Best of boxing 2016: Vasyl Lomachenko takes home Fighter of the Year award
Plus, Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter were far and away the best fight of 2016
It's the most wonderful time of the year.
Particularly if your occupation involves making lists.
And given that one of the CBS Sports boxing team mandates is to wrap 2016 in a tasteful bow before flipping the calendar to 2017, this is as good a place as any to get it accomplished.
So without further ado, here's a quick rundown of the best that was for this year in boxing.
Knockout of the Year: Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam def. Alfonso Blanco, first-round KO
The last time we saw the Cameroon-born middleweight with the Wheel of Fortune-friendly name, he was flaming out of the Summer Olympics after controversially entering the event as a professional.
To suggest he bounced back successfully, though, would be an understatement. In fact, N'Jikam returned to the punch-for-pay ranks on his adopted French home turf in mid-December and delivered the sort of blow that both titillates and horrifies fight fans.
A quick, chopping right hand rendered Blanco -- who'd emerged unscathed in 12 previous fights -- helpless from the moment it landed, and the 30-year-old Venezuelan hung in midair for a moment before tumbling face-first to the floor just 22 seconds after the opening bell.
Upset of the Year: Jezreel Corrales def. Takashi Uchiyama, second-round KO
Because he'd never appeared outside Panama and has feasted on less-than-elite competition while winning 19 of 20 fights -- only seven by stoppage -- there was little to suggest the 24-year-old Corrales would show much resistance to a six-year champion making his 12th title defense.
But when a counter overhand left landed on Uchiyama's chin early in Round 2, none of that mattered.
The previously unbeaten 130-pound kingpin rose on wobbly legs in front of referee Robert Hoyle and was quickly dumped again as Corrales followed up with a barrage of wild rights and lefts. He managed to avoid additional damage into the final 10 seconds of the round, but saw both the fight and his reign end when another wave of winging shots dropped him for the third time with just one second left.
Event of the Year: Sergey Kovalev vs. Andre Ward
It paled by comparison to the hyperbolic majesty of Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao's get-together at the MGM Grand, but you'd have been hard-pressed to find hardcore fight fans who weren't just as jazzed about what went on a mile down the road at the T-Mobile Arena 18 months later.
When Andre Ward completed his rise from 168 pounds to take on light heavyweight monster Sergey Kovalev, it was the sort of duel that not only captured the imagination of today's crowd -- but simultaneously prompted comparisons to a classic showdown between Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns that occurred 35 years earlier along Las Vegas Boulevard.
And while the fight itself may not have quite reached that level of all-time drama, it was still a reminder of how compelling the sport can be when its top stars pursue greatness rather than convenience.
Fight of the Year: Keith Thurman vs. Shawn Porter
It had been nearly 40 years since CBS broadcast a primetime boxing event. But after the sustained welterweight action produced by the unbeaten Thurman and once-beaten Porter before a riveted crowd in Brooklyn, chances are good that it won't be 40 more until the next one.
The best known of the young lions hoping to claim 147-pound turf after the era of Mayweather and Pacquiao, Thurman and Porter ditched all pretense and went straight for sustained violence across 36 minutes before all three judges declared that the Floridian was better in seven of 12 rounds and therefore retained the shiny WBA championship belt that he'd arrived with.
Both men embraced the idea of a rematch, and -- presuming Thurman is still a title-holder following his clash with WBC champ Danny Garcia in March -- it's not hard to envision the network signing off on a sequel sometime before 2017 turns into 2018.
Fighter of the Year: Vasyl Lomachenko
A lot of fighters did themselves quite proud in 2016. Some veterans added to Hall of Fame-worthy resumes. Some younger stars boosted their brands. And some previously unknown commodities announced their arrivals with authority.
But no fighter did more ladder-climbing than Ukrainian-born uber-technician Lomachenko, who entered the year as a 126-pound champion and ended it as a standard-bearer of the 130-pounders and a guy whose near-term horizon should include fights that far transcend simple weight class supremacy.
The precocious six-fight pro began with a grinding fifth-round stoppage of rugged junior lightweight claimant Rocky Martinez in June, then trumped that feat in November by prompting Nicholas Walters -- an unbeaten Jamaican with 21 KOs in 27 fights -- to surrender after seven of the most one-sided rounds you're likely to see in a match made between two guys with world-class resumes.
The post-fight afterglow included hopeful chatter about dream dates with Pacquiao and Terence Crawford, precisely the sort of pound-for-pound company Lomachenko -- a two-time Olympic champion with one loss in 397 amateur fights -- seems likely to keep for the foreseeable future.
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