1) Xu Can UD Jesus Rojas
Jesus Rojas was the betting favorite in this match, as Xu Can was not a well-known foe. Rojas is a well-respected contender in the featherweight division. Right from the opening bell this was exciting. Both men were trading shots, but Rojas was the aggressor early, using a wide variety of punches, including some solid body blows. When the second round started, I was grinning from ear to ear. These men were trading crisp combinations and I’m not meaning just two and three punch combinations. I’m talking five and six punch combinations. Body blows, uppercuts, jabs, straights, hooks. I’m not sure if there was a type of punch they didn’t throw. They were not winging wild looping punches either, this was a beautiful display of tactical boxing ability, combined with that inner gut instinct to take a few and give more back and neither seemed to be budging much.
By round four Rojas was boxing a little more and Can was the aggressor, but it was back and forth the entire way. The bout wasn’t the most talked about leading up to it and even to this day I have hardly heard anything about it. However, I watched it live and ran it back and my eyes were peeled the entire time. By the time it was all said and done, they had thrown a staggering 2,574 combined punches and landed 768 of them. The scorecards do not reflect the sensational match this turned out to be. This was the most overall exciting fight of the year to me. If you haven’t seen it, you must now.
2) Naoya Inoue UD Nonito Donaire
By many, this was considered to be a fairly easy test for Inoue. Nonito Donaire is 37 years old and past his best boxing days, yet I really had a gut feeling that Donaire would show up and really test Inoue. Donaire may be a respectful, modest man, but he never shows up to just lie down.
This could be considered a passing of the torch moment for these two and Mister Donaire certainly went down on his shield, so to say. There was definitely some great action in this fight, with Donaire staggering Inoue and giving him some significant face alterations. Also, Inoue putting Donaire on the canvas with a brutal body shot that most of us who have been hit in the gut can envision the pain that he was feeling. I don’t necessarily think that we need a rematch to prove anything and Naoya Inoue can probably just move on and learn from this, however, if there’s a reason to warrant one, the “Filipino Flash” certainly gave himself a legitimate case.
3) Errol Spence Jr. UD Shawn Porter
This bout could certainly be at the top of the list given the implications of the match. This was a fight between two of the best in the stacked welterweight division. I’m not a huge fan of PPV because it’s rare that they live up to the hype. This one did live up to the hype, as it was a very close battle all the way to the end. It wasn’t overly thrilling in the beginning, due to the feel out process, but it heated up quickly and ended up getting really dirty and gritty in the ring that night.
Shawn Porter has proven that he has some big balls over the years and Spence was going to have to prove that his were just as big, and he did just that. Errol Spence threw a total of 745 punches, compared to Shawn Porter’s 744, with Spence landing 221, compared to Porter’s 172. The knockdown of Porter in the 11th round was a beautiful short left hand that landed right on the button. Shawn Porter is a tough S.O.B. and this deserves another go around.
4) Gennadiy Golovkin UD Sergiy Derevyanchenko
It’s sad to say, but unfortunately guys like Sergiy Derevyanchenko do not get the credit they deserve. Derevyanchenko is an excellent boxer and proved that in his last couple of bouts and this was no different. The assumption by casual fans was that Golovkin should have just blown Derevyanchenko out because he’s not on the same level, but luckily people who actually pay attention to the sport more closely understood this could be a very competitive match. That proved to be true.
Both men deserve a tremendous amount of respect, as Derevyanchenko really came out to prove a point, which he did by outworking GGG and hurting him a couple of times with some really nice body blows. Golovkin showed just how great of a boxer he is. At the age of 37, he still showed highly technical boxing ability and obviously has the power, which was proof by the knockdown in the first round and he also proved that when the going gets tough, he surely wants to show that he will not go down without a fight.
5) Daniel Roman MD T.J. Doheny
Wow, what a great matchup this ended up being. These boxers are not known to be hard hitters but they were really putting some steam on their punches. With the body blow knockdown delivered from Roman in the 10th, the clean left hook knockdown in the second round from Danny, and a few wobbles of the legs in the 7th and the 9th, they both really showed some heart in that ring. This was not necessarily a war, but there were a lot of momentum swings from hard, wilting shots that were delivered from both sides. It’s always a great day when the judges do a good job as well.
6) Manny Pacquiao UD Keith Thurman
Big names, but oddly enough, not enough praise afterwards. This was not a landslide win for Pacquaio as some perceived it to be. Aside from the first-round knockdown of Keith Thurman, there was really some nice back and forth action throughout. Give credit to the judges, as they did a good job. We always expect some fireworks from the legendary Pacman, but Keith Thurman showed some real guts and solid skills. He was boxing pretty well and even at times, went after Manny and did well when he did. As a matter of fact, Thurman out-landed Pacquaio. I don’t think I’ve ever seen somebody take a wicked body blow like Thurman did and have the wherewithal to take your mouthpiece out, gather yourself and not take a knee in the process.
This was a great learning curve for Keith and an amazing display of inhuman-like ability from the legendary Pacman. The match is worth a rematch, but I don’t think it happens and I don’t think it needs to happen either. Both men can move on and still make a significant splash in the division without it.
7) Lewis Ritson UD Robbie Davies Jr.
Does any casual fan even really know who either one of these fighters are? Other than the British fans, this could be assumed to be just another preliminary bout to another bigger event. However, this was a main event and an exciting one at that! These two battle born Brits showed up with enthusiasm, the same way their fans showed up. If there is anybody who needs to question why this is even on the list, it’s due to the fact that you may not know their names, or know them well. You might want to reconsider and give them their proper respect and see it how it was, which is a phenomenal scrap that if they had more recognizable names, most would be singing a different tune.
8) Juan Francisco Estrada UD Srisaket Sor Rungvisai
Juan Estrada and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai have battled twice now and it has never come close to disappointment. They could duke it out fifteen times and people should still want to watch. This rematch that took place back in April was a real nice scrap that had plenty of back and forth action. On top of that, it was a real championship fight. Estrada seemed to come out with more to prove and seemed to be edging the first portion of the fight, but when Sor Rungvisai started to switch stances and pick up the action a bit, this became a little bit closer. It’s sad to see that these littler guys don’t get as much recognition as the big men, but I think they usually give us more bang for the buck and this would be sure to deliver again if they decide to lace them up one or two more times. Sign me up.
9) Mario Barrios UD Batyr Akhmedov
This match nearly stole the show, if it hadn’t been for the Spence versus Porter main event. Overall it was a very solid performance from both of these rising prospects and the scorecards could have gone either way. Barrios won and he will move on, but they both deserve bigger and better things because both showed the ability to put on a good show against several other contenders and prospects, but this was a perfect example of a “styles makes fights” match and this could easily be discussed as a “run it back” bout.
10) Andy Ruiz Jr. TKO Anthony Joshua
I will try not to diminish the overall spectacle of this fight too much, because there was a lot of drama and ultimately drama usually steals the show, especially when it comes to the heavyweights. I understand it was nearly like a realistic Rocky show for Andy Ruiz and I can appreciate that to a certain extent. However, as much drama as there was, this really wasn’t a fun fight the whole way through. There were some fun momentum swings, which is why it’s on the list, but aside from the dramatic knockdowns and ultimately the stoppage, there was a lot of lag in the action in between. The mere shock of the result is what really made this fun. The look on the faces of the crowd when A.J. was in trouble and ultimately stopped, was some of the best visuals you can have of how this was not supposed to turn out and it’s nice to get that every once in a while. Sometimes we need to see the bubble burst and not have everything go according to plan. The rematch result though, is proof that the first match was a bit of a fluke like some assumed it was.