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The NYFights Fighter of the Year=Usyk, By Unanimous Decision

Michael Woods

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The calendar is getting towards E…

Another year down and hasn’t it been…interesting?

Within “our” sphere, the world of boxing, it has been a not atypical mix of sublime, ridiculous, majestic and middlin’….theater of the unexpected—hello, HBO saying goodbye and also sadly so much of the same.

Yep, crappy judging put its spin on too many Saturday nights.

But once again, superlative athletes astounded us with their generalship; in the ring, the best and brightest practitioners of the Queensberry rules made our jaws drop, and our respect for their in-ring acumen burgeon.

It was out with some of the old, as new names edged and in some cases exploded into our consciousness with a vivid fervor.

There is no shortage of combatants to laud…but this is near the end of the year. So tradition dictates we seek to choose the one…the single best boxer who was a head and shoulder above the rest of the pack.

This being something of an assembly over here at NYF, a collective where every member of the chorus gets a solo to soar now and again, I decided to seek wisdom from the crowd…hey NYF Squad, who is the Fighter of the Year?

Wouldn’t you know, we had a unanimous decision…

Read on, friends, and check out why the NYFights crew picked the current fighting pride of the Ukraine as NYF FOY.

“Oleksander Usyk has to be the unanimous choice, It’s so obvious, that if any writer given an official vote went elsewhere, it could be said without malice that that individual doesn’t know shit about boxing,” said John Gatling. “Usyk finishes as FOTY for many of the reasons already mentioned, but around this time last year, no expert I know of had him as one of the five best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Poll those same analysts now and Usyk would roll off everyone’s lips. He even had the gall to get rid of his lead trainer after the Breidis fight and made Russ Anber a hit commodity. It’s Usyk by a long ring walk.”

“The fighter of the year is the Undisputed Cruiserweight Champion Oleksandr Usyk! He has not only increased his fan base for his “down to earth” personality this year but in the ring, he DOMINATED which led to him cleaning out the division,” said Abe Gonzalez. “He displayed master level boxing skills and deserves to be Fighter of the Year.”

Colin Morrison, please cast your vote: “Oleksandr Usyk is my fighter of the year. He entered 2018 as the WBO cruiserweight title holder and a semi-finalist in the WBSS tournament. Usyk travelled to Latvia for that engagement and relieved home favourite Mairis Briedis of his WBC crown and unbeaten record. From there Usyk went to Moscow and despite Murat Gassiev having home advantage Oleksandr won every round in a boxing masterclass. It was also Gassiev’s first career defeat. This won him the Muhammad Ali trophy and secured the other two straps required (WBA “Super” and IBF) for him to unify the division. For good measure the Ukrainian then went to England where he rounded off his year by knocking Tony Bellew out in early November. So three road victories, becoming undisputed champion at 200lbs and possessing a likable personality to boot – Oleksandr Usyk is my Fighter of the Year by a clear distance.”

“I think the BEST fighter is probably Terence Crawford. But the guy who had the best year is Usyk,” said Cap’n David Phillips. “Not only by fighting three times (a lot for modern day top tier guys) and winning them all, but also for making people pay attention to the cruiserweight division. Which hasn’t gotten this much interest since Evander Holyfield cut his teeth at that class before moving up to heavyweight. No small feat.”

“Oleksandr Usyk is my choice for Fighter of the Year. Usyk won the World Boxing Super Series and became undisputed cruiserweight champion in the process,”said Kelsey McCarson. “The 31-year-old Ukrainian is just the third fighter in boxing history to become undisputed cruiserweight champion, following Evander Holyfield (IBF, WBA, WBC) in 1988 and O’Neil Bell (IBF, WBA, WBC) in 2006. When he defeated Bellew, Usyk became the first undisputed cruiserweight champion to defend that designation in the ring. Moreover, Usyk is just the second fighter to win all six current major boxing championships, a feat made possible after the formation of the TBRB in 2012. All hail King Usyk.”

“Oleksandr Usyk hands down for me,” said Johnny “Odd” Wilds. “He beat Briedis, Gassiev and Bellew in 2018 and proved himself as the best cruiserweight in the world. He is even being compared to the great Evander Holyfield, who was one of the best cruiser-weights of all time. Like Holyfield, a trip to the heavyweight division seems more than likely.”

“Oleksandr Usyk,” voted Tom Penney. “Not only did he unify the division, not only did he win the WBSS, not only has he gutted the cruiserweight division; he did it all while looking spectacular.”

“It’s the main man himself, Oleksandr Usyk,” said Hamza Ahmed. “The man just spent 2018 making history. Beat Mairis Breidis in his own back yard of Riga, Latvia for the unified WBO and WBC titles in a genuine fight of the year candidate, then wiped out Murat Gassiev in his backyard of Russia for every single title available and thereby became the first ever undisputed cruiserweight champion in a 4 belt era. And then to add the star to his Christmas tree, he came over here and conquered Tony Bellew with a spectacular knockout of the year candidate. It was hard to watch that in person (I was about 50 feet away) as I am a hardcore Bellew fan but the utmost credit to Usyk for proving magicians can indeed box. He’s put the heavyweight division on notice and if he can spend time watching Mike Tyson tapes and learning side to side head movement, I’d back him to beat Joshua.”

“How can it not be the beast from the east Oleksandr Usyk? Technical magician, proven at the elite level, fought the best, travelled to their backyards whilst doing it. A throwback to the good days of boxing, when being world champion meant you were the absolute best at your weight. For me Usyk is a future Heavyweight Champion of the World and a future first ballot hall of famer,” said Chris Glover.

Yep, it’s time to harvest memories and sum up this span of time, ponder this recent history. Usyk is my FOY…and what could I add to the mix of insight and analysis from the NYF squad. No adornment needed…instead, let me add my vote to the tally, and hail the Ukrainian craftsman with the same glowing adjectival spray as the rest of the crew…and then use a leftover spray of compliments to my gang.

We have a team concept and a unity here that I cant and won’t take full or even 50 percent credit for. It’s the sum of the parts…the personalities. A lot of credit goes to Abe Gonzalez, who this year has been a FOY sort of presence for me. His level of caring and the consistency of his effort lifts me up…He pushes me to be better, and that means, much of the time, acknowledging the skills and talents of these guys you just heard from. From A, Abe, to W, Wilds, the thing I most dig about this crew is their team spirit. They interact with each other, they read and respond to other teammates’ work. They lift up, not ignore or tear down. That is something of a rarity. It is to be applauded and respected…and I’m thankful for all of them and their work and their pride in that work, and their quiet devotion to the endeavor.

So…congrats Mr. Usyk, and thanks for letting me pull a piggyback, and snag and re-direct some props to the NYF Squad. Bravo, Usyk..and thank for your efforts and professionalism, NYF Squad.

Editor/publisher Michael Woods became addicted to boxing in 1990, when Buster Douglas shocked the world with his demolition of the fearsome Mike Tyson. The Brooklyn-based journalist Woods has covered the sport since then, for ESPN The Magazine, ESPN.com, ESPN New York, RING, and he was editor of TheSweetScience.com from 2007-2015. Woods is also an accomplished blow by blow and color man, having done work for Top Rank, DiBella Entertainment, EPIX, and numerous other organizations.

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