Monday, February 17, 2020

The 19 Greatest Boxing Matches of 2019

Reflecting on the sweetest bouts the Sweet Science provided us in the year that was


By: Jimbo X

The year 2019 was a fairly aberrational one for the world of boxing, in the sense that we got solid action across the weight class spectrum. From stellar strawweight slugfests to hammering heavyweight hootenannies, pretty much every division had at least one or two outstanding fights, and we here at The Internet Is In America is MORE than happy to take the time out of our busy schedules to reminisce on the biggest, baddest and best boxing bouts of the year that was. And remember: if you disagree with any of these selections, not only are you wrong, but we’ll also meet you outside for a fistfight ...

#019
Gervonta Davis vs. Yuriorkis Gamboa (Dec. 28, 2019)

The last truly spectacular boxing match of the year witnessed Davis improving to 23-0 as a pro pugilist, in a contest that saw the talented Southpaw drop Gamboa thrice in the fight before the ref waived the whole thing off midway through the 12th and final round. And even better, the victory opened the floodgates for all sorts of fantastic lightweight bouts in 2020 — who wouldn’t want to see Davis go toe-to-toe with Teofimo Lopez and Devin Haney this year? 

#018
Tyson Fury vs. Otto Wallin (Sept. 14, 2019)

AKA, the fight that almost took Wilder/Fury II off the table. While the “Gypsy King” ended up taking home a unanimous decision victory, winning over the judges’ score cards was no simple task, considering how much insane damage Fury took in the early rounds of this fight. Indeed, Fury’s right eye was juicing so hard by the end of the third that he was probably just one or two hard shots away from a medical stoppage. Alas, Fury weathered the storm and started pouring on the punches in the seventh; from there on out, it was pretty much all Tyson — save, of course, for Wallin’s splendid back-to-back left jabs that ALMOST produced another medical stoppage.

#017
Anthony Joshua vs. Andy Ruiz, Jr. (Dec. 07, 2019)

Roughly six months after Andy Ruiz shocked the world, the Anthony Joshua we all expected to see in the first fight reared his head in the Saudi Arabian rematch. For the first four rounds, Joshua used his range to jab Ruiz into oblivion. In the sixth round Joshua rocked Ruiz with a hard hook that left the champ’s face a swollen mess; really, it wasn’t until the eighth round that Ruiz started landing anything that looked truly effective. From there, the final four rounds was pretty much Ruiz trying to bait Joshua into another wild brawl, only for Joshua to play it smart and continue his oh-so-successful ranged jab strategy. By the end of the fight, Ruiz was a bloody mess, right down to his plasma streaking down his big Mexican gut like he was a leaking Fruit Gusher or something. Needless to say, this one was an obvious unanimous decision win for A.J., who — in a just world — will take on the winner of Fury/Wilder II at some point before 2020 closes. 

#016
Sergey Kovalev vs. Anthony Yarde (Aug. 24, 2019)

An outstanding, much-closer-than-anticipated matchup that saw Kovalev batter his British opponent for the better part of six rounds, only for Yarde to find his rhythm in the seventh. For the next two rounds Yards delivered a torrent of brutal midsection blows, to the point the Sergey’s corner ALMOST threw in the towel before the opening bell of the 10th round. It was there that Kovalev slowly and methodically began to regain the upper hand, absolutely schooling Yards with beautiful combos in bunches. The successful strategy continued into the 11th, where Kovalev ultimately finished his foe with a CINDER BLOCK of a right hand.

#015
Devin Haney vs. Zaur Adbullaev (Sept. 13, 2019)

A downright dominant performance from Haney, who landed a splendid counter right in the first minute of the very first round — and frankly, Abdullaev never had a shot of recovering from it. Abdullaev whiffed on a million billion aborted combos in the second, and in the third Haney rattled off a tremendous combo that left Zaur looking like a long-time lead paint consumer. Haney continued his more-than-effective alternating jab/body shot strategy in the fourth — and thanks to a possible fractured orbital, Abdullaev’s corner had no desire to let this thing seep into a fifth round. This was about as one-sided a drubbing as we saw in truly professional boxing in 2019 that didn’t result in at least one person in the ring dying — take heed, pugilist fans, this Haney kid (despite, or perhaps BECAUSE of his piranha-like profile) is the real deal.

