Corks were probably popping Friday night, toasts traded by Canelo Alvarez, BWAA Fighter of the Year, and Eddy Reynoso, his cornerman, BWAA Trainer of the Year for 2019.
The Boxing Writers Association of America, formed in 1926, used to be known as the Boxing Writers Association of New York. They fanned out, and now have an identity that inarguably reflects the status of the sport in this nation, and also the vocation of journalism in the digital age. Diminished, compared to other more golden eras, and smaller, reflecting the shrinking scope of reporting as a trade, one that isn’t embraced so much by Wall Street. News is easily distributed now, by the subjects themselves and via social media. And news, opinion and features, when crafted, aren’t likely to attract splashy sums money, as it was decided in the 90s that the product could and should be more so furnished for free. The money would be collected on the flip side, from advertising.
Er, not so much.
Month after month, another venerable print publication folds up the tent, and surrenders to the times. But we fight on, fewer in number, but still stubborn and committed to craft. Let’s traffic in truth and admit that maybe we are like a past their prime prizefighter, still in shape, still dangerous, but no longer possessing the apex talents of a Hall of Famer. Now, before I hear the howls from members believing I’m being too downcast, lemme clarify. That status, that dynamic, has more to do with the times we’re in, because the news business isn’t sexy or a magnetic profit center. The work being done by craftsmen and grinders and journeymen of the BWAA is often good, sometimes damn good, and further, let’s hear it for the persons doing it for love, not money. That describes an overwhelming percentage of BWAA members.
Ah, and the work of the fighters and support staff who exist as the subjects of our stories. Their work is often good, and also very good, and sometimes a step up from that. Those above and beyonders, on Friday, Jan. 17, their efforts were hit with the bright lights of the BWAA’s spotlight. Canelo Alvarez got voted Fighter of the Year, which makes sense being that he is the pack leader of pugilism. Also making sense: his long time tutor, Eddy Reynoso, got the nod as Trainer of the Year, and that syncopation is proper. They have a ways to go to get to Ali-Dundee level, but the redhead shows no signs of slowing down; he might not yet have reached his peak.
Also notable, to me, are the choices of Andre Ward as the Sam Taub Award winner for excellence in the broadcast realm, and Graham Houston, tapped to receive the Nat Fleischer award for excellence in boxing journalism. I enjoy watching Ward work now sometimes more than I did when he gloved up. His skilled interrogation of Terence Crawford in December was A-grade material and made clear that the Cali ex-fighter deserved the W. Houston could be described as venerable; he is a boxing lifer, who stands out for his consistency. As a writer, he never ever blows off that 5:30 am road work session, and it’s good to see his longevity rewarded.
Here is the release sent out by the BWAA:
Canelo Alvarez Is the BWAA 2019 Fighter of the Year
If there was any doubt as to who the face of boxing was in 2019, Canelo Alvarez answered it. The 29-year-old Mexican beat two quality opponents last year, outpointing Daniel Jacobs to unify middleweight titles in May, then jumped two weight classes to stop WBO light heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev in November.
So naturally, Alvarez was the overwhelming choice of the Boxing Writers Association of America as the 2019 Fighter of the Year, joining Ring, ESPN and Sports Illustrated in that selection.
This is the first time Alvarez (53-1-2, 36 KOs) is the BWAA’s Fighter of the Year. It also marks the first time in 32 years that a Mexican fighter was the BWAA’s FOY, since Hall of Famer Julio Cesar Chavez won the honor in 1987.
Team Alvarez achieved another victory with Eddy Reynoso being selected as the Trainer of the Year. Reynoso is the second Mexican to earn the distinction, joining Abel Sanchez (2015 TOY).
One special feature the Alvarez-Reynoso combination will receive is the first all-Mexican fighter-trainer team to be chosen in the same year in the BWAA’s 94-year history.
Alvarez, who garnered 81-percent of the vote, closed 2019 as the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world by the BWAA, Ring and ESPN. In the BWAA’s election, he beat out Naoya Inoue, Manny Pacquiao, Errol Spence Jr. and Josh Taylor.
