The first goal of any fighter each year is to keep winning, moving his career forward. But some wins mean more than others. Certain victories can raise a fighter to the next level and help elevate the trajectory of his career. The following five fights have had that effect for the winner so far in 2016.
Atvandil Khurtsidze TKO 10 Antoine Douglas Khurtsidze was the classic case of an overlooked fighter. The diminutive middleweight is a tough, rugged fighter. He’s not easy to beat and even harder to look good against. After dropping a contested decision to Hassan N’Dam in 2011, he had struggled to get another high-profile fight. He accepted the chance to fight Douglas, a highly skilled, undefeated contender on short notice. In the simplest terms, he beat the younger man up, dropping him in Round 3 and 7 and finishing him off in the final frame. The victory hasn’t made him a household name, but it has moved him into the division’s top 10.
Oscar Valdez TKO 4 Evgeny Gradovich Coming into this bout, Evgeny Gradovich’s last wins, by split decision and majority decision over the pedestrian Aldimar Santos and Jesus Galicia, suggested that the former champion might not still be the same fighter he was when he defeated Billy Dib in back-to-back fights. Still, it was an eye-opener to see Gradovich handled the way he was by Valdez. The hard-punching, undefeated Mexican featherweight is one now one of the division’s fighters to watch.
Gilberto Ramirez UD Arthur Abraham The undefeated, 24-year-old Mexican became a world champion with this victory on the Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley undercard. Against one of the best super middleweights of this century, Ramirez was dominant, wining 120-108 on all three cards.
Errol Spence Jr. TKO 5 Chris Algieri Spence entered 2016 as one of the most watched fighters in the sport. With this April victory, he demonstrated that he was unquestionably a top-10 talent in the welterweight division. This was nothing short of a clinic. Spence targeted the body and then hammered Algieri upstairs. Algieri fought Amir Khan on relatively close terms. He managed to last the distance against Manny Pacquiao. Spence dropped Algieri in Round 4, again in Round 5, and then finished him off like a true assassin.
Vasyl Lomachenko KO 5 Roman Martinez Like Spence, Lomachenko entered this year as one of the sport’s most watched fighters. And like Spence, he turned in ran a clinic against a world-class opponent, knocking Martinez cold in Round 5, to become a world champion in his second division, in just his seventh professional fight. At this point, the two-time Olympic gold medalist is at least on the bubble for top-10, pound-for-pound status.