HBO Boxing Insiders' 2017 Year-End Picks: Favorite Moments

Photo: Ed Mulholland

Photo: Ed Mulholland

With the end of the year approaching and Boxing's Best airing, HBO Boxing Insiders take a look back at the fights that aired on HBO and HBO PPV in 2017. Here, they select their favorite moments.

More: Fight of the Year |  Fighter of the Year | Best Round | KO of the Year | Best Blow | Best Corner | Breakthrough Fighter 

Nat Gottlieb

The fight between superstars Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez was the crowning achievement of HBO’s year. HBO’s ongoing coverage leading up to the fight was spectacular and captured the imagination of boxing fans around the world. The fight itself proved to be everything it promised to be. It was as well done of an event as there was in boxing, an elite moment.

Springs Toledo

The unusual tendency of HBO commentators to bring up fighters from the recent and distant past is a real thrill for historians and purists alike. Archie Moore, Ezzard Charles, and Henry Armstrong are among the long-gone greats from boxing's golden era that are routinely mentioned on air, most often by Max Kellerman. In May, Bernard Hopkins made an interesting comparison between Terence Crawford and Donald Curry during the Crawford-Diaz fight, and Rocky Marciano was mentioned during the Saunders-Lemieux undercard in December. A.J. Liebling said "the sweet science is as joined onto the past as a man's arm is to his shoulder," and so acknowledged a place where science and history converge and where no fight isn't attended by ghosts. Whenever those ghosts are recognized on a broadcast, we're reminded that boxing produces immortals then and now, and boxing is better for it.

Hamilton Nolan

Nobody watched the Cotto-Kamegai fight, because it was on the same night as Mayweather-McGregor. But Kamegai ate more horrific power shots in that fight than I have ever seen a man eat without being knocked out. It was remarkable and should be studied by scientists. And it still feels like a secret, since nobody was paying attention.

Gordon Marino

The entirety of Canelo vs. GGG.

Frank Della Femina

My favorite HBO Boxing Moment of the Year is always my favorite pick to make. While we can all be in the same ballpark in other categories, this is the one that varies wildly. Looking back on boxing as a whole in 2017, there were rising stars, shocking scorecards, circus-like events, and big-name retirements. But for me, the best moment of 2017 came in the form of Canelo-Golovkin. Not so much by way of the outcome, but more so in the lead up to the fight. Outside of Mayweather-Pacquiao, I don’t recall a more highly anticipated matchup over the past five years that had me eyeing up the clock throughout the day as we edged closer to the opening bell (maybe Ward-Kovalev I, but not to this degree). And while being there in-person may have been unreal in its own right, making new boxing friends in a crowded bar while killing a few plates of hot wings and standing on a soapbox while agonizing over the result was perfect in its own way.

Oliver Goldstein

I enjoyed seeing Luke Campbell run Jorge Linares close this year, in what was a good twelve months for British fighters on the network. Seeing Chocolatito is always a thrill, even if a diminished one now – but the first fight with Sor Rungvisai, as a last throw of the dice, was marvelous. Two excellent fighters in Andre Ward and Miguel Cotto went out in varied circumstances, though roughly on top. And both Canelo and GGG showed up this past September, giving the hype its substance. Hopefully they’ll do it all over again next year.

Kieran Mulvaney

On a personal level, it’s been a particular professional treat to spend time in the training camps of several boxers: Gennady Golovkin, Canelo Alvarez, and of course Miguel Cotto, who was preparing for his final fight. And then, on the day before his farewell, Cotto’s fighter meeting with HBO talent was a truly special, emotional affair; his family was all there, as was his team from the Wild Card, and the whole experience felt like a fond goodbye to an old friend.

Canelo-GGG fight week was another reminder that there are few events that generate anything like the excitement of a truly significant boxing main event. The MGM Grand was packed with serious fight fans, straining for a glimpse of anyone on the card or indeed anybody in some way associated with it. The media room saw a steady parade of celebrities from within and beyond the boxing world, as evidenced by an HBO Boxing Podcast guest list that included Roy Jones, Jr, Stephen A. Smith, Adam Carolla, and J.B. Smoove. And, finally and importantly, the fight itself delivered; notwithstanding the scoring controversy, it was a tremendously hard-fought 12 round battle between two pugilists of the highest order.

joshua KO klitschko

Nothing, however, can top the fantastic April night in London when Anthony Joshua overcame Wladimir Klitschko. The heavyweight championship of the world, the fight of the year, an enthusiastic 90,000-strong crowd, and a legendary venue in the form of Wembley Stadium: if ever a night at the fights had everything, it was this one.

Carlos Acevedo

My favorite HBO moments involve two fighters whose struggles in life are mirrored by the struggles of the ring. Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Mickey Roman both won the biggest fights of their careers after years of toiling both personally and professionally. Sor Rungvisai was ecstatic after poleaxing Roman Gonzalez, and Roman seemed on the verge of tears when he detailed his misfortunes in an interview following his KO win over Orlando Salido. Even in this brutal sport, often mean, low, and dispiriting, you can sometimes find something close to ennoblement.

Eric Raskin

First off, let’s establish the obvious choice for least favorite HBO Boxing moment: Stephen Smith’s ear nearly detaching from the side of his head. As for the favorites, I have two. On the emotional side, there was Miguel Cotto, on the eve of his retirement, crying on the couch next to Jim Lampley as he suggested that his late father was still sitting right next to him. And on the lighter side, there was my experience of interviewing JB Smoove and Roy Jones back to back while podcasting live from Radio Row at the Golovkin-Alvarez fight in September. They both brought the ruckus to one of my favorite HBO Boxing Podcast episodes of the year.

Matt Draper

Here are some nuggets that stood out, for better or for worse:

  • The 12th round of Canelo-GGG: We had reached the climax of the most anticipated match of the year and everything was still up for grabs. Both fighters were throwing haymakers. Everyone in the crowd was standing and screaming.
  • Anthony Joshua standing over KO’d Wladimir Klitschko: An iconic image that visually communicated the passing of the heavyweight torch. The legendary veteran going out on his sword while the young phenom stakes his claim to the division throne.
  • Stephen Smith’s ear following his bout with Francisco Vargas: Any doubts about boxing not being a tough sport? Here you go. (Note: Not for the faint of heart.)
  • Quebec crowd booing Billy Joe Saunders’ son: 8-year-old Stevie Saunders, who made headlines earlier in the year for punching Willie Monroe Jr. in the undercarriage during a press conference, was not afraid to speak his mind to the pro-David Lemieux crowd at the Dec. 16 middleweight showdown at Place Bell outside Montreal. And when the younger Saunders was displayed on the big screen during fight night, the crowd roundly booed him.

