By Peter Lim
For the third consecutive year, the same DNA belonging to two different fighters claimed the Fighter of the Year award. While the award went to one twin in 2015 and 2016, his brother, younger by a full minute, took home the honors in 2017.
The same bout received awards in three different categories – Fight of the Year, Upset of the Year and Round of the Year, and the same boxer won in the Fighter of the Year and Knockout of the Year categories.
In the Knockout of the Year and Upset of the Year awards, two Houston fighters competed against themselves for first and second place. But while the winning fighter was the contender for the Knockout category, it was the losing fighter who was involved in both the candidates for Upset.
And the awards go to …
Fighter of the Year
Jermell Charlo (30-0, 15 KOs)
It’s almost a no-brainer that the fighter who’s up against himself for Knockout of the Year, both in world title fights, gets the Fighter of the Year award. Jermell Charlo outdid his twin brother, who won this award in 2015 and 2016, by scoring two jaw-dropping KOs in defense of his world junior middleweight title.
In April, Charlo rendered Charles Hatley unconscious with a laser right starkly reminiscent of Evander Holyfield’s fight-ending punch against Buster Douglas. Six months later, Charlo stole a page from Mike Tyson’s playbook and executed the punch Tyson used to KO Michael Spinks when, out of the blue, he dropped and paralyzed Erickson Lubin for the full count in the first round. Granted, both Hatley and Lubin might have fallen a tad short of deserving a title shot, but given the way Charlo effortlessly and savagely dispatched of them on the world stage, he deserves Fighter of the Year award hands down.
Erislandy Lara (25-2-2, 14 KOs)
Lara equaled Jermell Charlo’s feat by making two successful defenses of a different version of the world 154-pound title. He stopped Yuri Foreman with a body shot in January and methodically outpointed Terrell Gausha in October. But Lara’s title defenses didn’t come close to equaling high drama and explosiveness of Charlo’s knockouts.
2016 winner: Jermall Charlo
Fight of the Year
Dat Nguyen TKO6 Miguel Flores
Featherweights Nguyen (20-3, 7 KOs) and Flores (21-1, 9 KOs) engaged in six action-packed rounds of ferocious back-and-fourth boxing and slugging at the Silver Street Studios in February. Flores threw double-fisted combinations, snapping straight punches to the head before ripping the body with his signature hooks that had folded many of his previous opponents. But the stockier Nguyen absorbed the incoming blows with aplomb and returned fire with a vengeance. While Flores was landing at a higher volume, Nguyen’s punches seemed to shake and rattle the hometown favorite more than vice versa.
In the sixth round Nguyen unleashed a right-left-right combo. All three punches connected flush with maximum impact sending Flores crashing heavily along the ropes. Flores bravely struggled to his feet before the count of 10 but he was clearly hurt and discombobulated, and Nguyen’s follow-up assault prompted the referee to step in and call a halt to the fight.
Craig Callaghan W10 Josue Garcia
A tall, lanky welterweight from Liverpool, England, Callaghan utilized his superior height and reach to beat Garcia to the punch and outbox him over 10 rounds at the Ballroom at Bayou Place in May. But Garcia was never out of the fight as he kept pressing the action and hurt Callaghan on several occasions making it a suspenseful and entertaining affair.
2016 winner: Craig Baker KO8 Steve Lovett
Knockout of the Year
Jermell Charlo KO1 Erickson Lubin
Charlo had sparred numerous rounds with one of the most talented lefties in the sport, Errol Spence Jr., so he came well prepared for any southpaw tricks Lubin had to offer. But no one could have foreseen the highly unorthodox punch angle at which the knockout blow was delivered.
Both fighters were cautious and neither had connected with anything significant before the knockout, which was as sudden as it was brutal. As Charlo was setting up for a right cross, Lubin evasively dipped to his left. But, mid-pivot, Charlo instantaneously turned the cross into a hybrid hook-uppercut landing his right fist smack on Lubin’s right jaw. The blow short-circuited Lubin’s nervous system as he collapsed like he was hit by a taser, frozen stiff on his side with his arms outstretched for the full count.
Jermell Charlo KO5 Charles Hatley
Charlo dominated from the opening bell and could have ended the fight at any time after the first round but he seemed intent on waiting for the perfect moment to get as spectacular a knockout as possible. That moment came in the fifth round when he drilled Hatley with a harpoon of a right that sent him crashing face first to the canvass where he remained unconscious for the full count and then some.
2016 winner: Tie – Jermall Charlo KO5 Julian Williams and Deontay Wilder KO9 Artur Szpilka
Upset of the Year
Dat Nguyen TKO6 Miguel Flores
The pre-fight writing on the wall said it all. Flores was an undefeated PBC prospect fighting on a PBC card in his hometown. He was coming off a high-profile breakout year in 2016 during which he went 3-0. Nguyen, on the other hand, had two six-round fights in 2016 against nondescripts opponents after a three-year layoff. Nguyen, 10 years older than Flores, was supposed to be just another notch in Flores’ gun holster en route to an imminent world title shot.
