By Cliff Rold
The big hardware is out the door and the ball has dropped on 2017. Anthony Joshua was honored as Ffghter of the year (to debate among the readers and vast disagreements between press outlets on who deserved the nod). Joshua’s fight with Wlaidmir Klitschko was almost universally hailed as fight of the year as well, though even there one could find some healthy back and forth.
Now it’s a new year so…hot tea for everyone!
Before the chapter is completely closed, there are final few honors to discuss of the year that was. Let’s begin with the most talked about, most covered, and richest collision of people in boxing gloves for all of the calendar year.
Event of the Year: Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor
There were some big events in boxing this year. We had major stadium events in the UK and Australia, welterweight unification in primetime on CBS, and a long awaited pay-per-view showdown in the middleweight division. There is still only one honest answer in this category. 2016’s choice for stupidest storyline of the year broke the bank in 2017. Love it or hate it, see it as legitimate or not, there was no bigger boxing event in 2017 than Mayweather-McGregor. The clash between the face of boxing and arguably the face of the Ultimate Fighting Championship was huge. How much so? Millions watched the carnival-like press conferences, web traffic was through the roof, and it perhaps permanently altered the course of Paulie Malignaggi’s Twitter feed. The official tallies at the end made this the second biggest pay-per-view in boxing history behind Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao. And, despite much hand wringing from boxing purists, they actually delivered an entertaining show. Judged strictly as a happening, no other event came close in 2017.
Network of the Year: Showtime
See above for the first reason for this selection. Showtime had the biggest and richest fight of the year (Mayweather-McGregor), the live airing of the fight of the year (Anthony Joshua-Wladimir Klitschko), and in concert with CBS delivered the most watched non-pay-per-view broadcast of the year, the Keith Thurman-Danny Garcia unification bout that peaked at a phenomenal (for boxing) 5.1 million viewers. That’s a trifecta no one else could equal in 2017 along with quality action at Jr. middleweight, unification at super middleweight, and the clash between Errol Spence and Kell Brook. In particular, Showtime’s strategic use of CBS continues to pay off strong and bodes well for the future. Running a close second, and likely to win in another year, was ESPN which got back into boxing in a big way with well rated fights like Manny Pacquiao-Jeff Horn and Vasyl Lomachenko.
Round of the Year: Joshua-Klitschko (5)
Wladimir Klitschko never shook the perception of him as vulnerable. His three stoppage losses by 2004 always left the impression another disaster was coming soon. It kept not happening. Not only was Klitschko not stopped again for over a decade. Klitschko wasn’t knocked off his feet from the first Samuel Peter fight until what ultimately would be his farewell. Almost twelve years, and twenty-two fights, passed before Anthony Joshua dropped Klitschko in the fifth round of their epic encounter. What happened next is what made it the round of the year. Klitschko weathered the storm and then turned the tide, hurting and backing up Joshua in a tremendous gut check for both behemoths. Klitschko might not ever shake the perception of him as vulnerable. He was. Against Joshua he reminded everyone just how much heart and character it took to overcome obstacles early on and recover to fulfill his talents at the head of the class for a decade. It was the best three minutes of the best fight of the year.
Promoter of the Year: Top Rank
In an era where fans take sides with promoters as often as they do fighters, Top Rank will always have its detractors. What they pulled off in 2017 was too big a deal to ignore. They still have a knack for creating local attractions that can actually put asses in seats (Terence Crawford, Jose Ramirez) but that’s not why they’re here.
After watching Main Events and the PBC test the waters, and really chart the course, in prior years, Top Rank made a big move away from premium cable and on to the worldwide leader in sports. Their deal with ESPN opened up ESPN not only to more prime time fights (even if they didn’t always start on ESPN proper) but also to a brighter spotlight on the sport period. ESPN covered more of boxing in 2017 than they had in a long time, and that included seeing extended post fight coverage for some of their biggest shows. ESPN’s investment with Top Rank has meant an investment for all of boxing with fights and fighters from HBO and Showtime also receiving ample coverage. Could this all still go the way of Top Rank’s deal with the “VS” network? Can we escape the shadow of Tye Fields? So far, there is reason to be optimistic.
And that’s all folks. Feel free to agree, or disagree; debate wildly or simply move on to 2018. It’s a new year, with new possibilities, and we’ll be there every step along the way.
For full coverage of the rest of the picks at BoxingScene this year, click below:
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]