Diego Morilla

After picking the Joshua-Klitschko bout for so many of these categories, it is safe to admit that this fight has earned a privileged place in my DVD collection already. It had it all: the environment, the young lion vs. veteran champ narrative, the magnificence of a roaring Wembley stadium brimming with screaming fans, the passing of the torch, and so much more. And in the midst of it, as the moment of truth approached, there was the local favorite going up against the unified champion standing by his initials as they were lit on fire, like two flaming wings turning the white-clad, almost angelic Anthony Joshua into an avenging demon, ready to exorcise the pains and sufferings of British heavyweight boxing forever, like a keeper of the flame in the most literal sense possible, ready to take flight on a mission to guard boxing’s return trip to its former glories from the skies. Sure, Joshua still has plenty of time disappoint us all and become just one more British heavyweight horror story, but for that fleeting moment he looked as if he could carry the weight of the entire boxing world upon his shoulders. And after 11 extraordinary rounds, he momentarily did.

Michael Gluckstadt

The Canelo-Chavez fight may have proved to be a dud, but I can't think of a more exciting moment this year in boxing than when Canelo stood in the ring and named his next opponent. In a move out of the WWE playbook, Gennady Golovkin appeared in the wings as the unmistakable bass-line of "Seven Nation Army" blared over the soundsystem. That the actual fight lived up to the hype made it all the more memorable.

Some other highlights: Miguel Cotto's emotional farewell to Madison Square Garden; Ray Beltran winning a boxing match and with it his fight for citizenship; Yoshihiro Kamegai imitating an inflatable punching clown that keeps coming back for more; the way Paulie Malignaggi says the word "pizzeria" in this oral history podcast of Hamed-Kelley; as well as the story of Ike Ibeabuchi; and lastly, JB Smoove bringing the ruckus:

HBO Boxing Insiders' 2017 Year-End Picks: Best Blow

Photo: Ed Mulholland

Photo: Ed Mulholland

With the end of the year approaching and Boxing's Best airing, HBO Boxing Insiders take a look back at the fights that aired on HBO and HBO PPV in 2017. Here, they make their selections for "Best Blow" -- not necessarily a knockout, but the single punch that stuck out to them the most.

More: Fight of the Year | Fighter of the Year | Round of the Year | KO of the Year | Best Corner | Breakthrough Fighter | Favorite Moments

Nat Gottlieb: Sor Rungvisai’s right hook on Chocolatito

Call it boxing’s version of the shot heard around the world. For years Roman Gonzalez was considered the best in the game. But then last March, Thailand’s Srisaket Sor Rungvisai won a tight majority decision over him. Six months later in the rematch, Sor Rungvisai stunned the boxing world in the 4th round by landing a monstrous right hook that dropped Gonzales. Somehow Gonzalez managed to get back up. Still wobbly, the Nicaraguan briefly tried to trade punches with the Thai until a right hook by Sor Rungvisai put him down for good. That first knockdown blow changed the landscape of boxing.

Springs Toledo: Joshua’s right uppercut on Klitschko in the 11th

The uppercut, when thrown with leverage and at the correct range, is a shocking punch that can sneak in and turn the tables. It's the punch that most makes boxing unfun; the spectacle of getting caught by something that comes up from the depths, that you can't see, that puts you on queer street and renders you either unconscious or helpless as the onslaught only heightens. It's the stuff of nightmares.

In the 11th round, Klitschko threw a right at Joshua's head and Joshua rolled around it and came up with a left hook that missed but also torqued a right uppercut that landed flush. Klischko's head flew back and for a second it looked like it flew off.  A photograph of the moment was making the rounds that had been photoshopped to look as if Klitschko's neck stretched like Mr. Fantastic. This writer was among those who had no idea it was photoshopped because the punch was that destructive. Klitschko stutter-stepped and then tried to play it off as if he was unhurt; Joshua swarmed him and he went down about seven seconds later. The fight was called off in the last minute of the round, but the uppercut was what made that conclusion a foregone one.

Hamilton Nolan: Ward’s low blow on Kovalev

ward kovalev 2 ward blow.jpeg

Andre Ward hitting Sergey Kovalev in the nuts. There is no doubt that Ward was outboxing Kovalev in their rematch. It is likely that Ward would have won if the fight had gone the distance, barring him getting caught with a Kovalev shot. But the reason that Ward was able to end the fight when he did was because he landed three, maybe four, good solid uppercuts to Kovalev's nuts, which absolutely drained him and opened him up for the head shot that was the beginning of the end. Well done, I guess.

Gordon Marino: Joshua’s uppercut against Klitschko

Frank Della Femina: Klitschko’s blow on Joshua in Round 6

The biggest blow of the year that sticks with me is the Round 6 bomb that Klitschko landed on Joshua during their heavyweight showdown at Wembley Stadium. At the time I remember thinking it may have been enough to turn things back in his favor, having just been knocked down himself in the previous round. But I also remember thinking Joshua showed the poise of a veteran in that moment to acknowledge he was banged up and allowed momentum to take him down for a breather. Had he not, Klitschko was fully prepared to follow up with something more, as evidenced by his charge through the falling Joshua, which could have truly altered the course of the fight.

Oliver Goldstein: Joshua’s right uppercut on Klitschko

Boxing rarely looks like the films, so it’s always quite something when the representation of it enters the real. This was in the eleventh round, when Joshua had just about taken over the fight after seeing out Klitschko’s mid-bout resurgence. Still, such was the overinvestment in the Brit made by Wembley Stadium’s collective consciousness that no one seemed willing to believe it. Then he landed a right uppercut so outrageously cartoonish that everyone saw the revelation. The fight ended a minute later.

