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Boxing review of 2019: Joshua, Ruiz, Wilder, others light up year

By Steve Bunce and Mike Costello
25 December 2019   |   4:27 am
There were fights that thrilled, fights that never happened and fights that simply stunned us.

Anthony Joshua (right) regained his heavyweight titles by beating Andy Ruiz Jr, pocketing a staggering £66 million from his rematch earlier this month in Saudi Arabia

There were fights that thrilled, fights that never happened and fights that simply stunned us.

“What a year. We may say we didn’t get this or that – but what a year,” Aside from a June upset fit for the boxing ages, 2019 served up more class from Ukraine, more power-punching from a certain American heavyweight and more general brilliance by a Japanese fighter who found a novel way to combat blurred vision.

Here, BBC boxing correspondent Mike Costello and his 5 Live side-kick Bunce hand out their awards for the year, and go one further as they name their pound-for-pound top five global fighters.

Costello: There was round four when Errol Spence Jr beat Shawn Porter in Los Angeles in September – a cracking fight – and in that round you could see the sheer amount of talent. But in Anthony Joshua’s defeat by Andy Ruiz Jr in June – the up-and-down nature of it – it’s safe to say Joshua could have been stopped at the end of the third round and I don’t think there would have been any complaints.

Bunce: It’s almost like Joshua’s defeat by Ruiz is a different category. Katie Taylor’s victory over Delfine Persoon in June was the greatest women’s boxing contest, while Josh Taylor’s win over Regis Prograis for two of the world super-lightweight belts in London in October was like some sort of synchronised, sped-up sparring session with two men at their peak.

Then there is Luis Ortiz and Deontay Wilder in their rematch in Las Vegas in November. For six rounds, Wilder doesn’t land a glove and he is starting to panic. When he comes out for the seventh, I thought it might be too late. Then you realise he is measuring. He is the most enigmatic heavyweight champion in history as he divides experts.

Costello: Because of the upset nature of it, Joshua-Ruiz has to qualify as one of the fights of the year. Then there is Naoya Inoue’s win over Nonito Donaire in Japan in November. Inoue picked up two of the world bantamweight titles and I’m not sure there is a better fight.

Inoue announces afterwards that a single left hook in the second caused him blurred vision. If you look at the early part of the third round he is covering his right eye with his right glove to have single vision. He announces he got the idea from Donaire, who did the same against Guillermo Rigondeaux in 2013.

Costello: A fight not happening is my disappointment of the year as I felt we would get a trilogy fight between Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin. These two men bring something out of one another and we’ve talked about the quality of their punching and resilience when Alvarez landed a win after their first draw.

Bunce: Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury’s rematch was lost in 2019. When we left Los Angeles after their first draw in 2018, that rematch was nailed on, so that’s my disappointment of the year.

Costello: I thought James DeGale still had enough left to beat a young, fresh Chris Eubank Jr when they met in February. I could hardly have been more wrong.

Bunce: No-one said after Ruiz weighed in in Saudi Arabia that he had been at the fridge door for months and had no chance against Anthony Joshua in their December rematch. I wish I had said what I was feeling, that he had no chance and would have his head jabbed off. I got that completely wrong.

Bunce: I am going to do Inoue, not just because of the Donaire win for two titles. In May, he also took on Emmanuel Rodriguez – a man we liked, a man we had seen – and he blew him away inside two rounds. He destroyed a guy who was unbeaten.

For British fighter of the year, I have gone Joshua for coming back from that defeat in New York and handling it all with the dignity he has.

Costello: I will take some shifting in my choice of overseas fighter of the year because of one single win. I think it was the best single performance by any world champion this year, when Artur Beterbiev beat Oleksandr Gvozdyk for two world titles at light-heavyweight in October with a systematic breakdown. It was brilliant how he upped the pace round by round.

Joshua has in the end beaten a man he should have beaten first time around but I just think in terms of the quality of two performances in beating Ivan Baranchyk to win a world title and then Prograis to land another in one of the fights of the year, that’s why my vote goes to Taylor for home boxer.

• Culled from