#014
Richard Commey vs. Raymundo Beltran (June 28, 2019)

Quite possibly the best opening round of action all-year round. Commey went buck wild with right hands, at one point dropping Beltran like a sack of potatoes following a torpedo to the noggin. This resulted in 90 seconds of absolute mayhem, with Beltran stuck on the ropes as Commey literally pummeled him like a hate crime victim. Amazingly, Beltran managed to weather the storm, and in round two, Commey was considerably less aggressive. Commey went head hunting in round three, but came up empty, although Beltran really didn’t connect on anything while counter-punching. Following an “accidental” headbutt in the fourth, Commey connected on another huge right hand, but it wasn’t enough to finish Beltran — at least, yet. And that’s when the dirty shit started happening. Commey apparently pushed Beltran down in the fifth, but the ref said it was a legit knockdown. This led to ANOTHER headbutt in the sixth, which left Beltran a bloody mess and turned Commey’s right eyeball into something out either a 1980s horror movie or a 1970s porno. Late in the eighth round, Commey dropped Beltran with a gigantic left hook; and while Beltran, to his credit, did beat the 10-count, the ref said “nah, I ain’t gonna’ be responsible for this funeral” and called it a fight right then and there.

#013
Saul Alavarez vs. Daniel Jacobs (May 04, 2019)

After a slow first round, Canelo landed a couple of decent shots in the second, while Jacobs tried to close the gap with a half-way alright looking combo. The mid-range bombs started landing in the third, although at that juncture, neither boxer really seemed to have taken an upper hand. Canelo put on a defensive clinic in the fourth, frustrating Jacobs with some of the best head movement we saw in pro boxing all year round. Jacobs made a brief comeback in the seventh, though, switching to southpaw and getting a couple of good shots in. He came out roaring in the eighth, even landing some solid blows while Canelo was doing his best laundry impersonation on the ropes, and in the ninth, he landed a strong left hook that left Canelo momentarily reeling. From there, Jacobs kept up the pace, but Canelo was just too elusive; after 12 rounds, the judges gave Canelo the hard-fought unanimous decision win — two 115-113s and one 116-112.

#012
Sam Maxwell vs. Sabri Sediri (March 23, 2019)

In a year filled with insane endings, you’d be hard-pressed to find a boxing match from 2019 that had a more bonkers conclusion than this with. For the better part of 10 rounds, Sediri was in total control against his 30-year-old opponent, whom he managed to drop twice in the bout. Instead of playing things safe and conservatively, however, Sediri decided to go full ham in the final round, mercilessly taunting his foe a’la Anderson Silva circa 2010. Of course, you can take a wild guess how all of the wacky feints and dropped hands played out here; with just 15 seconds left in the fight, Maxwell found his opening, rattled off a quick one-two combo and put Sediri’s ass to sleep for the MAD comeback finish.

#011
Dominic Boesel vs. Sven Fornling (Nov. 16, 2019)

A good old-fashioned meat-and-potatoes war of attrition, which saw both men slug the crap outta each other for the better part of 11 rounds. Boesel pretty much controlled the tempo early, although Fornling started to find a slightly better groove around the third round. It was tit-for-tat pugilism up until the eighth round, when Boesel started REALLY laying into Fornling, whose face was turned into raw hamburger meat after an especially bruising ninth round battering. Fornling could barely keep to his feet in round 10, and in round 11 Boesel absolutely sandblasted his foe; amazingly, Fornling made it back to his feet — only to get put down for good following another brutal barrage from the ferocious German light heavyweight.

#010
Saul Alvarez vs. Sergey Kovalev (Nov. 02, 2019)

The first two rounds were relatively slow-paced, with Kovalev’s more consistent striking probably winning him the scorecards. But Canelo got a little bit more competitive in the third round, landing some hard rights and landing a solid one-two-three-combo at the bell. Kovalev landed more shots in the fourth and fifth rounds, but Canelo started firing back with some hard lefts in the sixth. Alvarez stuck with the jabbing approach throughout the seventh, but Kovalev managed to mount a brief comeback with a stellar one-two combo midway through the eighth. Canelo landed some more vicious left hooks in the ninth, and Kovalev responded by working the ribs in the tenth, concluding the round with a nice right hand. Kovalev tried to work the jabs early in round 11, but Canelo controlled the tempo with uppercuts; with his foe against the ropes, Canelo unleashed a FLOORING left hook and followed suit with an unholy right cross, which LITERALLY made Kovalev pirouette to the canvas like in Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! — and giving Canelo the flashiest knockout finish of his career in the process. 

