By Sam Constantinou Coulter
When looking back on 2016 from a boxing perspective there are a number of fighters that instantly spring to mind for their performances in the year. Having narrowed the selection process down to three names it is time to assess the options and declare my fighter of the year for 2016.
Aged 28 Vasyl Lomachenko is without doubt one of the most technically proficient fighters seen in a professional ring. A quite simply remarkable amateur career resulted in a reported 396-1 record which combined with becoming a professional world champion in just his third fight, has created a fighter to remember for years to come.
In 2016 Lomachenko showed his supreme skills once again by moving up to super featherweight and dispatching of Roman Martinez in scintillating fashion before going on to make the previously undefeated Nicholas Walters quit because he couldn’t get to grips with the Ukranian’s ability.
The Walters fight is of extreme significance as Walters was a previously undefeated fighter who had showcased thunderous punch power and underrated technical skill. He was not only beaten by Lomchneko but he was utterly dismantled.
Lomacehnko didn’t allow Walters to create any offensive problems whatsoever and mentally broke him down. For a top level fighter to be made to quit as he feels as though he has no chance of even remotely causing any trouble to his opponent is a strange situation.
It is rare to see a fighter not only beat other world class fighters but to do so with such ease. Lomachenko completely outclassed his opponents in 2016 and proved himself to be one of the very best boxers in the world today.
2016 was a fantastic year for Lomachenko and I cannot wait to see him back in the ring this year.
Aged 29 from Belfast, Northern Ireland, Carl Frampton has had the best year of his career which has seen his record extended to 23-0 having unified the IBF and WBA super-bantamweight world titles and then move up to claim the WBA featherweight world title.
Frampton has long been in the eye of the British public as the pupil of the legendary Barry McGuigan but 2016 was the year that he confirmed his status as one of the best fighters in Britain today irrespective of weight class.
In February Frampton faced off with long term rival Scott Quigg in a hugely anticipated showdown between two British world champions. Whilst the fight wasn’t to live up to expectations in terms of entertainment Frampton showed the discipline to stick to a game-plan and claim the victory in his opponent’s backyard.
Having won the biggest fight of his career to that point many could have forgiven Frampton for taking a routine defence of his titles but instead he made the move to featherweight to challenge the undefeated champion, Leo Santa Cruz.
Cruz has built a formidable reputation for being a tough, energetic fighter who would lay everything on the line to claim the win and many felt Frampton would not be able to cope with the intensity of the Mexican’s work.
The fight itself was a fantastic one in which both men truly delivered edge of the seat entertainment for the fans. Both men gave everything they had but Frampton was the deserved winner in a close battle.
Frampton had become a two-weight world champion and defeated two previously unbeaten opponents in 2016 and rightly deserves his place in any discussion for fighter of the year.
Aged 32 Andre Ward holds an undefeated 31-0 professional career that has seen him dominate the super middleweight division before now going on to move up and compete at light heavyweight.
In 2016 Ward made the move up in weight in search of new challenges and easily defeated the likes of Sullivan Barrera and Alexander Brand before going on to take a risk in challenging the dominant and dangerous Sergey Kovalev.
Kovalev has proved himself a formidable foe with power in either hand and underrated technical ability. Many felt Kovalev’s natural size and power advantage would prove too much for Ward and early on the that was the case.
Ward was floored in the fight but fought back fantastically to claim nearly all of the second half of the fight. He showcased his ring generalship and ability to stifle and opponent up close and land himself.
This was the battle of two of the best pound for pound fighters in the sport today and yes it was close but there was no doubting that Ward was the rightful winner in my opinion. Barring the early rounds, he landed the clean, effective shots and even outworked Kovalev.
This was a huge win for Ward that has seen some label him as the best boxer in the world and such a victory deserves his inclusion in this discussion for fighter of the year.
When looking back at the year of 2016 and having gone into further detail on three particular fighters there is one man who stands above the rest for his achievements in the year. Carl Frampton has had a truly remarkable year in which he not only settled a long-term rivalry with Scott Quigg whilst becoming a unified champion but also has moved up in weight and won a world title against all the odds in a fight of the year contender.
Frampton has shown himself to be a truly world class fighter who has the potential to become an absolute star of the sport. He is a technically skilful fighter who can dig in when the going gets tough and grind out a win.
Carl Frampton stands tall at the top of my fighter of the year for 2016 list and with a rematch with Santa Cruz a matter of weeks away he may well appear on the list for 2017.