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During the year I kissed wild camels, I filed columns at 5am from Times Square, I posed with tanks in Chelyabinsk, I saw the boxing dream vanish from too many eyes and I sat witness to some unforgettable fights with some memorable people.
There were so many winners and losers on both sides of the boxing ropes: from the town of Illusions in Los Angeles to the city of a thousand fights in New York and then a new venue in the Saudi Arabia to end the year. Each week about 100 professional boxers fought in rings all over Britain, most anonymous men, some boxers reaching 200 fights and also kids having their first. This is the story of the boxing year in twelve rounds and in no particular order.
In the guts and no glory category it’s Anthony Yarde and his 11th round loss in Chelyabinsk for the WBO light-heavyweight title in August. Yarde was unbeaten in 18 with 17 ending early, had not lost a round before stepping in with Sergey Kovalev. The Russian idol was fighting in his hometown. Yarde was in the fight, really hurt Kovalev in round eight, but was exhausted when he was sent down for the count.
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The British cameo of the year was in another fight in August; Vasyl Lomachenko, arguably the finest fighter in the world, was made to work and think for the full twelve rounds by Luke Campbell for three of the lightweight titles at the O2. Campbell was dropped in the 11th, survived until the final bell and pushed Lomachenko in just about every round. The British public got to see a grittier side to Lomachenko’s ring genius. Campbell was a stunning loser.
Selecting the female boxer of the year in a British ring was simple: Lauren Price, a Welsh amateur. In a short, packed career of difficult and frustrating fights at major tournaments, where the experienced women swap the gold medals and the officials stick to ancient agendas, Price won the World Championship; previously she had won a bronze at the same event and three bronze medals at the European version. She also won gold at the European Games.
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