“This is a great honor and privilege, and something that I’m very proud to accomplish,” Canelo said. “It’s something I’ve waited for a while to achieve. I’m so happy to be a part of history as the second Mexican to win this.
“I’m overwhelmed with the news that Eddy received Trainer of the Year. I’ve worked with Eddy since I was at a young age. All of the hard work and sacrifices got us to this point. I’m happy that we’ve accomplished this together.”
Reynoso outdistanced worthy nominees Jay Deas/Mark Breland, Derrick James, Brian McIntyre and Manny Robles in the trainer category.
“I don’t have the words to express what this means to me,” Reynoso said. “We’re going to continue working hard to get this award for a few more years in the future, God willing.”
In December, the BWAA announced that Katie Taylor was the 2019 Female Fighter of the Year. In 2019, Taylor extended her unbeaten record to 15-0 (with 6 knockouts), successfully defended three lightweight titles in March, unified all lightweight titles with a majority-decision victory in June over fellow pound-for-pound member Delfine Persoon, then followed that up with a 140-pound title in November, making her a two-division champion.
Taylor, 33, from Bray, Ireland, becomes the third recipient of the BWAA’s Christy Martin award, following Cecilia Braekhus (2017) and Claressa Shields (2018).
The Christy Martin award is chosen by a select group of women’s boxing experts.
“I’m honored and delighted to be receiving this,” Taylor said. “This is one of the more prestigious awards in boxing. To receive it at the end of an amazing year is an even bigger honor.”
The Naoya Inoue-Nonito Donaire super bantamweight brawl in November was chosen as the Fight of the Year. Inoue and Donaire beat out Gennadiy Golovkin-Sergiy Derevyanchenko, Manny Pacquiao-Keith Thurman, Andy Ruiz-Andy Joshua I, Errol Spence Jr.-Shawn Porter and Josh Taylor-Regis Prograis.
Keith Connolly, a first-time winner, took the Manager of the Year award over a competitive group that included Luis DeCubas Jr., Peter Kahn, David McWater and Rick Mirigian.
“It’s a great honor, especially for someone who fell in love with boxing since I was seven years old,” said Connolly, who will turn 47 in March. “This probably means more to my father, Patrick, who’s the one who got me into boxing. He used to set up the projector and we’d watch fights of Rocky Graziano and Tony Zale on the wall. Then, there was Wide World of Sports, with Ray Mancini and Livingstone Bramble, Bobby Chacon against (Cornelius) Boza-Edwards.
“Managing fighters is something I fell into. It’s like anyone in boxing, they kind of fall into it. Very few seven-year-olds grow up thinking they want to be a boxing manager. Anytime you’re honored by your peers and people in the business, it’s a great honor.
“I always tell a fighter they don’t work for promoters or manages, they work for themselves. I’m there to fight tooth and nail to make money for them, and I’m there to guide them in what’s best for them. But in the end, it’s their decision. The fighter is the boss, not the promoter or the manager.”
Future Hall of Famer and current ESPN boxing analyst Andre Ward is the winner of the Sam Taub Award Excellence in Broadcast Journalism, edging out a field that included his ESPN partner, Tim Bradley Jr., Showtime senior vice president and executive producer David Dinkins, Hall of Fame announcer Jim Gray and Showtime’s blow-by-blow man Mauro Ranallo.
“This means a lot to me,” Ward said. “I’m the type of person that anything I do, I try to excel at it. For me to be recognized with this honor, it’s really encouraging and it motivates me to get even better. Getting into broadcasting was something I always wanted to do since I saw Roy Jones do it. He juggled both when he was active.
“When I was active, I did broadcast work for a lot of shoulder programming with Showtime and ESPN, and I did two stints with HBO. I’ve done it for a while, and I think that gets lost on people. But this is at another level right now. I love it. This is my reality. My last two or three years I was active, I didn’t watch a lot boxing. I was kind of burnt out. I just didn’t watch a lot of boxing. I would watch my opponent, and older fights on YouTube from the 1970s, 1980s.
