2016 in Review – A year to remember?

andre-ward-sergey-kovalev
Credit: David Spagnolo/Main Events

Umar Ahmed

It’s fair to say that overall 2016 has been a disappointing year for the fight fan. Even though boxing fans around the world have been treated to some big fights this year such as Kovalev vs Ward, Frampton vs Santa Cruz, Thurman vs Porter, Pacquiao vs Vargas and Lomachenko vs Walters (which was an anti-climax), there have been many potential classic bouts that didn’t end up getting made. Brook vs Khan, Canelo vs GGG, BJ Saunders vs GGG and Fury vs Klitschko, to name a few. Of course we did see Canelo vs Khan and Brook vs GGG, but even though both the Brits did well in the early stages of their respective fights, a lot of hardcore fans were of the opinion that eventually the step up in weight for both Brook and Khan would prove to be too much of a challenge and that both fights were a bit of a mismatch. This turned out to be true as Canelo and GGG both dealt with their opponents buy out powering them, and hopefully the public will be able to see Brook and Khan in a true 50 50 fight next year, if both fighters are able to once and for all, get in the ring together.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom, as the beginning of the year promises to be a cracker with two huge fights to look forward to in the States. Firstly, on the 14th of January, James DeGale will make the trip across the Atlantic to face Badou Jack who has already beaten DeGale’s great rival George Groves, where two of the planet’s best super middleweights come together in attempt to unify the division. Then at the end of the same month, Carl Frampton will face Leo Santa Cruz in a rematch of a fight of the year contender. The first fight was quite sublime, and saw the ‘The Jackal’ become a two-weight world champion after beating the Mexican. Shane McGuigan has done a fantastic job with Frampton and propelled to him new heights, making him Britain’s number one pound for pound fighter, and why he didn’t even make the shortlist for 2016 SPOTY is quite beyond me, but I’m sure that is the least of team Frampton’s worries, as they’ll be working extremely hard and looking to take their momentum from this year into 2017 seeking their second win over Santa Cruz. Whatever the outcome of the rematch, if the first fight is anything to go by, boxing fans can look forward to a lot of entertainment come the 28th of January.

A rematch between Ward and Kovalev certainly wouldn’t go a miss in 2017. The decision went to Ward the first time around to the annoyance of a lot of fans, including myself, who had scored it for Kovalev by a few rounds but it was by no means a robbery. There has been some words exchanged over Twitter between the American and the Russian that has only added to the anticipation of the rematch where the WBA, WBO and IBF Light Heavyweight titles will be on the line again. I’m sure the fight will get made due to both the fighters speaking of a rematch and the demand for it is huge.

Another fight that the US fans can look forward to is the 147lb unification fight between Danny Garcia and Keith Thurman for the WBC and WBA titles which is scheduled for the 4th of March. Garcia hasn’t impressed the fans in his last few fights which has left fight fans questioning his world champion status. Finally we will get to see him in a competitive fight and if he comes out victorious, perhaps he will lose a lot of his critics. Thurman, on the other hand, is thought of highly and beat Shawn Porter in his last outing. As Porter is a leading operator in the division it has vastly increased Thurman’s stock. Due to this and his high knockout ratio, I believe that Thurman will beat Garcia but only if he can avoid the wild left hook that Garcia is famous for.

Back to the domestic scene, and I’m very much looking forward to the possibility of a rematch between Whyte and Chisora. Leading up to the fight, it’s fair to say that things got out of hand, and it almost felt like the build up was going to overshadow the fight itself which wouldn’t live up to the public’s expectation. However, a lot of us were very wrong as South London and North London locked horns and gave us a gripping battle, and both can be highly commended on a terrific 12 rounds which certainly felt like the main event of the Joshua Molina card. Scorecards and judges seemed to be a theme in 2016 across many fights, and once again this was a topic of discussion. Many felt Chisora landed the heavier shots over the rounds and thought he should have got the decision. However, the Matchroom boxer Whyte got the nod from the judges, and this should hopefully set up a rematch in the new year, where we can see an even more motivated Derek Chisora.

The possible fights mentioned above are only a glimpse of what we may see in the new year. Anthony Crolla will be looking to rectify his loss over Jorge Linares in a highly anticipated rematch between the pair. Of course we have a couple of heavyweight clashes coming up in the UK that can’t go unmentioned due to the publicity surrounding them. Firstly, at the o2 in March, we will see Tony Bellew move up to heavyweight to face David Haye. Even though Haye hasn’t had a competitive fight for ages and Bellew has been very active in 2016, I expect the move up in weight to prove too much of an ask, and I fancy Haye’s speed and power to stop Bellew early on. Then we move on to late April where we will see, unfortunately for Carl Froch, 90’000 people housed in at Wembley for Anthony Joshua’s first real test where he takes on the legend that is Wladimir Klitschko. Billy Joe Saunders put on a very average display against Akavov to the back end of 2016, and will probably require one or two more tune up fights, before he steps in the ring with GGG or Canelo. The Ukrainian Lomachenko and the Cuban Rigondeaux have had a few things to say about each other on Twitter, and if they end up getting a fight made for 2017, that may well end up being fight of the year. They are two of the best pound for pound fighters and seeing them in a ring together would be a boxing fan’s dream.

Let’s hope the majority of those bouts mentioned get made and the fight fan can enjoy 2017!

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