By Anthony "Zute" George
Boxing’s Fighter of the Year is always a hot button topic. Whether it is debating, choosing, or reading about the fighter of the year, boxing fans and pundits are ready to defend their choice and, like The Boss said, prove it all night long.
Rather than prove to you that my choice is the correct one, I will explain to you how I decided on my pick for 2016 Fighter of the Year.
Boxing has a long and rich history. If you take a gander at Ring Magazines Fighter of the Year list, you would see a who’s who of pugilists. Armstrong, Louis, Pep, Marciano and Robinson dominated the early days. Men who are mythic figures. Boxers I often think came from magic.
In more modern times, greats like Ali, Frazier, Foreman and Hagler all held this prestigious honor multiple times. Recent history has seen first ballot hall of famers such as Pacquiao, Hopkins, Marquez and Mayweather called the top pugilist in a calendar year.
Whomever is named 2016 Fighter of the Year, they will be in great company and will be held to a higher standard in 2017. At least they should be. Tyson Fury, 2015 Fighter of the Year, has failed miserably in his follow up year.
Often, picking the fighter of the year is easy peasey (I won’t say lemon squeezy, no I won’t). Typically, one fighter stands head and shoulders above all the rest; think Mike Tyson circa 1986.
Other times it is just a sheer volume of dominance in a year that did not have much competition from the rest of the lot, Marvelous Marvin Hagler told this story with three title defenses in 1983. And at other times it is the major upset, that one fight, which is enough to be called Fighter of the Year; like Fury last year, or Ingemar Johansson circa 1959.
In 2016 none of these circumstances held true. Unless you consider Joe Smith Jr., who won two fights he was not supposed to in stunning fashion. A case certainly could be made for the construction worker, I just believe a sexier name will be chosen by Ring Magazine. They got burned by picking Fury last year, and are not going to go the upset route two years in a row.
For me, Smith Jr. was one of many viable candidates in 2016. Carl Frampton, Terrence Crawford, Gennady Golovkin, Roman Gonzalez were also names I considered. None of these fighters stood head and shoulders above the rest in 2016. So, I decided to narrow it down to two fighters who were the most aesthetically pleasing to me.
Vasyl Lomanchenko thrilled and dominated top talent in 2016, both in New York City and Las Vegas. Lomanchenko showcased how sweet and brutal boxing is. I would have chosen Lomanchenko if it were not for a Heavyweight from Britain with a perfect knockout percentage, both in 2016 and in his career.
My 2016 Fighter of the Year is Anthony Joshua. I chose Joshua for a few reasons. One, I felt AJ stood above the crowd visually. You cannot take your eyes off him. While fixated on him, he does not disappoint. Three fistic masterpieces in 2016 are enough for me to call him Fighter of the Year.
Second, AJ bulldozed very formidable competition. Nobody is putting Charles Martin in the Hall of Fame, true, yet how many of today’s heavyweights could have intimated and flattened Martin the way Joshua did? Also, Joshua used Dominic Breazeale as a punching bag. Criticize Breazeale all you want, he was good enough to withstand an early onslaught from Amir Mansour; called the hardest puncher in the heavyweight division by everyone, and stop him. Against Joshua, Breazeale was in survival mode from the opening stanza, and was mutilated by his fistic prowess. I believe if Dominick Breazeale came onto the heavyweight scene five years ago, he would be a top five heavyweight.
Thanks to Joshua, Breazeale might have had his career ruined. Joshua puts a hurting on you that takes years off your career; a quality only the true killers possess. Finally, one might chuckle by the notion of Eric Molina being formidable, yet, there is no mistaken AJ dominated Molina in a way Deontay Wilder was supposed to.
Third, I believe 2016 was the coming out party for Anthony Joshua. He is already must see TV in every country that follows boxing, except for the United States. Although that time is coming. When the book is closed on Joshua, I feel he will stand head and shoulders above all the other candidates in 2016. Overall, boxing in 2016 was like a pot luck dinner. If you went to the right table, you had a choice of many appetizing dinners. For me, Anthony Joshua stimulated my pallet, both now and for the future.
Anthony Joshua, at 3-0, with 3 KO’s, is my 2016 Fighter of the Year.