Kieran Mulvaney: Joshua’s right uppercut on Klitschko

Wladimir Klitschko has long been dismissed for having an insufficiently sturdy chin, but that criticism has been overplayed. If you truly have a paper jaw, you don’t get dropped three times by Samuel Peter, get up each time, and go on to win. If your mandible is carved from glass, you don’t get up every time Anthony Joshua puts you down. And you certainly don’t survive the hellacious uppercut Joshua landed in round 11. That punch would have decapitated most mortals. But while Klitschko survived it, it was the beginning of the end: a beautifully delivered punch that snapped back the Ukrainian’s head and short-circuited his nervous system. He survived, but he never truly recovered; various other blows combined to drop him twice more and leave him being pummeled on the ropes. But it was the uppercut that set up the conclusion to one of the greatest nights in British boxing history.

Carlos Acevedo: Sor Rungvisai’s right hook on Chocolatito

sor rungvisai chocolatito 2.jpg

It was a hard end for super flyweight Roman Gonzalez, whose thrilling run as the biggest little man in boxing came to a halt on September 9 courtesy of a compact right hook that left him laid out on the canvas like a patient etherized on a table. In March, Sor Rungvisai won a grueling split decision over Gonzalez that most observers considered dubious at best. Sor Rungvisai was determined to prove his performance in the first fight—whether it was a win or a loss, it was still a rousing brawl—was no aberration. He dropped Gonzalez in the fourth round and when they again swapped blows furiously in center ring, he landed the shattering right hook. For a man who had, for sustenance, been forced to scavenge dross from his job as a trash collector, the definitive blow he landed against Gonzalez was more than just a sporting achievement, it was the myth of rags-to-riches made real.

Eric Raskin: Ward’s right to Kovalev’s jaw

Ward landed quite a few punches below the belt in his rematch with Kovalev, but it was one that landed about three feet above the belt that I’ll remember most. During the eighth round, with Kovalev showing signs of tiring but the fight still up in the air, Ward crashed home maybe the most perfect right hand of his entire career, connecting square on Kovalev’s jaw and causing his legs to do a dance. “Ward by knockout” was the most unlikely scenario before each of their fights because he was the smaller man moving up in weight and was never a heavy puncher. So when he visibly hurt Kovalev, it was a gasp-worthy moment — and the moment that decided the outcome, as Kovalev couldn’t recover and was stopped several follow-up salvos (made up of legal and illegal blows) later.

Diego Morilla: Joshua’s right uppercut on Klitschko

The heavyweight title fight at Wembley was full of historic moments and unforgettable images, but the one picture of Wladimir Klitschko’s neck being stretch upwards with its muscles struggling to hold his head over his shoulders after a brutal uppercut by Anthony Joshua turned out to be a perfect depiction of the defining moment of this magnificent heavyweight title bout. Up to then, Joshua’s resurgence after struggling in the middle rounds was still in progress, and he appeared exhausted as the second half of the bout began. But as Klitschko himself started to lose steam and the championship rounds were rang in, Joshua gained the poise and the control that he needed to finish the job – and that picture-perfect, sweat-spraying, panic-grin-inducing uppercut was the beginning of the end of an extraordinary fight.

Michael Gluckstadt: Joshua's uppercut on Klitschko

There's something especially dramatic about an uppercut that lands flush. The way the victim's head extends violently upwards like a defeated Rock 'em Sock 'em Robot. Gennady Golovkin landed an uppercut like that against David Lemieux, and I remember being shocked by the human neck's capacity for holding on to its head when faced with such force. Joshua's uppercut of Wladimir Klitschko was the heavyweight version of that punch. It's no wonder that Klitschko decided to make that round his final one in a boxing ring.

HBO Boxing Insiders' 2017 Year-End Picks: KO of the Year

Photo: Ed Mulholland

Photo: Ed Mulholland

With the end of the year approaching and Boxing's Best airing, HBO Boxing Insiders take a look back at the fights that aired on HBO and HBO PPV in 2017. Here, they make their selections for KO of the Year.

More: Fight of the Year | Fighter of the Year | Round of the Year | Best Blow | Best Corner | Breakthrough Fighter | Favorite Moments


Nat Gottlieb: Lemieux TKO Stevens

Apparently Curtis Stevens did not get the memo about never trading hooks with David Lemieux. In the third round Stevens connected on a left hook, but Lemieux countered with an overhand right and then followed it right up with a short, but powerful left hook that crumbled Stevens to the canvas flat on his back. Stevens remained unconscious for a long stretch before being removed from the ring on a stretcher and taken to a hospital. It was one of the most brutal knockouts of the year.

Springs Toledo: Lemieux TKO Stevens

The dummy jab is one of boxing's great inventions. It allows you to slide in closer and makes an opponent blink just in time for what's coming next. It works best when your opponent's back is at the ropes. Lemieux's set up a right hand that landed, but at near full-extension, which means most of the force had fizzled, and Stevens did well by countering it with a left hook. However, Lemieux's right hand was something of a dummy too, because Lemieux was still moving in to position himself at mid-range as he threw it. Stevens' left hook landed first, on Lemieux's neck. Lemieux's landed on Stevens' chin, where it says nighty-night.

Before the fight, Stevens referred to Lemieux with a particularly offensive obscenity. That proved a costly mistake, as Lemieux used it to recast a simple contest into a mission. "I wanted to make an example of him," he said in the post-fight press conference. "Respect everybody, respect every fighter."    

Hamilton Nolan: Joshua KO Klitschko

No changing of the guard was bigger than Joshua ascending into the heavyweight throne that the Klitschkos have controlled for many years.

Gordon Marino: Joshua KO Klitschko

Frank Della Femina: Lemieux TKO Stevens

David Lemieux knocking out Curtis Stevens gets my nod for KO of the Year. As is common for Stevens, he spent all of fight week talking about how he was going to hurt/kill/maim/severely injure his opponent (see also: Golovkin, Fall 2013). And while this is all good and great when it comes to promoting the fight, if you’re Curtis, at some point you have to consider whether this is actually working out in your favor anymore. Look no further than the left-handed howitzer Lemieux landed in the third round of their March 11th bout that sent Stevens into the shadow realm. The exchange on the ropes was oddly reminiscent of Canelo-Kirkland, which if memory serves was also my 2015 pick for KO of the Year.

Oliver Goldstein: Sor Rungvisai KO Chocolatito


There were good arguments to be made that Chocolatito deserved the nod after his first fight with Sor Rungvisai. None were available after the second. If this wasn’t the knockout as total wipeout, it was still shockingly, solemnly definitive.

Kieran Mulvaney: Lemieux TKO Stevens

In the aftermath of this crushing blow, there was some mild pushback from those who watched the knockout on TV to the reaction of those who were in the arena. “Hey, it didn’t look that bad.” “I’ve seen way worse.” “I’m not convinced it’s knockout of the year.” “Jim and Max sure seemed to be overly dramatic in their selling of it.” Maybe it was one of those moments when you had to be there. I was there, and I’m telling you: there probably wasn’t a single person in the arena at Turning Stone that night who didn’t think, for at least a moment, that Curtis Stevens might be dead. It wasn’t just the hammer blow that knocked him out – and if you like to judge your knockouts on their technical brilliance and not whether or not the guy at the receiving end is unconscious and unmoving afterward, Lemieux’s hook was a thing of beauty, timed perfectly, thrown with precision and purpose. Nor was it solely the way he crashed to the canvas right in front of the announce team, his left arm unfolding from his prone body and convincing the timekeeper to beat a hasty retreat. It’s also that he lay there, completely unmoving, for a loooong time. It is not an exaggeration to say that a lot of eyes were trained on Stevens’ chest, to make sure he was actually breathing. There are knockouts, and there ae knockouts. This was a knockout.

Carlos Acevedo: Lemieux TKO Stevens

There is no telling just where Curtis Stevens went after David Lemieux nailed him with a left hook so concussive it left him draped out on the ring apron. He seemed to have an out-of-body experience as physicians rushed to his aid. In a battle between two left-hooking machines, Lemieux landed his first (and with more accuracy) when the two exchanged blows along the ropes in the third round. The explosive shot sent Stevens in a free-fall. He was unconscious before he hit the canvas. That knockout blow, and its effect, underscored the cruel paradox of boxing: how terror and beauty can co-exist simultaneously. Thankfully, Stevens was not seriously hurt, and likely does not remember a thing about what happened to him. Better for him, then, and better for us as well.

Eric Raskin: Beltran KO Maicelo

beltran maicelo KO

It’s the punch you don’t see coming. And Maicelo definitely never saw Beltran’s left hook coming. Beltran feinted just enough to get Maicelo looking at the wrong shoulder, then suddenly the hook struck the jaw, and the Peruvian prospect was out before he hit the canvas. The back of his head slammed into the mat with sickening force, and, maybe it’s distasteful to say it, but that’s why this is my KO of the Year pick over David Lemieux-Curtis Stevens. Both knockouts were the result of vicious, single hooks, but the landing for Maicelo was more violent.

Matt Draper: Lemieux TKO Stevens

I don’t know what could top David Lemieux’s destruction of Curtis Stevens back in March. HBO’s Roy Jones Jr. summed it up best: The Canadian caught Stevens “right on the button.” It was an instant KO, with Stevens’ body just crumbling to the canvas. Our digital team covering the fight paused before posting anything until we had word Stevens was conscious and coherent – because so much time had gone by without him moving a muscle. He eventually left the ring and headed to the hospital, which wasn’t a surprise considering the strike Lemieux landed.

Diego Morilla: Sor Rungvisai KO Chocolatito

The first fight was so mired in controversy that it afforded Gonzalez the chance to keep a lower position in most of the pound-for-pound rankings he had dominated up to then. But the signs were troubling, starting with his razor-thin win over Carlos Cuadras in his previous bout. And it all came crashing down on a chilly night in Carson, when the Nicaraguan paid a heavy price for his jump in weight, his change of training habits, his loss of his lifelong trainer Arnulfo Obando, and especially his fan-friendly style that exposed himself to a lot of punishment in his quest to dish out a similar and more devastating brand of his own. The hopes of imposing such a punishment on Rungvisai in their anticipated rematch finally disappeared in the fourth round, when it became clear that the Thai champ was just too strong and too determined for him. Legend has it that if a fighter falls face-first to the canvas without making an effort to stop his fall with his hands, he is knocked out already. Gonzalez gave testimony of his greatness when he stood up to challenge that notion after nosediving onto the mat in the first knockdown. He was, however, unable to challenge Rungvisai’s claim of superiority for much longer, as he went down on his back in his next trip to the canvas to put an effective end to his run as a pound-for-pound entrant in one of the year’s most devastating stoppages.

Michael Gluckstadt: Lemieux TKO Stevens

There are sports sounds that stay with you. The crack of the bat on an Aaron Judge home run. LeBron James rattling the rim. David Lemieux's punches have their own timbre. And his thwacking KO of Curtis Stevens earlier this year is its signature song.

HBO Boxing Insiders' 2017 Year-End Picks: Round of the Year

Photo: Ed Mulholland

Photo: Ed Mulholland

With the end of the year approaching and Boxing's Best airing, HBO Boxing Insiders take a look back at the fights that aired on HBO and HBO PPV in 2016. Here, they make their selections for Round of the Year.

More: Fight of the Year | Fighter of the Year | KO of the Year | Best Blow | Best Corner | Breakthrough Fighter | Favorite Moments

Nat Gottlieb: Salido vs. Roman, Round 8

The nod here goes to the eighth round of the Miguel Roman vs. Orlando Salido war on December 9. Relying on years of experience and sheer guts, Salido somehow managed to take Roman into the latter rounds after being knocked down in the fourth round. Then in the 8th came a round for the ages. A stinging left hook from Roman put Salido down hard. Although the aged veteran got to his feet, it seemed there was no way he would make it to the end of the round. But in what turned out to be the final blaze of glory for the 37-year-old, former two-time featherweight champion, Salido turned the tables on Roman and beat him from pillar-to-post for the remainder of the round. As the bell sounded, the Las Vegas crowd rose to its feet and roared with appreciation for the gutsy display of fighting from both men.

Springs Toledo: Salido vs. Roman, Round 8

Round eight of the Mickey Roman-Orlando Salido fight looked like a George Bellows oil from the early 20th century come to life. Salido, a thirty-seven-year-old warhorse with thirteen losses and a reputation that renders every one of them a moot point, stuck his head on the shoulder of Mickey Roman and dug uppercuts and hooks in while Roman, who came into the bout with a last-chance, do-or-die mentality, was his less-grizzled mirror image. Their visages obscured and their gloves a-blur as if Bellows was slashing a canvas in black and yellow, the drama of the round reached a crescendo when a seemingly never-ending combination forced Salido back toward the ropes where he collapsed. Salido sat for a moment and then wearily got himself to his feet.

salido roman.jpg

When the referee asked him if he was all right, his response was that of a street corner kid: "Si," he said with a gesture that looked like he was hoisting up his trunks as if it ain't no thing. "Are you sure?" the referee asked again. "Si!" Salido shot back like an old man offended at a stupid question. He got back to work, and in the last ten seconds was in command--digging in hooks and uppercuts while Roman, winded and stunned, could only keep his gloves high. The bell rang and the old warhorse turned his back and headed to his corner; Roman stood still for just a moment and watched him, with respect.

Hamilton Nolan: Sor Rungvisai vs. Gonzalez 2, Round 4

Round 4, Rungvisai-Gonzalez 2. Sor Rungvisai's knockout of Chocolatito was a few things simultaneously. It was proof their first fight was not a fluke; it was the end of one man's dominance; and it was, probably, the end of Gonzalez's career. He was broken.

Gordon Marino: Joshua vs. Klitschko, Round 11

Frank Della Femina: Canelo vs. Golovkin, Round 5

During Round 5 of Canelo-Golovkin, both fighters met on the ropes which just around a minute to go. At this point the fight that started so favorably for Canelo was beginning to level out. This exchange between the two was easily my favorite moment of the year, as Golovkin’s right found the head of Canelo, but the Mexican stood his ground, stared back, and just shook his head. Seconds later, Canelo answered back with a few shots and just missed a right of his own over an evasive, grinning Golovkin. GGG responded in kind by shaking his head, Canelo shook his head before fighting his way off the ropes, and by the end of the fight, everyone was shaking their heads.

Oliver Goldstein: Joshua vs. Klitschko, Round 5

canelo golovkin ggg cross.jpg

Four rounds in, Anthony Joshua was doing OK. Boxing on the outside against a cautious but focused Wladimir Klitschko, Joshua seemed content to operate in a holding pattern: if he wasn’t winning, he wasn’t losing either. But then, at the start of the fifth, the Londoner suddenly overcame the gap between them and crashed the Ukrainian to his knees. Badly shaken, Klitschko stumbled to his feet while euphoria surged through the Wembley crowd. Yet as the seconds passed, Joshua, coursing with adrenaline, grew overeager, then reckless. Suddenly, before anyone had time to make sense of it, the Brit was swaying stiffly on his feet, rocked senseless by a resurgent Klitschko. The round ended with Joshua clinging to consciousness.

Kieran Mulvaney: Joshua vs. Klitschko, Round 5

This was the round that elevated this clash from interesting to epic, and its story is told in a sequence of reactions from the 90,000-strong, highly pro-Joshua, crowd. First. The roars of delight as Joshua had Klitschko down and seemingly there for the taking. Then an odd quiet for such a large contingent of humanity, as the spectators struggled to comprehend what they were witnessing: Joshua, having been on the brink of victory, now seemingly frozen, his legs leaden. Finally, a different kind of roar: of shocked realization, of concern, of trying to rally their champion from the brink of sudden defeat. Joshua made it to the bell, but it would be a few more rounds yet before the echoes of the fifth finished reverberating around Wembley and Joshua resumed his ultimately conclusive control.

Carlos Acevedo: Joshua vs. Klitschko, Round 5

Heavyweights rarely rumble at the pace Wladimir Klitschko and Anthony Joshua set last April. And when they do, the results can be mesmerizing. The fifth round of their struggle saw Klitschko cut and dropped after Joshua unloaded some of his precision combinations. In pursuit of a knockout win over the most accomplished heavyweight since Lennox Lewis, Joshua tore after Klitschko, battering the veteran around the ring. Even with Joshua storming after him, Klitschko, a pro since 1996, kept his composure, and when Joshua began to gas, “Dr. Steelhammer” went to work, rallying to hurt Joshua repeatedly before the bell rang to end the round. For the action junkie, the Mickey Roman-Orlando Salido dustup probably had more rounds of all-out ferocity than Joshua-Klitschko. But the fifth round of Joshua-Klitschko did not just stand on its own but was also a harbinger of the dramatic shifts in momentum to come.

Eric Raskin: Joshua vs. Klitschko, Round 5

To quote my own Twitter feed (something only really cool people do), the fifth round of the Joshua-Klitschko fight was “one of the best heavyweight rounds I’ve seen in a long time. Wlad has a weak chin, but no lack of testicular fortitude.” Joshua rocked Klitschko early in the round, Wladimir was cut over the left eye, and he finally went down. He tried to hold, looked like he was in pure survival mode — but then the 41-year-old ex-champ started firing back. And before you knew it, Joshua was exhausted and in survival mode himself, eating a right hand, a left hook, a right uppercut. It was as dramatic as a round of heavyweight boxing gets, a round that helped show us what both Joshua and Klitschko are made of.

Diego Morilla: Joshua vs. Klitschko, Round 5

There is no legitimate lineage claim in the biggest prize in sports without a dramatic moment to validate the win in the most emphatic fashion. Joe Louis visited the canvas in the first round against Jim Braddock to later stop him in his title-winning bout, Muhammad Ali was almost blind for an entire round before clearing his vision to stop Sonny Liston in his first title fight, and then withstood a non-stop shellacking by George Foreman to score the biggest upset ever in the second one, and the list goes on. And this heavyweight championship bout had to have its moment of drama as well. Going into the fifth round, Klitschko was behind on all scorecards after a dull start, and Joshua moved in for the kill. It turned out to be a bad idea, as the aging champion and fellow Olympic gold medalist withstood the early onslaught and came back to open a cut on the local favorite. Joshua responded with a barrage that sent Klitschko to the canvas, but he rose to produce what ended up becoming the last two truly competitive minutes of his career as he rallied to keep the suddenly gassed out Joshua on the defensive – and on the brink of a stoppage himself. The fight had a few ups and downs before culminating in a well-earned win by Joshua, but this round lives on as a testimony of Klitschko’s grit during what was supposed to be just a ceremonial handing of the scepter to the new king.  

Michael Gluckstadt: Joshua vs. Klitschko, Round 5

This is the kind of round you would call unrealistic if they put it in a movie. The ascendant star sees an opportunity to make a statement in front of 90,000 of his countrymen and seizes it. The legendary champ on his way to retirement -- who'd been dinged throughout his career for not showing enough heart -- storms right back at him. So often, boxers finish their careers as husks of what they once were. He's washed. Wladimir Klitschko left the sport after the fight of his life.

HBO Boxing Insiders' 2017 Year-End Picks: Fight of the Year

Photo: Ed Mulholland

Photo: Ed Mulholland

With the end of the year approaching and Boxing's Best airing, HBO Boxing Insiders take a look back at the fights that aired on HBO and HBO PPV in 2017. Here, they make their selections for Fight of the Year.

More: Fighter of the Year | Round of the Year | KO of the Year | Best Blow | Best Corner | Breakthrough Fighter | Favorite Moments

Nat Gottlieb: Anthony Joshua vs. Wladimir Klitschko

Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko did more for the heavyweight division in their one grueling battle than any other pair of heavyweights have done in years. A dethroned, aging champion in Klitschko, and a young, undefeated thoroughbred in Joshua, put on a show for the ages. Knocked down in round five, Klitschko rose to his feet and returned the favor by dropping Joshua in round six. Somehow the young champ weathered the storm. After trading leather over the course of the next five rounds, Joshua knocked Klitschko down twice in round 11 to earn a TKO victory. That was the bitter end for the longtime champion Klitschko and signaled the beginning of what could be a long reign for the 28-year-old Brit.

Springs Toledo: Anthony Joshua vs. Wladimir Klitschko

This fight, which packed Wembley Stadium with numbers not seen in the USA since the days of Jack Dempsey, is a grand example of how incidental the myriad titles have become. Of what consequence was the WBA Super World Heavyweight title and where is Super World? This fight was certainly not for the true heavyweight crown despite the hype, but it didn't have to be. It represented one of boxing's great narratives which also happen to express the angst between generations: age vs. youth, the past vs the future. Anytime we have a scenario where a former champion -a little grayer, a little more vulnerable- makes a last stand, a question emerges that we'll all ask eventually: is there a once-again for a used-to-be? 

At 41, Klitschko never fought a more entertaining fight than he did against Joshua. His last stand was something of a new beginning. He took risks, fought a grueling bout against a man who matched him in size and strength, and answered any lingering questions about his heart. Early in the fifth round, he was cut over an eye and then blitzed with several hard shots that pitched him forward and down. He got up without a count and took control as Joshua, exhausted, tottered around the ring. In the next round, Klitschko landed that old steel hammer of a right and Joshua collapsed to the canvas. But resilient youth laughed and got up. Klitschko faded as we all must and was stopped in the eleventh round. He left us with fond memories of who he was and he left Joshua battle-tested and worthier, affirming him as the heavyweight division's best hope.

Hamilton Nolan: Anthony Joshua vs. Wladimir Klitschko

That type of back and forth action between world class heavyweights felt like something from the "good" boxing era. Throwback!

Gordon Marino: Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin


Frank Della Femina: Anthony Joshua vs. Wladimir Klitschko

I’m tempted to go with Canelo-Golovkin if only for the name recognition surrounding the event, but I personally feel the Fight of the Year should leave fans satisfied and perhaps even out of breath after watching a few rounds of fireworks (rather than disappointed in a poor decision). So I’m giving this nod to the April heavyweight brawl between Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko. For all the times we hear people say the division is dead, slow, or struggling outside of one or two heavy hitters, this showdown had everything you could want from two of the biggest names, from past and future. For 11 rounds we watched the veteran Klitschko go toe-to-toe with the younger, up-and-coming Joshua, and for 11 rounds we were spared the notorious jab-jab-jab and hugging often associated with the division of late. What we had instead was an all-out war between two men on distinctly different paths, one with everything to prove, and the other with nothing left to lose. Through the early rounds Klitschko unleashed his heavy right more than in recent fights, at times coming so close as to merely grazing the chin or cheek of Joshua. So when Klitschko tumbled to the canvas in Round 5 after a vicious onslaught from Joshua, you still knew we could be just one right-handed bomb away from watching the fight turn. And would you know it? In the very next round the Ukrainian comes out like a man possessed, ready to return the favor, doing so just over 90 seconds in with a vicious cross that dazed and toppled Joshua. It wasn’t until a massive Round 11 uppercut from Joshua made all the difference in the fight, leading to two more knockdowns in the round and the ultimate stoppage that brought my pick for 2017 Fight of the Year to its glorified end.

Oliver Goldstein: Anthony Joshua vs. Wladimir Klitschko

I’m biased, because I was there (and possibly because I’m British, but who knows), but Anthony Joshua’s stirring win over Wladimir Klitschko in London was without doubt my fight of the year. Down once, legs a mess, Joshua breathed life into the heavyweight division by somehow coming back to drop Klitschko thrice and stop him at last in the eleventh. No doubt there were other worthy contenders (the first Sor Rungvisai-Chocolatito fight in particular), but for the sense of occasion and for the gravity of the violence, Joshua-Klitschko takes it for me.

Kieran Mulvaney: Anthony Joshua vs. Wladimir Klitschko

There were some terrific fights this year. Heck, 2017 opened up with a fierce brawl between Takashi Miura and Micky Roman that in many other years would have been a serious contender. And then Roman did it again with a victory over Orlando Salido in December that sent the veteran into retirement for three days. Srisaket Sor Rungvisai’s first win over Chocolatito Gonzalez – never mind the controversial outcome – was a violent battle with serious momentum swings. Both of Gennady Golovkin’s outings, against Danny Jacobs and Canelo Alvarez, were quality, exciting affairs. But there can be only one winner of this: the best heavyweight title fight since at least Lennox Lewis-Vitali Klitschko in 2003, and perhaps since Riddick Bowe-Evander Holyfield in 1992. Contested in front of 90,000 fans – ninety thousand! -at Wembley Stadium, a bout that saw Joshua seemingly on the verge of knockout victory and then Klitschko in that very same position within a round, before the Briton finally emerged the victor and sent the veteran into a deserved retirement. What a night. What a fight.

Carlos Acevedo: Anthony Joshua vs. Wladimir Klitschko

It was the future versus the past when veteran heavyweight Wladimir Klitschko faced off against upstart Anthony Joshua in front of 90,000 delirious fans at Wembley Stadium. And the rocking crowd was treated to a rollicking battle. In recent years, most exciting heavyweight fights have been waged by second-tier talents—roundhouse punchers with limited stamina and technique—but Klitschko and Joshua combined to provide enough plot twists to earn the nod as the HBO Fight of the Year. After a slow opening, Joshua came out to rumble in the fifth round, catching Klitschko with a left hook/overhand right combination. A follow-up barrage left Klitschko cut and reeling before he crumpled to the mat for the first knockdown of the fight. With Joshua closing in for the finish, Klitschko seemed at the edge of the abyss. But the long-time titlist, trying to rebound from the first loss of his career (against Tyson Fury in 2015), battled back to stagger Joshua before the round was over. When Joshua hit the mat courtesy of a straight right in the sixth, the suspense reached new levels. Klitschko seemed to take command in the following rounds, spearing Joshua with his jab and applying pressure to keep him on the defensive. Suddenly, at the start of the 11th round, Joshua sent Klitschko backpedaling with a flush straight right. But it was a vicious uppercut that sent Klitschko stumbling and precipitated the violent end. After scoring two hard two knockdowns, the ferocious Joshua forced referee David Fields to intervene, giving “AJ” the credibility he yearned for and the boxing world a thrill.

Eric Raskin: Anthony Joshua vs. Wladimir Klitschko

Maybe you heard: 2017 was a great year for boxing. In an average year, Mickey Roman KO 9 Orlando Salido, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai W 12 Chocolatito Gonzalez, or Gennady Golovkin D 12 Canelo Alvarez could easily have been the best fight on HBO. But in 2017, they’re all just strong runners-up to Joshua-Klitschko. Even if you ignore the stakes (the present and future of the heavyweight division) and the enormity of the event (90,000 at Wembley Stadium), the in-ring drama was incomparable. Joshua nearly scored a knockout in round five, but then he punched himself out and Klitschko battled back and nearly stopped the Brit in the sixth. Back and forth they slugged, until Joshua landed that rubber-neck uppercut, knocked Klitschko down twice more, and scored the TKO in the 11th. It was the best heavyweight title fight in 25 years. A statement like that doesn’t leave the door open very wide for other fights.

Matt Draper: Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin

It’s hard to top the epic, back-and-forth heavyweight battle between Joshua and Klitschko at Wembley, but I’m voting for Canelo-Golovkin. Not only because the September 16 showdown delivered on its years-in-the-making anticipation, but also because it was rare to witness two stars fighting at or near their primes in such a mega-match (cough, Mayweather-Pacquiao). Plus, the Mayweather-McGregor circus had been in town just three weeks prior, and while there was no matching the bluster of that sideshow, Canelo-GGG proved to be a true boxing fan’s fight that became a global must-see.

The atmosphere was through the roof. Vegas was buzzing throughout fight week – it seemed like everyone on the street or in the casinos was selling merchandise, officially or not -- and fight night was nothing short of electric, with the split-crowd chanting “Ca-ne-lo!” and “Tri-ple-G!” most of the bout. And regardless of where you landed on the stalemate decision, there was no debating that both Canelo and GGG absorbed and delivered a ton of punishment, fighting to the final bell with nothing left in the tank.

Diego Morilla: Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin

Any time two fighters on the top ten pound-for-pound lists meet in the center of the ring, the expectation for a FOTY-caliber performance is more than justified. And this time, only the result failed to be up to our expectations. It may not have been the emotional fight or the barroom brawl that many of us expected, but both of these fighters forced each other out of their comfort zone continuously, proving to be each other's toughest competition. Canelo’s massively improved defense frustrated Golovkin’s search for a stoppage, and GGG’s more constant and accurate combinations impressed some judges far more than Alvarez’s sparse punch count. It was the first chapter of two great fighters feeling each other out and getting to know each other before -- if it happens -- a sequel that will, for once, outshine the original.

Michael Gluckstadt: Anthony Joshua vs. Wladimir Klitschko

For anyone who works in boxing, the common question, "Isn't that sport kinda dying?" is as grating as it is wrong-headed. Obviously the sport has lost its status on the front pages of American newspapers (with notable exceptions), but its audience hasn't disappeared as much as it has shifted. For one example, kids in Mexico are as likely to emulate Canelo Alvarez's moves as they are Chicharito's. And the best evidence that not all of boxing's best days are behind it came on April 29, 2017, when 90,000 screaming Brits gathered in London's Wembley Stadium to watch the heavyweight championship of the world. The thrilling action fight they witnessed would have been rightly celebrated in any era.

HBO Boxing's Best: Seven-Fight Series Kicks of Dec. 26

It’s a holiday treat for HBO Boxing fans. Over four consecutive nights beginning December 26, HBO presents seven of the year’s standout fights, spotlighting some of the biggest names in the sport. Featured are signature wins by Anthony Joshua, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Sadam Ali and Andre Ward, plus the high-stakes middleweight showdown last September between Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin.

Catch all the fights starting Tuesday, Dec. 26 on HBO, HBO NOW, HBO GO, On-Demand, as well as on HBO Boxing's YouTube channel and

The Boxing’s Best lineup includes:

Tuesday, December 26 - 11:00 ET/PT

Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin & Orlando Salido vs. Miguel Roman   

Wednesday, December 27 - 11:30 ET/PT

Roman Gonzalez vs. Srisaket Sor Rungvisai I & Miguel Cotto vs. Sadam Ali

Thursday, December 28 - 11 ET/PT

David Lemieux vs. Curtis Stevens & Andre Ward vs. Sergey Kovalev 2

Friday, December 29 - 11 ET/PT

Anthony Joshua vs. Wladimir Klitschko

Podcast: Mid-Year Awards

At the mid-point of 2017, HBO Boxing Insiders Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney reveal their picks for the HBO Mid-Year Awards, covering everything from Fight and Fighter of the Half-Year to Gutsiest and Least Gutsy Losing Efforts of the Half-Year.

Joshua-Klitschko View From the Stands: Wembley Gets Its Heavyweight Champion

Photo Credit: Oliver Goldstein

Photo Credit: Oliver Goldstein

By Oliver Goldstein

The consensus in Wembley Stadium is that Anthony Joshua will win. Why? Because of course he will. Wladimir Klitschko is old, hasn’t fought in eighteen months, takes a punch badly, hasn’t looked good in years. And Joshua, Joshua, as his promoters insist, is practically messianic, the second coming of all the great heavyweights of the past and a forecoming of all the great heavyweights to come. After the preliminaries are finally dusted off, Joshua’s short and violent highlight reel loops out over the big screens in the arena, punctuated finally by a portentous offering of the British heavyweight’s own: “This,” his pre-recorded voice announces, “is the perfect time.”

