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The State of the Game divisional analysis

Alan J Kindred

“The Commissioner” Alan J Kindred, has been a boxing fan and historian for almost 30 years now. He has written articles for various boxing websites and is now happy be part of the RingNews24 writing team. He also runs a group on Facebook “The Commissioner's Corner: A Face Book Boxing Group” where he keeps his own top 20 world boxing rankings in all 17 divisions that he updates weekly. Alan also has a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a focus in Healthcare, and is now working on his graduate degree in hopes of earning a Master’s degree in Health Services Administration.

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The State of the Game divisional analysis, and the Commissioner’s very own 2016 Year End Boxing Awards for each division.

Hello fight fans, in this article we will be taking a look at all 17 divisions in a State of the Game division by division analysis of 2016. Each division will have its own set of year end awards, as well my very own “The Commissioner’s 2016 Year End Boxing Awards” that encompass the entirety of the sport.

Heavyweight
The heavyweight division in 2016 has been more active than usual, outside of Lineal World champion Tyson Fury’s inactivity due to personal issues regarding mental health, and world titlist Deontay Wilder being out nearly the entire year with a torn bicep injury. The rest of the division has been thriving with activity as they bustle for position. The dark side of the heavyweight division has been marred with PED use, as Alexander Povetkin, Lucas Browne, and Erkin Teper have stained what would have been nice wins with cheating. Anthony Joshua has made his name bigger and bigger by winning his first alphabet world title, and stopping every fighter he has been matched up with, as he climbs the divisional ladder. Young heavyweights Andy Ruiz and Joseph Parker have also stepped up their competition this year culminating in their razor close year end showdown, in which Parker won a close, slightly controversial decision. Finally we have Derek Chisora and Dillian Whyte, who gave us a Fight of the Year Candidate in their pier six action brawl. As we look towards 2017 the division is in excellent shape. A Wladimir Klitschko versus Anthony Joshua showdown is looming for April 29th, in what will certainly be one of the biggest fights of 2017. Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder are both planning on returning to action this year, and highly ranked contender Luis Ortiz is also looking towards finding a breakout fight. The potential energy of the heavyweight division is palpable as great match ups seem very possible in 2017.

See Also

Number of fights between top 20 contenders in 2016 11
Fighter of 2016 Anthony Joshua
Best Heavyweight Boxer Tyson Fury
Best Heavyweight Puncher Anthony Joshua
Prospect to watch in 2017 Jarrell Miller
Heavyweight KO of 2016 Deontay Wilder KO 9 Artur Szpilka
Heavyweight Fight of 2016 Dillian Whyte SD12 Dereck Chisora
Event of 2016 Tyson Fury VS Wladimir Klitschko Rematch Not Happening
Fight I’m hoping happens in 2017 Tyson Fury VS. Klitschko/Joshua winner

Cruiserweight
The Cruiserweight division, despite its lack of casual boxing media coverage, has remained one of the highlights of 2016, because it is perhaps the division that has the best fighting the best the most often in exciting fights. It is extremely deep, and many of the top Crusierweights in the world are eager to prove themselves as the best. Oleksandr Usyk has emerged as a fighter who may begin to win over the casual boxing media in 2017 and bring a much needed spot light to the Cruiserweight division. He has already been showcased once on HBO, with hopefully more to follow. These exciting fights between top 20 Crusierweights all took place in 2016, Marco Huck TKO 10 Ola Afolabi, Krzysztof Glowacki UD12 Steve Cunningham, Mairis Briedis TKO 9 Olanrewaju Durodola, Yunier Dorticos TKO 10 Youri Kalenga, Denis Lebedev TKO 2 Victor Emilio Ramirez, Oleksandr Usyk UD12 Krzysztof Glowacki, Marco Huck UD12 Dmytro Kucher, Maksim Vlasov TKO 7 Rakhim Chakhkiev, Murat Gassiev SD12 Denis Lebedev, and Oleksandr Usyk KO 9 Thabiso Mchunu. More of the same is expected for 2017, in one of boxing’s hottest divisions, that most sleep on.

