At this time of year, many media outlets, boxing personalities, etc. tend to compile lists of their favorite fighters, best action-packed encounters and so forth. It's a fun time to see just how well some of the biggest names in the sport did over the last twelve months.
Sure, it's all just opinion, but boxing is effectively an opinion-based sport. While many fights will be ended within the scheduled time, so often, we rely upon the opinions of three random judges for some of the biggest contests the sport can produce. When you're a boxing fan, you should be used to the opinions of uninvolved parties impacting the result.
While I certainly am in favor of adding my name to the list of those interested in handing out accolades, I also strive to be a little different from time to time. Which is why I'll be handing out the less obvious awards here.
It's easy picking Fighter of the Year or something like that. Anyone can -- and they will. Instead, I want to focus on some of the names and results many will overlook come the new year.
So, without much more rambling, let's get into them.
MOST DISAPPOINTING FIGHTER OF THE YEAR: MIKEY GARCIA
HONORABLE MENTION: TEOFIMO LOPEZ
While many might grant this exceptional award to Teofimo Lopez, a man that squandered the biggest win of his career over Vasyl Lomachenko with a full year of inactivity followed by a losing effort to a massive underdog in George Kambosos in November, the Hunduran-American gets a pass for three reasons with me.
For starters, he at least put forth a fight in his losing effort, hurting his man a few times and even scoring a late-fight knockdown. Secondly, according to some reports prior to and after the Kambosos fight, Lopez was dealing with major health concerns. His own promoter, Bob Arum of Top Rank, went as far as to say he may never fight again.
However, the biggest reason is that Mikey Garcia's disappointing year just can't be denied.
Just around two years ago, Garcia was lauded for his commitment to promoting himself and having the guts to take on the usually-avoided Errol Spence at a time few seemed keen to face the American. While Garcia may have lost every round, many chalked it up to Mikey being too small for the talented Texan and were awaiting Garcia's next move despite the unfortunate showing.
In 2020, Garcia came back with a solid decision win over Jessie Vargas in February, but found himself inactive until an October 2021 showdown with Sandor Martin. The inactivity and the Martin showdown itself is where things got a bit rough for Mikey.
It was a rather one-sided, uneventful ten round fight that saw the 10-1 underdog Martin control virtually all the action on the way to a majority decision victory. The biggest win of Martin's career, surely, and equally the biggest setback in the otherwise impressive career of Garcia.
And it wasn't just that he lost, let me stress this point. He had no answers for the rather simple move that Martin continued to utilize for the majority of the fight. He showed no willingness to sell out, as it were, the grab victory from the jaws of defeat. Even in his post-fight interview, he seemed...fine with it.
Now, the 34-year old finds himself needing to rebuild a career that once seemed so promising, after years of promotional difficulties and staying out of the major fights.
Here's hoping his 2022 is somewhat better. It couldn't be much worse...you would hope.
WORST BIG FIGHT OF THE YEAR: JOHN RIEL CASIMERO DEF. GUILLERMO RIGONDEAUX, 12SD
HONORABLE MENTION: SHAKUR STEVENSON def. JEREMIA NAKATHILA, 12UD
Without trying to sound so negative, you have to be honest and say that Guillermo Rigondeaux has been in his share of lackluster encounters. While he's won a great deal of them, those performances haven't always won over fans in droves.
However, his bout with John Riel Casimero this year in August might just take the cake for the hardest fight to watch of his career as well as the past twelve months.
It wasn't just that the pair of fighters set a new record low for punches landed, according to CompuBox. Or that said low was less than 100 combined shots over the course of twelve full rounds. It was also the set up to the fight.
As mentioned, Rigondeaux has been a...let's call him a methodical fighter at times. However, in his two previous bouts with Julio Ceja and Liborio Solis, Rigondeaux had been more aggressive and the fights had been reasonably watchable.
He's never going to be Arturo Gatti, but they were watchable.
When he was then set to face Casimero, one could almost get the sense that this would be the first major fight involving Rigondeaux that might actually live up to the hype.
That sense would be wrong.
However, and this must be stressed, Casimero must not get a pass for his involvement in this Fear Factor challenge of a fight. His brilliant game plan of chasing, and chasing, then lunging in with a single shot that missed wildly didn't exactly make for the best fight, either.
While I can see someone picking Shakur Stevenson vs. Jeremia Nakathila from back in June that saw the former win a lopsided decision, it's not really close after deeper inspection. To put it into perspective: Stevenson himself out-landed both Rigondeaux and Casimero. By himself.
No, there's only one "winner" here, and that's Casimero-Rigondeaux. Congratulations to the pair of them.
ROBBERY OF THE YEAR: OSCAR VALDEZ DEF. ROBSON CONCEICAO, 12UD
HONORABLE MENTION: CAMPBELL HATTON DEF. SONNI MARTINEZ, 6 POINTS
While I was tempted to go with the Campbell Hatton-Sonni Martinez debacle from the Anthony Joshua-Oleksandr Usyk under card back in September, in the end, it didn't seem fair.
Campbell was in a 6 round fight and likely deserved the loss. However, with how subjective such short fights can be, and considering the level of both fighters, it just seems a tough fight to give such a distinction.
