As 2015 has drawn to a close, it's time to recognize the year's best boxing performances. Per usual, I'll be handing out the annual hardware in the following categories: fighter, fight, knockout, round, upset, trainer, promoter, network and referee. There was one award not given this year but I'll get into that with more specificity later in the article. Without further ado, here are the 2015 Saturday Night Boxing Awards!
Fighter of the Year: Floyd Mayweather
Mayweather won a definitive unanimous decision over archrival Manny Pacquiao. Yes, the fight was the biggest boxing event in decades but that's not why Mayweather is recognized here. His award is earned based on performance. As in many of Mayweather's bouts, the action itself didn't necessarily captivate audiences. However, let's not mistake entertainment value with achievement. He rendered inoperable one of the top fighters in the sport and left no doubt as to which boxer was the best of this era.
As further icing on the cake, Mayweather dominated Andre Berto in September. Berto failed to pose a challenge and at no point was the fight competitive. By the end of the match, Mayweather was actually gunning for the knockout, not a frequent occurrence and a reality that reflected the one-sided nature of the match. Ultimately, he earned a wide decision. Perhaps 2015 will be the last time that Mayweather laces up the gloves and if so, he leaves the sport on the highest of highs.
Previous SNB Fighters of the Year:
2014: Naoya Inoue
2013: Adonis Stevenson
2012: Nonito Donaire
2011: Andre Ward
Fight of the Year: Takashi Miura-Francisco Vargas:
Sometimes fight fans have an inkling that something special might happen. In the lead-up to Cotto-Canelo, a number of hardcore boxing fans were convinced that the co-feature on the undercard, the junior lightweight title match between champion Takashi Miura, of Japan, and Francisco Vargas, of Mexico, would steal the show. On paper, their styles meshed well. Miura was a southpaw banger with decent hand speed and an aggressive ring demeanor while Vargas was a heavy-handed brawler with multiple knockout weapons.
Once the fight started, the action immediately confirmed the sentiments of the boxing cognoscenti. In the opening round, Vargas buckled Miura's legs with a huge shot. Miura was already in survival mode just moments into the match. However, Miura made it out of the round and gradually worked his way into the fight with laser-like left hands and punishing body shots. As the rounds progressed, both fighters had success during fierce exchanges. Miura had the higher punch volume but Vargas featured some impressive, punishing single shots.
In the fourth round, Miura dropped Vargas with a vicious left hand. Vargas beat the count but the fight had clearly turned in Miura's favor. Francisco was still landing hard shots here and there but Miura's pressure, power and accuracy were getting the better of the action. In the eighth, it looked like Vargas might be ready to go.
However, Vargas changed his fortunes early in the ninth round. With an enormous right hand, he sent Miura to the canvas. Miura got up but was on shaky legs. Vargas immediately rushed in for the kill and, within seconds, ref Tony Weeks stepped in to stop the action.
Similar to Pacquiao-Marquez IV (a former Saturday Night Boxing Fight of the Year), Vargas was close to being stopped but he somehow found a dramatic punch to reverse the outcome of the fight. Overall, both boxers displayed guts and courage in a fantastic bout. There were several wonderful fights in 2015 but for me, nothing compared to the rush of Miura-Vargas.
Previous SNB Fights of the Year:
2012: Pacquiao-Marquez IV
Knockout of the Year: Yenifel Vicente KO 3 Juan Dominguez
If I were to select an ideal knockout of the year, Yenifel Vicente's KO of Juan Dominguez has all of the elements that I'd require. I'm a sucker for one-punch KOs that materialize out of thin air. Knockouts that are set up by combinations or occur after opponents have already been loosened up are less impressive to me. From my perspective, the best fight-ending shots are the ones where the opponent is performing well and then gets hits by something so massive that he goes to sleep. In my hypothetical knockout of the year, the fighter who is hit can't even attempt to get to his feet. Vicente's KO of Dominguez in December checks off all of these boxes.
The first two rounds of the bout featured great action. Dominguez, the fighter with the fancy record, the one getting all of the hype coming into the match, flashed excellent hand speed and power. However, Vicente landed hard, single shots from the outside. There were some thrilling back-and-forth exchanges and I was already alerting the boxingheads via social media that Dominguez-Vicente was a fight they needed to turn on immediately.
