IT seems like every other week, I’m inevitably asked the same question by a fellow fight fan: “When is the last time we had it this good?” “Never” is the response that typically springs to mind. After years of being force-fed boxing’s version of prison slop, 2017 has been a king’s banquet for fans.
The tide shifted on December 10 2016. Showtime aired a triple-header of Anthony Joshua-Eric Molina, Abner Mares-Jesus Cuellar, and Jermall Charlo-Julian Williams. Charlo-Williams was emblematic of what would become the norm on the network. These weren’t retreads fighting for another payday. These were young, talented fighters of championship ilk risking their records and reputations early in their careers.
That turning point paved the way for a staggering 2017, a year rivaling any in recent memory:
Badou Jack-James DeGale / Jose Pedraza-Gervonta Davis (Jan. 14 on Showtime) – Davis won his first world title with a star-making performance while Jack-DeGale is a Fight of the Year candidate—and that wasn’t even the best fight on the card. Immanuwel Aleem’s sixth-round TKO of Ievgen Khytrov on Showtime Extreme was a thrilling see-saw affair. Brooklyn’s Barclay’s Center was rocking that night.
Carl Frampton-Leo Santa Cruz II / Mikey Garcia-Dejan Zlaticanin (Jan. 28 on Showtime) – Frampton-Santa Cruz II wasn’t as good as their first encounter but it was every bit as intense. Santa Cruz displayed boxing skills few thought he possessed. In the co-feature, Mikey Garcia turned in the fistic rendition of “Y’all Musta Forgot” with a KO of the Year candidate.
Francisco Vargas-Miguel Berchelt (Jan. 28 on HBO) – Only hardcore boxing fans were familiar with their names but Vargas-Berchelt was like a throwback HBO Boxing After Dark fight as Berchelt delivered a head-turning performance in this title-winning effort.
Sammy Vasquez Jr.-Luis Collazo (Feb. 2 on PBC on FS1) – Collazo and Vasquez warred for five and a half rounds. Then, with a single right hook, veteran Collazo vanquished Vasquez to the sandbox with the other wee children.
Deontay Wilder-Gerald Washington (Feb. 25 on PBC on Fox) – The main event was a snoozer that Wilder thankfully ended in the fifth, but the undercard was stacked. Jarrett Hurd-Tony Harrison was solid on paper and in the ring while Dominic Breazeale and Izuagbe Ugonoh delivered this era’s version of Foreman-Lyle.
Keith Thurman-Danny Garcia / Erickson Lubin-Jorge Cota (Mar. 4 on CBS/Showtime) – While the main event didn’t meet expectations, on paper it was gold. If the numbers count for anything, this was arguably the biggest fight since Mayweather-Pacquiao; 5.1 million viewers tuned in.
David Haye-Tony Bellew (Mar. 4 on Sky Box Office) – Bellew scored a “yuge” upset over Haye, battering a foe who suffered an Achilles injury early in the fight, and was reduced to stumbling around the ring launching desperate haymakers that never landed.
Gennady Golovkin-Danny Jacobs / Roman Gonzalez-Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (Mar. 18 on HBO PPV) – We complained that this was on PPV (it shouldn’t have been). Those who tuned in (approximately 170,000 buys) we’re glad they did. Jacobs gave “GGG” the toughest fight of his career, dropping a close decision. The co-main was a bloody affair that saw Rungvisai end Gonzalez’s 12-year, 46-fight win streak.
Jorge Linares-Anthony Crolla II (Mar. 25 on Showtime) – A rejuvenated Linares left no doubt in this rematch as to who was the superior fighter. Great action? Not necessarily, but a great matchup featuring a sublime performance.
Vasyl Lomachenko-Jason Sosa (April 8 on HBO) – Lomachenko hasn’t had a memorable fight or matchup in 2017 but is still a major part of this year’s narrative. Watching Loma perform is like watching a prime Roy Jones toy with a civil servant: Not the ideal matchup but still must-watch TV. Sosa never stood a chance.
Shawn Porter-Andre Berto / Jermell Charlo-Charles Hatley (Apr. 22 on Showtime) – Berto isn’t elite. But this was a fun fight, albeit one-sided. Porter is now welterweight titlist Keith Thurman’s mandatory. Their first fight was one of 2016’s best but most would rather see Thurman-Errol Spence Jr. next; the best matchup in the sport’s hottest division. Charlo turned in a career-best in the chief support, punishing a Hatley who’d been full of talk during the build-up.
Anthony Joshua vs Wladimir Klitschko (Apr. 29 on Showtime) – A super fight between two super men in front of 90,000 at Wembley Stadium. The hype for this one was off the charts and the action exceeded it.
