2016: The highs and lows so far...
Well, we're halfway through 2016. Boxing over the last six months has had its fair share of ups and downs, but doesn't it always? It's had its dose of the good, the bad and the downright ugly. The Boxing Monthly online team have put their notepads and laptops down for a moment to give you their highs and lows of the year so far. What's been your highs and lows? Tweet your picks to @BoxingMonthlyEd
Highs - Anthony Joshua winning the IBF world heavyweight title after a handful of rounds as a professional.
Lows - Being ringside to witness Nick Blackwell being stretchered off with oxygen, after his fight with Chris Eubank Jr.
Highs - Vargas and Salido engaging in an absolute war over 12 rounds. It highlighted the joy, and skill, of inside fighting. It extended the legacy of great Mexican on Mexican boxing matches.
Tony Bellew might not be everyone's cup of tea but his emotional performance against Ilunga Makabu was a brilliant occasion. It helped confirm the UK as a hot bed of the sport, and the sport’s popularity in the North West.
Lows - Nick Blackwell was one of my favourite British fighters. He is also a son, brother and partner, and nobody wants to see someone, especially at 25, possibly paying the ultimate cost. Whilst thrilled he has recovered, it's a stark reminder of the dangers of the sport.
The choice to allow professionals into the Olympics. The whole fabric of the sport had been rewritten, with very little justification. In an age when the more 'casual' fan finds it hard to distinguish between white collar and professional, it'll only dilute the sport further.
Luke G. Williams
Highs - The willingness of Kovalev and Ward to face each other in a proper super-fight between two undefeated top five pound-for-pounders. Here's hoping there are no last minute spanners in the works and we get a spectacle worthy of two great talents.
A quick mention to the Muhammad Ali memorial service: Although not solely a 'boxing' event, the multi-faith ethos and outpouring of love on display was heartening to see in a world that otherwise seems increasingly and depressingly wracked by conflict, bitterness and division.
Lows - The failure to broker Canelo versus Golovkin. Like many people, I blame Oscar De La Hoya, but also Canelo himself for not forcing the issue, despite all his ringside rhetoric after KO-ing Amir Khan. Empty, meaningless words until he fights Golovkin at 160.
Highs - So far, 2016 has been a real eye opener for me. I've spent an increasing amount of time in the gyms of Manchester and am lucky enough to be involved in helping out Black Flash Promotions and, occasionally, Steve Wood.
Whether I've been training, watching sparring, or just hanging around ear wigging, I don't think there has been a single day when I haven't left a gym having learned something new about the sport.
Spending weeknights watching just how much hard work and effort that the likes of Chris Maylett, Simon Clayton, Jimmy Murphy, Karen Priestley, Lee Hogan, Gary Booth, Sean Krool and scores of other unsung heroes put into boxing draws you in and makes you want to give more in return.
It's a privilege - not to mention a real laugh - to have an inside track on the sport and see what happens long before the fighters make that long walk on a Saturday night.
Lows - Drug cheats. Seeing at first hand the impact of a card being pulled. Promising young fighters struggling to stay active. Politics preventing Flanagan v Crolla.
Highs - This won't be a popular one but Scott Quigg vs Carl Frampton was a high for me, firstly because the fight actually took place but also that we had a definitive result.
Another high is the return of Andre Ward, while I'm not convinced he's the fighter he was, I think his reintroduction into top level boxing and his (apparent) willingness to take on Sergey Kovalev is great for the sport.
Lows - Charles Martin's performance vs Anthony Joshua was a low for me. He went from "walking the streets like a god" to leaving the ring with his tail between his legs. While I don't begrudge Joshua his moment in the sun, Martin decided he wasn't interested in defending it like a champion.
The number of failed drug tests at top level boxing has been a big blow for the sport. Having news of failed drug tests is not good for a sport which needs bad press like a hole in the head.
Highs - Frampton vs Quigg has been my personal highlight. One of the finest domestic match-ups in living memory, this one had threatened to pass its sell-by-date. And so it was a relief to see both men heading towards the same ring in Manchester. For some, this was a dull affair that didn't merit the pay-per-view premium. I get it, but I didn't see it that way. The stakes for both boxers (and their teams) were sky high and so I was gripped as Frampton boxed intelligently to prevail before his astonishing travelling support.
The footage of a little Louisville boy running alongside Ali's funeral cortège throwing punches, though, is likely to be my abiding memory.
Lows - Fans are essentially being priced out of attending live events. And while that's a fact of life in the entertainment industry these days, it doesn't seem fair that loyal fans who support a fighter on the way up, are then precluded from watching them when they reach top level. In football, season ticket holders are at least given priority when the big games roll around.
The pricing strategy for Fury vs Klitschko II tickets was another own goal.
Highs - My high of the year was Vargas-Salido. I was ringside for this fight and it was truly a surreal experience. Not only due to the greatness inside the ring that evening, but this being the first major bout after the death of Muhammad Ali. There was magic in the air, I will never forget it.
Lows - My low has been the complete mishandling of the Canelo-Golovkin-WBC situation by Golden Boy Promotions. From a public relations standpoint, this whole thing should be used as a lesson of "what not to do" for boxing promoters/managers going forward.
Highs - He's boxing's 'Marmite', but Tony Bellew's KO of Ilunga Makabu captured my imagination. Tony's his own man and a genuine dyed-in-the-wool football fan in an era of plastic supporters and fair weather human beings. So to see him knock out the dangerous and avoided Makabu at his beloved Goodison Park for the WBC title, no less, was a special moment. I've always enjoyed Marmite.
Lows - Canelo Alvarez's shameless duck of Gennady Golovkin and insistence on a 155lbs 'middleweight' championship. Anti-boxing and all about the business. His Mexican passport should be revoked.
Highs - My high of the year so far was watching Vasyl Lomachenko’s majestic destruction of Roman ‘Rocky’ Martinez. For me the Ukrainian marvel is simply the most gifted pugilist on planet earth, and the way he dissected a respectable champion like the Puerto Rican was a joy to watch. The way he set up the knockout blow, a sharp left uppercut that snapped Rocky’s head back followed by a shotgun right that removed him from his senses, was THE KO of the year so far. Period.
Lows - Over the years I’ve become quite friendly with Gary Lockett so when his fighter Nick Blackwell suffered a career ending, and at the time, life threatening bleed on the brain in a losing effort to Chris Eubank Jnr in a battle for the British middleweight title I, like all of the boxing world, was devastated for Nick. I’d spoken to Nick and Gary for a feature in Boxing Monthly and Nick was a lovely kid who’d shown massive improvements under Lockett, one of British boxing’s best young coaches. It’s hard not to like someone like Nick on a personal level and it’s great to see him doing so well after such a terrible injury.
Highs - Kovalev and Ward is a huge one to see signed - while the announcement that the WBA would do away with Super and Interim titles should have had every fight fan jumping for joy... trouble is, that we're all waiting to see if they ACTUALLY do it!
Lows - The amount of drug-test failures we've had so far with top level fighters, and Canelo not fighting GGG.
John A. MacDonald
Highs - Upsets. Everyone loves a plucky underdog prevailing against the odds, and this year has delivered a raft of them: Byron Rojas shocked WBA minimumweight champion Hekkie Budler. Giovani De Carolis avenged his controversial loss to Vincent Feigenbutz. Long reigning WBA super featherweight champion Takashi Uchiyama was stopped inside two rounds by Jezreel Corrales, and the unheralded Joe Smith Jr blasted out Andrzej Fonfara in the opening round. While not as high profile as those mentioned above, the extremely unconventional Charles Manyuchi beating Dmitry Mikhaylenko is a personal favourite.
Lows - Politics preventing Anthony Crolla facing Terry Flanagan. Yes, they are with rival promoters, who have their own respective TV deals, but this fight makes so much sense. Sadly, it may never happen. However, Anthony Crolla against Jorge Linares softens the blow, to an extent.
Highs - The consistent great fights and edge of the seat that the cruiserweight division brings. Fast, hard-hitting guys that have continued to lay it on the line time after time. The top 10 is a minefield to negotiate and these guys are quite happy to fight one another.
Lows - The absolutely mind-boggling scorecards that we've seen this year. It's getting to the stage where I expect at least one judge, every fight, to hand in a card that just beggars belief.