UK Markets close in 4 hrs 3 mins

Yahoo Sports Male Boxer of the Year: Difficult choice in a crowded field of elite champions

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist
Manny Pacquiao, Canelo Alvarez, Naoya Inoue and Josh Taylor pack a crowded field of contenders for the Boxer of the Year. (Getty Images)

The sheer number of credible candidates for the 2019 Yahoo Sports Male Boxer of the Year speaks to the outstanding year it’s been.

Josh Taylor went 2-0 in a pair of bouts in the World Boxing Super Series’ super lightweight tournament, defeating Ivan Baranchyk and Regis Prograis to win the Muhammad Ali Trophy and establish himself as one of the sport’s brightest stars. Baranchyk (19-0) and Prograis (24-0) entered their bouts with Taylor with a combined record of 43-0, and Taylor still managed to pull out a pair of impressive victories.

That, though, wasn’t enough to win the award.

Neither was it enough for unified welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr., who scored impressive victories over Mikey Garcia and Shawn Porter, men with a combined 69-2-1 mark at the time they met Spence. Outstanding work, but not Fighter of the Year in this crowded field chock full of elite contenders.

The legendary Manny Pacquiao checked in with another sensational year. Pacquiao, who began the decade as a world champion, closed it the same way. In January, he trounced Adrien Broner than came back in July to hand Keith Thurman his first defeat in one of the year’s most exciting fights.

Broner and Thurman entered their bouts with Pacquiao with a combined 62-3-1 mark, but that wasn’t enough to put Pacquiao over the top.

The two finalists, Canelo Alvarez and Naoya Inoue, are also legitimate contenders for the mythical honor of the world’s pound-for-pound best. Yahoo Sports rates Alvarez No. 1 and Inoue No. 4 in its current ratings.

Each man won two important fights in 2019. Alvarez began his year in May, when he scored a wide unanimous decision over Daniel Jacobs in a middleweight title defense. In November, Alvarez moved up to light heavyweight to stop Sergey Kovalev in the 11th round to win the WBO belt, making him a title-holder in four weight classes.

Inoue won the World Boxing Super Series’ bantamweight tournament against perhaps the best field the WBSS has ever put together. He opened the year with a second-round knockout of previously unbeaten Manny Rodriguez, dropping him three times in the second round.

Then, in one of the most compelling fights in years, Inoue captured the Ali Trophy by outlasting Nonito Donaire in a thrilling battle. Inoue dropped Donaire in the 11th and had him on the verge of going out, but Donaire rallied and got Inoue into trouble.

Inoue, though, pulled it back together and scored the win.

And that is what makes him the Yahoo Sports Male Boxer of the Year in 2019. It could easily have been any one of the other four and there would have been little argument.

Inoue, though, scored impressive, almost dominant wins over quality opponents and that gets him the edge.

Naoya Inoue is the difficult choice in a crowded field as the 2019 Yahoo Sports male Boxer of the Year.

More from Yahoo Sports: