One of the foremost publications in boxing is the Ring Magazine, and each year it publishes a series of "of the Year" lists that hold considerable significance in the fistic world. Perhaps most prestigious of these distinctions is that of "Fighter of the Year", and just yesterday, the "Bible of Boxing" chose Tyson Fury as its recipient for 2015. The last time a heavyweight earned the honor was back when Evander Holyfield won it for a third time in 1997.
As most boxing fans know, Fury surprised the world by upsetting then recognized heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitsckho by unanimous decision in November. The Gypsy fighter wrested the WBA, IBF, and WBO belts from the champ by scores of 115-112, 115-112 and 116-111, ending Klitschko's win streak of 11 years, nine of which he spent holding a major world title belt.
Since then, the British heavyweight has been the center of controversy for comments regarding homosexuality and women, views that sparked even further controversy when he was nominated for the Sports Personality of the Year award from the BBC. In fact, crowds of protestors demanded that Fury be removed from the list of consideration, and expressed their anger in demonstration when he was left in the running.
So far there has not been word that the same kind of opposition will arise as a result of Fury winning the Ring's distinction, but the likelihood of it happening is slim. First, the Ring Magazine is in large part a publication known only to fans of the Sweet Science, whereas the BBC is a major publication with an international reach and covers critical news matters throughout the world. Second, the credentials of the Ring's award are based solely on a fighter's performance in the ring, and less (if at all) on his comments in the press or views on social issues. But even with that in mind, let's see how well Fury measures up.
Photo by Rolf Vennenbernd/EPA
Other fighters shortlisted for FOTY included names like Canelo Álvarez, Gennady Golovkin, Roman Gonzalez and Floyd Mayweather Jr. Álvarez likely made the list for his brutal knockout of James Kirkland and victory over the solid and battle-tested Miguel Cotto, but perhaps the Mexican fell short given that Kirkland was tailor-made, and because Cotto has had his best days behind him. Golovkin continued his reign as boxing's "most feared fighter" by adding three names on his list of beaten opponents—Martin Murray, Willie Monroe Jr., and David Lemieux. The only real reason I can see as to why Golovkin didn't get the nod is perhaps because he was the betting favorite by wide margins in each of the contests. Gonzalez, who is recognized by major outlets as the pound-for-pound best boxer of today, wiped the floor with Valentin Leon, Edgar Sosa, and Brian Viloria. He's also silly good and has some of the most masterful footwork I've ever seen. But Gonzalez campaigns in a division that nobody really cares about, so any sort of achievements he makes go unnoticed. And then of course Floyd Mayweather Jr., who I won't comment much on except that he was rightfully passed over.
For Fury, in 2015 he beat journeyman Christian Hammer, and of course Klitschko for the majority of the meaningful belts. Of all the candidates mentioned, perhaps Álvarez and Golovkin carry arguments to be more deserving, but the decision comes close. Fury certainly had the most significant accomplishment of the year, but can a fighter really win FOTY by only fighting twice in a year, one of which was against a journeyman?
One person who thinks so is none other than boxing legend Mike Tyson. In November, Tyson gave high praise regarding Fury's heavyweight accolades in the sport.
"The heavyweight champion of the world got my name. He is the best heavyweight champion of the world since myself," said Tyson. "He is the man, I don't care what anybody says."
A rematch with Klitschko had been planned for sometime later this year, and after that, a unification bout with WBC champ Deontay Wilder hopefully looms afterwards. As most fans know, Fury was also stripped of the IBF strap soon after his victory over Klitschko, and with the position currently vacant, another unification bout could come up in the near future. Should Fury dominate the former champ once again, unify the belts against Wilder, and perhaps even reclaim the IBF championship, he would be a shoe-in for FOTY for 2016. But as the beauty of boxing goes, it's certainly too soon to tell. Let's hope the next year prove fruitful for boxing and its fighters.
Other distinctions awarded by the Ring Magazine include:
Fight of the Year – Francisco Vargas KO 9 Takashi Miura
Knockout of the Year – Canelo Alvarez KO 3 James Kirkland
Round of the Year – Amir Imam vs. Fidel Maldonado Jr., Round 3
Upset of the Year – Tyson Fury UD 12 Wladimir Klitschko
Comeback of the Year – Badou Jack
Trainer of the Year – Joe Gallagher
Prospect of the Year – Takuma Inoue
Event of the Year – Floyd Mayweather Jr. UD 12 Manny Pacquiao
Most Inspirational – Anthony Croll