Number of fights between top 20 contenders in 2016 10
Fighter of 2016 Oleksandr Usyk
Best Boxer Oleksandr Usyk
Best Puncher Dmitry Kudryashov
Prospect to watch in 2017 Noel Gevor
KO of 2016 Murat Gassiev KO 1 Jordan Shimmell
Fight of 2016 Murat Gassiev SD12 Denis Lebedev
Event of 2016 Oleksandr Usyk VS Krzysztof Glowacki
Fight I’m hoping happens in 2017 Oleksandr Usyk VS Murat Gassiev

Light Heavyweight
In 2016 at Light Heavyweight it was all about Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev, as they prepared for their year-end super fight with stay busy tune up fights, culminating with their eventual showdown. While the fight was a bit marred by the controversy of scoring, the fight itself was a very good one, which was fought at a high skill level, had knockdowns and comebacks, with drama, ebb and flow, etcetera. A rematch seems to be demanded by all, but Ward has been talking retirement to most everyone’s dismay. Not be overshadowed was the Gatti like performances of warrior contender Thomas Williams, who both won and lost by KO in firefights this year, versus Edwin Rodriguez and lineal world champ Adonis Stevenson. Another big story of the year in the 175 pound weight class was the emergence of Joe Smith Jr. who seemed to come from out of nowhere in upsetting contender Andrzej Fonfara. He then capped it off by stopping, and retiring the aging and legendary Bernard Hopkins. These story lines in 2016 kept the Light Heavyweight division one to watch.

Number of fights between top 20 contenders in 2016 10
Fighter of 2016 Andre Ward
Best Boxer Andre Ward
Best Puncher Artur Beterbiev
Prospect to watch in 2017 Marcus Browne
KO of 2016 Adonis Stevenson KO 4 Thomas Williams Jr
Fight of 2016 Adonis Stevenson KO 4 Thomas Williams Jr
Event of 2016 Andre Ward VS Sergey Kovalev
Fight I’m hoping happens in 2017 Adonis Stevenson VS Sergey Kovalev

Super Middleweight
The 168 pound weight class was one of the least active divisions at the top in 2016. Only 4 bouts took place this year between members of the top 20. Felix Sturm MD12 Fedor Chudinov, Gilberto Ramirez UD12 Arthur Abraham, James DeGale UD12 Rogelio Medina, and George Groves UD12 Martin Murray, were the only bouts between the top guys in 2016. There was anticipation of a James DeGale VS Badou Jack fight happening this year but it failed to materialize in 2016. The good news for 2017 is that it is scheduled for January 14th in a fight that will crown a new lineal champion at 168 pounds. Hopefully this will lead to the spark the division needs in 2017.

Number of fights between top 20 contenders in 2016 4
Fighter of 2016 No one exemplary enough this year to win this award
Best Boxer James DeGale
Best Puncher Jose Uzcategui
Prospect to watch in 2017 Jesse Hart
KO of 2016 Tyrone Zeuge TKO 12 Giovanni De Carolis
Fight of 2016 Tyrone Zeuge TKO 12 Giovanni De Carolis
Event of 2016 Gilberto Ramirez UD12 Arthur Abraham
Fight I’m hoping happens in 2017 Gilberto Ramirez VS the DeGale/Jack winner

Middleweight
In 2016 the 160 pound division was severely lacking in top flight competition fighting each other. There were only 2 bouts were top 20 competition faced off against each other, Avtandil Khurtsidze TKO 10 Antoine Douglas, and Gennady Golovkin KO 2 Dominic Wade. It looks as though Golovkin has most of the division eager to not face him, as well as not face each other looking for the chance to rise up the rankings. Sadly the saving grace of the division in 2016 was from two “dare to be great” Welterweights in Amir Khan and Kell Brook, which added two great story lines for the division. Khan faced Canelo Alvarez for the lineal world championship, albeit at the awkward catch weight of 155 pounds, and Brook faced the division’s boogeyman in Gennady Golovkin. Both men came up short, in stoppage defeats, but raised their stock by showing their courage, and putting up a good fight. Speaking of courage, another storyline was the non-event of the year as Canelo Alvarez gave up his lineal crown and alphabet world titles rather than face Golovkin. There is still talk of an eventual showdown however. An early 2017 unification showdown between Golovkin and Daniel Jacobs looks to bring a spark to the division.