“Broadcasting caused me to fall back in love with boxing again. It’s feeding that drive and desire, and rekindled my love for the sport. It’s like boxing. There is a preparation period, but when the lights come on, you have to be ready.
“Obviously, you’re not taking punches, but your preparation is on display and it’s very similar to when I was active. You have to be ‘on’ when those lights come on. That’s helped me detox the game out of my system, yet it allows me to be close enough to the game without being in the game.
“And, there’s no making weight.”
After numerous years as a nominee, CompuBox founder and President Bob Canobbio won the lifetime Barney Nagler Award for long and meritorious service in a group of prominent nominees like Teddy Atlas, Michael Buffer, Henry Hascup and John Sheppard.
“It’s such an honor just to be nominated, but to win, it’s very humbling,” Canobbio said. “It validates all of the hard work that I put into CompuBox and for everyone else involved with CompuBox. It’s nice to be recognized by your peers. It’s a very humbling feeling.”
The Marvin Kohn Good Guy Award was shared between veteran boxing writer Norm Frauenheim and Haymon Boxing’s vice-president of communications and former long-time boxing writer Tim Smith. The other nominees were Anthony Dirrell, Jose Ramirez and Mauricio Sulaiman.
Both Frauenheim and Smith are first-time BWAA winners.
“I guess this means that you have the respect of your peers and your reputation in your profession is solid,” Smith said. “Those things are more valuable than anything you can have in your profession and in your life.”
Said Frauenheim, “This is very meaningful to me. It shows that I have respect, and to me, if you’re a good guy and are willing to help people, it’s like helping someone at ringside if their computer goes down, and be thought of so highly by the people in the boxing community. It’s also great sharing this with someone like Tim Smith.”
In a very tight race, the John McCain-Bill Crawford Courage Award also finished in a tie between Adonis Stevenson, who made a remarkable recovery from a traumatic brain injury suffered in his 11th-round knockout loss to Oleksandr Gvozdyk in December 2018, and noted Philadelphia boxing publicist Marc Abrams, who overcame a series of health issues in 2019. The pair were chosen over cancer survivors Brian Custer and Jose Santa Cruz, and Mauro Ranallo, who’s bravely battled his bipolar disorder.
“This is a great honor, and it means a lot that people recognize everything that I went through last year,” Abrams said. “It’s a triumph to be recognized by my peers in the BWAA, who have a lot of esteemed members. I’ve been through a lot. This is like a light at the end of a long, dark journey for me.”
And finally, the BWAA is also very pleased to announce that Graham Houston is the 47th winner of the Nat Fleischer Award for excellence in boxing journalism. The voting of past winners determines the honoree.
“As a boxing fan in the 1950s in the UK an eagerly awaited highlight of the month was buying the latest issue of The Ring,” Houston said. “I loved Nat Fleischer’s detailed, in-depth coverage of the big fights. Now, to be told I have been voted winner of the Nat Fleischer award, it’s as if the wheel has come full circle after all these years.
“To receive the award based on the votes of past winners, respected colleagues all, is the greatest affirmation any boxing writer could wish for. This was an honor I never expected. I feel proud, grateful and humble to be selected for this most prestigious of awards.”
The winners will be honored at the annual BWAA awards dinner at a venue and date to be determined later this year. Tickets to the awards dinner will be available to the public and can be purchased at BWAA.org.
The 2019 BWAA winners:
- Joe Louis Fighter of the Decade: Floyd Mayweather Jr.
- Sugar Ray Robinson Award Fighter of the Year: Canelo Alvarez
- Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier Award Fight of the Year: Naoya Inoue vs Nonito Donaire
- Eddie Futch Award Trainer of the Year: Eddy Reynoso
- Cus D’Amato Award Manager of the Year: Keith Connolly
- Marvin Kohn Good Guy Award: Norm Frauenheim/Tim Smith
- Sam Taub Award Excellence in Broadcast Journalism: Andre Ward
- Barney Nagler Award Long and Meritorious Service: Bob Canobbio
- John McCain-Bill Crawford Courage Award: Marc Abrams/Adonis Stevenson
- Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism: Graham Houston