The continued ascent of new ring stars and the end of a media giant’s long association with the sport highlighted boxing’s storylines of 2018.
Boxing maintained solid growth and exposure throughout the year. Although politics and promotional conflicts again prevented fans from some demanded bouts, boxing again featured compelling matches.
Perhaps the year’s most anticipated event was the Gennady Golovkin-Saul “Canelo” Alvarez rematch on Sept. 15. In a dramatic bout with brisk punching activity, Alvarez ended Golovkin’s 20-fight middleweight championship run with a disputed split decision victory.
The outcome followed a similarly questioned result in the first Golovkin-Alvarez fight the previous year, when Golovkin retained his middleweight title with a controversial draw. Golovkin and Alvarez originally were scheduled to have their rematch in May but Alvarez tested positive for a banned performance enhancing substance, resulting in a six-month suspension.
Alvarez ended the year with a move to super-middleweight and won a sanctioning body belt with a third-round TKO over an outclassed Rocky Fielding on Dec. 15.
When determining the sport’s best pound-for-pound fighter, welterweight champion Terence Crawford and lightweight titleholder Vasyliy Lomachenko usually headed most lists.
Crawford won his third division world title after his ninth round-TKO victory over Jeff Horn for a welterweight belt June 9. In his first title defense four months later, Crawford scored a 12th-round TKO victory over Jose Benavidez.
Lomachenko moved up to lightweight and won his third division title with a 10th-round TKO over defending champion Jorge Linares May 12. The native of Ukraine unified sanctioning body lightweight titles after a unanimous decision win against Jose Pedraza on Dec. 8.
Like Lomachenko, Mikey Garcia is amassing division titles and remains among the sport’s elite fighters. Garcia became a four-division champion following his decision victory over Sergey Lipinets for a super-lightweight belt March 10. Four months later, Garcia returned to the lightweight class and won a convincing decision over Robert Easter Jr. to unify 135-pound titles.
For the past two decades, the welterweight class has featured arguably the sport’s deepest talent and 2018 was no exception. In addition to Crawford, fellow welterweight titleholder Errol Spence Jr. is on the short list of boxing’s best fighters. Spence stopped former champion Lamont Peterson in seven rounds on Jan. 20 and also retained his sanctioning body belt with a first-round knockout over Carlos Ocampo June 16.
Manny Pacquiao began a fourth reign as welterweight champion after his seventh-round TKO over Lucas Matthysse July 15. Although no longer considered the sport’s best pound-for-pound fighter as he was in the late 2000s and early 2010s, Pacquiao, 40, remains one of the sport’s leading attractions and a top-tier welterweight.
The heavyweight division gradually has become relevant again in the United States because of Deontay Wilder’s three-year, eight-bout championship run. The 2008 U.S. Olympian retained his sanctioning body belt with a dramatic 10th-round TKO over Miami resident Luis Ortiz March 3 in one of the year’s most exciting bouts. Wilder seemed headed to lose his title against Tyson Fury on Dec. 1 but a final round knockdown helped him salvage a disputed draw.
Before he accepted the bout with Fury, Wilder targeted a unification match with Anthony Joshua. Although initial reports had the two unbeaten champions agreeing to a fight, the unification bout remains an illusion. Joshua fought twice and unified sanctioning body belts with a unanimous decision win over Joseph Parker on March 31 and retained his titles after a seventh-round TKO over Alexander Povetkin Sept. 22.
Thanks to his valiant effort against Wilder, Ortiz maintained contending status for another title opportunity. Ortiz followed up the loss to Wilder with knockout victories over Razvan Cojanu July 28 and Travis Kauffman on the Wilder-Fury undercard.
After clearing up the cruiserweight class with title unification victories Oleksandr Uzyk now is considering a move to heavyweight. Uzyk solidified his spot among boxing’s best fighters with decision victories over Mairis Briedis and Murat Gassiev and a seventh-round TKO of Tony Bellew.
Two of the sport’s best light-heavyweights of the decade suffered knockout losses. Sergey Kovalev lost his title after a seventh-round knockout setback against Eleider Alvarez Aug. 4. Adonis Stevenson’s five-year run as champion ended after his brutal 11th-round knockout loss to Oleksandr Gvozdyk on Dec. 1. Stevenson remains hospitalized from damages absorbed in the fight.
The expansion of outlets for watching fights prompted HBO to cease five-decades of boxing coverage after its telecast on Dec. 8. HBO no longer televising signature bouts ends a 45-year association with the sport.
Although HBO’s departure will be initially felt, boxing continues to enjoy wide coverage, thanks to promoters’ deals with Showtime, ESPN, Fox, FS1 and Telemundo. Moreover, streaming services by ESPN and the fledgling DAZN provide yet additional viewing options. Alvarez’s $365 million, 11-fight deal with DAZN underscores the evolution of fight watching.
The local fight calendar again featured limited activity. Fort Lauderdale-based Heavyweight Factory presented three cards at the Seminole Hard Rock Events Center in Hollywood. Boxing in Miami featured one show at the Tamiami Youth Fair Expo on Nov. 10, when former featherweight champions Yuriorkis Gamboa, of Miami, and Juan Manuel Lopez fought in separate bouts.
Plantation resident Xander Zayas, 16, improved his status as one of the nation’s top amateur boxers. Zayas, who trains at the Sweatbox Boxing and Fitness Gym in Davie, is the No. 1 ranked U.S. boxer in the 152-pound youth division and won eight tournaments during the year.