Number of fights between top 20 contenders in 2016 2
Fighter of 2016 No one exemplary enough this year to win this award
Best Boxer Maciej Sulecki
Best Puncher Gennady Golovkin
Prospect to watch in 2017 Ievgen Khytrov
KO of 2016 Saul Alvarez KO 6 Amir Khan
Fight of 2016 Avtandil Khurtsidze TKO 10 Antoine Douglas
Event of 2016 Saul Alvarez relinquishing world titles
Fight I’m hoping happens in 2017 Gennady Golovkin VS Saul Alvarez

Junior Middleweight
While the 154 pound weight class can match the depth of the Cruiserweight division, they did not meet the frequency with which the best fought the best, as only 5 time in 2016 did fighters within the top 20 meet up with each other. When they did however, some of the fights were really interesting. Jermall Charlo made his claim in the division this year with excellent wins over tough opposition in Austin Trout and Julian Williams. He finally seems to have climbed out from under his brother Jermell’s shadow. The only question about the division’s hottest new star is will he remain at 154 or move up to 160. Canelo Alvarez also made headlines as he returned to the weight class after a brief excursion to his own 155 pound weight class, campaigning as a middleweight of sorts. The same question of him can be asked of him; at what weight he will compete at in 2017. Rumors are he is seeking a fight with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. at a catch weight of 165. The division is one of, if not THE deepest in boxing, but the division’s stars need to start fighting each other more often.

Number of fights between top 20 contenders in 2016 5
Fighter of 2016 Jermall Charlo
Best Boxer Erislandy Lara
Best Puncher Jermall Charlo
Prospect to watch in 2017 Erickson Lubin
KO of 2016 Jermall Charlo KO 5 Julian Williams
Fight of 2016 Jermall Charlo UD12 Austin Trout
Event of 2016 Saul Alvarez KO 9 Liam Smith
Fight I’m hoping happens in 2017 Jermall Charlo VS Demetrius Andrade

Welterweight
With the biggest star in the sport Floyd Mayweather Jr. retired, the sport’s second biggest star Manny Pacquiao resumed the top spot in the division. Unfortunately by the end of the year it was looking as though he is reluctant to face anymore real threats, seeking to fight more obscure and easier to beat opposition. The division is stock full of young threats, who would all love a crack at the Pacquiao lottery. Errol Spence Jr. continued to impress by stopping anyone with the courage to get in the ring with him. Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter live up to the hype in their showdown, providing a great fight for the masses. We would have liked the division’s best to face off more often than they did, but in 2017 they could provide some really good match ups at 147 pounds. Keith Thurman VS Danny Garcia is already scheduled for early this year.

Number of fights between top 20 contenders in 2016 8
Fighter of 2016 Manny Pacquiao
Best Boxer Manny Pacquiao
Best Puncher Errol Spence Jr.
Prospect to watch in 2017 Egidijus Kavaliauskas
KO of 2016 Errol Spence Jr. KO 6 Leonard Bundu
Fight of 2016 Keith Thurman UD12 Shawn Porter
Event of 2016 Manny Pacquiao UD12 Timothy Bradley
Fight I’m hoping happens in 2017 Errol Spence Jr. VS Thurman/Garcia winner

Junior Welterweight
In 2016 Terence Crawford further exemplified his greatness in 3 tremendous performances. His world championship unification superfight against Viktor Postol was nothing short of mesmerizing. It showed why Crawford may be perhaps the best P4P fighter in the sport, even if the pay per view numbers indicate that not everyone even saw his great performance. Sergey Lipinets is quickly becoming the go to action fighter in the division as his fights do not disappoint the crowd. It will be interesting to chronicle his rise to contention in 2017. Julius Indongo came from out of now were to shock the highly touted Eduard Troyanovsky in less than a minute to stake his claim in the division. 2017 figures to be an interesting one for the 140 pound weight class. Can anyone emerge as a real threat to kingpin Crawford?

