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Year-End Grades For The Most Elite Superstars In Boxing

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The end of the year is nigh.

If you’re not one of boxing’s most elite superstars, you’re off the hook. You can plan your New Year’s Eve party, make all those resolutions you probably won’t keep and move on your merry little way.

But if you are one of the very elite in the sport of boxing, you’re probably feeling a little nervous about now, because Professor McCarson just posted your grades.

 

Canelo Alvarez

What He Did: Alvarez dominated former middleweight titleholder Julio Cesar Chavez over 12 one-side rounds in May, then battled the monstrous unified middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin to a draw in September.

What He Should Have Done: You couldn’t really ask for more from one of boxing’s top stars. The Chavez Jr. bout served two purposes. First, it solidified Alvarez as Mexico’s top draw. Second, it was a good litmus test for Alvarez to see if he could handle the punching power of larger middleweights. And in taking on Golovkin, Alvarez served fans a horn of plenty by taking on the most dangerous and intimidating opponent he could.

Grade: A

 

Terence Crawford

What He Did: In May, Crawford stopped junior welterweight contender Felix Diaz in Round 10 to defend his WBC and WBO title belts in fine form. In August, Crawford grabbed the other two major alphabet belts at 140 by knocking out Julius Indongo in Round 3.

What He Should Have Done: It’s hard to ask a fighter to do any more than Crawford did in 2017 (but I’m still about to do it). He became just the third undisputed champion in the history of the four-belt title era by beating Indongo, and solidified himself as the top pound-for-pound fighter in the sport. Still, Crawford’s resume lacks some sizzle so getting him the ring with other star fighters should have been the focus this year. That, or at least giving us more than just two fights against opponents he was heavily favored against.

Grade: B

 

Gennady Golovkin

What He Did: Golovkin staved off hard charging contender Danny Jacobs to defend his three middleweight alphabet titles in March, then fought to a draw with Canelo Alvarez in September. The latter bout was one of the better middleweight championship fights in recent history, and the one prior wasn’t far off.

What He Should Have Done: Golovkin faced the top two contenders to his middleweight throne. Against Jacobs, he worked behind a thudding jab to box his way to a hard-fought victory. Later in the year, Golovkin pressed hard against Alvarez in the later rounds to earn the draw. If you still doubted Golovkin’s excellence before the year began, you most certainly have no reason to do so now.

Grade: A

 

Sergey Kovalev

What He Did: Andre Ward stopped Kovalev in Round 8 in June in the hotly anticipated rematch of their 2016 barnstormer. While the first fight was close and competitive, the rematch was all Ward. He limited Kovalev’s offense with smart footwork and used hard body punches to fell Kovalev, who was before losing to Ward twice considered unbeatable. Kovalev rebounded in November by knocking out middling contender Vyacheslav Shabranskyy in just two rounds.

What He Should Have Done: Kovalev did the right thing in rematching Ward, but his effort was lackluster and he was never really in the fight. The Shabranskyy bout was a mismatch on paper, and turned out to be even more of one once the two entered the ring on fight night. Kovalev may have been due a gimme fight after getting shellacked by Ward, but there had to be a better opponent out there for him than Shabranskyy.

Grade: C

 

Anthony Joshua

What He Did: Joshua solidified his standing as the most feared heavyweight in boxing by climbing off the canvas to knock out former titleholder Wladimir Klitschko in April in what was probably the best heavyweight title fight in a decade. He followed that epic win up with a one-sided, 10-round demolition of middling contender Carlos Takam.

What He Should Have Done: The Klitschko win was outstanding, but Joshua should have been facing hire tier opposition from there on out. He lacks two of the heavyweight alphabet belts, so those fights (against Deontay Wilder and Joseph Parker) are what he should have been after defeating Klitschko. Moreover, Takam just isn’t a serious contender right now, so the bout was basically a waste of momentum.

Grade: B

 

Vasyl Lomachenko

What He Did: Lomachenko took a giant leap forward in 2017, earning the title of the NY Fights fighter of the year award. He stopped two solid veterans in Jason Sosa and Miguel Marriaga with ease, then dominated longtime pound-for-pound elite star Guillermo Rigondeaux in six rounds.

What He Should Have Done: With just 11 professional fights, Lomachenko has already attained elite status in boxing, something that has probably never been done before. Since losing a close decision to Orlando Salido in just his second fight in 2014, Lomachenko has appeared unbeatable. His competition in 2017 was solid, and the Rigo win made him a surety for one of the top two spots on legitimate pound-for-pound lists everywhere. It was also nice  too see Lomachenko fight three times in 2017 during an era when top fighters seem content to fight as little as possible.

Grade: A

 

Manny Pacquiao

What He Did: Pacquiao appeared to defeat Jeff Horn in July, but was handed a loss by the judges. Regardless, Pacquiao appeared to be a shell of his former self against Horn. The fight was entertaining to watch, but that’s because Pacquiao was step slower than he had ever appeared before, and he didn’t seem all that interested in mixing it up like the Pacman of old.

What He Should Have Done: If Pacquiao is still interested in being a fighter, he should have sought an immediate rematch with Horn. Instead, Pacquiao has been inactive and has become an afterthought in the boxing world. It’s probably time for Pacquiao to retire from the sport as his best days are clearly behind him.

Grade: F

 

Deontay Wilder

What He Did: Wilder stopped previously undefeated heavyweight Gerald Washington in five rounds in February, then dropped Bermane Stiverne in November in Round 1. Neither fight was befitting of a world heavyweight champion. Washington was a huge underdog, and the Stiverne bout was an unwanted, unnecessary rematch of a pretty one-sided 2015 encounter that Wilder also won.

What He Should Have Done: It’s time for Wilder to face top heavyweights. The other belt holders are Anthony Joshua and Joseph Parker. The top contenders are Alexander Povetkin, Luis Ortiz and Kubrat Pulev. Any of those five will do.  While it’s true Wilder had matches against Povetkin and Ortiz cancelled due to failed PED tests by those opponents, it’s also true his handlers need to be way more active in finding him the very best competition.

Grade: D

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About Kelsey McCarson

Kelsey McCarson covers boxing for NY Fights, The Sweet Science and Bleacher Report.

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