It’s been a fantastic year of boxing, 2018. Particularly in Britain, the sport continues to go from strength to strength. Champions were made, lost, and cemented. Big and small hall saw some fantastic battles by brave combatants, some stunning knockouts, and some moments of sheer madness.
Here, some of the Southpaw Jab team give their awards for the year just gone, with a bit of a small hall focus.
Fighter of the Year
The oft-repeated story behind Tyson Fury’s comeback is amazing and would have been so even had he lost to Deontay Wilder. He should have been awarded the decision and now is firmly back in the frame at the top of the heavyweight division.
I’m going to go small hall for this. For me it’s a middleweight toss up between Linus Udofia and Denzel Bentley. Udofia has skill in abundance. I always enjoy watching him fight and he’s getting better every time; the Haye link up will be significant.
Denzel Bentley is out regularly and stops almost everyone, taking a fight in November on two hours notice, and stopping the guy. Five knockouts in six wins over twelve months is astonishing. This is nigh on unheard of on the small hall scene, especially at middleweight. Next year is going to be exciting!
Written off against both Selby and Frampton (I was one of those who wrote him off), Warrington proved that he is world level. He deserves to enter 2019 as the man in the UK in the Featherweight division.
A clear cut winner. Since the end of 2017, Usyk has defeated four current or former world cruiserweight champions in their own backyards. In doing so, he unified the four main belts for the first time in the division’s history as well as winning the inaugural Muhammad Ali trophy (WBSS). This confirmed the Ukrainian as one of the world’s most complete fighters, and one of the best cruiserweights ever.
Trainer of the year
Lomachenko’s stable is comprised of only two fighters, but they are two of the very best on the planet. His unorthodox training methods and mind-puzzle fight preparation have given him a 5-0 record in 2018 as a trainer, and all those wins have come against current or former world champions.
Six world titles reside at Anatoly’s gym, the most recent addition being the WBO lightweight strap taken from Jose Pedraza by his son Vasyl Lomachenko. Other trainers have enjoyed more wins and possess far deeper stables, but none of them are defying physics and shocking the world quite like Anatoly’s fighters at the moment.
Admittedly a bit of an obvious pick, but he was doubted by so many (along with his charge, Tyson) at the start of 2018; that he got Fury from almost laughing stock to top of the world again has been exceptional work. Motivating and maintaining a friendship with Tyson seem to be the synergy and success of their work.
Although not a “trainer” in the coach sense of the word, Whyte’s sport science regime at Loughborough University is paying dividends. He was astute to self-assess and change things after his defeat to Anthony Joshua and regime change has made him a serious contender in the heavyweight division.
Fight of the Year
Tyson Fury versus Deontay Wilder/ Kirk Garvey versus Andre Sterling
World level I’ll go with Fury vs Wilder; the excitement, the drama, the controversy. Fury looking back to his best and Wilder proving that you can never count him out.
In person I was on the edge of my seat the whole way through Kirk Garvey vs Andre Sterling. Neither man gave an inch, neither man hid and it was a small hall classic.
World: Jessie Magdaleno versus Isaac Dogboe
Having known very little about Dogboe before the fight, his character on podcasts in the build up to this fight and his back story meant I was fully team Isaac for the fight. I stayed up, and the up and down win for the little Londoner had me screaming at my laptop. I got complaints from my neighbours. Bloody bedsits.
Small hall: Mark Little vs Tomislav Rudin
I’d never seen Mark Little fight before and he had Rudan, not a stranger to an upset on these shores, rocking early on. It looked like an early finish until Rudan rallied. The six rounder was an up and downer that could have ended any which way. As it was, Little went home with his 0 in tact, but boy what a bout! I now never miss Mark fight if I’m at York Hall.
Dillian Whyte versus Joseph Parker
Eddie Hearn was slated by fans, as per the dull routine, but this fight had everything. Knockdowns for both fighters as well as thrills, spills, skills and a tense finish. Dillian Whyte showed heart to get the job done with a broken hand and Parker tried to right the wrongs of his elusive performance against AJ.
Jack Hughes versus Ricky Little
Best fight, is a toss up between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder and “Dashing” Jack Hughes versus Ricky Little for the Southern Area Super Flyweight title at York Hall in December. It one of the most brutal ten round fights I’ve ever seen. Little came out the winner after both fighters, gave their all. As much as it wasn’t the result we at Southpaw Jab wanted, it was a really entertaining fight for the neutrals.
Oleksandr Usyk versus Murat Gassiev
There are so many fights in 2018 worthy of this award, but this one pips them all. The cruiserweight final of the massively successful World Boxing Super Series lived up to it’s billing; a battle of unbeaten world champions, each with two world titles to his name, in a winner-takes-all superfight. Hardly anyone could split them in the build up. Once the first bell rang the world stood and watched, jaws agape as Usyk produced a masterclass. In winning he unified all four belts and establish himself as as pound-for-pound superstar.
Best Performance 2018
Lomanchenko stops Linares
Jorge Linares is a special fighter. Unfortunately for him Vasiliy Lomanchenko is even more special. To stop the Venezuelan in ten after going down himself was immensely impressive..
Callum Smith beats George Groves
In the name of not awarding everything to Oleksandr Usyk, the other WBSS final in the tournament’s first season saw two boxers with very different journeys come together in a fascinating clash. Beforehand, Groves was favoured by most – his experience on the world stage, the calibre of opposition on his CV and the run of form he was on were considered greatly superior to those of Smith, whose career had suffered at the hands of last minute replacement opponents and one or two underwhelming performances.
So much for predictions. Smith produced a well-educated and confident performance to upset the odds and stop the favourite in the seventh round with a vicious hook to the body, becoming WBA, WBC and Ring Magazine super-middleweight champion. Not bad for a first world title fight.
World Stage; Fury versus Wilder
So many didn’t believe Fury could get back to his Klitschko conquering levels but in my eyes he surpassed those with his performance that night. If it wasn’t for some suspect judging Fury would have won the only world title belt that he hadn’t won yet and would have been seen by all clearly as the man at Heavyweight.
Domestic Level: Wadi Camacho wins Commonwealth
Domestic level I’m going to go with our own Wadi Camacho – EVERYONE wrote him off against Arfan Iqbal after their first fight. I’ve not missed a single fight of Wadi’s since we met and this night for the Commonwealth Title was the best I have seen him fight. Iqbal did not have a sniff of the fight. This is the Wadi that those who love him had been waiting to see again and he reared his head at the right time to cement his legacy thus far winning the Commonwealth title.
Biggest Robbery 2018
Frankly the lack of fair scoring at every level is distressing
From tip to toe it runs like poison through the veins of boxing, corroding our sport’s credibility and ruining careers.
Kev McCauley’s ridiculous loss to Tony Bange over four rounds at York Hall was a shocker, showing that home decisions start early. Then there’s Darryll Williams’ defeat in Glasgow on a Sauerland card to a Sauerland fighter he’d just beaten. At world level, Tyson Fury dropping to a draw in America, to an American, so that the Americans can have a lucrative rematch. Even I reconsidered why I report on boxing this year.
Darryll Williams versus Zach Parker
Darryll won that fight, everyone except the judges saw it that way. Yes Zach Parker injured his shoulder early in the fight but that shouldn’t take away from Darryll’s brilliant, hustling performance. November 3rd should have been the crowning night of Darryll’s career so far, yet it will no doubt be one of the most sour moments instead, whatever happens next.
Lewis Benson versus Tyrone McKenna
The Edinburgh man [Benson] out-jabbed and out-skilled a much taller opponent and made a mess of McKenna’s face in the process. He should have won by several rounds. Benson was so galled by the decision he threatened to retire in his post-match interview, while the interviewer, and all other pundits covering the fight, admitted they too had scored it to Benson.
Darryl Williams vs Zach Parker
A messy encounter, but one where Londoner Williams enjoyed the vast majority of the success, but lost. The split decision win for the Derbyshire man was greeted by deafening boos, and remains a stern reminder that in this sport, the bizarre and the unexpected is commonplace.
Runner up award goes to Deontay Wilder versus Tyson Fury. Despite suffering two knockdowns, Fury should now be two-time heavyweight champion of the world. Instead, some disgraceful judging saw his efforts only enough to secure him a draw, with an immediate rematch ordered for next year.
Darryll Williams/ Tyson Fury decisions
A two horse race between Tyson Fury and Darryll Williams. Both were robbed of clear wins. I think though, Daryll suffered most, because Fury at least came away with a draw and loads of money. Darryll got nothing from a fight that he won even clearer than Tyson.