#009
Emanuel Navarrete vs. Isaac Dogboe (May 11, 2019)

Probably the most savage beating the boxing world gave us in 2019 that didn’t result in somebody dying from brain damage. For 12 rounds, Navarrete absolutely obliterated the dogged Dogboe, with the former outlanding the latter 314 shots to 121. Navarrete used his range to keep Dogboe at bay throughout the fight, pretty much unloading on his shorter adversary at will — Navarrete visibly stunned Dogboe with a hard shot in the second, and by the end of the fourth round, Dogboe’s face looks like dog food. Still, the tenacious Dogboe refused to go down, absorbing an ungodly amount of punishment for another eight rounds. With about a minute left in the fight, Navarrete seemed to have broken his hand on a hard shot that sent Dogboe careening to the canvas; although Dogboe amazingly managed to get to his feet, his cornerman quickly tossed in the towel, potentially saving the fighter from even worse punishment — or, conversely, denying a shocking comeback knockout for the ages.  

#008
Jermell Charlo vs. Tony Harrison (Dec. 21, 2019)

In which Charlo got sweet, sweet revenge for his first professional loss — and even better, won back the WBC Super Welterweight Championship in stellar fashion. The first five rounds of the much-anticipated rematch was uppercut city, with each pugilist firing off some impressive hooks from short range — indeed, in the second round, Charlo managed to drop the defending champ with a splendid combination. From round six onward, Charlo was firmly in the driver’s seat, upping the intensity and trying to bait Harrison into a good, old-fashioned donnybrook. While Harrison had some defensive success with his straight jabbing approach, it didn’t take long into the 11th round for Charlo to unload on his hated rival, ultimately dropping Harrison with a HUGE right. Harrison recovered, charged into Charlo and — as expected — got clobbered again, this time taking a very Quinton Jackson-like tumble into the ring ropes. Still, Harrison kept on a fighting — that is, until Charlo stunned Harrison again and uncapped what would’ve been a hellacious barrage of almost punches, had the referee not decided to wave off the contest right then and there. 

#007
Robert Talarek vs. Patryk SzymaƄski (April 06, 2019)

They may not, and may never be, household names, but there’s NO denying these two Poles put on a spectacle for the ages in this one, amassing no less than TEN knockdowns combined … in a bout that only lasted five rounds. Patryk managed to record two knockdowns in the very first round, with Robert firing right back and dropping Patryk in the opening seconds of the second round — only for Patryk to drop Robert AGAIN with just 40 seconds remaining … and dropping him AGAIN with less than five seconds to go in round-o two-o. Patryk hit the mat with 26 seconds left in the third and almost got counted out at the tail end of the third for knockdown No. 7 of the bout. At the 1:45 mark of the fifth, Talarek rattled off the game-winner when he cracked Patryk with a blistering right: needless to say, in terms of pure per capita action, we may not see a bout like this one again for A LONG TIME to come. 

#006
John Riel Casimero vs. Ricardo Espinoza Franco (April 20, 2019)

An absolute barn-burner featuring two of the most powerful 118-pounders on the planet. It was back-and-forth action for the first five rounds, with Casimero dropping Franco in the sixth round. Rounds seven-through-eleven were about as competitive as it gets, with one judge having it 104-all heading into the 12th and final round. Casimero went full tilt in the final three minutes of the bout, with Franco eating a smorgasbord of blows and getting dropped for a second time in the fight, ultimately inspiring a ref stoppage with about 45 seconds remaining in the bout. If you’re looking for total nonstop action, this is about as much as you could hope for in a modern boxing offering: and all I can say is holy shit, can you IMAGINE what a bout between Casimero and Inoue may resemble?

#005
Elwin Soto vs. Angel Acosta (June 21, 2019)

Another 12th round stoppage, albeit, one that’s got some lingering questions surrounding it. Soto, a virtual unknown, brought his A-game against the defending junior flyweight champion, recording a shocking TKO win with less than thirty seconds remaining in the bout. Acosta ate canvas early in the third, but after that, the heavily favored title-holder seemed to take control of the bout. Naturally, that led to Soto uncorking a tremendous left on Acosta, sending the belt-wearer spinning out of control en route to what many consider to be an early stoppage, since none of Soto’s follow-up punches appeared to connect. Still, it was an exciting, ultra-competitive matchup, complete with one of the most memorable — and controversial finishes — we’ve had in a title bout in quite some time. 

