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Vasyl Lomachenko named Review-Journal’s Fighter of the Year

Every fighter fears being knocked out. It’s an embarrassing moment no fighter wants to go through, and a black eye on a boxer’s resume.

But knockouts are part of the sport. Some of the best fighters of all time have been left on the canvas. There’s not much a fighter can do if his knees buckle after being caught flush on the chin. Get back up and move on to the next fight. Pride is still intact.

The same can’t be said when a fighter quits during a fight — just ask Roberto Duran. The demons that come after saying “no mas” are hard to shake off.

But RTDs, also known as corner stoppages, are rare in boxing unless Vasyl Lomachenko is involved.

Lomachenko has made his past four opponents quit on their stools, including three in 2017. The Ukrainian wizard’s destruction of fighters in 2017 earned him the Review-Journal Fighter of the Year award.

“Maybe I change my second name to ‘No Mas Chenko,’” Lomachenko cleverly said after defeating Guillermo Rigondeaux last month.

The WBO junior lightweight champion started the year by embarrassing Jason Sosa in April and toyed with Miguel Marriaga in August.

Lomachenko (10-1, eight knockouts) became many pundits’ best pound-for-pound boxer when he picked apart Rigondeaux, a two-time Olympic gold medalist many considered to be the best skilled fighter at the time.

Lomachenko, 29, could have a bigger 2018 with unification fights and massive bouts against possibly Mikey Garcia and Jorge Linares looming.

Honorable mention: Terence Crawford; Srisaket Sor Rungvisai; Anthony Joshua.

Crawford made history when he unified the junior welterweight division after knocking out Julius Indongo on Aug. 19. The fight was the first four-belt unification bout since 2004. The undisputed champion Crawford will move up to welterweight where the competition is much stiffer. … Sor Rungvisai put an end to the Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez pound-for-pound king era. The fighter from Thailand defeated Gonzalez twice in 2017, with the second one coming via knockout and possibly ending the Nicaraguan’s career. … Joshua proved he was the real deal when he knocked out Wladimir Klitschko in a must-see heavyweight unification bout. Joshua then retained his two belts with an impressive victory over Carlos Takam.

Fight of the Year: Anthony Joshua’s 11th-round knockout of Wladimir Klitschko on April 29.

It doesn’t get any better than a massive heavyweight unification bout that delivers. And Joshua and Klitschko did more than just deliver. They gave fight fans an instant classic. Both fighters tasted the canvas as Klitschko, one of the best heavyweights of his generation, passed the torch to Joshua, who is on the verge of worldwide superstardom.

Honorable mention: Sor Rungvisai-Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez I, March 18; Gennady Golovkin-Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, Sept. 16; David Benavidez-Ronald Gavril, Sept. 8.

With blood dripping down his face, Gonzalez threw everything he had at Sor Rungvisai, who ate every punch. The Nicaraguan thought he did enough to take the victory, but the New York judges gave the majority decision to Sor Rungvisai, who was thrown a hero’s welcome parade in Thailand. … Las Vegas judge Adalaide Byrd took the spotlight away from the middleweight clash between Golovkin and Alvarez. But Byrd’s 118-110 scorecard in favor of Alvarez can’t make boxing fans forget the epic back-and-forth exchanges. … Benavidez was throwing countless combinations for 11 rounds and seemed destined to win his first world title. But the veteran Gavril caught the 20-year-old phenom with a counter left hook to send him to the canvas in the 12th round. Benavidez got back up and was awarded a split decision to become the youngest super middleweight champion.

Knockout of the year: Mikey Garcia’s third-round KO of Dejan Zlaticanin on Jan. 28.

The race for Knockout of the Year ended in January when Garcia connected on a vicious four-punch combination capped by a full-force right hook to drop Zlaticanin in the third round at the MGM Grand Garden. What made Garcia’s KO special was his movement and timing. He waited for Zlaticanin to turn around before landing the final blow that knocked him out cold.

Honorable mention: Deontay Wilder over Bermane Stiverne II, Nov. 4; David Lemieux over Curtis Stevens, March 11; Jermell Charlo vs. Erickson Lubin, Oct. 14.

Wilder was tired of the excuses Stiverne made after their first meeting in 2015. The heavyweight titlist left no doubt in the rematch when he emphatically dropped Stiverne three times in the first round. Wilder immediately went for the finish after Stiverne got back up the second time with 10 seconds left in the round. He was knocked out cold and left motionless on the ropes. … Lemieux connected on a devastating two-punch combination, with a left hook sending Stevens through the ropes. Lemieux won on a third-round knockout, and Stevens left on a stretcher. … Charlo made quick work of Lubin, who was supposed to give the junior middleweight champion his toughest test. Charlo put Lubin away on a counter right hook in the first round that left Lubin shaking on the canvas.

Contact Gilbert Manzano at gmanzano@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GManzano24 on Twitter.

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