HBO Boxing Insiders Receive Honors From BWAA

Photo: Ed Mulholland

Photo: Ed Mulholland

On Tuesday, April 17 the Boxing Writers Association of America announced its 2017 Bernie Award winners, with the HBO Boxing Insider staff receiving top honors for their contributions to Inside HBO Boxing and From The Vault.

Eric Raskin earned first place in the Boxing Investigative Reporting category for his story, "Unrealized: The Story of Ike Ibeabuchi, the Great Lost Heavyweight." The oral history is also available as a podcast. 

Kieran Mulvaney was recognized in two categories. His article "The Last Boxing Days of Miguel Cotto," which went inside the legendary fighter's camp as he prepared for his farewell fight against Sadam Ali, won third place in the Boxing Feature (over 1,500 words). The fight story from the heavyweight championship at Wembley Arena in London, "Joshua Is the New King As Valiant Klitschko Goes Out On His Shield,"  also won third place, in the category of Boxing Event Coverage.

Gordon Marino received an Honorable Mention  in the category of Event Coverage for his Inside HBO Boxing piece, The X’s and O’s of Canelo-GGG. Additionally, HBO Boxing Insider Springs Toledo received numerous awards for work that appeared in a variety of publications.

HBO Boxing photographer Ed Mulholland received an honorable mention for his entry in the BWAA's Action category of their photo contest, which appears at the top of this article.

Congratulations to all the honorees.

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: Breakthrough Fighter

miguel berchelt.jpg

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 Round of the Year

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

Nat Gottlieb: Miguel Berchelt

Most boxing fans had probably never heard of the hard-punching super featherweight Miguel Berchelt. With no big names on his resume, Berchelt was flying under the radar. That all changed when he stepped into the ring with then undefeated champion Francisco Vargas last January. It looked like a war for the first six rounds, but Berchelt’s heavy blows eventually wore down the champion and the fight changed into a beat down, culminating with an 11th round KO. Following up that eye-opening fight, Berchelt took on former super featherweight champion, Takashi Miura, in July. This time Berchelt dominated his opponent over 12 rounds to win a unanimous decision by a wide margin. Although a fractured right thumb on his right hand put Berchelt on ice for the remainder of the year, boxing fans will be eager to see the budding star in 2018.

Springs Toledo: Miguel Berchelt

In January, Miguel "Alacrán" Berchelt wasn't ranked in the Transnational Jr. Lightweight Rankings when he stopped Francisco Vargas, who was. In July, Berchelt followed up his defeat of the #3-ranked contender by knocking down and taking a unanimous decision over Takashi Miura, who was ranked #4. Miura retired after the loss. Incredibly, Berchelt was set to face then #4-ranked Orlando Salido but was forced to back out due to an injured right hand. Berchelt isn't a household name yet and he is unlikely to ever command the numbers of fellow Mexican fighter Canelo Alvarez. Perhaps that is part of the reason why he so aptly reflects the ideal mentality of the fighter. The hope here is that he defines himself and his career by facing the best available. He stands in a perilous position even now: currently ranked #2, just behind last year's HBOs "Fighter of the Year" Vasyl Lomachenko.

Hamilton Nolan: Srisaket Sor Rungvisai

Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. Viciously deposing the world class bully in the division--when you are a fighter that few American boxing fans ever followed-- is as breakthrough as it gets.  

Gordon Marino: Miguel Roman

Frank Della Femina: Srisaket Sor Rungvisai

I’m giving this nod to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. How breakthrough is he exactly? Well, I had to once again, for the hundredth time this year, consult Google to ensure I was spelling his name correctly. While he may not have the fun-loving name like "Chocolatito," he sure as hell has the ability to take over the division like his predecessor once did. Had he only taken down Gonzalez once back in March and subsequently lost the rematch, I still would have considered him a pick for Breakthrough Fighter. However, he not only did it once (admittedly on questionable scorecards), but then turned around and showed the boxing world it wasn’t just a fluke with a huge KO win over the man no one thought could lose once, let alone twice, during their September rematch.

Oliver Goldstein: Sadam Ali

Sor Rungvisai is surely the real breakthrough fighter of the year, but for the sake of novelty (as well as acknowledgement of a fantastic surprise win), Sadam Ali gets my pick. Ali was chosen as likely fodder for a retiring great in Miguel Cotto at Madison Square Garden. But he was deeply competitive through the first half before Cotto suffered a bad bicep injury. Then, he mostly carried the action on the way to a superb breakout victory. Ali now has a title belt and a whole load more currency to gamble with in future.

Kieran Mulvaney: Srisaket Sor Rungvisai

sor+rungvisai+vs+chocolatito+jab.jpg

There are a couple of other contenders, for sure: Alberto Machado, of whom few had heard before he dropped and stopped Jezreel Corrales. Micky Roman, who went 1-1 on the year but on both occasions was in absolutely sensational fights. Miguel Berchelt, who upended Takashi Miura and Francisco Vargas in his twin outings. I’m tempted to say Billy Joe Saunders, so dominant and impressive was his display against David Lemieux to close the year, but he’s already established on the other side of the pond and quite a few picked him to do exactly what he did. So the honor surely has to go to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. When he first prepared to face off against Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez in March, he was largely considered to be the likely latest victim of the man then widely regarded as the best boxer in the world, pound-for-pound. Then, he came out and sent Gonzalez to the canvas in the very first round. Chocolatito came back into the contest and, despite gushing blood from accidental head butts, seemed to many ringside observers to have done enough. But it was Srisaket who got the win; and six months later, he left no doubt, brutalizing and flattening the former pound-for-pound king in four dominant rounds.

Carlos Acevedo: Miguel Berchelt

From seemingly out of nowhere, Miguel Berchelt materialized to score a pair of significant super featherweight wins over crowd favorite Francisco Vargas (via TKO) and Japanese warhorse Takashi Miura (via decision). Although Vargas and Miura were good style matchups for him, Berchelt still had to work hard to overcome their tenacity in stirring fights. Unfortunately, Berchelt was forced to withdraw from a scheduled title defense against battle-weary Orlando Salido scheduled for December. A win over Salido, who went on to lose to late substitute Mickey Roman, would have made Berchelt a possible candidate for HBO Fighter of the Year. Instead, the neat standup boxer with a pinpoint right cross settles in as the Breakthrough Fighter of the Year.

Eric Raskin: Miguel Berchelt

With apologies to Mickey Roman, Dmitry Bivol, and Oleksandr Gvozdyk, Berchelt was the guy who most impressively ascended from anonymity to the top of his division in 2017. At the outset of the year, the best names on Berchelt’s record were faded versions of Cristobal Cruz and Antonio Escalante, and he had a first-round KO loss to Luis Florez sitting there to make you wonder if he could possibly amount to anything. But using an eye-catching blend of boxing and slugging, Berchelt handed Francisco Vargas his first loss, then beat Takashi Miura into retirement. At just 26 years of age, Berchelt has the look of a mainstay in the junior lightweight division and on the televised boxing landscape well into the next decade.

Diego Morilla: Billy Joe Saunders

saunders-vs-lemieux-bugged-29.jpg

The middleweight division did not need him, and certainly weren’t counting on adding another factor in an equation that includes potentially very attractive bouts between top guns like Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin against each other, with contenders such as Daniel Jacobs and Demetrius Andrade also vying for a shot. But if there was a perfect character to be added to enhance the interest, the marketability and the excitement that this division already has, that had to be a loudmouth, awkward, fearless British southpaw with a teaspoon of Irish wit and grit.

Michael Gluckstadt: Srisaket Sor Rungvisai

No one is wondering how to say his name anymore. Sor Rungvisai went from "opponent"-level to the head of the pack in a loaded division with two impressive victories over the man many considered to be the best in the sport. Whether he can continue that dominance against the rest of the super-flyweights is one of the most anticipated boxing storylines in 2018.

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

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 Corner – not just for the boxer’s trainer and cutman, but the promoters, managers and entire teams that put their man in the best position to do what they do best. 

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

Nat Gottlieb: Abel Sanchez and Tom Loeffler

The team of trainer Abel Sanchez and promoter Tom Loeffler of K2 Promotions combined for two of the most thrilling fights of the year. Sanchez and Loeffler got their undefeated boxer Gennady Golovkin ready for two supreme tests in 2017. In March, Golovkin and Daniel Jacobs put on a sensational show before a packed house at Madison Square Garden in which GGG won a close but unanimous decision. The same team matched up Golovkin and Mexican superstar Canelo Alvarez in Las Vegas in September. It was one of the most anticipated bouts in years, and although it ended in a controversial draw, it didn’t disappoint for excitement. Loeffler also promoted two more great fights in 2017. In April, he put on the heavyweight battle between longtime former reigning champion, Wladimir Klitschko and rising star Anthony Joshua at London’s Wembley Stadium. It was a fantastic fight with a spectacular finish, as the American slugger knocked down Klitschko twice in the 11th round to earn a TKO victory. Loffler capped his year in September when he promoted the eagerly-awaited rematch of Roman Gonzalez and Thailand’s Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. It too proved to a terrific fight, with the Thai boxer knocking out the former best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.

Springs Toledo: Dominic Ingle

What Billy Joe Saunders didn't understand and what Dominic Ingle did was that boxing is a character sport first. Although skills are critical and count more than athleticism, it's character that is the foundation of the sport -- roadwork before sunrise, tedious workout sessions, grueling sparring sessions in the ring, self-denial out of it. Saunders walked into the Wincobank Gym in Sheffield in June, reported to Ingle and set up quarters in a house next door. Ingle is the lead in a team that includes nutritionist Greg Marriott and loft-mate Kid Galahad and is built on the age-old boxing principles. "He's got too many distractions," Ingle told Boxing News in June. In September, Saunders defeated Willie Monroe Jr. In October, David Lemieux was formally announced as his opponent. His cloistered devotion to conditioning and craft paid off and he not only won, but astounded everyone. He has no illusions about what and who he needs. If it wasn't for Dominic Ingle, he said in the post-fight interview, "my boxing career would be finished and over."

Hamilton Nolan: Andre Rozier

Andre Rozier. Sadam Ali beat Cotto, and Danny Jacobs did better than anyone had ever done against Golovkin. That's enough for a decade.

Gordon Marino: Virgil Hunter

Frank Della Femina: Andre Rozier

For the past two years we’ve been spoiled by erratic Teddy Atlas-isms to the point where nothing can even come close to matching it. But while this year’s fights missed stoic statements about “water in the basement” or shifting boxing careers to that of “firemen”, I’m going to give this title to Sadam Ali’s corner in his fight against Miguel Cotto. Although it is public knowledge at this point that Cotto was injured in Round 7, Ali’s corner was overly animated, encouraging, and motivating for a guy who was simply written off by everyone watching that fight. Say what you will about him beating a one-handed fighter, but if you’re in the ring with a legend like Cotto, fighting to stay alive and stake a claim in another HBO Boxing main event, you need inspiration, confidence, and direction. Ali executed well, but his corner helped him get there.

Oliver Goldstein: Andre Rozier

Few backed Danny Jacobs against Gennady Golovkin in March. And while Jacobs didn’t emerge with the nod, he took Golovkin into far deeper waters than anyone had managed previously. Jacobs had GGG looking bemused through three, though the Kazakh seemed to waken from slumber when he had him on the canvas in the fourth. No problem – Jacobs returned to his feet and had Golovkin looking defanged all over again. Key to this was a strategy that had GGG frequently off balance as he looked to let go of the combination punches he’s become known for. This was a loss, but Jacobs left the ring a bigger fighter than he entered it. 2018 should be a big year for the New Yorker.

Kieran Mulvaney: Freddie Roach

There are plenty of good candidates for this, numerous occasions on which a corner team has coaxed the best out of its fighter in those difficult moments when all seemed to be going against him. Chepo and Eddie Reynoso, for example, made sure that Canelo Alvarez knew he needed the three best rounds of his life if he had to have any hope of preventing Gennady Golovkin from winning their middleweight battle. But nobody turned around a fight the way Alberto Machado did. In his October bout with Jezreel Corrales, Machado was being hit from every conceivable angle by just about every kind of punch. He was dropped. He was being battered. Through it all, trainer Freddie Roach calmly told him to stick to the fundamentals, work his jab and wait for the openings. And because of the way Corrales flung himself into his unorthodox attack, Roach assured him, those openings would come. In the event, Corrales needed just one, uncorking a left hook that landed on the jaw of his onrushing opponent and dropped him. Corrales juuuuust failed to beat the count, and Machado had the win.

Carlos Acevedo: Rob McCracken

Working with the talented but unseasoned Anthony Joshua—who had never gone into the eighth round before facing his biggest test in Wladimir Klitschko—Rob McCracken provided a calming voice in the corner between rounds. This was particularly evident when an exhausted Joshua, after suffering the first knockdown of his career, plopped onto his stool at the end of the sixth. Joshua struggled for the next few rounds, but with the guidance of McCracken, once a middleweight contender himself, Joshua pulled through for the biggest win of his career.

Eric Raskin: Andre Rozier

I’m picking Ali in part because I want to give recognition to Andre Rozier, who coached Ali to an upset win over Miguel Cotto and guided Daniel Jacobs to what many saw as an upset win over Gennady Golovkin. For my money, Rozier is the clear Trainer of the Year. But Ali was also guided expertly from a managerial perspective. He had his confidence restored with three comeback wins that followed his 2016 knockout loss to Jessie Vargas, and when he was offered a fight with Cotto that many viewed as a mismatch, his team had the confidence to sign for the fight. In and out of the ring, you can’t steer a young fighter any more perfectly than Ali was steered this year.

Diego Morilla: Thainchai “Bank” Pisitwuttinan

Abel Sanchez with Gennady Golovkin

Abel Sanchez with Gennady Golovkin

There were fighters and managers from all corners of the world at the usually boring and pedestrian pre-fight presser in Carson back in September, all of them taking turns to repeat their own self-praise about their great training camps and their gratitude to God and their promoters. But one of them had a story to tell, for a change. His fighter, he said, walked into his gym a few years prior with a dismal 2-3-1 record, and perhaps a dozen more losses in illegal bouts across the country. He was working as a trash collector, and oftentimes he found his meals in those bags as well. He was allowed to sleep on the floor of the gym as he trained, and before he knew it, he said, his fighter had gone from scavenging for food in Bangkok’s garbage bins to building a 25-win streak topped by a title bout that he lost, only to embark on another, 17-fight winning streak topped by back-to-back wins against the best fighter in the world. Wisaksil Wangek, A.K.A. Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, said the man they call “Bank” for a reason, had cashed in on the hopes that he had deposited in him less than seven years ago to turn his life around and beat the best fighter in the world – twice. And just as another kid from the slums of an overcrowded Southeast Asian city (Manny something or other), he said, Wisaksil was here to stay. There may not be enough reasons to take his word to an actual bank just yet, but I can see myself betting my rent money on his assessment. I’ve lost more than that on lesser causes.

Michael Gluckstadt: Eddie and Chepo Reynoso

While I thought Gennady Golovkin did enough to secure a close win against Canelo Alvarez, what I thought going into the fight was that GGG would have his way. The Reynosos prepared their man to dismantle Golovkin's considerable arsenal, and Canelo had an answer for all of the questions previous opponents couldn't solve.

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

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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

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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

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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

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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: Fighter 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 Fighter of the Year.

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

Nat Gottlieb: Andre Ward

It’s hard to give a fighter the year’s best honor when he fought just once in 2017, but in this case Andre Ward is the exception to the rule. With his convincing and devastating dismantling of former champ Sergey Kovalev. Ward proved he should be sitting atop the light heavyweight division as well as the list of pound-for-pound fighters. After Ward defeated Kovalev in their first meeting in 2016 by a razor thin unanimous decision, many felt the Russian power puncher was robbed. In the rematch this June, Ward answered any questions lingering from their first fight with a systematic beatdown of Kovalev, stopping him in the eighth round.

Springs Toledo: Srisaket Sor Rungvisai

Many outlets considered Roman Gonzalez the best P4P fighter in the world in March of this year. Then Srisaket Sor Rungvisai arrived for the first time on American shores with a smile on his face that hid his intention destroy an idol. Sor Rungvisai's record was nothing that would have alarmed Gonzalez. Since the previous June, he had fought three six-rounders and the fighters he defeated were making their professional debuts. Gonzalez had abdicated the flyweight throne in October 2016 and struggled in a win against Carlos Cuadras at junior bantamweight. Cuadras owns a technical win over the invader, but that was in 2014 and was more false assurance.

As it was, Sor Rungvisai -- physically strong, heavy handed, unorthodox, and relentless -- proved to be a technician's nightmare. Gonzalez could neither hurt nor control him and a series of unintentional headbutts were at once painful and disruptive. A banged-up Gonzalez lost a controversial majority decision.    

The rematch removed all doubt. Sor Rungvisai trained four months to make sure of it. He knocked Gonzalez down and then out with a right hand and proved himself Aaron Pryor to Gonzalez's Alexis Arguello. An underdog both times, Sor Rungvisai conquered the best P4P fighter in the world.

Hamilton Nolan: Srisaket Sor Rungvisai

Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. Golovkin had a great year too. But Rungvisai single-handedly deposed the mini-Golovkin, Chocolatito, ushering in a new era atop the division and demonstrating that perhaps all the talk of Chocolatito as the "best pound for pound fighter" was a bit overblown.

Gordon Marino: Andre Ward

Frank Della Femina: Andre Ward

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Andre Ward may have fought only once this year, but it’s all he needed to get my pick for HBO Fighter of the Year. Here’s a guy who essentially took a year off at what was perceived to be the height of his career, came back into the mix with a few soft touches, and then took on the “Krusher” in their highly anticipated 2016 fight. Say what you will be about the first fight, but Ward came out on top in the eyes of the judges, and when it comes to earning the W those are the only eyes that matter. Ward could have bounced then, he could have called it a career and left everyone wondering what could have been if only he and Kovalev had faced each other once again. But he didn’t want to leave any doubt. He wanted to make a statement. So Ward took the rematch, won in convincing fashion, and showed boxing fans he had nothing more to prove. He slayed the biggest name in the division not once, but twice, and went out on top, on his terms.

Oliver Goldstein: Srisaket Sor Rungvisai

There’s no fighter more deserving of this than Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. Not especially heralded before his first fight with the brilliant Chocolatito Gonzalez, even if he had been tabbed by a few aficionados as worth a punt against the small, aging Chocolatito, the Thai super flyweight produced a stunning performance to upset the Nicaraguan in a marvelous bout this March in New York. Then, six months later, he returned to double the dose, this time stopping Chocolatito in four devastating rounds. Keeping up the schedule, Sor Rungvisai returns in February against the terrific Mexican, Juan Estrada. Before that, though, he can take great satisfaction from an extraordinary year.

Kieran Mulvaney: Andre Ward

This is a little hard, as nobody really separated himself from the pack. Had he faced Orlando Salido as scheduled and emerged victorious, the winner might have been Miguel Berchelt, who would have been the only boxer to go 3-0 on the network this year. Even at 2-0, you could easily pick him. There’s a strong case to be made for Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, who scored a controversial points win and a devastating knockout over Chocolatito Gonzalez, who was widely regarded as the number one fighter in the world pound-for-pound when the year began; if I believed he actually did win that first fight, I’d surely pick him. Had Gennady Golovkin been given the decision many feel he merited against Canelo Alvarez, he might have gotten the nod; had Alvarez begun his storming late-rounds comeback a round or two earlier, he might have done. But I’m going with someone who only fought once this year and, it seems, will never fight again. He bullied the bully and crushed the Krusher; after again falling behind early against Sergey Kovalev, as he had done when they first met last November, he got into gear sooner and took over the contest more comprehensively, before removing any doubt with an eighth-round stoppage.

