be moving towards the fall challenge of Alexander Povetkin.

Terence Crawford stopped Jeff Horn in June to become WBO welterweight champion, his first world title in the loaded 147-pound weight class. Many are now saying the Nebraskan American “BUD” has the best P4P stuff in the world. Crawford has done absolutely nothing to prove them wrong. TC strikes like an assassin without weakness. Unfortunately, a prime versus prime unification matchup with IBF titlist Errol Spence Jr. looks unlikely to materialize anytime soon.

Maybe Essex’s Eddie Hearn can help.

In May, the relentless promoter announced the formation of Matchroom USA, a bold attempt to export the thriving British boxing experience to the United States for sixteen Hearn-promoted shows a year in the U.S. featuring his top available talent in their best matchups. American fans are hopeful Hearn can deliver where others like Arum, Oscar, and Haymon have failed them. Hearn warned his competitors it’s now “open season” on all free agent fighters in America.

YOUR TSS 2018 MID-YEAR AWARDS 

Best Fight

Jarrett Hurd SD 12 Erislandy Lara, April 7, 2018, Las Vegas: ​In a beautifully spirited super welterweight unification bout aired on SHO, IBF champion “Swift” Hurd lived up to his reputation as an American pressure fighter who eventually catches up to you. With his size, creative tats and orange day-glo hair, it’s a good thing too because Hurd looks the part of an action hero.

Against Lara, a pure southpaw boxer, roles were reversed often as the ordinarily mobile Cuban stood his ground in defense of his WBA title using an arsenal of straights lefts, left hooks and left uppercuts. It’s not that Hurd wasn’t hitting Lara back, it’s that Lara was almost always taking it well enough and dishing it back even better. It showed on the swollen right eye of Lara in the ninth and in the fact that the younger Hurd needed eleventh hour heroics to pull out the victory.

Late in the twelfth, Hurd broke through, battering Lara to the canvas with a bloody assault capped off by a left hook; turning the tables on his lefty nemesis. Blinded, Lara got up at six, stalled for a second or two and then survived the last twenty ticks not by running or bike riding but by trading punches along the ropes until the final bell.

Without the dramatic knockdown, the fight is ruled a majority draw with no winner or proper unification resolution. With it, Hurd wins a legit split 114-113, 113-114 and 114-113 to unify two world titles; effectively putting his WBC counterpart Jermell Charlo on notice.

“I’m No. 1 now. We’re calling the shots.”

Next Best: ​Adonis Stevenson D 12 Badou Jack, May 19, Toronto, Canada. In a quality WBC light heavyweight title contest marred only by the majority draw verdict, 40-year-old “Superman” showed why he’s been so tough to beat for so long now. He’s a power puncher to the body with better punch resistance than he’s currently given credit for. Jack couldn’t crack the champ’s chin and it was the challenger ripped up downstairs and backing up in the championship rounds.

Top Fighter

Vasyl Lomachenko: ​The Ukrainian sensation made boxing history at Madison Square Garden in May, fast rising from his first ever knockdown at the skilled hands of Jorge Linares to win the world lightweight title; making Loma a three-division champion in just twelve pro bouts while simultaneously exposing a glitch in the matrix. Considered by many to be the top P4P talent in boxing, Lomachenko (aka #NoMasChenko) has a reputation for making good fighters quit.

It was the body chopped liver of Linares that tapped out against Loma. It remains to be seen if Lomachenko’s right shoulder will present future problems. After injuring it in the Linares fight, Lomachenko, 30, went under the blade for a torn labrum, never a good thing for any athlete. Named the BWAA 2017 Fighter of the Year, what if he’s now never as good as he was then?

Next Best: ​Errol Spence. The new IBF welterweight champion started the new year off strong in January, retiring Lamont Peterson in the corner after seven rounds to retain his title. Spence followed that up in June with an easy Texas homecoming against Carlos Ocampo. There is a growing desire to see Spence Jr., 28, involved in key fights before he’s past his peak.

Knockout

Dillian Whyte KO 6 Lucas Browne: ​Some knockouts in boxing are things of beauty. Consider Robinson-Fullmer II or Marciano-Walcott I for the title. Other times, they’re like slo-mo car wrecks and you should look away from the carnage. British heavyweight Dillian Whyte’s March 24 mashup of Australian Lucas Browne at the O2 in London was neither artistic nor beautiful but it was conclusive. For five rounds, Whyte turned Browne red, making a gory mess of his face.

In the sixth, Whyte went for the kill, punctuated by a lethal left hook that nearly took Browne’s bald head off. Browne’s limp frame crashed upon the canvas, face first, KTFO as they say.

Ain’t gonna be no rematch.

Honorable Mention: ​Gennady Golovkin KO 2 Vanes Martirosyan, May 5, Carson, CA. The middleweight champion hadn’t scored a KO in two years, having been extended by Danny Jacobs and Canelo Alvarez. Martirosyan, sub for a suspended Canelo, had never been stopped; standing up to the power of Demetrius Andrade and Jermell Charlo. After taking a full ten count from the two fisted fury of Triple G, Martirosyan likened it to being struck by a train.

