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Knockout news: The 4 storylines that defined boxing in 2018

Knockout news: The 4 storylines that defined boxing in 2018
2018 was a huge year for world boxing, as the heavyweight division returned to prominence, Mexico's biggest star hit the jackpot and a pair of Ukrainian fighters moved up to the pinnacle of the pound-for-pound list.

Here, RT Sport takes you through the four biggest storylines that helped define boxing's year-long narrative in 2018:

FURY AND WILDER SERVE UP A CONTROVERSIAL CLASSIC

The heavyweight title clash between WBC champ Deontay Wilder and lineal, but beltless, champ Tyson Fury lived up to the pre-fight hype, and then some.

Wilder spent much of the fight swinging and missing as Fury led the American knockout artist a merry dance around the ring at the  Staples Center on December 1.

But Wilder showed a glimpse of his show-closing punching power when he dropped the Brit in the ninth round. And a colossal combination sent Fury crashing to the canvas in the 12th as Wilder danced in celebration, believing the fight was won.

Incredibly, Fury managed to get back to his feet and beat the count as the fight went all the way to the judges' scorecards.

Despite Fury appearing to dominate most of the rounds with his slick boxing and excellent footwork, one judge controversially scored the fight 115-111 to the defending champion, with another seeing it 114-112 to Fury. And with the third judge scoring it even at 113-113, the bout was ruled a split draw.

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Unsurprisingly, talk of a rematch started almost immediately, with both men seeming open to the possibility. Recent reports have linked the pair with a multi-million-dollar rematch in Las Vegas, which will almost certainly deliver one of the biggest heavyweight fights of 2019.

CANELO CASHES IN WITH DAZN

Arguably the biggest winner of 2018 in the world of boxing was Saul "Canelo" Alvarez. The Mexican sensation, who had captured world titles as a light-middleweight and middleweight, signed a huge five-year, 11-fight deal with sports streaming platform DAZN for $365million.

It was a deal reported by some outlets as the most lucrative single-athlete deal in sports history.

The deal came hot on the heels of Canelo's majority decision win over Kazakhstan superstar Gennady Golovkin as he retained his WBO, WBA and WBC middleweight titles in Las Vegas.

And he christened his new megabucks deal with a dominant victory as he stopped Britain's Rocky Fielding in three rounds at Madison Square Garden to claim the WBA super-middleweight title and become a three-weight world champion.

USYK UNIFIES CRUISERWEIGHT DIVISION

Ukraine's Oleksandr Usyk had a year to remember in 2018 as he cemented his position as the best cruiserweight on the planet, and served notice to the heavyweight elite.

Usyk defeated all his World Boxing Super Series in their own back yard, defending his WBO title against Marco Huck in Germany in the quarters, Mairis Breidis in the semi-finals to add the WBC cruiserweight title, then claimed a shut-out decision over Russia's Murat Gassiev to win the World Boxing Super Series and add the WBA, IBF and The Ring cruiserweight titles to his resume.

And after a brutal eighth-round knockout of British star Tony Bellew in Manchester, Usyk was reportedly eyeing a move up to heavyweight to take on the likes of Anthony Joshua.

And with the heavyweight division at its most exciting in many years, the potential of adding Usyk into the mix would only serve to raise that excitement level another few notches in 2019.

LOMACHENKO CONTINUES TO DAZZLE

While Oleksandr Usyk was busy unifying the cruiserweight world titles, his fellow countryman Vasiliy Lomachenko saw his stock rise to superstar levels after another stellar year in the ring.

After two years as the WBO junior-lightweight world champion, Lomachenko moved up to lightweight in 2018 and captured three versions of the lightweight world title in a year to remember.

Lomachenko stopped Venezuelan Jorge Linares in the 10th round at Madison Square Garden to capture the WBA and The Ring lightweight titles, then returned to the Big Apple in December and added the WBO belt to his collection by decisioning Puerto Rican star Jose Pedraza as he established himself as one of the best, if not the best, pound-for-pound fighters in the world.

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