By Lewis Calvert @BigWriteHook
In years gone by writers have opened their yearly review with “British Boxing is booming” or something along those lines, then reel off a load of our World champions, but this year has seen many Brits drop belts.
2018 has been a mixed bag, it has seen the return of former fighters and the retirement of others. The on-running rivalry between BT and Sky Sports promises to bring us bigger and better fights next year, though whether that will be on the same night remains to be seen. Here let’s quickly look back at how the year unfolded…
It was a quiet start to the year with American Errol Spence beating Lamont Peterson to start things off nicely. Dark horse Oleksandr Usyk continued his quest for World domination by outpointing Mairis Breidis in the World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight semi-final as that competition began to heat up.
The stand out winner of the Borefest of the Year award goes to the Lawrence Okolie and Isaac Chamberlain fight. The former holding on for 36 action-lacked minutes to reach a decision victory that couldn’t have came any sooner; time itself seeming to slow down for the entirety of the excruciatingly hug-a-thon.
In a mirror opposite fight, George Groves proved boxing hipsters wrong by schooling Chris Eubank Jr for 11 solid rounds, before dislocating his shoulder in the 12th and surviving a three minute onslaught. The illusion of Eubank’s ability, thanks to countless instagram videos, once again shattered by a fighter who hits back.
Deontay Wilder’s biggest test to date came in the heavy-hitting form of 103 year old Luis Ortiz. The Cuban laying an almighty beat-down on the champion in an enthralling fight, which the Champ withstood. In a real announcement to the boxing world, Wilder flattened his ageing foe and silenced many of his doubters.
So too did Heavyweight rival Anthony Joshua, who added yet another belt to his growing collection with a professional, if not cagey, performance against Joseph “Pie Belly” Parker. Perhaps the most entertaining aspect of this whole charade was the verbal sparring between promoters Eddie Hearn and the straight talking, eccentric, Dave Higgins.
Amir Khan’s return to the ring lasted less than a minute, but we’ve all been there ay lads – just give it 20 minutes then go again. The Bolton mans much hyped return didn’t really answer any questions we had about him since revealing his love of strawberries and fear of snakes in the Australian jungle.
Carl Frampton outpointed Nanito Donaire in a in a classy showing both in the ring and out of it. This friendly bout a cash grab for both and it was a nice filler bout in a slow month.
James DeGale recaptured his World title from Caleb Truax in a rematch that sparred his blushes from his unexpected loss in their previous fight. It was not a performance to be proud of, not vintage DeGale but he just done enough. It was perhaps the first showing of his talent waning heading into the twilight of his career.
An absolute cracker of a month for boxing fans began with loud-mouth Scouser Tony Bellew backing up his war of words in the rematch with David Haye. Bomber exploded on the “Bermondsy Bitch” in devastating fashion, trading with the former Heavyweight champion an flattening him in the fifth. It ended faint hopes of Haye’s dream fight with Anthony Joshua and propelled Bellew into becoming a household name.
For purists, Vasyl Lomachenko once again showcases his incredible talent beating the ever-classy Jorge Linares to become a three weight World champion, despite being dropped earlier in the fight. It was a bout that strengthened Loma’s position at the top of many people’s pound for pound list.
Josh Warrington also announced himself on the World stage by upstaging and outworking the Lee Selby by split decision. The Leeds faithful delighted to see their man upset the odds against a fighter known to be very slick and proof that hard work pays off.
Tyson Fury made his return to the ring after a 2 year lay-off for a plethora of reasons and while this exhibition was little more than a training session, it was nice to see the big man back.
Josh Taylor continued his impressive career, schooling veteran Viktor Postol by a unanimous decision. Hand speed, relentless work ethic and some clever combination punching saw a professional performance garner the victory and media prais he has warranted.
Dave Allen’s popularity exploded once more thanks to an overhand right sent from the Gods that almost burst Nick Webb through the ropes when the pair met. Having took the fight on such short notice, many doubted Allen’s ability to pull off the win and the first three rounds seemed to suggest as much. But the fan favourite gained new found respect for his power and it was a bold statement to everyone on the domestic scene that he may not only be the money fight, but the man to beat.
Dillian Whyte waded through another tough challenge in Joseph Parker, doing what Anthony Joshua couldn’t, dropping the New Zealander for the first time in his career, not once, but twice. In a rousing last round Whyte too was forced to touch the canvas too, holding on for dear life to see out the fight and take a hard fought win.