Significant Event

Presidential Pardon of Jack Johnson: ​Say what you will about the reigning and defending President of the United States but the man loves his boxing. Already a member of two fistic Halls of Fame, Donald J. Trump made his case for Canastota at the White House on May 24.

Flanked by former champion Lennox Lewis, current champion Deontay Wilder and movie champ Sylvester “Rocky” Stallone, President Trump posthumously pardoned the “Galveston Giant” Jack Johnson, boxing’s first black World Heavyweight Champion. The POTUS did so with a green World Boxing Council (WBC) heavyweight title belt sitting on his Oval Office desk. Only in America.

Honorable Mention: ​Surprise Announcement of Canelo-Golovkin II.​ ​Taking a page or two from the #BombSquad school of suspenseful hashtagging on Twitter, Golden Boy & K2 Promotions announced #CaneloGGG2 via an unexpected Oscar De La Hoya tweet on Wednesday afternoon, June 13. It didn’t help me forgive ​Adalaide Byrd ​or forget Cinco De Clenbuterol.

Alvarez will again face Gennady Golovkin in a now over-marinated “all about the money” rematch September 15 on HBO PPV. Barring a GGG KO in the 13th round, cynical insiders expect Golovkin to be leaving Las Vegas a robbed ex-champ; albeit a very well paid one.

Comeback

Tyson Fury: ​Depending on who you ask, the “Gypsy King” is either still the undefeated (26-0) heavyweight champion of the world or he’s at least a big fat piece in the lucrative heavyweight puzzle that today includes Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder—and few others, if any.

In the case of Fury’s comeback, it’s not who he fought (Sefer Seferi) or what happened when he did (Tyson kissed and clowned before his handpicked cruiserweight foe quit on cue after four) but just that Fury ​got off the damn couch to exercise his educated fists and priceless lips.

Ending nearly three years of unhealthy inactivity stretching back to his drab November 2015 title victory against Wladimir Klitschko, Fury, 29, started this comeback from his own demons on June 9 in Manchester. You can follow Fury’s bollocks on his hyperactive Instagram account.

Honorable Mention:​ Amir Khan. Out of the ring for two years after being knocked out cold by Canelo Alvarez in 2016, Khan made easy work of Phil Lo Greco in his Liverpool homecoming on April 21. If his suspect chin holds up, Khan’s best may be yet to come. He’s still only 31. Viable future welterweight opponents likely include Kell Brook and potentially Errol Spence Jr.

Best Three Minutes

Deontay Wilder vs. Luis Ortiz (Round 7): ​If you can impress “The Fighter” Micky Ward, you’ve done something extraordinary. The simmering pace of a red hot WBC heavyweight title fight erupted late in the seventh round when Ortiz started landing straight lefts to Wilder’s chin and nearly everything he threw to the body. Wilder was rocked—trying to clinch but deciding to punch. With millions at stake in a future superfight with Anthony Joshua, Deontay dug deep.

“Wilder showed something he didn’t show in any of his other fights,” said Ward. “He got hurt and he fought back. He showed he has balls and heart. He has the will. He’ll come back. He doesn’t just talk smack,” Ward says. “That shows me, and I know from being in there, he’s a warrior.”

Biggest Upset

Roberto Ramirez TKO 2 Dejan Zlaticanin: ​Comebacking from a 2017 title loss to Mikey Garcia, former WBC lightweight champion “Dynamite” Zlaticanin got blasted; suffering a broken nose, a busted jaw and two knockdowns on a June 21 DiBella promoted Broadway show in Queens. Zlaticanin’s 18-2-1 (13) Mexican opponent “Rifle” Ramirez once dropped a decision to Carlos Ocampo in Tijuana. Yes, that Carlos Ocampo. Zlaticanin defeated Ricky Burns in 2014 before outclassing an undefeated Ivan Redkach in 2015 on the Wilder-Molina undercard.

At 34, Zlaticanin looks washed up.

Next Biggest Surprise: ​Jaime Munguia TKO 4 Sadam Ali. Fresh off his upset of Miguel Cotto last year, “World Kid” Ali got tuned up on HBO at the Turning Stone Casino in upstate New York. This was a WBO 154 lb. title bout nearly everyone assumed would be won handily by Ali, the defending champ. Munguia dominated. Though 28-0, the Mexican challenger had never fought in the U.S. and was considered far too inexperienced to stand in for Canelo against Golovkin.

Top Prospect

Nico Hernandez: This talented little 5-0 (4) flyweight can fight but you’ve probably not seen him do it yet. That’s because for now he only boxes in what some Americans might call flyover country. The 22-year-old 2016 Olympic Bronze Medalist from Wichita, Kansas already holds a minor world title in his opportunistically lean weight class, stopping flyweight vet Szilveszter Kanalas in the first of a scheduled twelve rounder. Boxrec rates Hernandez number 113 at flyweight.

Although fighting at home suits him just fine, Hernandez will probably have to travel the world again like an Olympian to better his fistic fortunes and elevate his world rating. Don’t tell him that though. “My plan is to do it here like Terence Crawford has done it in Omaha.”

Hernandez was 2-0 with two knockouts in the first half of this year after debuting in March of 2017 at the Kansas Star Arena. Hall of Fame referee Steve Smoger worked both outings. Nico is promoted by John Anderson’s KO Night Boxing.

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