Oleksandr Usyk – 2018 Fighter-of-the-Year

The reigning cruiserweight (WBA/WBC/WBO/IBF) world champion, Oleksandr Usyk (16-0, 12 KOs) had an outstanding year in which he won the first-ever Muhammad Ali trophy. He prevailed in the eight-man World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight tournament over Murat Gassiev, and in the process, became only the fourth undisputed world champion in the four-belt era (Bernard Hopkins 2004, Jermain Taylor 2005, and Terence Crawford 2017) and he did it in just his fifteenth professional fight.

His three victories this year came against stellar opposition: two previously undefeated world champions (Mairis Briedis and Murat Gassiev) and one former world champion (Tony Bellew) who combined to hold an impressive 79-2-1 record. Furthermore, he defeated each of his opponents in their home country: Briedis (Latvia), Gassiev (Russia), and Bellew (England).

READ: EAST SIDE BOXING’s 2018 AWARDS: Complete List of Winners, Nominees, More!

In the most difficult fight of his professional career, the WBO world champion scored a majority decision over WBC world titleholder Briedis on January 27th. Usyk displayed an excellent jab that helped him to dictate the action. He also out worked and out landed Briedis throughout this competitive twelve-round bout. Briedis fought hard and landed the more powerful punches, however, he was never able to hurt Usyk.

Usyk then defeated WBO/IBF world champion Gassiev on July 21st in what was considered a toss-up matchup going into the bout. Instead, Usyk put on a dominating performance en route to a twelfth-round unanimous decision in which he won just about every round. Usyk thoroughly out boxed Gassiev and worked his jab to perfection which prevented Gassiev from landing any of his signature power punches. Usyk landed whatever he wanted throughout this surprisingly one-sided fight.

He ended the year (November 10th) with a powerful technical knockout victory former cruiserweight titleholder Bellew. Despite the fact that Usyk controlled the first half of the fight, he was behind on two of the scorecards at the time of the stoppage. Usyk landed a hard left hook in the eighth-round that pushed Bellew to the ropes and then he quickly followed up with another powerful left hook that knocked Bellew down and he was unable to beat the ten-count. This is considered one of the best knockouts-of-the-year. Bellew had won ten in a row (eight of those wins coming in the cruiserweight division) and his loss came in 2013 when he fought as a light heavyweight.

After Usyk’s outstanding year, he is considered by most boxing experts, as a top ten pound-for-pound fighter in the world and one of the best cruiserweight fighters of all-time. At just thirty-one-years-old, he is still in his prime and has plenty of time to improve to his already stellar resume, whether it is at the cruiserweight or heavyweight division.


Vasyl “Hi-Tech” Lomachenko (12-1, 9 KOs) further solidified his status as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world as he moved up a weight class and defeated the consensus best boxer in the lightweight division, WBA world titleholder Jorge Linares (43-3, 27 KOs) on May 12th via a tenth-round technical knockout. This made him a world champion in three divisions, the fastest boxer to accomplish this feat. Lomachenko won the bout despite the fact that he tore the labrum in his right shoulder in the second-round and fought the rest of the fight one-handed. He was on his way to a dominating win when he got knocked down in the sixth-round for the first time in his professional career via a perfectly timed straight right. Yet, he seemed unfazed as he took over the fight again in the eighth-round and punished Linares in the ninth and tenth.

Lomachenko quickly recovered from his injury and was back in the ring about six months later and defeated once-beaten WBO world champion Jose Pedraza via a twelfth-round unanimous decision on December 8th in an unification bout. He easily controlled the fight and knocked down Pedraza twice in the eleventh. This was the first time that Lomachenko had been extended the full twelve-rounds in his last eight bouts. He will be back in the ring on April 12th.

Undefeated Mikey Garcia (39-0, 30 KOs) won a world title (IBF) in his fourth weight class (lightweight) when he defeated unbeaten Sergey Lipinets via a twelfth-round unanimous decision on March 10th. He dominated the bout and dropped Lipinets in the seventh-round. Garcia then beat undefeated Robert Easter Jr. on July 28th via a twelfth-round unanimous decision in a unification bout and gained the WBC belt. Garcia, who is always looking for a challenge, will face his most difficult opponent of his career, undefeated Errol Spence Jr. as he moves up yet another weight class (welterweight) to face one of the best fighters in that division on March 16th.

Unbeaten Anthony “AJ” Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs) further cemented his status as one of the best fighters in the heavyweight division by defeating unbeaten WBO world champion Joseph Parker via twelfth-round unanimous decision on March 31st. Joshua won just about every round in this one-sided bout. He was extended the full twelve rounds for the first time in his professional career. He then scored a devastating knockout victory over top ten heavyweight and once-beaten Alexander Povetkin in the seventh-round on September 22nd. He will be back in the ring on April 13th.