Canelo Alvarez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr (May 6 on HBO PPV) – A disappointing PPV although intriguing enough to make a million people wonder what if? The highlight of the night: Canelo and Golovkin in the ring post-fight announcing their September date.
Terence Crawford-Felix Diaz / Ray Beltran-Jonathan Maicelo (May 20 on HBO) – Crawford, perhaps the game’s best practitioner, is a pleasure to watch. To make Diaz look so ineffectual says a lot about “Bud.” Beltran obliterated Maicelo via one-punch KO in the second.
David Benavidez-Porky Medina (May 20 on PBC on FS1) – If you haven’t heard about David Benavidez (18-0, 17), you’re late to the party. And if you missed the insane combination that finished Medina off, find it on YouTube. We may be looking at the next super middleweight king.
Kell Brook-Errol Spence Jr. (May 27 on Showtime) – Another fight where the action met the hype. A break-out performance for Spence and a brave one from Brook.
Andre Ward-Sergey Kovalev II (Jun. 17 on HBO PPV) – An immediate rematch between two pound-for-pound fighters following a disputed decision in the first fight. Their star power doesn’t warrant a PPV, but who can complain about this matchup? The action delivered although not without a twist ending.
Adrien Broner-Mikey Garcia (Jul. 29 on Showtime) – Like an unexpected gift from a loved one; we didn’t ask for it, but we’ll gladly accept. This fight could make Garcia a superstar. Or will Broner finally and live up to his potential?
Canelo Alvarez-Gennady Golovkin (Sep. 16 on HBO PPV) – Enough said.
PBC on FS1 can’t be overlooked either. The “Toe-to-Toe Tuesdays” series is like a prime ESPN Friday Night Fights on PEDs; delivering quality action each episode.
There were other bouts that deserve mention: Adrien Broner and Adrian Granados went at it for 10 fast-paced rounds; Zhanat Zhakiyanov’s shocking win over Rau’Shee Warren was pleasurable viewing and Adonis Stevenson reminded us that he might be the best light heavyweight with a two-round pummeling of Andrjez Fonfara.
To think, we’re just hitting the half-year mark. But I know what you’re thinking: When was the last time we had it this good? Some say 2013:
- Floyd Mayweather-Saul Alvarez
- Guillermo Rigondeaux-Nonito Donaire
- Danny Garcia-Lucas Matthysse
- Marcos Maidana-Adrien Broner
- Carl Froch-Mikkel Kessler II
- Timothy Bradley-Juan Manuel Marquez
- Jhonny Gonzalez-Abner Mares
- Timothy Bradley Jr.-Ruslan Provodnikov
- Danny Garcia-Zab Judah
- Jesus Soto Karass-Andre Berto
- Gennady Golovkin-Matthew Macklin
- Adonis Stevenson-Chad Dawson
- Lucas Matthysse-Lamont Peterson
- Marcos Maidana-Josesito Lopez
- Mikey Garcia-Roman Martinez
- Sergey Kovalev-Nathan Cleverly
But does that full year beat this half one? Upon further review, this writer believes that the last time boxing had it this good was in 1997, when Evander Holyfield lost part of his ear, Roy Jones Jr. lost his undefeated record, and “Prince” Naseem Hamed gained an army of American fans.
- Evander Holyfield-Mike Tyson II
- Evander Holyfield-Michael Moorer II
- Roy Jones Jr.-Montell Griffin I
- Roy Jones Jr.-Montell Griffin II
- Oscar De La Hoya-Pernell Whitaker
- Naseem Hamed-Kevin Kelley
- Junior Jones-Kennedy McKinney
- Lennox Lewis-Andrew Golota
- Arturo Gatti-Gabriel Ruelas
- Daniel Zaragoza-Erik Morales
- Danny Romero-Johnny Tapia
- Daniel Zaragoza-Wayne McCullough
- Kostya Tszyu-Vince Phillips
- Junior Jones-Marco Antonio Barrera II
- David Tua-Ike Ibeabuchi
- Joe Calzaghe-Chris Eubank
- Tom Johnson-Naseem Hamed
- James Toney-Mike McCallum III
- Genaro Hernandez-Azumah Nelson
- Virgil Hill-Dariusz Michalczewski
- Bernard Hopkins-Glen Johnson
- Terry Norris-Keith Mullings
- George Foreman-Shannon Briggs
- Ike Quartey-Jose Luis Lopez
- Oscar De La Hoya-Miguel Angel Gonzalez
- Pernell Whitaker-Diobelys Hurtado
2017 will likely surpass 2013. Can it surpass 1997, the greatest year of the past 20?