The fight of the year is, arguably, most important within the scope of the larger lens of history of all the “Best Of” categories we choose to choose.
The Fighter of the Year in the moment gets more hubbub surrounding him (or her, as the case will be in the near-ish future), but it is the sum of the parts which come together when two beings collide and a violent yet majestic alchemical explosion occurs which makes Fight of the Year stand the time test if we assess over decades, not months.
Those moments during Ward-Gatti 1..
.. and the first Corrales-Castillo fight had you totally immersed in the flow of the moment. You saw two people giving all of themselves, for your enjoyment, and you felt nothing but admiration for both. The person who had the upper hand and the person absorbing blows, yet soldiering on, God what a constitution in that person! Gods in short pants, both. Better men than I, and what a potent reminder of what strength of character human beings can summon when the stars align correctly….
Preamble aside…here are the offerings the superlative staff that is The NYF Squad furnished when I asked, What Is the Fight of the Year?
“My pick for fight of the year will come from the club show scene which was a bantamweight battle between Oscar “El Jaguar” Negrete and Joshua “The Professor” Franco,” said Abe Gonzalez. “What a great, competitive battle this was as they threw a combined number of 2,257 punches in a ten round fight. The number of punches thrown is significant as it came in at a strong second place for most punches thrown in a bantamweight fight. The fight itself was very entertaining as both men did not want to give in and showed tremendous heart throughout the fight. Both men came in tremendous shape and wanted to put on a show for their respective fans. They did exactly that while showing viewers on ESPN that Thursday night, that you don’t have to be a name in this sport to put on a eye- catching performance.The judges agreed that it was a close fight and called it a split draw. Normally that decision would have caused an uproar but not on this night, as it drew a standing ovation from the Southern California crowd in attendance.”
“My fight of the year took place way back in February,” said Colin Morrison. “The year was young when Murat Gassiev and Yunier Dorticos went toe to toe in a cruiserweight unification bout in Russia. It was a stunning battle with many segments of action mixed in with superb technical boxing from both men. Gradually Gassiev began to take over with his well placed power shots but Dorticos remained game, continuing to look to land his own damaging shots. It was this willingness to go deep into the well that resulted in Dorticos being knocked out with just eight seconds remaining in the bout. It was fierce, skillful and produced a conclusive ending. For these reasons Gassiev vs. Dorticos is my fight of the year.”
Kelsey McCarson said this: “My vote is for Jarret Hurd vs. Erislandy Lara. It was a terrific matchup between two champion fighters who both had a chance to win going into the final round. Hurd knocked Lara down in the final round to eke it out on the scorecards and become the unified junior middleweight champion. The contrast in styles was superb and both fighters competed with a ton of heart.”
“I think it has to be Canelo V GGG 2,” said John Gatling. “It was the biggest match-up of the year involving a rematch of two consensus top five pound-for-pound fighters that introduced the world to Clenbuteral and it was a better fight than the original. They don’t really like each other going into the first meeting and skip Christmas cards while still thinking about three other cards. Today, we’re still thinking about all six official cards. No fight was bigger than this fight or offered better ebb and flow with more on the line. Think Canelo gets a massive DAZN deal without challenging for middleweight glory better than Golovkin defended it? If you had Triple G winning–hey, he certainly won the first fight–you weren’t wrong, as he fought like an all-time great looking to break the title defense record of Bernard Hopkins. The animosity was thicker than Florida’s humidity in August to set up a legend of the fall, riding HBO PPV into a controversial sunset. This sequel gets my vote for FOTY.”
“Lara and Hurd is my pick too,” said David Phillips. “Lara fell into the trap of not fighting his game by taking it to Hurd. And it worked…for awhile. Then that physical specimen known as Jarrett Hurd simply became too much. He took everything Lara threw at him, and while Hurd didn’t land with the same efficiency as his opponent, he made those punches hurt more. By the 12th, Lara’s face was a mess. Hurd needed a knockdown to pull out the fight and he found it. That scrap had style, substance, and last round derring-do. I’d love to see it again. Although I can’t imagine Lara fighting the same way.”
And your vote, Hamza Ahmed?
“I remember missing Negrete V Franco negligently and promising myself I’d catch up on it. Unfortunately I still haven’t. That said, there were a lot of tremendous fights year looking back to it retrospectively. If I had to pick one, it would one hundred percent, without a shadow of a doubt be Efe Ajagba v Curtis Harper. I’m kidding haha. It’s Jarrett Hurd V Erislandy Lara. Cuban boxing was at an all time low by the time this fight had arrived in April. The usually proud nation had yet to produce a star following Gamboa’s terminal decline, Rigondeaux had shamed a nation having retired V Lomachenko and Dorticos was brutally knocked out by Gassiev. That pride was restored as the spiry yet talented Lara took the bigger, younger and stronger Hurd to hell and back. 11 rounds of simply tremendous action accentuated with numerous momentum swings meant the fight was virtually dead even come the 12th. What a round that was. Hurd, with a newfound burst of late energy, relentlessly pursued Lara for the finish. Lara wryly foxed away, believing enough was done to win. An exchange with under a minute left saw Hurd toppled Lara to the canvas with a crisp hook. We thought this was it. It wasn’t. Lara, channeling his inner Lazarus, rose back up and instead of surviving, went straight to Hurd and managed to hurt/stun him in the closing seconds. Lara may have lost but he won the hearts of those watching and also won the hearts of his fellow Cubans. Hurd took home both the WBA and IBF titles via split decision and did what very few had been able to – get a great fight out of a defensive fighter in Lara. But it exceeded great – it was simply outstanding. A true exhibition of man meeting machine, will versus skill, offence versus defence. I was going to pick Warrington V Frampton, given that too was electrifying but it was always going to be hard to top the night Hurd met Lara.”
Tom Penneys’ thoughts: “I gave this a lot of thought. While 2018 was a tremendous year of boxing, there was not one fight that leapt off the screen and left me thinking “Now that is fight of the year right there!” Golovkin and Canelo ran it back, and while that was a good fight, it did not light a fire in me. Murat Gassiev and Yuniel Dorticos had a spectacular scrap that ended with a brilliant stoppage by Gassiev, but I left that fight feeling more enthused about Gassiev than I did about the fight overall.
No, my pick this year is going to be Jarrett Hurd versus Erislandy Lara. This was a scrap that, on paper, had no business being worth watching, let alone great. Jarrett Hurd is an enormous, inexhaustible junior middleweight that is probably going to end up a super middleweight before long while Erislandy Lara would ideally be fighting at welterweight, though he reigned as an impressive titleholder for years at 154 pounds. I figured that Lara would have some success early by staying away from the much larger and longer Hurd, but he instead decided to stand in the pocket where his skill carried a large chunk of the fight. Hurd, no stranger to slow starts, started coming on after the sixth but I still had him down one round when the twelfth round began. He would need to win this round to draw, but he instead went for broke and battered a game but tiring Lara until he finally succumb and hit the canvas. He got up and finished the fight on his feet, but Hurd’s volume combined with the knockdown had sealed it on two judges cards. Though I am generally of the belief that sound, beautiful boxing is more pleasant to watch, I have to admit that the sight of Lara standing and trading and winning exchanges with Hurd was heartening. And to see Hurd, who I had largely dismissed as a weight bully with little in the way of actual talent, rely on some truly old, veteran tricks to stay in the fight long enough to get his decisive knockdown was also wonderful. This was easily my favourite fight of the year, even if it was not a showcase for the aesthetic.”