In the third, Vicente turned up the aggression and connected with a thudding body shot early in the round. He then stepped out of the pocket and unloaded an enormous overhand right from distance that hit Dominguez high on the temple. Dominguez immediately crashed to the canvas. He remained supine for several minutes. It was the type of punch where the post-knockout celebration had to be muted because of the grave condition of the opponent; Dominguez left the ring on a stretcher.
Vicente, a Dominican based in Miami who had previously lost to Chris Avalos and Eric Hunter, created an indelible moment for boxing fans. He iced a fellow Dominican in emphatic fashion and restored momentum to an up-and-down professional career.
Previous SNB Knockouts of the Year:
2014: Andy Lee KO 5 John Jackson
2013: Stephen Smith KO 5 Gary Buckland
2012: Juan Manuel Marquez KO 6 Manny Pacquiao
2011: Takashi Uchiyama TKO 11 Jorge Solis
Round of the Year: Edwin Rodriguez-Michael Seals Round 1
To say that few had heard of light heavyweight Michael Seals prior to his bout with Edwin Rodriguez would be an understatement. He had fought mostly in Kentucky and Georgia and far off television. Although, he had amassed a record of 19-0 with 14 knockouts, he was already 33 and hadn't had a fight scheduled for longer than eight rounds. In short, he was no one's definition of a prospect. Before the Rodriguez bout, Seals had one fight earlier in 2015 and one in 2014. Seals was essentially an unknown's unknown. However, those who had been familiar with him (I was not one of them) swore that he had a powerful right hand; his moniker was, after all, "Cannonhandz."
Nevertheless, Rodriguez, a former title challenger at super middleweight, was supposed to dominate Seals. Clearly, Rodriguez bought into the conventional wisdom as he jumped on Seals from the opening bell, rushing him into a corner and landing big overhand rights. Soon, Rodriguez mixed in a sharp left hook and Seals went down 30 seconds into the fight. So far, the fight was following the script.
Wasting no time, Rodriguez continued his onslaught, again attacking Seals with overhand rights. However, Seals expertly placed a short counter right hand on an out-of-position Rodriguez and now Rodriguez was down! It may have been more of a flash knockdown but it was a powerful shot that Rodriguez never saw coming. Both knockdowns occurred in the first minute of the fight.
Rodriguez took the eight-count and rose to his feet. But that punch completely changed his demeanor in the ring. Now, he decided to box from a distance. For the remainder of the round, the fight was more technical. Rodriguez landed his jab and a few right hands while Seals returned with a couple of right hands of his own. The action was settling down.
However, with 15 seconds left, both simultaneously threw big right hands. Seals' shot got there first and Rodriguez went crashing down to the mat; now, he was really hurt. With glassy eyes and wobbly legs, he beat the count but had to hold on for dear life until the bell sounded. The referee literally tore Rodriguez off of Seals after the round ended and then Rodriguez dropped to the canvas again. The ref helped walk Rodriguez back to his corner.
Subsequently, Rodriguez gathered himself and went on to stop Seals in the third round. It was a truly magnificent performance in a wonderful fight. However, the stunning reversal in the opening round is what I will remember most about this match. The favorite started off the fight granting not one iota of respect to his opponent and wound up hanging on by a fingernail just moments later. Thrilling stuff.
Previous SNB Rounds of the Year:
2014: Thomas Williams Jr.-Cornelius White Round 1
2013: Tim Bradley-Ruslan Provodnikov Round 12
2012: Sergio Martinez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Round 12
2011: Hernan Marquez-Luis Concepcion I Round 1
Upset of the Year: Tyson Fury UD Wladimir Klitschko
According to the oddsmakers, Tyson Fury's victory over Wladimir Klitschko wasn't the biggest upset of the year, but no need to dwell on such technicalities; 2015 will always be remembered as the year when Fury dethroned the heavyweight king. During that strange night in Germany, Klitschko seemed entirely flummoxed by Fury's size, movement and feints. He barely let his hands go. Executing a masterful game plan by trainer and uncle, Peter Fury (more on him later in the article), Tyson successfully neutralized Klitschko's jab by staying out of the pocket. Using his long reach to keep Klitschko at bay and moving just enough where Klitschko constantly had to reset himself, Fury dominated the ring generalship in the fight.
On offense, Fury's output was pretty vanilla but it was effective. Featuring jabs, a few right hands, left hooks and some body shots, he landed the better punches throughout the fight. His work rate was also at a reasonable level for a heavyweight bout; Klitschko's volume was so low in many of the rounds that the judges couldn't even conceivably score them in his favor. As the fight progressed, Fury taunted Klitschko in the ring, daring him to let his hands go. However, Klitschko wouldn't offer any meaningful aggression until the final round, where he finally connected with some powerful fight hands that hurt Fury. But it was too little too late. Fury won a deserved decision and the heavyweight division forever changed.
Previous SNB Upsets of the Year
2014: (tie) James de la Rosa UD Alfredo Angulo and Tommy Karpency SD Chad Dawson
2013: Jhonny Gonzalez KO 1 Abner Mares
2012: Sonny Boy Jaro TKO 6 Pongsaklek Wongjongkam
Trainer of the Year: Peter Fury
On paper, Wladimir Klitschko had several advantages over Tyson Fury: jab, right hand, power, experience, the fight location and a supportive crowd. However, Peter Fury devised a fantastic game plan that neutralized Klitschko's considerable strengths. Realizing that Klitschko set everything up off his jab, Fury made sure that his nephew stayed far out of range from that punch. In addition, Fury noticed that Klitschko needed to have his feet planted to land anything of substance. Thus, Tyson has to offer enough movement to take away Klitschko's power shots.
The end result was stunning. Not only was Klitschko soundly beaten, but he rarely threw punches. Peter Fury's game plan and Tyson's execution of it demoralized the heavyweight champ, who couldn't find a way into the fight, or wouldn't take the necessary risks to change the flow of the bout. Although much of Team Fury's success should be attributed to Tyson's size, countering ability and sneaky power, Peter laid out a winning blueprint.
Tyson won by solid margins on the cards but the fight wasn't easy for him. He needed to remain disciplined and focused because a big shot could conceivably come at any time. Tyson fought as if he completely understood the enormity of the task in front of him. His concentration, focus and execution were a direct reflection on Peter's preparation for the fight. There wasn't a better corner job all year.
Previous SNB Trainers of the Year:
2014: Freddie Roach
2013: Kenny Porter
2012: Robert McCracken
2011: Robert Garcia
Promoter of the Year: Golden Boy Promotions
Entering 2015, it still wasn't clear which fighters Golden Boy actually promoted. Continuing to entangle itself from a lengthy lawsuit against former CEO Richard Schaefer, the company saw its roster of fighters decimated after the final settlement was realized. The reconstituted Golden Boy Promotions reemerged as a much smaller outfit. Assuming day-to-day control of the company, President Oscar de la Hoya announced that he wanted his remaining Golden Boy boxers to fight more in his image; meaning, they would be matched against high-caliber foes. The new Golden Boy Promotions would not baby its star fighters. And looking back on the final nine months of 2015, Oscar remained true to his word.
All of Golden Boy's world-level fighters faced tough opponents. Matthysse fought Provodnikov and Postol. Lemieux faced N'Dam and Golovkin. Canelo took on Cotto. Herrera squared off against Lundy. Luis Ortiz had his biggest test as a pro against Bryant Jennings. Note that all of Golden Boy's fighters didn't win these matches. However, in almost all cases, they performed ably and represented themselves and their company with distinction. Lemieux and Matthysse ended the year with devastating losses but in all likelihood, both will find themselves back on major US boxing networks in 2016; they won't be punished for taking risks.
Golden Boy's most attractive asset remains Saul "Canelo" Alvarez. Already a major box office draw and pay per view star, he notched the biggest win of his career in November by defeating Miguel Cotto. In 2016, there will be a big push for Alvarez to take on the recognized top fighter in the division, Gennady Golovkin. Although many in the boxing community are skeptical that this fight will happen, I'll bet on Oscar continuing to roll the dice; I think we'll see it in September.
Finally, Golden Boy has a fresh slate of younger fighters coming up the ranks, highlighted by former Olympian Joseph (Jo Jo) Diaz. To establish a local fan base for this next generation of talent, the company has promoted numerous fight cards in the boxing hotbed of Southern California. One welcome innovation that the company made this year was broadcasting many of these smaller bouts on its Ring TV website (Golden Boy owns Ring Magazine).
Overall, the company ended 2015 on much firmer footing than it did starting off the year. It set a great example in the sport: top fighters should be expected to perform against the best. Most importantly, the company has established that it’s not business-as-usual on the American boxing scene. If you want to get on HBO, fight someone good.
On a quick note, K2 Promotions had an excellent year and almost won the award. However, the company's international meal ticket lost (Klitschko) and it's tough to say that K2 is in a better position ending the year than it was when it began. K2 has some very attractive assets with Golovkin and Roman Gonzalez. However, the fading luster of its one, true superstar isn't easy to replace.
Previous SNB Promoters of the Year:
2014: Matchroom Sport
2013: (tie) Golden Boy Promotions and Top Rank Promotions
2012: Golden Boy Promotions
2011: Top Rank Promotions
Network of the Year: No Award Given
No major boxing network consistently distinguished itself throughout 2015. HBO had a year of mostly entertaining one-sided fights – too many showcase bouts disguised as competitive affairs. Showtime spent large chunks of the year not broadcasting boxing. In England, far too many mismatches appeared on Sky and BoxNation didn't have the quality or quantity of live cards that it had aired in past years. BeIn Sports broadcasted a number of interesting smaller-scale fights but off the top of my head I would struggle to name more than three.
Perhaps the most prominent addition to the 2015 televised boxing schedule was Al Haymon's Premier Boxing Champions (PBC), which aired fights on a host of networks, including NBC, CBS, ESPN, Spike, FS1, Bounce TV and NBC Sports Network. PBC had an up-and-down year with its matchups. Of all of the networks broadcasting its product, Spike and FS1 had the most consistently-pleasing cards. With that said, I don't know if there was a grand design regarding how PBC fights were assigned to certain networks. Does Spike have its own boxing people clamoring for specific matchups or were they just lucky that a number of its cards entertained? Perhaps all of this will become clearer in 2016. Hopefully there will be distinct branding for the PBC networks instead of a hodgepodge of cards seemingly assigned at random.
Previous SNB Networks of the Year:
Referee of the Year: David Fields
David Fields is a New York/New Jersey-based referee who toils away in anonymity. A professional since 2000, he's not a particularly high-profile ref in his respective circuits or is he one who necessarily gets big-fight assignments. Tied into the IBF (which is based in New Jersey), he does receive the occasional international assignment. But overall, he doesn’t work a ton (only six fight cards in 2015) and up until this year, he hadn't necessarily distinguished himself as good or bad during his professional tenure.
However, Fields had the best moment of his professional career in August when he officiated the Marco Huck-Krzysztof Glowacki fight. In a fierce battle between power punchers, Fields played a prominent and positive role in one of the finest fights of the year. Early in the match, both boxers hit each other after the bell in a few rounds. These shots had the ability to change the tenor of the fight. However, after stern warnings, Fields was able to clean up the extracurriculars and the fight didn't devolve into a foulfest.
In the sixth round, Huck landed a punishing left hook that send Glowacki to the canvas. It looked like Glowacki was finished. Staggering to his feet at the count of "eight," the fighter was still in terrible condition. Whereas many refs would've stopped the fight at that moment, Fields saw something in Glowacki that suggested the fighter was capable of continuing. Almost immediately after that fateful decision, Fields' judgement was rewarded. Glowacki ended the sixth in fine fashion, holding off Huck with power shots and he won the subsequent round as well.
As the fight moved to the championship rounds, Huck was gradually pulling away. However, in the 11th, Glowacki landed a chopping left/right hook combination that sent Huck down. Fields let Huck continue and Glowacki piled on with Huck against the ropes, eventually dropping him once more. At that point, Fields waved the fight off.
Huck-Glowacki featured a number of big momentum swings. That Glowacki was able to muster a final comeback is a credit to Fields' judgment. It was his professional determination that enabled the fight to even reach the second half. While many other referees would've stopped the bout in the sixth, Fields had the courage to let a wounded fighter continue to battle in fierce combat. His decision was a significant reason why Huck-Glowacki was one of the best fights of the year.
2014: Steve Smoger
2013: Tony Weeks
2012: Eddie Claudio
Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of saturdaynightboxing.com.
Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of saturdaynightboxing.com.