Number of fights between top 20 contenders in 2016 8
Fighter of 2016 Terence Crawford
Best Boxer Terence Crawford
Best Puncher Sergey Lipinets
Prospect to watch in 2017 Sergey Lipinets
KO of 2016 Julius Indongo KO 1 Eduard Troyanovsky
Fight of 2016 Sergey Lipinets KO 8 Leonardo Zappavigna
Event of 2016 Terence Crawford UD12 Viktor Postol
Fight I’m hoping happens in 2017 Terence Crawford VS Adrien Broner

Lightweight
When the 135 pound’s division last big star Adrien Broner left a few years ago, the division had a severe lack of star power, but over the last few years it has slowly picked up steam, to the point to now where it is one of the deepest and most interesting in all of the sport. This year Robert Easter’s emergence as a threat in the division, and his fight of the year candidate with Richard Commey, stamped hard that the division as officially back. The division then culminated in a world title unification with Anthony Crolla and Jorge Linares that also did not disappoint. The division is primed for an exciting 2017 as superstar Mikey Garcia returns to the sport as he seeks a 3rd weight class world title. Prospect/Contender Luke Campbell has also had a very good 2016 rebounding from his first loss extremely well. He is looking to make the transition from prospect to contender in 2017. Another thing going for the 135 pound weight class is the best are fighting the best. Look for that trend to continue in 2017.

Number of fights between top 20 contenders in 2016 10
Fighter of 2016 Jorge Linares
Best Boxer Jorge Linares
Best Puncher Mikey Garcia
Prospect to watch in 2017 Luke Campbell
KO of 2016 Raymundo Beltran KO 7 Mason Menard
Fight of 2016 Robert Easter Jr SD12 Richard Commey
Event of 2016 Jorge Linares UD12 Anthony Crolla
Fight I’m hoping happens in 2017 Linares/Crolla II winner VS the Garcia/Zlaticanin winner

Junior Lightweight
The 130 pound weight class is another one that is very deep and the best fight the best pretty frequently. It also doesn’t hurt that it features some of the best pound for pound fighters in the world as well as the most exciting. P4P elite Vasyl Lomachenko and 2 time Fight of year winner Francisco Vargas are both in this division as an example. 2016 also featured Jezreel Corrales seemingly coming from out of nowhere to unseat longtime kingpin Takashi Uchiyama. All this before even mentioning the legendary battle that took place between Francisco Vargas and Orlando Salido shortly after the greatest of all time Muhammad Ali passed away. It was as if it was a homage to the Thrilla in Manilla with its brutality. If you could only pick one division, 130 pounds might be the one to go with.

Number of fights between top 20 contenders in 2016 11
Fighter of 2016 Vasyl Lomachenko
Best Boxer Vasyl Lomachenko
Best Puncher Takashi Uchiyama
Prospect to watch in 2017 Eduardo Hernandez
KO of 2016 Vasyl Lomachenko KO 5 Roman Martinez
Fight of 2016 Francisco Vargas D12 Orlando Salido
Event of 2016 Vasyl Lomachenko TKO 7 Nicholas Walters
Fight I’m hoping happens in 2017 Vasyl Lomachenko vs Jezreel Corrales

Featherweight
Since the departure of Nicholas Walters and Vasyl Lomachenko, the 126 pound class has been in a transition of star power. There are definitely some names at 126, many of them coming up from 122 pounds, such as Carl Frampton, Leo Santa Cruz, Scott Quigg, and Abner Mares. Also the emergence of Gary Russell Jr. and Oscar Valdez as strong threats within the division has made things very interesting. The division has depth, and only needs the best fighting the best a little more often than they are. An early 2017 rematch between Frampton and Santa Cruz is an excellent start.

Number of fights between top 20 contenders in 2016 7
Fighter of 2016 Carl Frampton
Best Boxer Lee Selby
Best Puncher Oscar Valdez
Prospect to watch in 2017 Mark Magsayo
KO of 2016 Miguel Marriaga KO 6 Guy Robb
Fight of 2016 Carl Frampton MD12 Leo Santa Cruz
Event of 2016 Carl Frampton MD12 Leo Santa Cruz
Fight I’m hoping happens in 2017 Oscar Valdez VS Gary Russell Jr.