#004
Andy Ruiz, Jr. vs. Anthony Joshua (June 01, 2019)

Quite possibly the single biggest upset to hit the boxing world since Buster Douglas shocked Mike Tyson in Tokyo 30 years ago. Joshua went into the fight a massive favorite, with Ruiz taking the bout on one month’s notice after the champ’s original opponent, Jarrel Miller, got popped on a hot piss test. While the first two rounds of the fight were a total bore (the two competitors combined for just 12 landed punches) things started getting exciting beginning in the third. Early on Joshua dropped Ruiz, only for Ruiz to hop back to his feet and drop Joshua with a glancing blow of his own. Seconds later, Ruiz UNLOADED on Joshua, dropping him yet again following a volley of shots in the corner. The next three rounds were a little less explosive, but round seven definitely brought the fireworks. A series of fast shots dropped Joshua for the third time in the contest, only for Ruiz to fuckin’ floor Joshua with about two minutes left in the round. Of course, Joshua would exact his revenge just a few months later, but for one glorious, shining summer night? Andy Ruiz. Jr. was, however temporary, the undisputed king of the boxing world.

#003
Errol Spence, Jr. vs. Shawn Porter (Sept. 28, 2019)

An instant classic that saw “The Truth” take home the IBF and WBC Welterweight straps via split decision in a bout that was almost full-tilt action from bell to bell. Spence landed the first truly breathtaking shot of the fight, a solid counter punch, early in the second round, with Porter turning up the intensity in the subsequent round. Spence stuck with working the body in round four, with Porter lobbing some crazy shots in the fifth — only for Spence to weather the storm and reverting back to the body shot stratagem in round six. Porter seemed to take the upper hand in round seven, with round eight a virtual dead heat. The back-and-forth trading continued in round nine, with Spence getting gashed on a headbutt in round ten. Spence landed the shot of the fight in the 11th, dropping Porter with a blistering left hand. Porter looked for the knockout blow in the 12th round, but Spence played it smart and kept his foe at a distance, complete with a fiery final exchange that is going to be HARD to top in 2020, without question.

#002
Josh Taylor vs. Regis Prograis (Oct. 26, 2019)

An all-time barnburner that saw both men swinging for the fences from the get-go. Late in the third Taylor tagged Prograis with a terrific combo, only for Prograis to start working the job like a pro in round four. Round five was back-and-forth action for three minutes straight, with Taylor making the best of a hard right hook and clipping Prograis with a late shot the referee, apparently, didn’t catch. Taylor bonked Prograis’ nose good in the seventh, with Taylor’s right eye becoming blackened and engorged by the end of the round. Prograis clearly got the upper hand in round eight, jabbing the dog shit out of Taylor and clicking him HARD with a cinder block right. Taylor kept pouring it on in rounds nine and 10, but Prograis made a comeback in the 11th, working the body hard and lobbing some heavy left hands en route to carving open Taylor’s right eye. Prograis went BUCK WILD in the 12th and final round, but he just couldn’t land the home run shot; he may have won the round, but after 36 minutes of hellacious hand-to-hand combat, it was Taylor who had has hand raised, winning an extremely hard-fought majority decision nod to not only retain the IBF Junior Welterweight Championship, but take the WBA title from Prograis in the process.

#001
Naoya Inoue vs. Nonito Donaire (Nov. 07, 2019)

Sometimes, the hardest part of making a top fights countdown is determining which bout truly deserves the number one spot. Well, that wasn’t the case in 2019 at all, ‘cause as soon as Inoue and Donaire wrapped up their epic battle, we ALL knew that we had just witnessed the undisputed FOTY. Inoue absolutely savaged Donaire in the first round, but Donaire fired back in the second, opening a big cut over his opponent’s eye. Inoue regained the upper hand in round three, largely thanks to his effective body-shot strategy, but Donaire just keep pressing forward, like some sort of 120-pound Michael Myers or something. For the next six rounds, Inoue slowly lost momentum while Donaire picked up steam, culminating with Donaire BLASTING Inoue with a humongous right hand to end cap the ninth. Donaire’s comeback putsch continued in round 10, with Inoue battling back with some nasty liver shots in the 11th. In a moment right out of an all-Asian remake of the first Rocky movie, Donaire sprang to his feet right at the nine-count, proceeding to whale on Inoue like a man possessed for the final two minutes of the round. Of course, that left everything wide open in the 12th, where Donaire tried his damnedest to mount the shocking knockout, only for the younger, spryer Inoue to play it smart defensively and weather his desperate last minute surge. From in-ring technique to squared circle storytelling, this bout gave you EVERYTHING you could possibly want as a fan of the Sweet Science. Not only did we get an 11th round for the ages, we got an immortal clash that cements Donaire as a first ballot Hall of Famer and a showing that instantly solidifies Inoue as a bona fide pound-for-pound champion-caliber boxer.  This is what pugilism is all about, fellas — do what you can to carve out 60 minutes for this one, because it is one instant classic you DO NOT want to miss. 

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