The “Masterclass” Award List is recognition of the elite fighters who study their opponents with meticulous attention to detail and make good to great fighters look like utter novices. Usually, this award is reserved for technicians. But in 2015, we saw several sluggers and boxer-punchers deliver performances worthy of recognition. Here they are.

Rodriguez_Nietes

10. DONNIE NIETES UD12 FRANCISCO RODRIGUEZ JR. (7/11/15)

WBO light flyweight champ Donnie Nietes had his hands full over the summer when he squared off against mandatory challenger Francisco Rodriguez Jr. At 33, Nietes was facing a fighter 11 years his junior. However, Nietes proved to be the fighter with more energy as he maintained a strong jab and movement throughout the contest.

After being hurt to the body in the third, Nietes was in full control by sixth when he stunned Rodriguez with uppercuts and left hooks. And despite hurting his right hand and suffering a cut from errant elbow in the 12th, Nietes remained in control and won via scores of 115-113, 118-110 and 119-109.

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Yaegashi_Mendoza

9. AKIRA YAEGASHI UD12 JAVIER MENDOZA (12/29/15)

Rumors of Akira Yaegashi’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. Following back to back brutal KO losses to Roman Gonzalez and Pedro Guevara in 2014, it appeared the book was closed on Yaegashi as a top fighter. His earlier 2015 fights against Said M. Said and Songseanglek Phosuwangym, fighters with a combined record of 3-13, did little to sway that opinion.

On Tuesday, the 32-year old Yaegashi showed how much he had left by dominating Javier Mendoza to win the IBF junior flyweight title and making him a three-division world champion.

Outside of a seventh round scare, Yaegashi’s pace and punch output was too much for Mendoza to keep up with. The 11th and 12th stanzas featured Yaegashi at his best with fast counters and in-and-out boxing.

Yaegashi goes in 2016 renewed and with a title around his waist.

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Estrada_Marquez

8. JUAN FRANCISCO ESTRADA KO10 HERNAN MARQUEZ (9/26/15)

While we cross our fingers for an Estrada rematch with Roman Gonzalez next year, El Gallo spent part of his 2015 dissecting former flyweight titlist Hernan Marquez.

The bout featured seven knockdowns until the carnage was finally stopped in the 10th. This fight was just another example that the only competition for this man is Chocolatito.

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Ruenroeng_Shiming

March 7, 2015, Macau, China — Amnat Ruenroeng(L) from Thailand wins a 12-round unanimous decision over two-time Chinese Olympic gold medalist Zou Shiming and retains his IBF flyweight world title to remain undefeated at The Venetian Macao in Macau, China on Saturday, March 7. — Photo Credit : Chris Farina – Top Rank (no other credit allowed) copyright 2015

7. AMNAT RUENROENG UD 12 ZOU SHIMING (3/7/15)

We should be thanking Ruenroeng everyday for stopping the Zou Shiming hype train. Despite suffering a knockdown in the second, Ruenroeng wholly dominated the contest and exploited Shiming’s technical shortcomings to full effect.

How comprehensive was this defeat? Shiming took the rest of the year off.

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Quigg_Martinez

6. SCOTT QUIGG TKO2 KIKO MARTINEZ (7/18/15)

Kiko Martinez is one of those hardened vets that no one has an easy night with. That was until this past July when Scott Quigg achieved what no one else had in stopping Martinez in just two rounds.

The emphatic nature of this win was enough to set up a super bantamweight unification between Quigg and Carl Frampton in February.

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RussellJr_Gonzalez

5. GARY RUSSELL JR. TKO4 JHONNY GONZALEZ (3/28/15)

Six years into his career, Gary Russell Jr. finally put it all together to win the WBC featherweight title. Russell is known for his otherworldly speed, but in this fight he surprised everyone with his power. He stayed in the pocket, prompted exchanges and beat Gonzalez to the punch every time.

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Jacobs_Quillin_KO

4. DANNY JACOBS TKO1 PETER QUILLIN (12/5/15)

Can’t get more masterful than a first round knockout, right? The “Battle for Brooklyn” only took 1 minute and 25 seconds. Jacobs began Quillin’s downfall with a  left hook feint followed by a crushing right hand on the temple. The fight was essentially over after that…

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Golovkin_Lemieux

3. GENNADY GOLOVKIN TKO8 DAVID LEMIEUX (10/17/15)

Golovkin is noted for his massive power, but the story of his bout against David Lemieux was the jab. GGG nullified Lemieux’s pressure and subsequent offense and opened up the Canadian slugger to hooks. Lemieux was game, but the beating he took was a “slow death.” He finally checked out from the pain in the 8th.

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2. TIM BRADLEY TKO9 BRANDON RIOS (11/7/15)

This L was so one-sided that it may have pushed Brandon Rios into retirement. Bradley, under new trainer Teddy Atlas (Mr. “We are fireman!” in the corner), was clicking on all cylinders. On the outside, he snapped Rios head back with hard jabs. When the fight went inside, Bradley was the one muscling Rios back and digging to the body.

The knockout in the ninth was just as much from mental as it was physical exhaustion. Yes, Rios struggled with his weight going in, but even Rios at his “best” would have been in deep trouble with the version of Tim Bradley we saw last month.

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1. FLOYD MAYWEATHER UD12 MANNY PACQUIAO (5/2/15)

A lot of people want to forget this fight ever happened because of its “disappointing” nature, but don’t blame Floyd. Pacquiao was supposed to be the perfect fighter to break Mayweather’s defense with southpaw pressure, speed, awkward angles and power. Instead, the smaller Pacquiao was forced into a chess match where his whirlwind offense was rendered inert. He was held to a record low of 19% of total punches landed (81/249).

Would it have been different five years ago? Probably. But based on what we did see, it’s hard to envision any version of Pacquiao beating Mayweather.

 

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