As another decade of boxing draws to a close, we thought it would be a good time to reflect on the many boxers who have come and gone, and the stand out fights we have witnessed over the past ten years. It has been quite some ride, with star fighters emerging and others closing out illustrious careers. There have been highs, lows, controversies and upsets in this greatest of sports. Here we take a look back at our most memorable boxing moments from each year, starting in 2010 and finishing in 2019.
In November 2010, David Haye took on Audley Harrison in defence of his WBA heavyweight title. It was the biggest all-British boxing fight in years, but after months of hype - and a very heated press conference – it took just three rounds for Haye to knock out Harrison, barely breaking a sweat in the process. Fans at the Manchester fight branded it a farce, and Harrison was booed as he left the ring. Harrison’s performance was so underwhelming – he only landed one punch the whole fight – that an investigation was started and some of his purse initially withheld.
At the grand old age of 48, Evander Holyfield took on Brian Nielsen in May 2011, in what would prove to be the American’s last fight before retirement. The whole affair got off to a comical start when Nielsen mooned the audience at the weigh-in, claiming a crowd member had asked to see his “white backside”. Nielsen took his fooling around into the fight itself, by trying to provoke Holyfield. It took its toll as Holyfield looked tired and was on the ropes in round 10. However, Holyfield struck back landing several jabs to win the fight on a technical knockout.
One of the fighters of the decade, Oleksander Usyk, experienced a defining moment on his path to going pro when he won gold in the heavyweight division in August 2012 at the London Olympics. The Ukrainian saw off Artur Beterbiev in the quarter-finals and Tervel Pulev in the semi-finals, before going on to outscore Italy's Clemente Russo in the final. In 2013, Usyk turned professional, leaving amateur boxing with a record of 335−15. Usyk went on to become the undisputed cruiserweight champion in 2018, with a professional record of 17 wins from 17, 13 by knockout.
Boxing pundits and fans alike sat up and took notice in October 2013, when two-time Olympic gold medallist Vasyl Lomachenko stepped into the ring against José Ramírez. With an amateur record of 396-1, the Ukrainian remains regarded as the greatest in amateur boxing, while as pro he has won titles while dazzling audiences with his movement and creativity. In his first pro fight, the naturally gifted Lomachenko beat Ramírez by technical knockout in the 4th round to win the WBO international featherweight title, and in the process gave a strong indication of what was to come.
The year of 2014 was not considered a vintage one for boxing. It did however deliver a significant moment for one of this decade’s greatest fighters, Manny Pacquiao. In April 2014, Pac-Man entered a rematch with Timothy Bradley, after losing to him via a controversial split-decision earlier in the year. On this occasion Pacquiao was the victor with a unanimous decision, helping to re-establish his status in the sport’s elite. For boxing fans, though, the fight was more memorable for the performance from Pacquiao’s mum Dionisia. who was shown in the crowd rocking back and forth while holding rosaries, whispering prayers, and stabbing her fingers in Bradley’s direction.
One of the biggest shocks in the history of boxing came in November 2015, when Tyson Fury beat Wladimir Klitschko. It was the Ukrainian’s first defeat in 23 matches over 11 years. During that time, as heavyweight champion, Klitschko had looked almost invincible but, despite being a bookmakers’ outsider, The Gypsy King put in a stellar performance to expose how the exactly how the aging Klitschko was losing his powers. All the judges scored the bout in favour of Fury, meaning he won by unanimous decision and became the new unified heavyweight champion.
The year 2016 saw one of this decade’s greatest boxers become a unified champion. Andre Ward took the IBF, WBA and WBO light heavyweight belts from Sergey Kovalev in November 2016 on points. All three judges scored the bout 114-113 in favour of Ward but the outcome was viewed as controversial by many. Experts claimed the result was unfair, with one saying it was a “classic hometown decision”. The 2017 rematch saw Ward stop Kovalev in the 8thround, but there was further controversy when stats showed Ward had landed fewer punches.
In August 2017, the world watched as a spectacle that came to be known as both “The Money Fight” and “The Biggest Fight in Combat History” unfolded. This, of course, was the match between two world champions - the undefeated boxing champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. and mixed martial arts champion Conor McGregor. Mayweather won by technical knockout in the 10th round, which meant his undefeated streak moved to 50 wins and zero losses. Experts and ex-boxers alike credited McGregor for his impressive performance, and fans applauded an entertaining and exciting fight.
Two of this decade’s top fighters met in September 2018 when a rematch between Canelo Álvarez and Gennady Golovkin II took place. Both boxers have formidable records, with Álvarez having dominated the middle and impressed in the super-middleweight division, and Golovkin being one of the most feared fighters in the middleweight division. This fight saw Álvarez end Golovkin’s long reign via majority decision after 12 rounds, but controversy surrounded the result. Fans who disagreed with the result will like to know that a third fight between the pair could happen in 2020.
The year 2019 was a rollercoaster for Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jr., but the train was riding in very different directions for each heavyweight. One of the biggest shock results in recent memory took place in June 2019, when AJ suffered a 7th round technical knockout at the hands of Ruiz, in the process losing his IBF, WBA and WBO titles. At the time promoter Eddie Hearn said: “AJ has the heart of a lion and will come back stronger.” The rematch in December proved that to be the case, as a slimmed-down and focussed AJ regained his titles in a classy victory against a complacent Ruiz.