But somebody forgot to deliver the script to Nguyen’s dressing room. After a sluggish start, Nguyen found his groove in the second round and began rocking Flores with well-timed power punches. Flores threw the more fluid combinations but, with the reflexes of a teenager, the 34-year-old Nguyen countered with bad intentions. In the sixth round, Nguyen fired a perfectly executed right-left-right that sent Flores crashing heavily to the canvass. The follow-up onslaught that led to the stoppage was a mere formality that earned Nguyen the win and the 2017 Upset of the Year award.
Chris Avalos TKO5 Miguel Flores
Like his fight against Nguyen, Flores was expected to win handily against Avalos, and he was doing just that until the shocking and dissatisfying end. Flores outboxed and out-slugged Avalos throughout, dropping him in the third round, but Flores was unable to continue after the fifth round due to a nasty gash on his eyelid. Flores and Avalos clashed heads all night but the referee controversially ruled the cut was the result of a punch.
2016 winner: Thomas Williams Jr. TKO2 Edwin Rodriguez
Prospect of the Year
Arturo Marquez (9-0, 5 KOs)
Since joining the pro ranks last year, welterweight Marquez has embarked on a busy fight schedule, averaging a fight every two months. A well-rounded boxer-puncher, Marquez, 21, defeated three fighters with winning records (2-1, 2-0 and 6-1) in the first half of 2017 but suffered the first knockdown of his career, a black eye and bloody nose as he struggled to beat a fighter with a 4-19 record in November. Still, given his high activity and overall level of competition, Marquez beat out the other Houston up-and-comers to take home the Prospect of the Year award.
Runner up - Efe Agjaba
Since joining the pro ranks under the mentorship of Ronnie Shields, Agjaba has stopped all three of his pro opponents, two of whom had winning records, in the first round. Representing Nigeria, this 6-foot-6 heavyweight reached the quarterfinals at the 2016 Rio Olympics as an amateur.
2016 winner: Miguel Flores
Round of the Year
Dat Nguyen vs. Miguel Flores - Round 2
In the opening round, Flores effortlessly imposed his will on Nguyen, beating him to the punch and rattling him with two-fisted combinations as the 24-year-old unbeaten prospect was expected to do against an opponent who was 10 years his senior. But in the second round, Nguyen stood his ground against Flores’ onslaughts and rocked Flores as he returned fire with a vengeance. The subsequent rounds were fought on equally furious terms before Nguyen stopped Flores in the sixth round, but the second round was the momentum changer that ultimately turned the tide.
Craig Callaghan vs. Josue Garcia – round 10
Aware that he needed a knockout to render moot an insurmountable points deficit, Garcia let his hands go, swinging with decapitating intentions in the 10th and final round. He managed to graze Callaghan with some hail-Mary punches but never connected cleanly enough to get the desired result. It was sure fun to watch to watch him try, though.
2016 winner: Tie – Jermell Charlo vs. John Jackson (Round 8) and Thomas Williams Jr. vs. Edwin Rodriguez (Round 2)
Comeback of the Year
Tie: Edwin Rodriguez and Ryan Karl
Edwin Rodriguez (29-2, 20 KOs)
After a disastrous 2016 in which he suffered his first knockout loss and an ACL injury, light heavyweight Rodriguez came back in 2017 with a second-round stoppage win against Melvin Russell (11-3-2, 7 KOs). Rodriguez would have been the runaway winner for this award had he beaten Chad Dawson in November, but the fight was scrapped at the last minute due to Dawson sustaining an injury.
Ryan Karl (15-1, 9 KOs)
Welterweight Karl suffered his first career defeat when he was stopped by fellow-undefeated prospect Eddie Ramirez in February. But he rebounded with two decision wins later in the year, to begin a back-to-the-drawing-board rebuilding process of his career.
2016 was a heart-breaking year for Fuchs, falling one victory short at both the Continental Games and World championships to qualify for the Rio Olympics. But she roared back in 2017, going 18-0, culminating in winning gold at four international tournaments and the USA Boxing Nationals. Fuchs, 29, intends to go for gold at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
2016 winner: Craig Baker
Trainer of the Year
For the second year running, no other trainer came even close to Shields for Trainer of the Year. In addition to guiding Erislandy Lara to two successful world title defenses, Shields served as chief second to Jermall Charlo in his middleweight debut, a four-round blowout over highly-ranked Jorge Sebastian Heiland. As trainer to both Edwin Rodriguez and Ryan Karl, Shields also saw victories in all the fights mentioned in Comeback of the Year award.
2016 winner: Ronnie Shields
Originally published at: http://houstonboxing.blogspot.com/2017/12/2017-houston-boxing-awards.html