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Fighter? Fight? Moment? Prospect? Costello & Bunce pick their 2018 boxing stand-outs

Fighter? Fight? Moment? Prospect? Costello & Bunce pick their 2018 boxing stand-outs

Josh Warrington is was Mike Costello’s British fighter of the year in 2018″There’s so much we can look forward to in 2019 but we’d settle for a year like 2018 wouldn’t we?”Memories of the year that was are still fresh as BBC boxing correspondent Mike Costello looks to the future. His BBC radio 5 live…

Josh Warrington is was Mike Costello's British fighter of the year in 2018

Josh Warrington is was Mike Costello’s British fighter of the year in 2018

“There’s so much we can look forward to in 2019 but we’d settle for a year like 2018 wouldn’t we?”

Memories of the year that was are still fresh as BBC boxing correspondent Mike Costello looks to the future.

His BBC radio 5 live boxing podcast counterpart Steve Bunce adds: “World champions, broken dreams, tears, stupid moments, brilliant talent, endless drama, every single Saturday of 2018 was a brilliant story. I’m telling you, 2019 will be even better.”

But before chaos in and out of the ring begins again, who gets a nod of approval from Costello and Bunce for their 2018 efforts?

Round of the year

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Fury v Wilder: ‘The division is alive again’ – how the dramatic final round unfolded

Bunce: This selects itself. It can only be Los Angeles, the Staples Center and the 12th round of Deontay Wilder v Tyson Fury. It was like a movie unfolding. It was chaos in that ring. As Fury went down from that perfect combination, you wouldn’t have been criticised for leaving your seat and going to your car. “How did he get up?” That’s all people say to me.

Costello: The last time I remember anything having anything like that kind of effect was when I covered my first Olympic Games for 5 live in 2008 when Usain Bolt won the 100m. Every conversation I had when I got home was “did you see it?” It was one of those rare, rare moments.

But up against that round I have to mention Alex Saucedo v Leonardo Zappavigna in June. The fourth round is not just one of the rounds of 2018, it’s one of the rounds of all time. Zappavigna was down in the third round, then in the fourth he applies pressure – so much so it’s a surprise Saucedo isn’t stopped – before again Saucedo gets on top late in the fourth. It was astonishing boxing. For those who have not seen it I implore you to do so.

Fight of 2018

Saul Alvarez (right) beat Gennady Golovkin in a rematch in September

Saul Alvarez (right) beat Gennady Golovkin in a rematch in September

Costello: Fight of the Year is Josh Warrington versus Carl Frampton in December. My initial choice was Jason Welborn versus Tommy Langford for the British middleweight title but the Warrington-Frampton showdown ranks among the best British fights ever.

Globally, I have to go for Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez v Gennady Golovkin in September. I wrote on the BBC Sport website that I can’t think of any combination of fighters who would bring so much quality to a single ring as an all-round package. The quality of punching and resilience to take punches too was staggering. It’s not just that they take a shot, they almost instantly reply. The trilogy fight for me between them is right up there for the must-have events of 2019.

Bunce: British fight of the year I’ll go for Johnny Garton against Gary Corcoran in October. Garton is from Peckham and fights like a Mexican, giving him the nickname ‘The Pexican’. This fight was pure blood and thunder, a throwback to those smoky days and all a British title fight should be.

Internationally I will go for Tyson Fury v Deontay Wilder. I just don’t see a different option. I have a soft spot for Wilder as apparently he does everything wrong – he’s not big enough, his legs aren’t strong enough or this or that – yet he keeps on coming through.

What we saw from Fury was extraordinary. Most people have now got single vision on how good Fury will be next time but Wilder will be a different beast next time too. He will have better sparring partners and train with a little more devotion. That’s why the rematch is a better fight than the first one.

Fighter of 2018

Oleksandr Usyk's knockout of Tony Bellew (left) and Josh Warrington's two big wins were stand-out moments of 2018

Oleksandr Usyk’s knockout of Tony Bellew (left) and Josh Warrington’s two big wins were stand-out moments of 2018

Costello: For my British selection an initial selection was Callum Smith after his breakout win over George Groves in the World Boxing Super Series final. It was clinical, brutal and so final in the way that once he had George in trouble, he finished it instantly.