Carlos Acevedo: Srisaket Sor Rungvisai

The draw between Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin last September made this choice a difficult one. Had a winner emerged from that collision—officially, that is, since GGG seemed to edge out a decision—he would have easily been the Fighter of the Year. As it stands, however, neither Golovkin nor Alvarez notched clear-cut victories over elite competition in 2017. In a way, neither did Andre Ward, whose stoppage of Sergey Kovalev was marred by poor officiating. That leaves Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, who followed up his debatable but arduous points win over Roman Gonzalez in March with a chilling KO that left no room for guesswork. He also took the guesswork out of this category.

Eric Raskin: Srisaket Sor Rungvisai

If either of them had fought more than once on HBO this year, I probably would have given this honor to Anthony Joshua or Andre Ward. But they didn’t, so I’m not. I’m instead recognizing Rungvisai, who went from an unknown outside of Thailand entering the year to a man who twice defeated the fighter who entered 2017 as the pound-for-pound king. Sure, the first win over Chocolatito Gonzalez was a highly controversial (read: incorrect) decision. But Rungvisai had knocked Chocolatito down and pushed him harder than anyone else had in his pro career, so it was at least a moral victory. And it was followed by an emphatic victory: a fourth-round knockout in which the once-great Chocolatito was made to look like a tomato can. That was Rungvisai’s coming-out party, and it made his earlier upset win feel more legitimate in retrospect.

Matt Draper: Tie between Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Daniel Jacobs

I’m nominating two guys: Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Danny Jacobs. Sor Rungvisai was clinical in his March upset of former P4P king Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, and in the September rematch produced a dominant, clear-cut victory that proved his ring skills beyond a doubt. The comparisons to Pacman are not crazy far-fetched and his February 2018 bout will be one to watch. In addition to Sor Rungvisai, Jacobs made a bold statement in 2017; aside from bouncing back from a GGG knockdown to give the Kazakh all he could handle for 12 tough rounds in a close loss, the “Miracle Man” made easy work of trash-talk extraordinaire Luis Arias in November and is firmly planted on the next-up middleweight tier after Canelo and Golovkin. Also, it’s pretty tough not to like the guy; Jacobs quickly became a fan favorite with his rise-from-the-ashes story and consistent class act. (Bonus points for the “fruity pebbles” line during the Arias presser.)

Diego Morilla: Canelo Alvarez

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The anti-Canelo crowd had two main arguments against the Freckled Boy Wonder’s claim to superiority: he would have to face, once and for all and with no excuses, what they perceived as his two biggest threats. In 2017, he did. What are the excuses now? Granted: in the first one, Julio Cesar Chavez simply didn’t come to fight. And in the second one, he focused more on making Gennady Golovkin miss than on making him pay for it. But even so, Canelo was only a few lucky twists and turns away from scoring two impressive signature wins in one year against his most dangerous foes available, and that has to mean something somewhere. In a world where fighters are rushed to the top of the pound-for-pound rankings after Globetrotting the Washington Generals du jour based on how good they look in the ring, someone did the hard work of facing the best out there, and has not yet been rewarded for it. This modest paragraph intends to serve, as best it can, that modest purpose.  

Michael Gluckstadt: Anthony Joshua

Srisaket Sor Rungvisai made himself a compelling case, but ultimately it's too difficult to disentwine his emergence from Chocolatito's downfall. Is the Thai fighter truly the best in the division? Or did the former pound-for-pounder from Nicaragua simply reach his expiration date? Andre Ward's lone opponent in 2017 -- a Sergey Kovalev who is very much still Krushing -- showed no doubt that the "Son of God" is still capable of beating the best, but I'd rather focus on the future than the past, and no one cemented their star status this year like Anthony Joshua, who did so on the biggest possible stage in the best fight of the year.

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

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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.