Oleksandr Usyk became the undisputed cruiserweight king with a 12 round schooling of Murat Gassiev. The ease in which the Ukranian coasted through the tough competition has seen him creep up into the pound for pound lists. His engaging humour, entertaining footwork, mischievous shifty eyes and broken English strangely adding to his charm.
Fuck all happened. Fury beat some guy called Panna Cotta or something and Carl Frampton stopped Luke Jackson pretty routinely. All credit to Jackson, who was well out of his league and does have a very interesting story to tell regarding his fight with OCD.
Amir Khan saw his stock drop as fast as he did when Samuel Vargas landed flush on his head. The Olympian going on to secure a unanimous decision but it dashed the hopes of many who are still calling for the fight with Kell Brook which should have happened five years ago.
Meanwhile, in the corrupt cesspit of debauchery that is Las Vegas, Gennady Golovkin was unfortunate not to get the decision in a tight fight with with Saul Canelo Alvarez. It was a blood and thunder bout with a slimmer Canelo showing his skills as well as power in several close rounds in the eyes of pretty much everyone. Though it was not the robbery of the first, it did provide Canelo with some much needed respect having lost pretty much all that he had amassed after a drugs ban.
In another contender for Borefest of the Year, current holder… (holder, get it?!) Lawrence Okolie used his Klitschko inspired grab-and-grab style to claw his way to yet another uninspiring victory over Matty Askin. Okolie continues to win, but hemorrhage fans in the process. It will be difficult to match him from here on in with fans unwilling to watch his fights in future.
Man like AJ continue to impress with the Heavyweight king knocking out Russian drug cheat Alexander Povetkin. The short and stocky challenger did provide an early scare for Matchrroom FC, popping the big man’s nose, but eventually the Brit’s power prevailed.
Super-middleweight Callum Smith became a front runner for Fighter of the Year and is now recognised as “The Man” in the division after beating George Groves to win the World Boxing Super Series. It was a powerful performance that has underlined how much of the hype surrounding him was justified.
Callum Johnson almost upset the odds in his attempt to win a World title, dropping the feared Artur Beterbiev before succumbing to his bone shaking power in a four round fire fight.
Jack Catterall also beat Ohara Davies in a fight that wasn’t much to write home about and still hasn’t silenced the outspoken Davies, who may have a future as a Youtube personality, if his boxing career continues on it’s current path.
Anthony Yarde beat another tomato in the camp.
An admirable Hughie Fury came up short in a daring fight against Kubrat Pulev. A cut to the eye hindered young Hughie’s chances, but in truth it was a handy excuse to have in a fight where he never really looked to press the action.
In a cruel twist of fate, Ryan Burnett suffered a freak back injury and was forced to retire and relinquish his belt to Nonito Donaire, whilst Josh Taylor continued his sensational rise with a brilliant performance over Ryan Martin with seventh-round stoppage.
Ricky Burns proved there is life in the old dog yet with the unexpected knockout over Scott Cardle. Though he was expected to take it on points, this was a real statement to say ambitions of a World title still remain.
Finally, the haters of Tony Bellew had reason to celebrate. Oleksandr Usyk calmly disposed of the tired Evertonian in the 8th round to bring down the curtain on a career Bellew could have only dreamed of.
Tyson Fury’s return to the upper echelons of heavyweight boxing added another element to the scene. In losing the weight he did, overcoming the challenges of mental health and rising from the canvas in death deifying fashion come the 12th round, he provided inspiration to anybody watching. Deontay Wilder was out-boxed and out thought, despite scoring two knock-down, it was a fight that was almost predictably going to end controversially, with most boxing fans agreeing Fury should have won instead of getting a draw.
Rocky Fielding’s unexpected fight with Saul Canelo Alvarez ended rather expectantly; with vicious body shots, very early. Rocky may feel he didn’t use his size advantage but in truth it was an understandable cash-in against one of the best fighters on the planet.
Charlie Edwards, though possibly undeserving of a World title shot, couldn’t be more deserving of the victory when he beat Cristofer Rosales by unanimous decision.
Whyte rounds off a solid year, dispatching a resurgent Chisora and ending their feud once and for all. It was another war that could end Chisora’s career and should see Whyte continue his progress on the road to redemption against Joshua.
Josh Warrinton once again upset the odds to cap off a brilliant year with an exciting win over Irish legend Carl Frampton. The relentless manner in which Warrington won against such a high quality opponent has seen him become a legitimate World class fighter and a clear winner of British Fighter of the Year.
It was a cracking year and we can only hope for more of the same in 2019. Who would you like to see fight next year? Share this post and let us know on Twitter @BigWriteHook