Junior Featherweight
While the year got off to bang for the 122 pound weight class with Carl Frampton VS Scott Quigg, it has quickly fizzled out for the most part as the best fighter in the division and lineal champion, Guillermo Rigondeaux, didn’t take part in a meaningful fight. To make matters worse both Frampton and Quigg moved up a weight class, leaving many unknown but good fighters left behind. Most of them are not fighting each other however. Nonito Donaire was the only somewhat active name fighter in the division, even if he is towards the end of his career, as evidence by his loss to Jesse Magdaleno. A Rigondeaux fight with the undefeated Moises Flores is anticipated for 2017, which would represent Rigondeaux’s most interesting fight in years, would be a shining light for a somewhat inactive division. In 2017, we hope to see more of the top guys facing each other.
Number of fights between top 20 contenders in 2016 6
Fighter of 2016 Carl Frampton
Best Boxer Guillermo Rigondeaux
Best Puncher Jonathan Guzman
Prospect to watch in 2017 Isaac Dogboe
KO of 2016 Nonito Donaire TKO 3 Zsolt Bedak
Fight of 2016 Carl Frampton SD12 Scott Quigg
Event of 2016 Carl Frampton SD12 Scott Quigg
Fight I’m hoping happens in 2017 Guillermo Rigondeaux VS Jessie Magdaleno

Bantamweight
The 118 pound weight class definitely has a lot of talent, but there was not a lot of the best fighting the best in 2016. With a division that is so deep this is particularly disappointing. Division kingpin and P4P entrant, Shinsuke Yamanaka, may be the saving grace for the division in 2016, making two very nice defenses of his world title. Fighters like Rau’shee Warren and Juan Carlos Payano, who fought each other early in the year were not active enough to keep the fire of the division as bright as it could be. Perhaps in 2017 Warren and Payano will be more active because the division needs them to be, they are certainly among the most skilled fighters in the division. We hope to see fighters like Lee Haskins, Stuart Hall, and Jamie McDonnell all more active in 2017. One fight scheduled in early 2017 that will get the 118 pound division off to a good start is Warren taking on Zhanat Zhakiyanov in what should be a very interesting fight.

Number of fights between top 20 contenders in 2016 5
Fighter of 2016 Shinsuke Yamanaka
Best Boxer Rau’shee Warren
Best Puncher Zolani Tete
Prospect to watch in 2017 Takuma Inoue
KO of 2016 Shinsuke Yamanaka TKO 7 Anselmo Moreno
Fight of 2016 Shinsuke Yamanaka TKO 7 Anselmo Moreno
Event of 2016 Shinsuke Yamanaka TKO 7 Anselmo Moreno
Fight I’m hoping happens in 2017 Shinsuke Yamanaka VS Warren/Zhakiyanov winner

Junior Bantamweight
The 115 pound weight class has slowly been morphing into one of the best divisions in boxing. Even before Roman Gonzalez and Naoya Inoue moved up, it had Carlos Cuadras and a host of other skilled fighters there. Gonzalez winning his 4th weight class world title in a fight of the year candidate with Cuadras shined a great light on the 115 pound division. Now with the emergence of the young and skilled Khalid Yafai, and veterans Juan Francisco Estrada and John Riel Casimero joining the fray at 115 pounds, the hottest division of the lower weight classes is poised for an exciting 2017. One of the best questions in boxing is, will Gonzalez and Inoue finally meet in 2017?

Number of fights between top 20 contenders in 2016 6
Fighter of 2016 Roman Gonzalez
Best Boxer Khalid Yafai
Best Puncher Naoya Inoue
Prospect to watch in 2017 Kyle Yousaf
KO of 2016 Naoya Inoue TKO 6 Kohei Kono
Fight of 2016 Roman Gonzalez UD12 Carlos Cuadras
Event of 2016 Roman Gonzalez UD12 Carlos Cuadras
Fight I’m hoping happens in 2017 Roman Gonzalez VS Naoya Inoue

Flyweight
Roman Gonzalez leaving the 112 pound division has left it with a bit of a star power vacuum with no real marquee fights occurring since Gonzalez defended his 112 pound world championship against McWilliams Arroyo earlier this year. Since then 108 pound champion Donnie Nietes has moved up which helps a little, but without the top guys fighting each other, and they certainly haven’t been, it will be a bleak 112 pound division for 2017. Let us hope something or someone kick starts the division because, it may be the coldest division in boxing right now.