Boxing’s Best & Worst Moments as a Sport
Dave Allen’s celebrations and Adonis Stevenson’s plight
Dave Allen’s heart-warming interview in the wake of his defeat of Nick Webb was a stand-out moment. Bookmakers had The White Rhino as a 4/1 outsider but a looping overhand right saw Allen fans collecting on their bet-slips. The resulting emotional interview from Dave Allen was honest and affecting.
The thoughts of everyone at Southpaw Jab go out to Adonis Stevenson, who is still comatose. Whatever you think of him, boxers take immense risks for our entertainment.
Women’s boxing’s growth, corruption, drugs cheats and more…
Women’s boxing continues to gain momentum. Boxers like Heather Hardy, Katie Taylor, Claressa Shields, Christina Hammer, Cecilia Braekhus and #TeamSouthpawJab’s own Hannah Rankin are flying the flag high at the moment, and often producing fights that outshine the men’s contests. More girls are taking up the sport than every before, and women are now getting a greater share of the airtime and the purses. A bright future lies ahead for the ladies.
Too many to go into great detail over. Corruption and drug cheating is still rife in the sport. Premium prices for an average product continue to hurt fans where it matters most (their pockets) and big events fail to live up to expectation. Social media trash talking has led boxers to say some inexcusable things. Perhaps most worryingly, amateur boxing has been momentarily suspended from the Olympics in Tokyo.
Wadi wins and Box Office fatigue
Personally, seeing Wadi win the Commonwealth title. Couldn’t have been happier for someone I consider a friend and my son calls “My Boxer Friend Wadi”.
Too many clashes of big fight nights and too many Box Office/Pay Per View events. I know clashes will happen but for the fan at home it leaves us in the awkward position of either choosing to only pay for on show or having to fork out double the amount to see both cards.
2018 WTF Moment
Having the final of the Super-Middleweight WBSS which was contested between two Brits in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Pink Tyson. Her very existence. The ludicrous claims of being a world champion, performing like anything but, not wearing a groin guard. Mostly though, her embarrassing ring walk sartorial stylings. She looked like a ten year old on a hospital ward; teddy bear in hand and a pink fluffy dressing gown. I was sat with a genuine women’s world champion, she had her head in her hands.
It’s tight between Jason Welborn’s unexpected world title tilt and Tony Bellew’s switch-hitting in the early rounds against Usyk. Who’d have thought that Tony Bellew could have been outboxing Usyk, however briefly. Though Welborn wins.
Tommy Coyle pulling down the shorts of Eddie Hearn to reveal his naked behind to the entire world. That or Fuaad Husseen, a 3-0 prospect nicknamed “The Pirate” in acknowledgement of his Somalian roots, being carried to the ring in the modestly sized York Hall on a fully decorated pirate ship.
2018 SHOUT OUTS!
And finally! Our little 2018 shout outs, moments and fighters who inspired us.
To have lost your first fight and then at only twenty one years old, Ricky Heavens faced a very difficult Victor Edgaha. Edgaha, who only a week earlier got his first win with a brutal knockout, made it a very difficult fight for Heavens. After the fight it was disclosed that Ricky was really quite ill, but in his own words “there was no way I wasn’t fighting”. Top man.
Already a two-weight world champion prior to 2018, Naoya Inoue made the big step up to bantamweight in May this year to face Jamie McDonnell for the WBA title. Questions over whether his destructive power would follow him up in weight were swept aside with a first round knockout, earning him a third weight world title in four years, and he made an already-exciting WBSS bantamweight tournament even more exciting when he announced he would be taking part. Another first round demolition job over never-previously-stopped Juan Carlos Payano in the quarter final will have put the rest of the division on red alert.
This is not a drill; Inoue is for real.
Similar to Matt… This knockout. Wow.
In terms of reputation Michael Hunter has hoisted his name up the flagpole of the heavyweight division. He might be a little small to take on the division’s giants but he has forced fans and fighters to take notice after beating both Martin Bakole and Alexander Ustinov from the away corner, with only a couple of weeks between the fights. His stock has risen dramatically.
He’s never in the home corner, but he’s so entertaining he gets more support than a lot of the “prospects”. Taking to the ring in a dressing gown, flat cap sporting his trademark moustache, “Poochi” Lewis Van Poetsch is great fun to watch and after fighting over thirty times in 2018, one fight shy of his century! Poochi, we salute you!
What were your moments of 2018? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.