By Keith Idec
In its previous episode, HBO Sports moved Vasyl Lomachenko into the top spot on “The Fight Game with Jim Lampley” pound-for-pound list.
On Wednesday night, Lampley announced during the show’s newest episode that Lomachenko was chosen as the show’s “Fighter of the Year” for 2016. Ukraine’s Lomachenko (7-1, 5 KOs), the WBO world super featherweight champion, had a spectacular 2016 and edged Carl Frampton, Andre Ward, Terence Crawford, Manny Pacquiao, Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin for the award, according to Lampley, HBO’s longtime blow-by-blow announcer.
“In two 2016 appearances,” Lampley said, “he produced our choice for ‘Knockout of the Year’ with his thrilling left-uppercut, right-hook combination that flattened Rocky Martinez, then forced Nicholas Walters to quit on his stool with a dizzying display of polished skills that made this difficult sport look ridiculously easy. He speaks a different language, and I’m not talking about Russian or Ukrainian.”
BoxingScene.com named Northern Ireland’s Frampton as its “Fighter of the Year” for 2016 in a story posted Thursday.
Lomachenko won a world title in a second weight class in just his seventh professional fight by dominating Puerto Rico’s Martinez (29-3-3, 17 KOs) on June 11 in The Theater at Madison Square Garden. The highly skilled southpaw followed that superb performance by thoroughly out-classing previously unbeaten Jamaican Nicholas Walters (26-1-1, 21 KOs), who quit after seven one-sided rounds in their November 26 bout at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas.
HBO televised the Lomachenko-Martinez and Lomachenko-Walters fights.
“Lomachenko’s emergence broke open a balanced race for the ‘Fighter of the Year’ distinction,” Lampley said. “Belfast’s Carl Frampton, American stars Andre Ward and Terence Crawford, the immortal Manny Pacquiao, Chocolatito, Canelo, Triple-G, they all had unbeaten years and made progress toward their goals, and any one of them could reasonably be called ‘Fighter of the Year’ for 2016. Sergey Kovalev might’ve had some sentimental support, but nobody turned heads this year like Lomachenko. Just for example, look at the ‘Knockout of the Year’ consideration. There were several reasonable choices, maybe the most widely identified being Canelo’s one-punch obliteration of Amir Khan, so similar to Alvarez’s ‘Knockout of the Year’ conquest of James Kirkland in 2015. A throw-away jab to distract the opponent, right hand launching at the target, simultaneous to the errant jab – great combination.
“Now here’s an even better one. Vasyl Lomachenko working his magic against veteran Rocky Martinez in The Theater at Madison Square Garden. Many fighters would throw this combination in reverse. But watch Lomachenko use his power hand to stun Martinez with the uppercut, then blow him away with the short right hook. As Martinez simply put it afterwards, ‘I couldn’t see his hands.’ It’s the same conclusion that prompted Nicholas Walters to kiss off his unbeaten record and stay on his stool after seven rounds of embarrassment Thanksgiving weekend in Las Vegas. And for the pure artistic impact of all that, Vasyl Lomachenko is the ‘Fighter of the Year.’ ”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.