In a year of cherry picking, trash talking, and broken promises 2016 will quickly fade in memories as old calendars get taken off the wall and replaced with new ones. The previous three years saw a rise in great match-ups making the sport’s popularity ascend to loftier goals reminiscent of the fabulous 80’s. While crying over spilled Vodka never helps the carpet, I refill my glass and raise a toast to fans of Ringside Report and the brave boxers who risk their lives in search of glory in hopes that ’17 barnstorms back to fruition.
Impossible to recap every fight I’ll attempt to shine some retrospective light on the headlines we talked about including the chaos, mayhem, and pathetic choices many of our heroes elected to make to accompany the stellar highlights and sensational knockouts that took our breath away.
Let’s start with the big men and work backwards down the weight scale. There used to be an old adage in boxing that where the heavyweight champ went, so did boxing. Somehow with the retirement of Lennox Lewis way back in 2003 no big man has loomed larger than the sport itself. The long domination of Wladimir Klitschko who owned all three major belts was as boring as watching paint dry. While he was known for having a fragile set of whiskers, he ruled over a weak era of heavyweights who failed to capitalize on previously exposed flaws.
Enter Tyson Fury, a huge clown carnival barker with zero talent outside the remarkable ability to promote himself. He managed to dethrone Wlad a year ago with the greatest con job ever witnessed by this scribe inside a ring. For reasons known only to God and Klitschko himself, as to why he was suckered into thinking he was fighting a vintage George Foreman. With the rematch clause in place and big brother Vitali hanging his head in shame, Klitschko needed to prove to the world that the previous dozen years weren’t a con job of his own. Fury crashed in his private life as well as in the gym when another old adage snuck up to bite him on the ass. “Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.”
Unable to comprehend his good fortune and doing some soul searching realizing the grift wouldn’t work twice he indulged himself in cocaine, drinking and eating binges while avoiding the gym and proper preparation to defend titles. There were postponements due to injuries. Then failed drug tests. The promotion was almost unsalvageable as Fury was forced to vacate belts rather than to see them all stripped. End game. Fury is finished and he knows it. Good riddance. While I wish him well on his road to recovery and pray the “man” finds peace within himself and those that share his life, I truly despised his outlandish comments on the sport, his adversaries, and the fans themselves.
Onwards… Klitschko himself had to twice postpone meeting IBF champion Anthony Joshua who looks to be not only the future of the division but also the gent who can repair the heavyweight legacy. Joshua won a legit title in April and defended it twice. He has a signed contract to defend against Wlad this April. This granite built Brit is the goods and has the sound foundation to rule over a clumsy division of wannabes. At 41, Wlad will be fighting “Father Time” as well as Joshua and lose. Should Fury make a serious attempt at a comeback, he’ll be knocked cold in three rounds. Alexander Povetkin just came up positive for Ostarine which is an anabolic steroid substitute. Bermane Stiverne has done nothing to improve his status. Luis Ortiz sat out 11 months after quitting his previous promoter and lost all the luster on his 2015 rise to prominence. Fans and press booed his recent “non” fight against Malik Scott. While Joseph Parker just grabbed a title, he doesn’t possess the skills or power to remain aloft for a long tenure.
Which leaves us with most entertaining gent nicknamed “Bomb Squad.” Deontay Wilder will crash hard this year if he gets his wish to unify with Joshua. Beyond being blessed with God given attributes of height, reach and power his trainer Mark Breland has failed miserably on teaching him how to fight. He leads with his chin, carries his guard around his waist, and has no uppercut or left hook. His combinations are laughable especially if gets lucky and hurts a foe resembling a middle schooler who just had his lunch money stolen. He displays his stance wide enough to host a Manny Pacquiao fight underneath him which makes him an incredibly flat footed lumbering giant with horrific balance if God forbid he has to close that gap a foot or two. He has frequently broken his hands in ring because he was never shown how to turn his power punches over. Wilder and Breland might be the two nicest gents in all of boxing, but that won’t hold his fragile whiskers together which were exposed against Eric Molina in the third round of their fight last year. Fan favorite David Haye fails to impress me having fought just six times in the past six years. His brash talking far outshines what he has accomplished in ring and has become irrelevant.