However, Oscar Valdez vs. Robson Conceicao from September is the perfect candidate.
For starters, even before the fight began, Valdez was popped for a failed drug test that should have left him stripped of his Jr. Lightweight Title and banned from the sport. However, because the WBC likes to WBC it up, he not only kept his title, but was allowed to fight after having a positive drug test result.
So, on a moral level, Conceicao has already been robbed of a fair and just fight. Then, you have the fight itself. Which, based on the performance, Valdez needs to get a refund on those "teas" he consumed that made his test come back dirty in the first place. Because they didn't seem to help him at all.
Conceicao didn't dominate the fight, but he seemed to control most of it, landed the better shots and made much of what Valdez attempted fall short. Valdez was out-landed, out-fought at times and had his face swollen and reddened by fights end.
The immediate narrative after the result was announced was one blaming Conceicao for "giving the fight away" by boxing and moving in the later frames. However, far too many fans and media members alike will tell you that Valdez didn't do much with whatever Conceicao "gave" him.
And, of course, there has been no mention of a rematch. Which is a great way to make sure he was treated unfairly before the fight, during the fight and following the fight.
If you're gonna rob 'em, rob' em all the way.
BIGGEST FALL FROM GRACE OF THE YEAR: TEOFIMO LOPEZ
HONORABLE MENTION: NONE. AT ALL.
Yeah, this was one of the easier categories to pick. Really, who else could it be? Maybe the aforementioned Mikey Garcia, but...nah.
After a breakout 2020, that saw him defeat a pound-for-pound fighter in Vasyl Lomachenko and nearly unify the entire Lightweight division in the process, Lopez began 2021 with promotional issues and inactivity.
Granted, in a post-pandemic world, inactivity can seem somewhat normal. However, Lopez was really inactive, and seemed to be enjoying his time off just a bit too much.
From picking up the odd sponsorship deal to crashing press conferences and posing with all of the gold he had yet to defend, Lopez was everywhere but in the gym, it seemed.
Meanwhile, mandatory challenger George Kambosos was simply training and preparing for the biggest fight of his life. And that fight came in November, after failed pay-per-view attempts, missed deadlines, COVID delays, etc. Yes, the moment finally arrived in November.
And instead of Lopez looking to regain any lost momentum, it was Kambosos, a 13-1 underdog, that seized the moment.
While Lopez started aggressively, Kambosos was the one that dropped the New Yorker in the opening frame. Lopez wanted to impose his will, but it was Kambosos that seemed to have virtually every round under his control. But for a momentary lapse in the tenth, Kambosos owned almost all aspects of the fight.
And, in the end, he owned the biggest upset of the year in many people's minds.
Again, I will hold off with criticizing Lopez too much, especially if he in fact does have serious health issues with which to contend. Still, one can't deny the fall has been mighty for "The Takeover".
FUNNIEST MOMENT OF THE YEAR: JOSE ZEPEDA DEF. JOSUE VARGAS, 1TKO
HONORABLE MENTION: ME PICKING JOSUE VARGAS TO WIN THAT FIGHT
Yeah, sometimes, do your talking after the fight.
Anyone can get caught cold or simply walk into the wrong shot early in a fight. Roberto Duran, the man with one of the best chins in the history of boxing, got iced inside of two frames. It happens.
However, you win no sympathy when you spend the entire lead up to the fight being an absolute tool to an opponent virtually no one has ever said a single bad thing towards. Zepeda is an all-around nice guy.
Yet Vargas, who went into the contest relatively untested, was looking to make a statement. But in the post-Floyd Mayweather/Conor McGregor world we live in, that statement begins at the press conferences promoting the event.
Vargas was...disrespectful. He would belittle Zepeda any time he spoke, even trying to scuffle with the Mexican during their weigh-in. He was rude to the point that many hoped to see him, say -- I don't know -- get knocked silly in the first frame.
Well, when they fought in October, let's just say those hoping for such an outcome weren't disappointed.
A massive overhand left dropped Vargas midway through the first, forcing him to drop forward and face plant. While he managed to beat the count, he looked about as stable as Bambi taking those first steps. I mean, Zepeda hit him with about a month's worth of pent up aggression with that shot.
After Vargas staggered into the ropes, Zepeda followed up with what can only be described as a satisfying barrage that slumped Vargas, calling a halt to the contest.
The memes were out before the result was read aloud.
The only thing that comes close to such a funny moment, at least on a personal note, was how badly I predicted the fight. That's right. I had Vargas winning this one.
And how wrong was my woeful prediction, you ask? Oh, just the wrongest it could possibly be.
So, I picked Vargas (and Zepeda won), and I picked him to win by decision over twelve rounds (when it was a knockout in one round). I couldn't have gotten it more wrong if I picked a fighter that wasn't in the fight.
So, don't feel so bad, Josue. We all get it wrong sometimes.
I hope you enjoyed reading. Go ahead and leave your picks down in the comments, be interesting to see what you guys come up with as well. Also, I will have a slightly more serious Year-End Awards compilation that you can check out by clicking here
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