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  2016 Year-End Picks

By Nat Gottlieb - HBO & Pound4Pound Boxing Writer

Another year in boxing has come to an end and it’s time for Pound4Pound to chime in with their picks for the best of 2016. It is our pleasure to have Nat Gottlieb as one of our contributing experts. Gottlieb, who also writes for HBO, selected his picks and we are honored to share them with you.

Fighter of the Year
Roman Gonzalez

It’s hard for the little guys in boxing to garner the attention of the higher weight-class fighters, but at 46-0 with 38 KO’s, it’s difficult not to give “Chocolatito” his just due. First he scored a dominant victory over rising contender McWilliams Arroyo. Then he moved up to junior bantamweight and took the title from previously unbeaten Carlos Cuadras. It was Gonzalez’ fourth division championship, and solidified his spot as the top fighter in boxing.

Fight of the Year
Gennady Golovkin vs. Kell Brook

When unbeaten middleweight champ Golovkin chose Brook as his next opponent, some questioned his choice. After all, while Brook was a reigning welterweight champion, the Brit would be jumping up two weight classes. But Brook made it a tremendously exciting fight for as long as he could. In the fifth round, with Brook being battered by Golovkin, the Brit’s corner threw in the towel. Turns out Brook had suffered a fractured eye socket.

Round of the Year
Vargas vs. Salido -- Round 6

When two Mexican warriors step into the ring, it’s a sure bet neither one is going go out quietly. In the sixth round, Vargas staggered Salido with a right hand early and then moved in to finish him off. But the tough old fighter was having no part of that. Salido gathered himself and fought with such courage that the crowd was standing and cheering when he finished the round on his feet. The battle royal went the distance and ended up a thrilling majority-decision draw.

KO of the Year
Canelo KO Khan

The traditional Cinco de Mayo fight of the year didn’t lack for drama, as Saul “Canelo” Alvarez proved once again he is a true one-punch KO artist. Khan’s plan was to use his speed to frustrate the Mexican, and it worked until the sixth round, when Alvarez landed a brutal right hook that dropped Khan to the canvas with his head bouncing up off it. The referee didn’t bother with a 10 count. It was over.

Best Blow
Joe Smith Jr. retires Hopkins with battering TKO

Smith denied the great Hopkins a graceful exit from boxing. He hammered him on the ropes in the eighth round until he punched Hopkins through the ropes and out of the ring. Hopkins was unable to get back in the ring for the mandatory 20 count and it was ruled a technical knockout. It was the first and only knockout loss in Hopkins’ 67-fight career. As retirements go, this was a rather rude and oddly symbolic way for Hopkins to say goodbye.

Best Corner
Manager Egis Klimas

Klimas has assembled a stable of quality fighters that is the envy of boxing managers, virtually cornering the market on the best Eastern European boxers. Among his stable of fighters is Vasyl Lomachenko, Sergey Kovalev and unbeaten power punchers Oleksandr Usyk and Egidijus Kavaliauskas. His 15 fighters share a total of only 10 losses among them. With two current world champions and Kovalev -- who’s hoping to recapture his three belts in a potential rematch with Andre Ward -- Klimas will be a major player in the ring for many big fights in 2017.

Breakthrough HBO Fighter
Oscar Valdez

Valdez had three fights in 2016. The first was a victory over former world champion Evgeny Gradovich to capture a vacant featherweight title and then Valdez went on to successfully defend his belt twice, with both victories coming by way of TKO. The 25-year-old fighter from Mexico, who qualified for two Olympics, has a crowd-pleasing, aggressive style and a 90 percent KO rate. Combined with his million-dollar smile, Valdez has superstar potential.

Favorite Moments

The death of Muhammad Ali was emotionally devastating news to boxing fans. “A Tribute to Muhammad Ali,” that was aired on The Fight Game with Jim Lampley was one of HBO Boxing’s best and most moving broadcasts in 2016. Ali left a dramatic legacy, both inside and outside the ring, and Lampley captured it perfectly.


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