Nothing beats the drama of a good boxing match. This collection of fights has everything you can ask for — blood, guts, strategy adjustments, and most importantly, the excitement of the unknown in not being sure who would survive.
Here are you 2018 Fights of the Year.
6. OLEKSANDR USYK MD MAIRIS BRIEDIS
Pressure makes diamonds and you can look to this fight as the battle that made the boxing world take notice of Oleksandr Usyk. Briedis took Usyk out of his comfort zone by crowding him, forcing the Ukranian to constantly punch in combination just to keep Briedis at mid-range. To his credit, Briedis relied on the steady body assault and overhand right to build his case with the judges.
In the later rounds, Usyk became effective coming forward and driving Briedis to the ropes with southpaws left. That adjustment is likely what gave him the narrow victory.
5. ALEX SAUCEDO TKO7 LENNY ZAPPAVIGNA
What a bloody, hard-fought slugfest. Saucedo, the more talented fighter, was hitting Lenny Z at will with sharp combinations. But Saucedo’s big flaw, sitting in the pocket after firing without head movement, made this a seesaw war.
Saucedo floored Zappavigna in the third only to be badly hurt himself and nearly stopped in the fourth. After that, both men fought tooth and nail while covered in cuts and gore, prompting announcer Joe Tessitore to call the macabre spectacle “outrageous.” In the end, Saucedo capitalized on Zappavigna’s swollen shut eyes and stopped him in the seventh.
4. CANELO ALVAREZ MD GENNADY GOLOVKIN II
GGG got more than he bargained for when he taunted Canelo Alvarez not to run in their grudge match. Not only did the challenger not run, he took the fight to GGG and made the middleweight kingpin give ground to escape Canelo’s body assault and fast combinations.
But showing his championship pedigree, GGG adjusted in the middle rounds, using his ramrod jab as a power shot to keep Canelo contained while becoming a matador.
While GGG held the edge in punches landed (234 to 202), Canelo had the better offense variety (46-8 edge in body shots and 143-116 difference in power shots).
The fight came down to the final round. GGG came out guns blazing in the first 30 seconds only to tire and get outworked until finishing strong in the last 30 seconds. That decisive 12th would be won on two scorecards by Canelo to give him a close decision and the biggest win of his career.
3. JARRETT HURD SD ERISLANDY LARA
Who says Erislandy Lara isn’t exciting?! Much like his brutal 2013 battle with Alfredo Angulo, Lara will go to war if he has no choice. The towering Hurd made sure of that by walking Lara down behind a non-stop motor of punches. With his size, Hurd could endure Lara’s stinging southpaw lefts and finally hit paydirt by dropping the Cuban with a hook in round 12. That knockdown would prove vital and give Hurd a split decision win to unify the WBA and IBF super welterweight titles.
2. DERECK CHISORA TKO8 CARLOS TAKAM
Never count out Dereck Chisora. Del Boy was a mission when he faced off against credible contender Carlos Takam. Round one set a frenetic pace with Takam pinning his foe on the ropes and blitzing him with a steady barrage of hooks. Chisora bided his time and slipped in sneaky but hard body shots. No way they could keep this up, right?
Yes, they could. No matter where the action took place, ring center or the ropes, Takam kept up his high punch output while Chisora rode the shots and looked for big counters.
The momentum changes and high work rate was remarkable, especially considering we’re talking about heavyweights. The last round was a thriller with Chisora ending matters with two one-punch knockdowns. Well worth your time and by far the best heavyweight fight of 2018.
- KOSEI TANAKA MD SHO KIMURA
Smaller weight Asian fighters are normally grossly neglected on year-end lists. This one is no exception. The undefeated Tanaka was making his second appearance at flyweight and challenging for the WBO title. Kimura had won the strap with a stoppage of Zou Shiming in 2017.
The pace never faltered and the younger Tanaka’s speed advantage had him jump out to an early lead. Despite being hurt in the second, Kimura stormed back behind a relentless body attack that finally slowed Tanaka in the middle and late rounds.
The championship rounds were a jaw-dropping display of human endurance and durability with both men fighting through swollen-shut eyes and taking flush power shots.
By whatever metric you use, there is no fight in 2018 that can match the pace, skill, and brutality that Kosei Tanaka and Sho Kimura displayed. Watch and be amazed.
Sor Rungvisai SD Juan Francisco Estrada
Vasyl Lomachenko TKO10 Jorge Linares
Isaac Dogboe KO11 Jessie Magdaleno