Expectations play an enormous role when it comes to choosing something like a Fight of the Year.
And those expectations can work both ways. If a fight gets a huge build-up, and is tagged by many as a potential Fight of the Year candidate before it happens, it’s often hard to live up to the billing.
Even a very good, evenly matched battle can wind up being disappointing because expectations were raised so much. And conversely, when a bout lives up to its billing, it’s often easy to overlook because it only did what was expected of it.
That gives the finalists for the Yahoo Sports 2015 Fight of the Year award a little edge, because expectations weren’t as high for any of them as they were for some others.
There were a number of outstanding matches in 2015, but the three that stood above the rest were, in chronologic order, Krzysztof Glowacki’s knockout of Marco Huck on Aug. 14 in Newark; Edwin Rodriguez’s stoppage of Michael Seals on Nov. 3 in Biloxi, Miss.; and Francisco Vargas’ stoppage of Takashi Miura on Nov. 21 in Las Vegas.
All three were wild back-and-forth battles with little downtime. And none of the three had huge expectations attached to them.
Each of them, however, delivered drama and compelling action that separated them from the rest.
The least expectations surrounded the Rodriguez-Seals fight. Seals wasn’t highly known and Rodriguez was best known for being wiped out by Andre Ward.
Rodriguez, though, was favored and it looked like Spike TV would have plenty of time to fill on its broadcast when in the opening seconds of the bout, Rodriguez crushed Seals with a left and put him down face first. Fighters who go down face first rarely get up, but Seals did.
There were three more knockdowns until the final one, the fifth of the bout, ended it in the third.
The Glowacki-Huck bout was also on Spike and was designed to be a showcase for Huck. He’d reeled off a long string of defenses and was fighting for the first time outside of Europe.
Like Seals, Glowacki was widely unknown and had never fought outside of Poland until meeting Huck.
The fight, though, was action-packed from beginning until the dramatic ending when Glowacki blasted Huck through the ropes and forced the referee to wave it off for Huck’s safety.
The Vargas-Miura fight was for the WBC super featherweight title, the first belt Floyd Mayweather Jr. won as a professional. It had some promise, as it came as the undercard of the hotly anticipated Canelo Alvarez-Miguel Cotto pay-per-view. View photo . Marco Huck and Krzysztof Glowacki exchange punches during their bout on Aug. 14. (Getty)
Marco Huck and Krzysztof Glowacki exchange punches during their bout on Aug. 14. (Getty)
Vargas was ahead early in the fight, but was dropped by Miura in the fourth. Miura, the reigning champion, stepped up the attack and had Vargas in plenty of trouble.
Vargas was bleeding from multiple places and his right eye was badly swollen, but he never stopped competing.
And it paid off for him in a big way in the ninth round. He landed a combination that dropped Miura early, then poured it on when a badly shaken Miura got to his feet.
As Vargas was firing away as the crowd roared its approval, referee Tony Weeks jumped in to halt it and give him the title.
Those three stood out above the rest from a crowded field.
When the fight between Lucas Matthysse and Ruslan Provodnikov was announced, it instantly became the Fight of the Year favorite before a punch had been thrown. I predicted that on a violence scale of 1 to 10, it would be a 15.
The bout, on April 18 in Verona, N.Y., turned out to be compelling. But it wasn’t the all-time brawl that perhaps many were expecting. Matthysse, a massive puncher, wisely used his boxing skills and the toe-to-toe flurries that we expected weren’t there. It was an 8 or a 9, no doubt, but it just misses the mark.
So, too, does Alvarez’s victory on May 9 before a massive crowd at Houston’s Minute Maid Park over James Kirkland. Kirkland is a great front-runner, but has poor defense and not a great chin. It was pretty obvious that Alvarez would be able to outbox him, but the question was whether he could survive the early onslaught.
The onslaught came, as expected, and Alvarez survived, and he cut down Kirkland in brutal fashion, stopping him in the third. But it was too short and too one-sided to win the award with so many other good candidates. It was good enough to have won it in other years, but not in this one.
And the other fight that stood out as particularly memorable was James DeGale’s unanimous decision over Lucian Bute in Quebec City on Nov. 28.
DeGale established himself that night as one of the sport’s top performers in a very entertaining match. Bute was believed to be on the downside of his career, but he stepped it up in a big way and put on a fun fight.
But the best bout for my money, and the winner of the 2015 Yahoo Sports Fight of the Year, is Huck-Glowacki.
It had incredible, sustained toe-to-toe action that went on round after round. And there was high drama as Huck, with the fight seemingly in the bag, got caught in the penultimate round and knocked out in a vicious manner.
It was a good year with plenty of good action. Huck-Glowacki, though, stood tall over the rest.