As the end of the year approaches, HBO Boxing Insiders take a look back at the fights that aired on the network and HBO PPV in 2015. Here, they make their selections for HBO Fighter of the Year.
Kieran Mulvaney: Canelo Alvarez
Acknowledgment must be given to Floyd Mayweather for defeating the biggest name opponent of the year in the biggest fight of the year. But the battle for this bauble comes down to Gennady Golovkin – who took on three opponents and, despite his professed desire to be taken 12 rounds for once, thumped each of them into defeat inside the distance – and Canelo Alvarez. Alvarez gets my vote, for erasing the bad taste of the previous week's Mayweather-Pacquiao disappointment with a blistering third-round knockout of James Kirkland in front of a huge and adoring crowd in Houston, and for defeating Miguel Cotto in November, in the second-biggest event of the year, to become the middleweight champion.
Eric Raskin: Floyd Mayweather
I can't remember another year among my 18 on the boxing beat when I've struggled this much to decide who deserves this award. A strong case can be made for Tyson Fury, and an ever so slightly stronger case can be made for Canelo Alvarez. But by the slimmest of margins, I think the strongest case belongs to Mayweather. Yes, he only fought once on HBO (just like Fury). But he beat the best fighter anybody beat all year, and he did so in the biggest event our sport has produced in more than 40 years. Criteria varies from observer to observer; maybe you prefer Fury greatly exceeding expectations or Alvarez performing magnificently twice. For me, finally fighting Manny Pacquiao and then outboxing him convincingly is marginally more worthy of Fighter of the Year honors. (At least at this moment. Ask me in five minutes, and I might give you a different answer.)
Nat Gottlieb: Roman Gonzalez
"Chocolatito" fought twice on HBO in 2015 (three times in total) and nobody went the distance with him. All of them were schooled by the master boxing technician. The diminutive Nicaraguan has proven that when someone possesses the technical skill and power he's blessed with, even the smaller weight divisions deserve the attention of real boxing fans.
Oliver Goldstein: Tyson Fury
There's one outstanding candidate for this award, much as he was surely the least likely winner heading into the latter part of 2015. But with a win over Wladimir Klitschko in November, Tyson Fury gets my vote for Fighter of the Year. To some extent the other contenders for this award told us little we didn't know already about them: Floyd Mayweather was more Floyd Mayweather than ever in winning while boring most of America against Manny Pacquiao, while Canelo Alvarez, Gennady Golovkin, and Roman Gonzalez impressed without quite having the level of opposition needed gain a decisive win in the category. Golovkin and Alvarez should have each other next year, but until then it's Fury who must be counted 2015's man.
Diego Morilla: Roman Gonzalez
You can argue greatness, but you don't argue perfection. And near-perfection is what is needed for a flyweight from Nicaragua to make it all the way to the top of the pound-for-pound lists, a spot usually reserved for fighters who perform exceedingly well both in the ring and in the box office. Gennady Golovkin may be a great fighter in his prime who is also destined for further greatness, but watching Gonzalez fight is witnessing perfection in the making, punch after punch. And that should be more than enough for him to take the crown in a year in which the rest of the world discovered him and learned to appreciate his craft on HBO.
Carlos Acevedo: Canelo Alvarez
Although Gennady Golovkin fought three times in 2015, it was Saul "Canelo" Alvarez who scored the biggest win, outpointing multi-division titlist Miguel Cotto over 12 intriguing rounds in November. Alvarez also had the most fearsome HBO knockout of the year, when he almost hammered James Kirkland into bedrock with a whipping roundhouse right that left the "Mandingo Warrior" hearing the sounds of an entire apiary chirping in his head. In beating Cotto, whose veteran know-how can still trouble most (junior) middleweights, the soft-spoken Alvarez proved once again that he has a rare interest in ambition, a concept rapidly becoming obsolete in boxing. Whether or not Alvarez remains committed to the dangerous edge of things by facing Golovkin sometime in 2016 remains to be seen, but, for now, at least, he has earned his place at the top of the HBO food chain.
Harold Lederman: Gennady Golovkin
Bob Canobbio, President and Founder of CompuBox: Roman Gonzalez
CompuBox rated Gonzalez, GGG, Canelo, and Terence Crawford in six categories: (plus/minus, punches landed per round, jabs landed per round, power landed per round, power percentage and opponents' connect percentage) awarding 10 pts for the leader in each category, 9 for #2, 8 for #3, 7 for #4. Gonzalez came out on top with 54 points amassed in his victories over Brian Viloria and Edgar Sosa.
Frank Della Femina: Roman Gonzalez
I can't imagine anyone other than Chocolatito getting the nod. The guy is mechanically fast, methodically accurate, and incredibly powerful. It was pretty incredible watching him during the GGG undercard in May when he took down Edgar Sosa in Round 2. It was a sure sign of things to come, and I couldn't wait to see him in the ring again. Fast forward to October on the GGG-Lemieux undercard. Brian Viloria put up one hell of a fight, but there was never a doubt in anyone's mind that Chocolatito was going to win. It was only a matter of time before he closed it out. I can't wait to see what the little big man brings to the ring next year.
Frank Miller: Gennady Golovkin
Golovkin faced his toughest test in David Lemieux, someone with legitimate KO power to match him, and defeated him as if he were any other opponent. In 2015, GGG easily saw the top three opponents of his career (combined record of 82-4, 49 KOs before their bouts with him) and he found a way to KO all of them.
Michael Gluckstadt: Gennady Golovkin
For me, this is "GGG's" category to lose. He is the only fighter to appear on HBO three times this year, and, unsurprisingly won all three of those fights by brutal KO – including his PPV debut against David Lemieux at Madison Square Garden. He's riding an insane 21-fight knockout streak and has yet to look even remotely troubled in the ring against the highest quality opposition that will agree to step in there with him. But Gennady is almost more impressive for the fights he hasn't been in. Miguel Cotto – as true a warrior as I've ever seen in the sport – paused for about 10 minutes when Max Kellerman asked if he would fight Golovkin. When the mere mention of your name terrifies the bravest men in the sport, you deserve Fighter of the Year honors.