At light heavyweight the division was shaken up last month with the scoring debacle which saw Andre Ward gifted with a robbery over long standing champion Sergey Kovalev. After being dropped early and losing the first six rounds, Ward needed to win every round big to secure hopes of a draw. He won rounds 7, 8, 9, and 11 and should have lost by 3 points on all scorecards. Main Events who promotes Kovalev enforced the instant rematch clause. This past week, Ward has acted like a prima-donna declaring he will retire unless he is paid what he is worth in the rematch totally forgetting he was paid 150% more up front guaranteed money than the long established champion who was putting three belts on the line. With half the world screaming this was a frigging high jacking his pride alone, should warrant the rematch. Pound for pound best of today? Don’t make me laugh! His hugging, mugging and dirty tactics that allow him the victory are far cry from Sugar Ray Robinson type bragging rights as today’s GOAT. Ward was great, and has established himself an incredible legacy before heading north 15 pounds. Only his most devout fans think he actually won the 175 titles. The fans who were hoping to see the fight of the year between two of today’s top five p4p were outraged at the score cards. The promotion itself did not sell well so Ward asking for more money is a great excuse to walk away without inherit risk of jeopardizing a ‘0” on his record. What good are records if they are tainted? He lost, pure and simple.
More frustrating is WBC champion Adonis Stevenson who has talked bullshit for years but has never found the balls to man up and unify against Kovalev. “Chickenson” as Kovalev calls him has banked away plenty of retirement money with seven defenses while he avoids the Russian yet screams after every defense he wants the match. Good news to wipe out this tired mess there is a new gunslinger in town named Joe Smith, JR. who just ended the hall of fame career of legendary Bernard Hopkins this past weekend. The demise was predicted by your truly including the stoppage. This kid has the foundation and momentum to shake up the division.
With Ward having cleaned out the super middleweight division nothing looms but bar friendly brawl between has been Julio Cesar Chavez, JR. and catch weight king Canelo Alvarez in the Spring. Sad thing about this spectacle is that Oscar De la Hoya has avoided pairing his golden goose Alvarez with true middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin claiming his fighter was a true junior middleweight even though he scales 170 pounds ringside for every 155 pound catch weight fight. This will be fan friendly exciting brawl while it lasts. Canelo will win by KO in nine brutal action packed rounds when Chavez, JR. runs out of gas.
This has left “GGG” without a real dance partner all year with two defenses against Dominic Wade and welterweight king Kell Brook who were taken out in 2 and 5 rounds respectively. Brook’s trainer wisely stopped the game contest when his boxer was suffering triple vision due to a fractured skull. (Broken eye socket) WBA interim champion Daniel Jacobs avoided the mandated unification twice but as we go to press has been confirmed for Madison Square Garden this March. On paper, Jacobs’ skill and power is best match up until fall when Canelo is long rumored to finally step up to the challenge. If both matches are made, and Golovkin comes out victorious, he deserves the most serious consideration as “the” best pound for pound fighter which I believe as the year winds down should be vacant. Left out in cold is WBO champion Billy Joe Saunders whose self-imposed exile for 11 months nearly cost him his title in a weak defense against Artur Akavov as well as sanctioning body who threatened to strip title for not defending against a mandatory number one contender.
Dropping six pounds to the junior middleweight’s we’re still waiting to see who actually is best in division now that Canelo has finally decided to embrace the middleweights. Erislandy Lara continues to languish in obscurity while he has proved little while his bragging has become boring and redundant. Time for him to either get a new trainer and promoter or start wondering what the hell he’ll do for a living when he hangs up the gloves? The Charlo brothers, Jermell and Jermall along with Demetrius Andrade need a round robin to provide the answer as to who is the best of these talented boxers. Jermall’s destruction over talented Julian Williams makes him an early favorite.
In the talent laden welterweights, the boys have finally decided to stop playing it safe and the matches are getting made. Perennial Champion Manny Pacquiao exploited the limited abilities of Jessie Vargas and turned back his challenge by winning every round. He also easily repelled Timothy Bradley in more convincing fashion than the first two encounters.
Questions linger about when and who will be Pac’s farewell bout? Floyd Mayweather, JR. stayed retired but fanned the rumor mill of giving Manny a rematch in ’17. Since I don’t give a rat’s ass about MMA, I don’t report on nonsense about him fighting Conor McGregor. Floyd loves the spotlight and will do anything to keep his name in print. Kell Brook and Amir Kahn took suicide missions going against “GGG” and Canelo Alvarez respectively instead of fighting each other. Due to Kell’s eye injury he was allowed a voluntary defense from IBF before signing to fight mandatory Errol Spence, JR. Spence, JR. is reported to have to now fight a mandatory foe to keep his number one ranking while Kell and Kahn might actually duel it out this spring.
Commentators, writers and fans alike have been trying to promote a demand for Spence, JR. Vs Junior Welterweight Champion Terence Crawford. Spence, JR. looks to be the real deal but he surly needs to prove it beyond taking out 41 year old Leonard Bundu and rubber band Chris Algieri who has been down 11 times in last four bouts. Shawn Porter proved to be too one dimensional in losing to Keith Thurman who will unify titles with Danny Garcia this March.
Terence Crawford is appealing a conviction that has him penciled in for a 90 day stint which would put proposed super fights against Manny Pacquiao and Errol Spence, JR. on hold. Crawford just came off dominating performance against John Molina, JR., who was stopped in 8 rounds. Crawford was convicted of not paying full services rendered on restoration of his vehicle and towing it off property causing unspecified damages.
