By Lyle Fitzsimmons
If you’ve gotten to this point and aren’t happy, it’s your own fault.
You should have seen it coming last year.
As has become early January tradition in this Tuesday morning space, we proactively greet the New Year with a preview of stories other boxing scribes will be reacting to about 12 months from now.
Of course, if you recall from December, 2017 was a forecasting year to ignore… if not forget.
But hope springs eternal, so – in the recurring quest to match the glory of our spot-on advance pick of Andre Ward as the fighter of the year in 2011 – we’re giving it another go for 2018.
Unlike football, baseball or their collective ilk, there are no master schedules from which to pluck events to predict. And even if I was prescient enough to know now which fights would be made between which guys, say, next October, there's always a chance that three people sitting on the ring's perimeter would pound my forecasting into dust with their definition of what constitutes a “boxing lesson.”
But those are excuses and gripes for another day.
Today is a day of forward thinking, and with that, here’s a look at what we’ll all be looking back on next Christmas.
And if even some of this stuff actually happens… it’s going to be a good year for all of us.
COMEBACK OF THE YEAR
OK, so it's not your garden-variety comeback.
Canelo Alvarez wasn't exactly down on his luck in 2017 -- having made millions for what amounted to a walk-through against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., and even more for a draw in what many viewed as a loss to Gennady Golovkin.
But when you consider that his last significant win -- a one-shot KO of Amir Khan in Las Vegas -- had actually come in the initial half of 2016, it was more than high time for the cinnamon-haired superstar to re-assert himself on the highest level.
His chance came on Cinco de Mayo weekend in the Nevada desert and he made the most of it, getting a second go-round with a suddenly aging Golovkin and outhustling the unbeaten Kazakh on the way to a clear-cut unanimous decision.
UPSET OF THE YEAR
Shannon Briggs TKO 3 Tyson Fury
Some were already suggesting -- because its recognized champion hadn't fought in more than two years -- that Ring Magzine looked a little silly when it came to the heavyweight division.
That was at the start of 2018. But by the time mid-spring arrived, the reign of an inactive champion in his prime seemed a lot like the good old days.
Because when Tyson Fury finally did return to the ring in April, he was promptly dumped by a 46-year-old who'd spent the better part of a decade acting as the division's clown prince.
Fury was in shape and looked ready to go, but he was freight-trained by the American in the first round and never fully righted himself before being rescued by the referee at 2:13 of the third.
Say it now, gentlemen... Shannon Briggs, Ring Magazine heavyweight champion.
KNOCKOUT OF THE YEAR
Badou Jack KO 4 Adonis Stevenson
Adonis Stevenson was no stranger to highlight-reel knockouts.
He'd gained his WBC share of the light heavyweight title with a one-punch vaporization of Chad Dawson in 2013, then defended it with memorable erasures of Thomas Williams and Andrzej Fonfara in 2016 and 2017.
But given that he'd taken a less-challenging road when it came to title defenses, there was no shortage of fans pining for his downfall when he signed to meet ex-168-pound champ Badou Jack.
The vultures got their wish in dramatic fashion in Round 4 when Stevenson, who'd been outhustled and out-techniqued in the early going, walked directly into a left hook that dumped him loopily to his side and saw him flail for the ropes in a vain effort to beat the 10-count.
FIGHT OF THE YEAR
Vasyl Lomachenko SD 12 Mikey Garcia
Vasyl Lomachenko had already turned the sport on its ear -- and climbed to the pound-for-pound pinnacle -- with titles in two divisions and one-sided defeats of champs like Gary Russell Jr., Roman Martinez, Nicholas Walters and Guillermo Rigondeaux.
Upon scoring the latter of those wins, the "who should he fight next" conversation turned to Garcia, who'd returned from a prolonged stretch of shelf time with a title at 135 pounds and a statement-making move toward 140.
The match was made with refreshingly little posturing from the two fighters, and the run-up was free of animosity but nevertheless compelling because of their extreme competitiveness.
Fight night saw a memorable back and forth in which Garcia's precision was even with Lomachenko's athleticism until the final two rounds, which the Ukrainian took on two of three cards to lock down the split verdict.
The rematch is already signed for 2019... and don't be surprised if the word trilogy comes up at some point, too.
FIGHTER OF THE YEAR
Errol Spence Jr. (Peterson, Crawford)
Errol Spence Jr. was on the short list of candidates for 2017's fighter of the year following a career-defining stoppage of Kell Brook that earned him the Englishman's IBF welterweight title belt.
He was ultimately beaten in that race by fighters who'd scored more than one victory, but he arrived to 2018 ready to augment his resume in an even more significant manner.
A January matchup with Lamont Peterson saw him dominate the former 140-pound claimant for nearly every one of 10 rounds before registering a late stoppage, but the Texas-based New York native was far from through with his mission.
He parlayed the Peterson win into a fall showdown with rising pound-for-pound elitist Terence Crawford. The popular Nebraskan was the hometown hero and the favorite in spite of Spence's championship status, but the underdog was sharper and faster across 36 minutes and ended the year with his own high-end P4P claims.
This time, his FOTY bid is nearly impossible to dismiss.
* * * * * * * * * *
Weekly title-fight schedule:
No title fights scheduled.
Last week's picks: 4-1 (WIN: Shiro, Inoue, Kyoguchi, Kimura; LOSS: Melindo)
2017 picks record: 99-30 (76.7 percent)
Overall picks record: 921-304 (75.1 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.