compiled by Danny Howard
For the most part, 2016 will probably be best remembered in the sport as the year the action stopped. Promotional and political red tape slowed fights down to a crawl, preventing the best possible fights to actually happen, and the rapidly diminishing quality of shows from HBO Boxing, once the flagship of the sport, did not contribute much to the still heavily-resisted move to regular television.
Between all of the bad, there was still plenty of good that was right there. New stars emerged, great fights did happen and there were moments in the game we couldn’t keep our eyes away from.
That’s what we’re honoring at The Boxing Tribune.
Without further delay, The Boxing Tribune Year End Awards for 2016
Fighter of the Year
Carl Frampton went into hostile territory not once, but twice, and twice defeated very good and undefeated contemporaries in Scott Quigg and an unforgettable bout with Leo Santa Cruz. Frampton became a two-division champion with the win over Santa Cruz, with the win not only legitimizing himself as a top pound for pound star, but our 2016 Fighter of the Year.
Fight of the Year
Francisco Vargas vs. Orlando Salido
Oddly enough, in a year where there seemed to be a lack of fights, we got plenty of good ones, but not any better than the savage war between Jr. Lightweights Orlando Salido and Francisco Vargas. For 12 rounds, Salido and Vargas fought a close quarters battle which saw enough momentum changes and big moments for two fights let alone one. Neither man came out a victor, the bout was ruled a draw, but their display of brutality was enough to earn our Fight of the Year honors.
Event of the Year
The Passing of Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali was more than a boxer. The former champion was a civil rights activist, a man of action and showed unparalleled bravery that has seldom been seen since, which made Ali’s passing all the more unbearable when it happened earlier this year. The Greatest that ever did it was finally put to rest, but his spirit continues to burn bright even in the face of his passing. Ali’s passing left the sport hollow, leaving the sport less one incredible icon, and a clear call for our Event of the Year.
KO of the Year
Saul Alvarez KO6 Amir Khan
There’s something about inevitability that makes even the most expected results that much more dramatic, and that certainly was the case when Saul “Canelo” Alvarez momentarily disconnected Amir Khan from reality in the sixth round of their Middleweight title fight. Khan survived as long as he could, but a straight right hand from Alvarez in the sixth was all he needed to demolish Khan and win our KO of the Year.
Female Fighter of the Year
While Cecilia Breakhus may be the more familiar female fighter to our fans, it would be a disservice to overlook the year Jessica Chavez had. Chavez made three defenses of her Flyweight title, including a victory over Bantamweight champion Naoko Fujioka last October. Chavez’s acheivements are enough to award her our Female Fighter of the Year.
Breakthrough Fighter of the Year
Joe Smith Jr.
Joe Smith Jr. was built up as nothing more than a construction worker with a part-time job as a fighter, and while that was in fact true, nobody had a more impactful year than the Light Heavyweight bomber who knocked out both title challenger Andrezj Fonfara and legend Bernard Hopkins. Smith stopped Fonfara in one and ended Hopkins’ career in eight, establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with in the Light Heavyweight division—and for that, he’s our Breakout Fighter of the Year.
Upset of the Year
Joe Smith Jr. KO1 Andrezj Fonfara
Though Smith will probably be better remembered for his career-ending stoppage of Bernard Hopkins, it was his shocking one-punch KO of sturdy Andrezj Fonfara that put him on the map. Fonfara had hung tough with WBC champion Adonis Stevenson and battered Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. to submission, so many thought such a comprehensive loss was a statistical impossibility. Smith’s first round KO of Fonfara not only was the start of something bigger, but our Upset of the Year.
Trainer of the Year
Shane McGuigan wins out Trainer of the Year award for the phenominal work he did with Carl Frampton, the resurging George Groves and keeping David Haye on point for another Heavyweight title. McGuigan’s versatility and performance on the sport’s highest level made him and his charge Frampton among the top names of the sport at the end of the year.
Robbery of the Year
Darleys Perez D12 Maurice Hooker
Andre Ward’s hotly contested decision win over Sergey Kovalev may have grabbed all the headlines, but a robbery it was not. That distinction, and the award for Robbery of the Year, comes from the Roc Nation heist of Darleys Perez as he dominated and outclassed Maurice Hooker over 12 rounds only to get a ridiculous draw in a fight where there wasn’t a competitive round between them.
Comeback Fighter of the Year
After twice falling to Carl Froch by knockout and then losing another title shot to Badou Jack, it looked like the end of the road for the very talented George Groves. However, Groves managed to right his ship by going 3-0 in 2016 in very impressive fashion. Once outside the bubble, Groves has very quickly found himself in the thick of things at a very stacked Super Middleweight division and for that, he’s out Comeback Fighter of the Year.
Thanks for the great year and we can’t wait to show all of you what The Boxing Tribune has in store for 2017!