As the curtain comes down on another stellar year for boxing, Boxing Social‘s Navi Singh reflects on the ‘Top 10 Fights of 2018’ …
10: Dereck Chisora vs Carlos Takam
It is fiendishly difficult to beat Dereck Chisora at his own game; something Carlos Takam discovered to his detriment when the two fighters met on the undercard of Dillian Whyte’s pay-per-view collision with Joseph Parker at London’s 02 Arena. The Frenchman – who, prior to the fight, was essentially stereotyped as a superior version of Chisora – attempted to pummel ‘Del Boy’ into submission, but Chisora, employing the rope-a-dope strategy, once again displayed his remarkable ability to absorb tremendous amounts of punishment. The pyrrhic nature of Takam’s success in the fight over seven rounds was exemplified in the eighth when Chisora, sensing that his counterpart’s tank was rapidly running on empty, bowled over a concussive overhand right that connected flush, as Takam collapsed on the canvas in a crumpled heap.
9: Murat Gassiev vs Yunier Doritcos
In the semi-finals of the World Boxing Super Series, spurred on by a vociferous Sochi crowd, Murat Gassiev produced a positively gladiatorial performance as he weathered an early storm from the heavy-handed Cuban and returned fire with some devastating counter punches of his own throughout the first half of the cruiserweight unification contest. The Ossetian native incrementally upped the intensity and the volume as Dorticos’ own output dwindled towards the championship rounds, before unleashing a violent bombardment of blows in the final stanza to drop the stubborn Cuban thrice and claim a memorable stoppage victory on home soil.
8: Isaac Dogboe vs Jessie Magdaleno
Jessie Magdaleno’s defeat to Isaac Dogboe in Philadelphia, in his first defence since winning the WBO super-bantamweight title from Nonito Donaire the previous years, served as a stark reminder to all champions about the perils of inactivity. After scoring a flash knockdown in the opening round, he was viciously roughed up by a resilient Dogboe before being dropped in the fifth, courtesy of a vicious combination to the body. Magdaleno fought back ferociously as the fight degenerated into something of a slugfest, before ultimately succumbing to the challenger’s dogged assault in the penultimate round, losing both his championship status and undefeated record.
7: Oleksandr Usyk vs Mairis Breidis
On away soil once again in Riga, Oleksandr Usyk demonstrated his excellent ring craft and athleticism in a exhilarating unification showdown with Latvian Mairis Briedis, who also displayed his quality and toughness in the other semi-final of the Cruiserweight World-Boxing-Super-Series. Briedis capitalised on Usyk’s uncharacteristically tentative approach in the early rounds to land some powerful shots, disrupting Usyk’s rhythm with his awkward, stuttering, style and gratifying his deafening hometown crowd with his early success against the betting favourite. The imperturbable Ukrainian went through the gears however, outworking Briedis and continuously applying pressure to narrowly outpoint the Latvian in a bout characterised by spirited exchanges and a furious pace.
6: Deontay Wilder vs Luis Ortiz
Nervous early rounds for WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder were punctuated by almost unbearable tension as southpaw opponent Luis Ortiz established a lead with educated movement and accurate punching. The Bronze Bomber reminded fans of his destructive potential in the fifth, however, with a heavy knockdown, before being severely stunned himself in the seventh after walking into a venomous counter right-hand. Nevertheless, Wilder was able to weather the onslaught and force a typically crude stoppage in the tenth round of a dramatic, see-saw slobberknocker.
5: Adonis Stevenson vs Badou Jack
As the challenger to a WBC light-heavyweight championship firmly in the grasp of Adonis Stevenson for roughly five years, Badou Jack displayed composure and discipline to navigate through the precarious early rounds before piling on the pressure as he began to break the ageing champion down in the second half of the fight. Clearly unwilling to relinquish his title without a struggle, Stevenson rallied impressively in the tenth to hurt the challenger with a body shot – something which changed the course of the fight entirely – as the champion was ultimately able to salvage a draw on the scorecards and successfully retain his title.
4: Vasyl Lomachenko vs Jorge Linares
Vasyl Lomachenko introduced himself to the lightweight division in style, ending the fight late by sinking a devastating left uppercut into the midsection of reigning WBA champion Jorge Linares, after sustaining a shoulder injury in the second round and surviving a knockdown in the sixth. The Ukrainian once again took the opportunity to showcase his considerable skillset in front of his burgeoning international audience, confounding the seasoned veteran Linares with unorthodox punching angles and sublime footwork to become a three-weight world champion in twelve fights – an unprecedented achievement.
3: Jarrett Hurd vs Erislandy Lara
Will superseded skill in a pulsating April affair at the Hard Rock in Las Vegas. In a successful unification of the IBF and WBA light-middleweight championships, late success for Swift secured victory by the very slimmest of numerical margins against tricky southpaw Lara, who was tagging him repeatedly with surgically precise straight left hands throughout a competitive twelve rounds, before the Cuban was sensationally hurt and dropped in the dying seconds of the fight. Hurd, as the underdog, claimed the biggest scalp of his career and in the process asserted his position as the man to beat in the light-welterweight division.
2: Canelo Alvarez vs Gennady Golovkin II
Canelo Alvarez’s rematch with Gennady Golovkin arguably surpassed their first explosive encounter in September 2017 and represented a modern-day middleweight classic, as the Mexican champion sought vindication with a clinical performance to silence the increasingly vocal legions of critics. For the first two or three rounds, he seemed on course to produce one, radically altering his style from the first fight and taking Golovkin and virtually everyone watching by surprise with his aggressive approach.
However, Golovkin also displayed different and long-forgotten facets to his game with upright boxing and movement, frustrating Canelo as the contest spiralled into a high-level toe-to-toe war. Canelo’s relentless stalking was repeatedly hindered by Golovkin’s spiteful power punches, but when stung, Alvarez retreated, held on, and battled back to make Mexican boxing history after twelve rounds. Once again the beneficiary of a close decision, a trilogy would surely generate immense interest.
1: Deontay Wilder vs Tyson Fury
Deontay Wilder features once again at the top of this list after his thrilling and somewhat contentious split-draw with former unified champion Tyson Fury earlier this month in Los Angeles. The Mancunian challenger was able to connect early with crisp, clean counter-punches; soundly outboxing Wilder, who was circling menacingly, threatening to shatter Fury’s dominance with a single punch. Fury, nevertheless, was able to consistently make Wilder miss and was in the process of making him pay when the Gypsy King tasted the canvas in the ninth, and inexplicably rose from the dead in the final round to make it to the final bell, as both fighters ultimately emerged with their undefeated records intact.
Article by: Navi Singh
Follow Navi on Twitter at: @DarkMan________