For the perfect time, though, the people are certainly growing nervous. Some here have better memories than others: there are mutterings about poor Frank Bruno’s eleventh round stoppage by Tim Witherspoon at the old Wembley. British heavyweights of recent vintage, it seems, have done a poor job of laying to rest the ghosts of years past. Though Lennox Lewis was of course one of the dominant heavyweights of the last thirty years, he was never near as beloved by the British public as Bruno, whose failures overwhelmingly outnumbered his successes. The less said about David Haye the better. And while Tyson Fury did beat Wladimir Klitschko in late November 2015, the fight was a dreary spectacle, and Fury’s career since has spiraled hopelessly out of control. Hugh McIlvanney’s words of nearly thirty years ago thus retain some purchase: “The experience of a century tells us that Britain does not breed heavyweight champions of the world.” Anthony Joshua will win, runs the consensus, because he must.

Photo Credit: Oliver GOldstein

Photo Credit: Oliver GOldstein

Nonetheless, from the stands, in spite of all this freightage, there appears something wonderfully formless and free-flowing about Joshua. It’s not just the angelic white robe that he wears to the ring, but the way Joshua seems to slip clear of the context which enmeshes him (Wembley, of course, is also the place where Henry Cooper sat Cassius Clay on his backside only to lose a couple of rounds later): nerveless, graceful, calm, the only context for Joshua seems to be himself, his initials blazing in fire either side of him. In this ring-walk, Joshua blesses the tremendous kitsch that surrounds him with tenderness and cool. The crowd is all boozy reverence and hope.          

Still, after the first bell rings, a silence doesn’t so much settle over as pierce through the stadium, as the crowd’s gauche worship gives way to the solemnity of prayer. Having been so clearly the B-side in this enormous promotion, the sight of Klitschko, in all his jagged orthodoxy, sticking Joshua with the jab and dropping off him side to side seems to shock the crowd out of its euphoria. This isn’t the ambient silence in which the crowd had surveyed the preliminaries, but a silence taut with the tension of 90,000. Klitschko’s aging, after the first few rounds, seems more a rumor than a fact; the Ukrainian looks—despite his matte beige trunks—uncompromisingly like himself. If anything, his performance is more active than usual, his seriousness having hardened not into carefulness, as is customary, but aggression.

Through three and four, both seem to find a rhythm, taking turns in moving forward and stepping off. Nearby someone insists that Joshua is winning. From up so high, however, it’s hard to tell. A. J. Liebling loved sitting ringside because he could tell his favored fighters what he thought they should do, but from the nosebleeds an entirely different relation to the fight unfolds: speech isn’t so much instructional or prescriptive as perched between commentary and prayer, something that yearns to will the action it is describing into being. Moreover, to this observer at least, a fight that takes place in accordance with one rhythmic set can only serve to suit Klitschko in turn. Through four, Wladimir seems to have found his distance.

And so when Joshua suddenly bridges and breaks the gap at the start of the fifth to sink the Ukrainian to his knees, to abrupt Klitschko’s artfully-constructed stick-and-move refrain, the crowd too seems ready to burst, willing its fighter on with a roar that is guttural and fierce. Even when Klitschko lost to Fury in 2015, that had seemed a result of the Ukrainian’s bewitchment at long range: never once did Fury abridge the distance between them with such force (meaning that the result itself lacked any real satisfaction). Hence the euphoria, the ecstasy: now Klitschko is ready to go, now it’s over, now Joshua wins. Such that Klitschko’s punches, even while they’re landing, are hardly being seen, and Joshua is winning, until suddenly the crowd realizes he’s not, and Joshua’s legs have stiffened, and the crowd is silenced, and the cliff edge is here

The round ends but the break does nothing: Joshua looks terrible. The result, all of a sudden, is a formality, Klitschko moving a jellied Joshua about the ring to his whim, whacking him with jabs, until a straight right drops the Brit to the floor. Despair murmurs through the crowd, which came to see a coronation, not a beheading. Joshua, in white trunks evoking Ali, seems haunted by the ghosts of British heavyweights past. “Go on Frank Bruno,” someone titters nearby.

Photo Credit: Oliver Goldstein

Photo Credit: Oliver Goldstein

Nonetheless, Klitschko, fighting with a focus and above all passion so often lacking in his past, is still Klitschko enough (or Wladimir enough) not to bring things to an absolute close, and so Joshua organizes himself to make it through the end of the round. Breathless, the seventh and eighth pass like a dream, Joshua barely throwing a punch in order to settle his legs beneath him, Klitschko haunting him with all the relentlessness of a metronome. The stadium stinks of beer and nerves and cigarettes, drowning in its own dread.

Thus, even as Joshua returns to himself through the ninth and tenth, the crowd remains locked in terror, seeing punches land that aren’t close, imagining an ending that hasn’t yet come. No one even notices the slight change of pace, or the encroachment by Joshua on Klitschko’s territory which that change entails. Hence the gasp, the shock, the scream, when a Joshua uppercut a minute into the eleventh suddenly straightens Klitschko out as if he were a man struck by lightning, his body whipped, twisted and contorted in a movement so cartoonish that even the most nervous in the top tier cannot but witness the revelation: Klitschko is hurt, Klitschko is hurt, Joshua is winning. A minute and two knockdowns later and, somehow, it is over. Joshua has his victory. Wembley, finally, has its heavyweight champion.

And so Klitschko, too, at last has his legend, having participated in a truly great fight at the very end of his long career. This was, without doubt, the most memorable performance of Klitschko’s at times less than memorable past decade, which has been punctuated as often by periods of ennui as by crashing knockouts. At 41, with a future set as a promoter at K2, Klitschko has earned the rest which surely awaits him. Joshua, now, is no longer the hope but the leader of the division. Already, in the early hours of the morning, a fight with Fury was being discussed. Still, as Klitschko will attest, Joshua would be wise to remember that the present in boxing is always already in the process of slipping away. “One wins and they embrace there while the wind/ Grows louder and the screen begins to fade,” as the poet Jack Spicer once wrote:

Then all the men and boxers bind their wounds

Behind an empty screen, and are afraid.