2019 Boxing Year in Review [Jan-Jun]
From the Pacquiao resurrection to Andy Ruiz Jr shocking the world, we review the first 6 months of 2019.
Boxing’s year kicked off with some retro flair as Manny Pacquiao reunited with Freddie Roach, his head trainer since 2001. Roach was back to help Senator Pacman prepare for his fight with four-division champ Adrien Broner.
The reunion paid off as Pacquiao absolutely dominated the younger man, landing over twice as many shots to take an overwhelming decision. In fact, the only person who thought Broner had been competitive was Broner himself:
I really did believe that I won the fight. Like I said, I'm going to answer anybody's questions. I don't feel bad for myself. I feel good.
The win placed Pacquiao in pole position to choose a quality opponent. Fans were treated to news that that opponent would take the form of undefeated WBA super champion Keith Thurman:
In January, he was in the middle of the ring, they said, 'Manny, how do you feel?' 'I feel good, I'm going to fight again.' Why? That fight took nothing out of him. This fight is going to take something out of him.
It was the kind of fight boxing isn’t traditionally good at making as both fighters had everything to lose. And we only had to wait for July to see it go down.
The opposite was happening in the heavyweight division, where unified champ Anthony Joshua and WBC champ Deontay Wilder were still talking loud and booking nothing.
In the meantime, lineal champ Tyson Fury was expected to rematch Wilder after their fight of the year draw in Vegas last December.
That all fell apart when Fury suddenly announced that he had signed with Bob Arum’s Top Rank and was no longer interested in a quick rematch. Instead both men decided on a few warm-up fights with an eventual rematch in 2020.
Fury decided on an unknown German named Tom Schwartz in Vegas, while Deontay booked a mandatory with the unfancied Dominick Brezeale in New York.
Over in the UK Anthony Joshua was preparing for his own warm-up, the outspoken Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller. The two hit the promotional circuit, where Miller’s antics had the usually composed Joshua acting a little loco:
I breathe, eat, sleep Anthony Joshua. I gotta picture of him as my screensaver, Anthony Joshua. I gotta picture on my wall, Anthony Joshua. I wake up in the morning I think 'Anthony Joshua'! I slept on the floor for 18 years, no bed. Vienna sausage, cinnamon buns. Wonderbread. Coolaid, but no motherf*g sugar.
But all of the bravado in the world couldn’t save Miller from himself as he tested positive to three different performance-enhancing drugs, leaving Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn scrambling for a replacement just weeks out from the fight.
The man he got was the 32 and 1 Mexican-American Andy Ruiz Jr.. And despite the odds being stacked against him, the snickers fan just seemed happy to be involved:
I think it came at a perfect time to fight against Anthony Joshua. And those belts look really shiny, really good man and you know, I'm just ready. I'm ready for June 1st. I'm ready to become the first Mexican heavyweight champion of the world.
But the 11 to 1 underdog shocked everyone by putting on a slick display of boxing to knock the English superstar off his undefeated pedestal in the seventh. Ruiz survived a third-round knockdown to floor Joshua twice in the same round. Joshua rallied to make the seventh but was dropped twice more before the fight was waved off, leaving Ruiz the shock first Mexican heavyweight champ in history.
Meanwhile, Deontay Wilder knocked Dominick Breazeale through space and time in the first round of his warm-up, before announcing his next surprise opponent, a rematch against Cuban technician Luis Ortiz.
And Tyson Fury put on a show under the Vegas lights. He danced and sang and evaded punches like a bantamweight, before stopping Tom Schwarz late in the second.
At middleweight, Ruiz’s countryman Canelo Alvarez put two belts on the line against the IBF champ Danny Jacobs. Canelo took the early rounds and survived Jacobs’ late rally to leave the ring with three of the four belts.
Only one fight with Demetrious Andrade away from creating the first undisputed middleweight champion since 2005, the WBC suddenly stepped in to strip Canelo and make him the “franchise champion”. Leaving boxing fans as confused as ever.
And Canelo’s former nemesis Gennady Golovkin separated from longtime trainer Abel Sanchez and started working with former Klitschko cornerman Johnathan Banks. He also followed Canelo in signing a huge deal with streaming juggernaut DAZN.
The new pair celebrated with a hammering of Canadian Steve Rolls, sending the Canuck challenger face-first into the canvas in the fourth round.
Terence Crawford battered English star Amir Khan to further solidify his position as the welterweight to beat. Unfortunately, the stoppage came when an accidental low blow had Khan saying he couldn’t continue.
Crawford: "You didn't quit? Tell the truth."
Khan: "No, I didn't quit"
Crawford: "So what happened? I'm asking you what happened."
Khan: "I was hit with a low shot man, I was hit with a very low shot."
Crawford: "In your leg? You quit with a shot in your leg?"
Khan: "In the leg? It was in the balls.”
Ukrainian lightweight legend Vasiliy Lomachenko tightened his grip on the number one pound-for-pound spot when he dismantled Anthony Crolla in four rounds. Crolla could only land 12 shots on the mercurial master.
And the women crowned two new undisputed champs to show the men’s divisions how to run a sport.
First up, dual gold medallist, Claressa “T-Rex” Shields dominated the formerly undefeated Christina Hammer to become undisputed middleweight champ in only her 9th fight.
And the “Brae Bomber” Katie Taylor fought an absolute war with Belgian Delphine Persoon to take the undisputed lightweight crown. The majority decision could easily have gone the other way but the Irish champ boxed just beautifully enough to sway two of the judges.