Once in every generation a prodigy comes along. Someone who defies all logic as to how the hell they could ever be so good. If you live long enough you’re lucky to catch a few in your lifetime. Not terrific fighters, not excellent boxers; prodigies. Pure genius. Vasyl Lomachenko has the look of pure pedigree to be the heir apparent. His dismantling of rugged Nicholas Walters was more than just a statement. The power puncher who promised the world a knockout and claimed he would have to be killed to be stopped, actually pulled a “No Mas” rather than continue taking a beating. What makes him so beguiling that Max Kellerman believes may quite possibly be the best pound for pound boxer today with a modest record of 7-1, 5 KO’s? Simply put, you can’t step to him inside the ring, nor can you step away from him! His footwork is that superior. Add deft hand speed and fascinating angles and your witnessing someone very special in the making.
The return of Mikey Garcia was a long overdue and welcome sight at lightweight.
2016 was the year of broken bones and injuries. Deontay Wilder and Roy Jones, JR. both suffered torn biceps. Wilder and Canelo Alvarez suffered hand fractures. Amir Kahn literally had his hand rebuilt with 7 screws and a bone graft. Kell Brook suffered an orbital fracture. Wlad Klitschko once again injured a calf muscle.
The promoters were huge enablers like bad parents who spoil their middle schoolers rotten. Oscar De La Hoya vented in past weeks that the year was bland with important fights not seeing the light of day and took some responsibility to that end. This is hilarious as he has stymied every attempt to bring his top fighter Canelo into ring with “GGG”. Bob Arum needs to goose up his stable of talent or find better ways of extending olive branch with Oscar in getting more terrific fights made. Huge applause to Main Events who wanted the Kovalev/Ward fight made for fans so badly that they were willing to take the challengers share instead of vice versa.
Sadly this was “the” year when we actually had to bid final farewell to The Greatest, Muhammad Ali. The man who changed our beloved sport went on to change the world by how we think. He left behind shoes no one will ever be able to step into. Regarded by most as the greatest heavyweight champ to ever lace up the leather even surpassing the mighty Joe Louis. No one has ever faced a gauntlet of warriors like Muhammad did. His resume is a “who’s who” of heavyweight greats. Ali who was 74 and suffered with Parkinson’s Disease for many years outlived many famous rivals including several who were featured in documentary, “Facing Ali.”
Final bell tolls for Alex Stewart, Jack Bodell, Mike Towell, Gerry Payne and Braydon Smith. Rest in Peace gents.
On a comical note, we blow taps for Premiere Boxing Champions who lost 434 million last year and future plans of continuing appear to be on life support waiting for the proverbial plug to be pulled.
My highly unofficial picks for best of the year…
P4P is vacant. I can give a credible reason why anybody on top ten list doesn’t truly deserve the top slot this year. Hopefully with some classic match making we’ll have a clear king this time next year.
Fight of the Year goes to Francisco Vargas and Orlando Salido who waged war in electrifying 12 round draw for WBC super featherweight title.
KO of the Year goes to Jermall Charlo over Julian Williams with a hellacious uppercut in the fifth round of their IBF junior middleweight title fight.
Fighter of the Year is vacant for same reason P4P is. No one had a year that stood out with stellar competition.
New Gun In Town Award goes to Joe Smith, JR. who is soon on the verge of a title shot.
Not surprisingly the four biggest brag bags who never shut up about how great they are did little or nothing this past year. Tyson Fury never fought. Amir Kahn fought once and got knocked out as expected. Both Adrien Broner and Erislandy Lara each fought one meaningless fight.
Ruslan Provodnikov the Siberian Rocky has hung up the gloves. Perhaps it’s time for good guys Chris Algieri and John Molina, JR. to join him. Not one to tell any man how to live his life but Chris just doesn’t have the chin to match his abilities. John has now lost 6 of his last 11 bouts. Terrific gents who have more to offer the world besides show casing their hearts. Which leads us to future hall of fame legend Roy Jones, JR. Roy has a second career firmly established as an HBO commentator and can rest firmly in retirement knowing he was once the GOAT of his generation. Jones, JR. hasn’t come close to greatness since beating John Ruiz back in 2003. Nobody ever wants to see a warrior or legend hurt in ring and beyond.
In the next week, I’ll be highlighting the upcoming year, with a possible interview or fight handicap in between, but this is a perfect time to say thank you to the loyal readership of Ringside Report as well as CEO/Publisher “Bad” Brad Berkwitt. It’s been said, a writer is only as good as his Editor and “Bad” Brad has been a never-ending source of encouragement.
Stay tuned….Contact the Feature Writers