But I have to go for Josh Warrington as he has now done it twice over against Lee Selby and Carl Frampton in 2018 – two opponents who were favourites on the night. He has stamped himself as a champion who has grown so much for that belt being around his waist.

My international fighter is Vasyl Lomachenko. I think because of what he did against Jorge Linares early in the year – clinically winning even after answering a question by climbing off the canvas – makes him the best fighter in the world in 2018.

Bunce: My British fighter is close. Its hard to get away from what Anthony Joshua has done in beating Joseph Parker and Alexander Povetkin but I have to go with the man who lost around 10 stone and got a draw with Wilder – Tyson Fury.

Across the globe, I will go for Oleksandr Usyk. We saw him beat Tony Bellew to keep all four of the world cruiserweight belts. Twice in 2018 he went to someone’s back yard to win world titles – first in Latvia against an unbeaten opponent and then against another undefeated man in Russia.

Disappointment of 2018

Isaac Dogboe lost his world title to Emanuel Navarrete in December

Isaac Dogboe lost his world title to Emanuel Navarrete in December

Bunce: Isaac Dogboe lost his world title towards the end of the year. What’s alarming is Dogboe adds his name to sit on a long list of 12 British boxers who lost world title fights in a 10 or 12 week period at the end of the year.

Let me go through the list – James Tennyson, Paddy Barnes, George Groves, Jason Welborn, Rocky Fielding, Tony Bellew, Callum Johnson, Hannah Rankin, Jamie McDonnell, Gavin McDonnell and Ryan Burnett. No business can sustain such losses and many of them were left in heaps.

Costello: My disappointment is one we covered in depth on the 5 live Boxing Podcast and that’s the issue on the threat to Boxing at the Olympic Games. It is looking grave, with the International Olympic Committee saying they are not happy with the governance, finance, judging – it really is looking very serious.

For all the people batting it away saying there will be boxing at Tokyo 2020, yes, there may be, but it might not be as we have known it in the past.

Prospect of the year

Costello: I’m dipping into the amateur ranks. I was alerted to American Keyshawn Davis on social media. At the time he was in a tournament in Germany and I was absolutely taken by his beautiful counter-punching style. He has just won the US amateur title at 63kg and is someone who really excites me over the next 18 months or so. He would relish and benefit from the platform of Tokyo 2020.

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Caroline Dubois: ‘I pretended to be a boy called Colin so I could box’

Bunce: In 2018 Caroline Dubois won World, European and Youth Olympics titles. I have said she might just be the best under-18 athlete in any sport anywhere in the world. I endorsed her big time so come Tokyo 2020 she better come back with the gold.

Moment of the year

Costello: The one that strikes me, the night in Los Angeles and when we went to the dressing room afterwards to talk to Tyson Fury. What was going on in the dressing room there took me back to dressing rooms when we were boxing as youngsters and you’d be saying “did you see that jab I landed?” Or “did you see that right hand?”

Tyson Fury seemed to have gone back to the pure basics of why you take up this sport in the first place. It was such a special, special night.

Bunce: It was in May, Elland Road, Leeds. Josh Warrington versus Lee Selby. There was a moment when Warrington was on his way out and the Kaiser Chiefs started playing. Out he came and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a man enjoy a ring walk so much. I just thought that is a man at peace, having the greatest moment of his life. You can say it was an unforgettable year for Warrington but you’d probably not be doing it service.

I got it most wrong for…

Bunce: Selby v Warrington. I’m a big fan of both. In the build-up when I was asked I just said I can’t make a case for Warrington winning. Even with all the confidence and love in Elland Road I couldn’t make a case for him until 10 seconds of the fight passed and I knew I was wrong.

Costello: I had exactly the same feeling in the early stages of the rematch between Tony Bellew and David Haye. I watched and watched and watched the first fight over and over again. In the end I think I over-analysed as I felt strongly that Haye would win.

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