Number of fights between top 20 contenders in 2016 2
Fighter of 2016 No one exemplary enough this year to win this award
Best Boxer Kazuto Ioka
Best Puncher Daigo Higa
Prospect to watch in 2017 Kevin Jake Cataraja
KO of 2016 Daigo Higa KO 4 Ardin Diale
Fight of 2016 Roman Gonzalez UD 12 McWilliams Arroyo
Event of 2016 Roman Gonzalez UD 12 McWilliams Arroyo
Fight I’m hoping happens in 2017 Kazuto Ioka VS Donnie Nietes

Junior Flyweight
The highlight for the 108 pound division in 2016 is Kosei Tanaka moving up to capture his 2nd weight class world title. The division greatly needed this with the departure of long time champion Donny Nietes when he moved up in weight. While there are very few house hold names in the 108 pound weight class there are many talented and exciting fighters among its ranks. Hopefully in 2017 they will get the chance to showcase their wares to the boxing public, because often the smaller weight classes get neglected unless Roman Gonzalez or Naoya Inoue are involved.

Number of fights between top 20 contenders in 2016 5
Fighter of 2016 Kosei Tanaka
Best Boxer Kosei Tanaka
Best Puncher Angel Acosta
Prospect to watch in 2017 Angel Acosta
KO of 2016 Kosei Tanaka TKO 5 Moises Fuentes
Fight of 2016 Ganigan Lopez MD12 Yu Kimura
Event of 2016 Kosei Tanaka TKO 5 Moises Fuentes
Fight I’m hoping happens in 2017 Kosei Tanaka VS Ryoichi Taguchi

Strawweight
The 105 pound weight class has been perennially ignored for the most part of its history. Even Roman Gonzalez was mostly unheard of when he campaigned as a champion of this weight class. Not since the great Ricardo Lopez has there been a bright spotlight here. That doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be one there now however. Promoters just don’t shine one there usually. There are a lot of exceptionally talented fighters there. In 2016 Thammanoon Niyomtrong, also known as Knockout CP Freshmart, performed admirably facing down some of the best the division has to offer. Hopefully in 2017 he can face the fierce Jose Argumedo or the 44-0 Chayaphon Moonsri.

Number of fights between top 20 contenders in 2016 5
Fighter of 2016 Thammanoon Niyomtrong (Knockout CP Freshmart)
Best Boxer Thammanoon Niyomtrong (Knockout CP Freshmart)
Best Puncher Jose Argumedo
Prospect to watch in 2017 Panya Pradabsri
KO of 2016 Jose Argumedo TKO 3 Jose Antonio Jimenez
Fight of 2016 Byron Rojas UD 12 Hekkie Budler
Event of 2016 Thammanoon Niyomtrong UD12 Byron Rojas
Fight I’m hoping happens in 2017 Thammanoon Niyomtrong VS Chayaphon Moonsri

The Commissioner’s 2016 Year End Boxing Awards
Fighter of year Terence Crawford
Prospect of the year Erickson Lubin
Knockout of the year Murat Gassiev KO 1 Jordan Shimmell
Fight of the year Francisco Vargas D12 Orlando Salido
Performance of the year (Two tied for first) Vasyl Lomachenko TKO 7 Nicholas Walters/ Terence Crawford UD12 Viktor Postol
Comeback of the year Abner Mares
Breakout fighter of the year Joe Smith Jr.
Upset of the year Jezreel Corrales TKO2 Takashi Uchiyama

Thanks for reading. Check me out on the RN24 KOBoxingForum as “TheCommissioner.” Also, readers are welcome to join my Facebook group, “The Commissioner’s Corner: A Face Book Boxing Group,” where I feature my own top-20 rankings in all 17 divisions.

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