A new year is upon us and with it a renewal of hope in the sport of boxing. Will 2016 disappoint us? Probably. But in the meantime, it always entertains to reflect on the past year and discuss which fighter made the most impact in the sport. 2015 was sort of strange in that no particular fighter in my mind stood out as numero uno for the year. This is actually a good thing because I had to really think about who, in my opinion, did make the most impact in the sport. There have been other years where it is obvious which fighter deserved the accolade of fighter of the year. Think Sergio Martinez in 2010. Or Felix Trinidad in 2000.
Without any obvious pick, here are my candidates for the 2016 Fighter of the Year.
Floyd Mayweather: Yes, he and Manny Pacquiao turned what the media proclaimed “Fight of the Century” into “Fraud of the Century”, but Mayweather did what Mayweather always does in the ring: Use his superior defensive skills to neutralize an opponent’s offense and pot-shot them with the right hand. After taking care of his longtime rival, he officially retired after dominating Andre Berto in what looked more like an exhibition match than an actually championship fight.
Roman Gonzalez: The man they call “Chocolatito” has been one of my favorite for the past few years due to his willingness to fight the best in his division and put on a masterful display of offense each time. His 2015 campaign was no exception as he started off the year by taking out an overmatched Valentin Leone in the third round in Nicaragua. Then, after years of going unnoticed in the mainstream boxing circle, Gonzalez got a chance to display his skills in front of a large American audience televised on HBO and destroyed former champion Edgar Sosa in only two rounds. Gonzalez topped off the year by taking on the dangerous former flyweight champion Brian Viloria and became the first man to knock him down. Gonzalez went on to pummel Viloria to a ninth round TKO victory. Not a bad year for the consensus P4P number one.
Gennady Golovkin: One man who might have something to say about Gonzalez being ranked number one is the Kazakhstani puncher Gennady “Triple G” Golovkin. The “peoples champ” started off the year strong by dismantling a brave effort from middleweight contender Martin Murray and becoming the first man to knockout Murray in the 11th round. After failing to secure a bigger challenge, Golovkin stayed busy by knocking out Willie Monroe Jr. in six rounds. Showing some defensive vulnerabilities, there were some fans and experts who thought newly crowned IBF titlist David Lemieux could pose a serious challenge to the Kazakhstani fighter. Lemieux fought bravely, but was overmatched as Golovkin put on an excellent display of controlled aggression to TKO Lemieux in the eighth round. Again, another solid year for Golovkin.
Canelo Alvarez: The heir-apparent to Floyd Mayweather’s PPV crown only fought twice in 2015, but he proved himself in those two bouts. A week after the Mayweather-Pacquiao joke of a fight, Alvarez took on action fighter James Kirkland and withstood an early onslaught by Kirkland to knock him down in the first round. Alvarez proceeded to pound Kirkland, scoring a second knockdown in the third round before landing a thunderous right hand which rendered Kirkland unconscious. Alvarez followed up by challenging lineal middleweight champion Miguel Cotto and displaying his underrated boxing skills to score an underwhelming, but otherwise deserved unanimous decision victory. Officially, Alvarez is THE middleweight champion, but most fans and experts believe he’ll have to face Golovkin to solidify that claim.
The Result: After bouncing around the above fighters and entertaining the idea of others, it is this writer’s belief Gennady Gennadyevich Golovkin accomplished the most out of any fighter in 2015. Golovkin managed to fight three times against quality opposition. Martin Murray is no pushover, yet Golovkin systematically broke him down and became the first person to ever knock him out. Although Monroe Jr. isn’t considered to be an elite fighter, he did fight bravely and stood his ground against Golovkin, who put on something of a show by allowing Monroe to hit him at times before scoring the TKO victory. He then made his PPV debut and impressed those who saw by using an educated jab to control and bludgeon young power-puncher David Lemieux to an eighth round TKO. Golovkin has made his mark in the division to the point where most experts would agree that he is the “real” middleweight champion, in spite of the achievements of his apparent future opponent Canelo Alvarez. 2015 will be remembered for the “Fight of the Century”, but the real fights took place before and after that debacle and there is no question Golovkin provided the most entertaining bouts.
Honorable Mentions: Tyson Fury, Krzysztof Glowacki, Juan Francisco Estrada, Shinsuke Yamanaka, and Billy Joe Saunders.