Olimpiyskiy, Moscow: ‘EAST SIDE BOXING’ FIGHTER OF THE YEAR cruiserweight OLEKSANDR USYK raises the Muhammad Ali Trophy after beating Murat Gassiev in the World Boxing Super Series in Moscow on July 21, 2018. (Photo © World Boxing Super Series)
By Paul R. Jones – EAST SIDE BOXING Writer and Photographer – Each year, eastsideboxing.com celebrates the holiday season by showcasing our annual awards, chronicling boxing’s best fighters, fights, and moments.*
Today, we announce our first award winner for 2018:
FIGHTER OF THE YEAR, MALE (2018)
Selecting Oleksandr Usyk (16-0, 12 KOs) as the 2018 Fighter of the Year was a no-brainer.
Among a handful of worthy candidates (e.g., Terence Crawford, Mikey Garcia, Vasyl Lomachenko), Usyk distinguished himself from the pack with a historic 2018 run rivaling any of the greatest single- or multi-year stretches in cruiserweight history.
Consider these noteworthy cruiserweight campaigns for comparison:
- Evander Holyfield’s illustrious reign from 1986-1988, when the ‘Real Deal’ became the first undisputed cruiserweight champ—beating Dwight Muhammad Qawi [twice], Henry Tillman, and Carlos De Leon along the way—before taking his talents to the heavyweight division.
- O’Neil Bell’s oft-forgotten 2005-2007 run, in which Jamaica’s ‘Supernova’ became undisputed champ after beating Jean Marc Mormeck.
- And David Haye’s 2007-2008 campaign, in which London’s ‘Hayemaker’ catapulted to stardom after laying waste to Tomasz Bonin, Mormeck, and former WBO World Champ Enzo Maccarinelli to earn multiple titles in the cruiserweight division.
‘East Side Boxing’
FIGHTER OF THE YEAR
More important, however, is that neither Holyfield, Bell, or Haye faced a tougher strength of schedule than the 31-year-old Ukrainian, nor were any of Usyk’s predecessors more efficient in reaching “undisputed” status—an accomplishment Usyk achieved in a mere 16 pro fights.
Furthermore, Usyk is the only cruiserweight to ever to hold all four world titles simultaneously
Equally important, Usyk’s 2018 campaign included career-defining wins over former champions Mairis Briedis (25-1-0, 18 KOs), Murat Gassiev (26-1, 1 NC, 19 KOs), and Tony Bellew (30-3-1, 20 KOs), with the latter trio combining for a formidable 79-2-1 (1 NC) record going into their bout against USYK—not too shabby, indeed.
In addition, Usyk handed Briedis and Gassiev their first loss as a pro.
Still not convinced?
Consider that Usyk was the first-ever winner of the coveted Muhammad Ali Trophy after beating Gassiev in the World Boxing Super Series in Moscow. He also showed his true mettle as the quintessential road warrior, beating all of his opponents on the road in 2018.
Finally, who could forget Usyk’s jaw-dropping knockout of Tony Bellew, a surefire contender for KNOCKOUT OF THE YEAR.
Bottom line. Oleksandr Usyk posted one of the best 12-month stretches in modern boxing history, leaving little doubt that he is the fighter of the year. And, from this point on, a cruiserweight Mount Rushmore cannot be sculpted without carving Usyk’s likeness into it.
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- Did we get it right? Email us with your comments and we’ll include the best ones in a future mailbag.
- Also be sure to visit Eastsideboxing during the final weeks of December, when we’ll unveil more of our award winners, followed by a complete list of winners, runners-up, and honorable mentions for 2018.
Justin Jones contributed to this report.
*Editor’s Note: This selection was made by Paul R. Jones and Justin Jones on behalf of East Side Boxing
About Paul R. Jones
Paul R. Jones is a boxing writer and ringside photographer for EAST SIDE BOXING. He joined ESB in 2011. A scientist by day and boxing writer by night, he covers the humorous, offbeat, and absurd from the sport of boxing. Paul’s articles have appeared in PEDIATRICS, Race and Social Problems, and Motivation and Emotion, and he’s covered boxing for BOXINGINSIDER, TheFightJournal, BOXINGNEWS24, and WRAPSONTV.
More articles by Paul R. Jones:
- ESB Best of 2017! Lomachenko, Crawford, Joshua, More!
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- The People’s Court (of Public Opinion): Mayweather v. Pacquiao
- The Year in Review: Six Notable Fights in 2014 – Part I — Pacquiao, Hopkins, Froch, More!