There have been plenty of top opponents that faced Irish boxers this year and it was exceedingly tough to whittle it down to just FIVE.
It should be noted that the scope for nomination is not solely the quality of the opponent but a more general feeling – opponents that made us sit up and take notice.
This award is named after the late Alejandro Gonzalez Jr, the Mexican who dropped Carl Frampton twice in a world title fight back in 2015 but was then tragically murdered the following year.
Opponent of the Year
Jack Cullen (v Chris Blaney, Roy Sheahan)
On extreme short notice, the skilful Little Lever middleweight put his undefeated record on the line and entered Ireland’s Last Man Standing in Dublin in March. Cullen outboxed the relentless Nick Quigley in the quarters before dropping and beating Blaney in the semis. Awful scheduling meant a ridiculously short turnaround for the English fighter and he was stopped in the decider by Roy Sheahan. The Second Last Man Standing, Cullen would look to have a bright future.
Nonito Donaire (v Carl Frampton, Ryan Burnett)
The Filipino four-weight world champion won the hearts of Irish fight fans before, during, and after his clash with Frampton in April, showing class outside the ring and what looked to be his last lingering shred of ferocity in the ring. Dropping down two weights to face Burnett, few felt it would end well but Donaire looked strong and benefitted from the Irishman’s freak injury retirement. If you’re going to lose, best lose to a guy like Nonito Donaire.
Radoslav Mitev (v Keane McMahon, Graham McCormack, Tony Nellins, Martin Wall)
The beefy Bulgarian journeyman is a regular visitor to Ireland and this year gave both McCormack and McMahon their toughest fights to date before scoring a stunning first round stoppage of Martin Wall last month. A fighter through and through, Mitev never comes to lie down, always gives his all, and is a welcome member of the Irish small hall scene.
Christian Urzuquieta (v Ray Moylette)
The relentless Mexican lightweight broke Mayo hearts earlier this month but his winning effort over Moylette was appreciated by all those who watched. After dropping Moylette twice in the fifth, Uruzquieta had to hold back an invigorated opponent and an incredible atmosphere and he would withstand plenty of clean shots before finishing strong himself and getting a split decision win. Rematch, anyone?
Eva Wahlström (v Katie Taylor)
We all fell a little in love with the Finnish fighter over the past few weeks. The classy Helsinki puncher came in at late notice, albeit had been training for another fight, and took on Taylor. Unlike many others, Wahlström went for it, not content to just survive, rousing Taylor’s best performance and winning huge respect in the process. Thankfully the 38-year-old retains her WBC super feather title and best of luck to her in 2019.
You can vote in the earlier polls below: