Boxing Monthly Mailbox: British fighters and fights of the year
Photo: Jeff Spicer/ Getty Images
Welcome to the Boxing Monthly Mailbox! This week Tom Craze and BM online editor Luke G. Williams will be giving their take on some of the Fighters and Fights of the Year for 2018.
Today our duo discuss who they feel deserve to be recognised as the British Fighter of the Year and which bouts on British soil deserve British Fight of the Year kudos...
Join us later in the week for discussion of Overseas Fighter and Fights of the Year and don't miss the February issue of Boxing Monthly magazine (in shops on the last Thursday of January) in which the official BM awards in these categories will be made...
In a Twitter poll on the @BoxingMonthlyEd page this week, 687 of our readers and followers had their say on who should be anointed the British Fighter of the Year. What with Twitter's somewhat restrictive 'four options' poll design, we were only able to offer voters a choice of Josh Taylor, Tyson Fury, the Frampton vs Warrington winner and 'other'.
Fury garnered 54% of the votes, Taylor 34%, Frampton vs Warrington winner 9% and 'other' 4%, with Callum Smith getting several mentions, along with Dillian Whyte and Josh Kelly.
Over to Tom and Luke for their views...
LW: Christmas is a sentimental season and there is no bigger feel-good story in boxing this year than the comeback of Tyson Fury. To see the Gypsy King back to his best after more than three years without a significant bout was truly incredible. And that's before we factor in one of the greatest ever recoveries from a heavy knockdown in boxing history in the 12th round of his epic clash with Deontay Wilder. For me 'British Fighter of the Year' should reflect the most iconic British boxing figure of the year and the fighter who most captured the public imagination - by those criteria Fury gets my vote by a country mile. It's just a shame the judges in Los Angeles denied him the WBC title - although he remains, of course, the lineal heavyweight champion. (And yes, Anthony Joshua, that is more important than the IBO belt...)
Not far behind Fury I would place Callum Smith second for his achievement in winning the super middleweight WBSS tournament. To my mind - and also that of The Ring magazine - Smith has established a new lineage at 168lbs. Mundo was inconsistent though in 2018 - he looked sensational against George Groves, but average against Nieky Holzken.
I'd give third place to Josh Taylor, who was consistently sensational in securing three decent wins this year, although it's worth remembering that Viktor Postol is a faded force and Ryan Martin hadn't beaten anyone of note in an extremely protected 22-0 career before facing Taylor.
Also worthy of consideration for British Fighter of the Year honours would be Josh Warrington, if he beats Frampton that is (a pretty big if), and Dillian Whyte, if he beats Chisora.
TC: I’ve been a little torn on this. Generally, I’ve always felt that a fighter’s body of work in the past 12 months should be the sole deciding factor with awards like this, and the modest names of Sefer Seferi and Francesco Pianeta have never before figured as differentials.
Although the record books – and wayward judge Alejandro Rochin - will forever say otherwise, Fury has the best single win from any British fighter in 2018. Travelling to the home country of Wilder, the biggest puncher in the entire sport, who was also coming off the best win of his career, and boxing like Fury did would have been enough. That he somehow spontaneously reanimated in that 12th round – after having already dragged himself off the canvas in the 9th – in arguably one of the most remarkable boxing moments of all time takes him above and beyond. In terms of the wider, out-of-the-ring context, Fury’s return to the sport is unique and applaudable – but it’s what it led to inside it that makes him a worthy winner here.
For the spot of runner-up, I’ll side with the winner of Warrington vs Frampton, and whichever man prevails has a strong argument. Warrington’s, however, would edge ahead. Beating Lee Selby in a sizeable upset – the Leeds native was bigger than a 3/1 underdog - for a world title was a result few saw coming and yet he was better than Selby in every department at Elland Road.
Frampton has had a solid, nicely active year with two wins to his name prior to Manchester this weekend. A relatively comfortable decision against Nonito Donaire now feels better in hindsight, with the Filipino going on to look rejuvenated against Ryan Burnett, albeit at a more natural weight for him. If he were to become the first to beat Warrington – and few British fighters currently have more momentum than the Yorkshire man – it would cap a strong 2018.
In third place – and I realise this might be far from a trendy choice – I’ll go with the winner of Whyte-Chisora. The former is derided in some quarters, but he’s had a standout 12 months. A highlight reel KO of Lucas Browne gave the Londoner a career-best win by the end of Q1, and he went one better in July with a rough-and-tumble decision against a recently-deposed world champion in Joseph Parker. A focused Chisora, himself back in the mix after a spectacular, defining performance against Carlos Takam, would be another notable scalp.
The poll on the BM twitter page for best British Fight of 2018 attracted over 400 votes and saw Chisora vs Takam a runaway winner with 64%, ahead of Welborn vs Langford 2 (17%) and Garton vs Corcoran (11%). There were also shout outs for Taylor vs Postol, Sharp vs Woodstock and Eubank vs Groves among others.
Do Luke and Tom agree with the public verdict?
LW: Having established my predilection for sentimentality, I'll once again go with heart over head here and plump for Johnny Garton's stirring British welterweight title victory against Gary Corcoran. Garton not only possesses one of the best nicknames in boxing (he's from Peckham, he fights like a Mexican... he's the Pexican!) but he's also a genuinely lovely guy who represents all that is good and decent about boxing. He works hard, doesn't engage in trash talk and lets his fists do the talking. The Garton vs Corcoran fight was a tight, all-action affair that didn't relent its grip on its audience from beginning to end.
I would place Chisora vs Takam second - what looked at one point like a one-sided beating that might end Chisora's career ended up providing us with a dramatic and unexpected ending. Despite my liking for Takam, it was impossible not to feel delighted for Del Boy (or is it 'War' now?)
I find it hard to split the duo of sensational Langford vs Welborn fights 2018 served up but one or other deserves a top three place I think - both were sensational in terms of intensity and dramatic action. With a gun to my head, I'd probably say the second fight was a shade superior and place it third, with the first fight fourth.
Other British fights I particularly enjoyed this year were Ronnie Clark's upset of Zelfa Barrett and James Tennyson's off the floor victory against Martin J. Ward, while Josh Warrington's victory against Lee Selby was also very dramatic and unexpected and the atmosphere was incredible.
TC: I’m siding with the popular vote here. Chisora vs Takam had everything you want from a heavyweight fight.
It’s fair to say that you never quite know which version of Chisora is going to turn up on any given evening, but when it’s the fit, dialled-in version that stepped in with Takam – himself a quality heavy – ‘Del Boy’, now a born again Christian and under new management, is consistently two things: a tough night for nearly anybody, and a thoroughly entertaining watch.
And so it proved. A rocky start for Chisora was followed by round after round of gruelling in-fighting, most of which were won by the Cameroon-born visitor. His progress came to a dramatic halt in the eighth round though, with a thunderous pair of right hands leaving no room for debate. It was a high-quality back-and-forth that felt like a throwback to something from the 80s or 90s and was, for me, the most memorable bout in the UK this year by some way.
To complete the set, I’m rounding out my three with both Welborn-Langford fights. The first was a superb encapsulation of how good small hall boxing in the UK can be, and the unlikely venue of Walsall Town Hall was treated to one of the best British title contests in quite some time. If that wasn’t enough, the result was a shocker, with Welborn - a huge 8/1 outsider – coming out on top.
The direct rematch, held on the Khan-Vargas undercard in Birmingham, was for my money even better still, although that judgement comes with a caveat of being at ringside and, unlike watching the first fight on YouTube already knowing the outcome, having the all-important element of surprise.