I think we can all agree that this has been a year to remember, for all the wrong reasons. Ravaged by a global pandemic which continues to grip all avenues of life, boxing in particular has suffered with fights failing to materialise due to COVID-19.
But on occasion there are rainbows in-between storms bringing glimpses of light to remind us of the joys that our sport can produce, an upset, a knockout or an all out toe to toe brawl, each of which brings us to the forthcoming article in which I’ll try to document some of our favourites.
FIGHTER OF THE YEAR – TEOFIMO LOPEZ
A lot will opt for the consensus pick of Tyson Fury given the demolition job he did on Deontay Wilder but possibly due to my lofty expectations of Vasyl Lomackenko I instead opted for Teofimo Lopez.
In the run up to the contest Lopez’ braggadocio’s nature came to town with the promise of victory, his father doing his utmost to further fuel bad intentions between the two fighters. Lomachenko the polar opposite remained quietly confident that another challenger would fall by the wayside but unlike other times that’s not exactly the script that was followed.
Lopez honoured his promise with a splendid display, to the astonishment of us all he took the early rounds before finishing with aplomb to relieve Loma of his throne, becoming the youngest four belt champion in the history of the sport.
Honarable mention: Tyson Fury, Gervonta Davis, Naoya Inoue, Errol Spence Jr., Roman Gonzalez, Juan Francisco Estrada.
FEMALE FIGHTER OF THE YEAR: KATIE TAYLOR
In 2019 Katie Taylor in the opinion of some should have left Madison Square Garden with a loss on her resume, her opponent Delfine Person feeling the frustration of defeat. Since that time a few question marks surrounded Taylor who became more eager to put the record straight. In August of this year, she had the chance to do just that, this time albeit still very competitive, Taylor was unanimous both in the judges tally’s as well as fight fans presumptions.
Adding to the victory Taylor also handed a career’s first defeat to Miriam Gutierrez in November to claim the spot as our Female Fighter of the Year.
FIGHT OF THE YEAR – JOSE ZEPEDA VS. IVAN BARANCHYK
ESPN+ brought us drama by the bucketload as Tim Bradley called the Play by Play with comparisons made of his contest with Russian Provodnikov. Equal to that contest both fighters forewent a tactical affair to instead bite down on the gum shield whilst taking the shape of rock em sock em robots.
EIGHT knockdowns were witnessed, no that’s not a typo, Baranchyk kicked off proceedings, dropping Zepeda twice in the nights opener thinking of a quick nights work but Zepeda had other ideas. He should have been awarded a knockdown in the second but it was adjudged to have been a slip but he would make no mistake shortly after, dropping Baranchyk before he again found himself back on the canvas just as he looked to finish off the wounded Belarusian.
Baranchyk’s turn to take a trip to the canvas in the third and fourth but remaining dangerous, swinging every shot with intentions of levelling the score.
He thought he had Zepeda on the verge of defeat in the fifth, dropping him again but as he looked for the finish it was a re-enactment of the second but with a different ending as Zepeda unleashed a right hook that he followed with a vicious left hand to stop Baranchyk in his tracks.
KNOCKOUT OF THE YEAR – GERVONTA DAVIS OVER LEO SANTA CRUZ
Gervonta came into the contest as the ‘Puncher’ of the two, living up to that moniker with a uppercut that was unleashed from the gates of hell. Santa Cruz seemingly cornered Davis with a couple of straight right hands, snapping back the head of the Baltimore native but Davis lured him in before dropping the hammer, leaving Santa Cruz face down on the canvas.
UPSET OF THE YEAR: JEISON ROSARIO OVER JULIAN WILLIAMS / JESSICA McCASKILL OVER CECILA BRAEKHUS
Julian Williams was coming off a careers best win over Jarrett Hurd with suggestion from most that another would follow in January over Jeison Rosario.
The scene was set for Williams’ backyard of Philadelphia as his maiden title defence with a slim chance given to the Dominican, but not only did Rosario beat Williams he did so convincingly via stoppage in the fifth round.
Jessica’s inclusion wouldn’t find itself in some peoples upset category but due to the record of Braekhus who had been a world champion since 2009 and the first woman to unify all four major titles in any weight class in 2014 so it seemed like an uphill battle for the challenger.
Braekhus was attempting to surpass Joe Louis’s all-time record of 25 consecutive successful title defenses but after twelve rounds had to settle to tie the record by the brilliance of the 35-year-old investment banker from Chicago who toppled her foe via decision.
CONTROVERSY OF THE YEAR: JOSHUA FRANCO VS. ANDREW MOLONEY
This is a decision which still doesn’t sit well, quite frankly it was preposterous that Joshua Franco left the bubble on the night of the 14th November with his title in tact. After two rounds, dominated by the challenger, Franco’s eye swelled from the shots landed from the Australian, an opinion shared by everyone apart from the ones who counted most, the referee and Nevada judging who proved it to be from a headbutt, rendering the fight a non-decision.
I’ve watched the fight numerous times in a variety of speeds all of which has come to nothing in finding anything but a jab being the cause of injury. An outpouring of condemnation of the result followed that forced the WBA to order an immediate rematch.
TRAINER OF THE YEAR: JAVAN SUGARHILL STEWARD
His calm assurance in the corner of Fury’s win over Wilder was the foundation of one of this years best performances.
This wraps up this years winners with thoughts turning to 2021 in the hope that it will shepherd in a more prosperous time for the boxing world.