Despite being a supposed “down” year for the Sweet Science, there were a host of fighters that put in work during the last year. BeatsBoxingMayhem presents its top fighters for 2016.
10. KOSEI TANAKA (8-0, 5 KOs)
2016 Wins: Rene Patilano (KO6), Moises Fuentes (TKO5)
Accomplishments: WBO light flyweight title
Japanese fighters don’t waste time, do they? In less than 10 fights, 21-year old Kosei Tanaka became a world champion this week by knocking out Moises Fuentes to pick up the WBO light flyweight title. The win puts him in good position for an early 2017 unification with veteran and fellow countryman Akira Yaegashi.
9. MANNY PACQUIAO (59-6-2, 38 KOs)
2016 Wins: Tim Bradley (UD12), Jessie Vargas (UD12)
Accomplishments: Reclaimed WBO welterweight and made one title defense
Old man Pacquiao put together a solid 12 months even in a quiet year. He easily outpointed Tim Bradley in a multiple-knockdown affair to pick up the WBO strap, and followed that up with a decisive win over another Top 10 welterweight in Jessie Vargas. At 38, Paquiao is remarkably still one of the top welterweights in the world.
8. JOE SMITH JR. (23-1, 19 KOs)
2016 Wins: Andrzej Fonara (KO1), Bernard Hopkins (KO8)
Accomplishments: Scored upset over a Top 10 light-heavyweight and retired Bernard Hopkins with his lone knockout defeat.
Joe Smith is the feel-good boxing story of the year. Essentially a local club fighter in 2015, he put the sport on notice when he destroyed former title challenger Andrzej Fonfara in one round. Legend Bernard Hopkins pegged him as a limited slugger perfect for his final bout and paid dearly by getting blasted out of the ring. A title shot in 2017 looms for Smith and his fight-changing power will give him a chance against anyone.
7. JERMALL CHARLO (25-0, 19 KOs)
2016 Wins: Austin Trout (UD12), Julian Williams (KO5)
Accomplishments: 2 defenses of IBF super welterweight title
After a year of being accused of ducking Julian”J-Rock” Williams, Jermall Charlo won grudging respect from boxing fans when he knocked out his rival last month. Charlo kicked off the year with a competitive win over former champion Austin Trout. Now, fights against Canelo, Demetrius Andrade or possibly even Gennady Golovkin don’t seem like gross mismatches. Put some respect on the Charlo name.
6. JEZREEL CORRALES (21-1, 8 KOs)
2016 Wins: Takashi Uchiyama 2X (KO2, SD12)
Accomplishments: Won linear super featherweight title and made one defense of WBA strap
To be the man, you gotta beat the man. Unheralded Jezreel Corrales did just that when knocked out previously undefeated and longtime 130 pound division kingpin Takashi Uchiyama in just two rounds. He proved the win wasn’t a fluke by venturing back to Uchiyama’s native Japan and winning a hard-fought split decision this week.
5. ROMAN GONZALEZ (46-0, 38 KOs)
2016 Wins: McWilliams Arroyo (UD12), Carlos Cuadras (UD12)
Accomplishments: Third defense of WBC flyweight title, Won WBC super flyweight title (fourth title in as many weight classes)
2016 was a tougher year than expected for Chocolatito. A routine flyweight defense against McWilliams Arroyo proved grueling despite the wide scorecards. Blaming weight issues, he ventured up to super flyweight and took on reigning undefeated title-holder Carlos Cuadras. The fight was Gonzalez’s toughest in years with Chocolatito fighting through swollen eyes to win a unanimous decision. 2017 looks no easier as the Monster, Naoya Inoue, looms on the horizon.
4. TERENCE CRAWFORD (30-0, 21 KOs)
2016 Wins: Hank Lundy (TKO5), Viktor Postol (UD12), John Molina (TKO8)
Accomplishments: Unified WBC and WBO super lightweight titles
Terence Crawford wasn’t able to lure Manny Pacquiao in the ring, but he remained active and dominant. He settled a grudge with Hank Lundy in emphatic fashion, and outboxed the avoided Viktor Postol to unify the WBC/WBO super lightweight titles. Crawford finished the year by outclassing John Molina. 2017 possibly holds more unification matchups with the IBF and WBA champs, or finally the Pacquiao superfight.
3. VASYL LOMACHENKO (7-1, 5 KOs)
2016 Wins: Roman Martinez (KO5), Nicholas Walters (RTD7)
Accomplishments: Won the WBO super featherweight title and made one successful defense
Vasyl Lomachenko had a fantastic year that kicked off in June with a KO of Year-level win over Roman Martinez. This lead to a showdown with Top Rank stablemate and rival Nicholas Walters. The hard-punching and physically imposing Walters was supposed to be Lomachenko’s biggest challenge. Instead, the Axman was himself chopped down and made to quit in embarrassing fashion. Lomachenko’s brilliance had lead to his name being in talks againt much bigger fighters in Mike Garcia, Terence Crawford and Manny Pacquiao. But should Lomachenko remain at 130, he has great potential matchups against Francisco Vargas, Jason Sosa and Jezreel Corrales.
2. CARL FRAMPTON (23-0, 14 KOs)
2016 Wins: Scott Quigg (UD12), Leo Santa Cruz (UD12)
Accomplishments: Unified WBA and IBF super bantamweight titles, moved up to win the WBA featherweight title.
The Jackal did damage on both sides of the pond. The first victim was UK rival and WBA super bantamweight titlist Scott Quigg. Frampton broke his jaw in the fourth and scored a decisive unanimous decision to unify the WBA and IBF titles. He then came to Brooklyn and handed Leo Santa Cruz his first loss to pick up the WBA featherweight title. First up for 2017 is the much-anticipated Santa Cruz rematch.
1.ANDRE WARD (31-0, 15 KOs)
2016 Wins: Sullivan Barrera (UD12), Alexander Brand (UD12), Sergey Kovalev (UD12)
Accomplishments: Won the WBA/WBO/IBF light-heavyweight titles
Stop rolling your eyes and give the man his due. No matter your stance on the scoring of Ward-Kovalev (I had it 115-112 Kovalev), Andre Ward posted the most significant win of 2016. He’s the only fighter to hold a win over a fellow Top 5 Pound 4 Pound fighter. This win, combined with two dominant wins over Top 10 light-heavyweight contenders, lifts Ward over the other quality fighters on this list.
Ward will have the chance to prove the naysayers wrong when he rematches Kovalev sometime in 2017.