Just when we allowed ourselves a glimmer of hope from the fall out of the pandemic, 2021 slapped us right in the face where without missing a beat it picked up right where 2020 left off, leaving us with another year of uncertainty for the sport of boxing.
Arena’s felt like venues from a bygone era in the early part of the calendar year but as time went on we were afforded a beacon of hope capacity close to hitting its limits.
It comes down to whether you look at the glass half full or half empty when recollecting 2021, it was a a year of missed opportunity in some regard but it was one that can also be remembered for some remarkable contests, some of which can be found from the picks below.
So let’s take a couple of minutes, grab a cup / glass of your favourite beverage and read through my opinions on a winner for each category with an explanation for each:
FIGHTER OF THE YEAR
I had in mind two names for the top spot on this list, primarily Oleksandr Usyk and the man I eventually opted for.
Usyk is the majority choice in this category, achieving a monster accolade in dethroning Anthony Joshua up at heavyweight but when deciding on a winner, I felt wins over Yildrim, more specifically Saunders and Plant tipped the scales in favour of Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez.
Following on from a very inactive year for the Mexican regardless of his bludgeoning of Callum Smith in 2020, this year was one in which he was a more frequent flyer, dominating Avni Yildrim followed by the supposedly boogeyman of the division (Saunders) who was easily pushed aside before the cherry was added to an already enticing cake in the stoppage of Caleb Plant.
The Mexican continues to add to a legacy that even his compatriots of the past tip their hat towards. He now knocks once more on the cruiserweight door as its occupants await to be called.
- Tyson Fury
- Oleksandr Usyk
- Josh Taylor
- Terence Crawford
FEMALE FIGHTER OF THE YEAR
Taylor continues to dominate this category, Taylor got out three times this past year, retaining her WBA, WBC, IBF, WBO, and The Ring lightweight titles each time in beating Natasha Jonas, Jennifer Han and Firuza Sharipova to round off a superb 2021.
- Amanda Serrano
- Alycia Baumgardner
- Jessica McCaskill
FIGHT OF THE YEAR
ROMAN GONZALEZ VS. JUAN FRANCISCO ESTRADA 2
‘Chocolatito’ holds a special place in the glove sized heart of this particular writer which means I may be a little more biased in putting this fight at the top of the tree when it comes to fights of the year.
Estrada won the contest courtesy of a split decision but the decision on this occasion was forgotten in the beautiful storm that these two guys brought from north America.
- Roger Gutierrez UD 12 Rene Alvarado
- Masamichi Yabuki TKO 10 Kenshiro Teraji
- Tyson Fury TKO 11 Deontay Wilder
- Stephen Fulton MD 12 Brandon Figueroa
ROUND OF THE YEAR
TYSON FURY VS. DEONTAY WILDER 3 – ROUND 4
The round prior (3) to the one chosen had witnessed Tyson Fury knockdown Wilder in the final moments, from a spectators point of view this signalled the beginning of the end but in reality it was just the start of an encapsulating round, three minutes of sheer brutality commenced.
56 seconds ticked down on the fight clock when Wilder landed one of his trademark crosses to the temple of the heavyweight king, toppling him in front of a frenzied 15,000 T-Mobile arena audience.
Wilder saluted the crowd before continuing the onslaught on Fury who rose on unsteady legs, wildly swinging for the fences in the hope of an home run, a cuffing right hand dropped Fury for the second time in the closing of the round that left an expression of frustration on the face of the champion, in truth looking more embarrassed than hurt.
This round for me personally stood out above all others as the best of 2021.
- Kid Galahad-Kiko Martinez (Round 5)
- Gervonta Davis-Mario Barrios (Round 8)
- Stephen Fulton-Brandon Figueroa (Round 10)
PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR
OLEKSANDR USYK VS. ANTHONY JOSHUA
Usyk dominated the amateurs before toppling the cruiserweight division but the Heavyweight division was a completely different prospect especially when paired with the fact he was facing the big punching Anthony Joshua who himself was eager to put his own career back on its upward trajectory.
Usyk had leapt expectations before but I doubt anyone expected him to sweep Joshua along the tidal wave of offense in securing a superb decision victory and the handing over of heavyweight titles to the new Unified Heavyweight king…….well I suppose Tyson Fury will have an argument to make in that particular debate but that will come in due time.
- George Kambosis (SD12) Teofimo Lopez
- Brandon Figueroa (KO7) Luis Nery
- Shakur Stevenson (TKO10) Jamel Herring
- Terence Craword (TKO10) Shawn Porter
UPSET OF THE YEAR
GEORGE KAMBOSIS JR VS. TEOFIMO LOPEZ
Due to Teofimo Lopez’ MASSIVE victory over Vasyl Lomachenko plus the fact that Kambosis it would be fair to say had up until that moment never really set the world alight, it lead us (me) to believe that albeit a dangerous proposition the American still was hugely favoured, so it came as quite the surprise to witness the Australian rip the titles from the thought to be tight grip of Lopez but he did so, brilliantly may I add.
This may not find its way into a lot of peoples Upset column but most certainly it was the one that stands out to me personally.
- Sandor Martin MD 10 Mikey Garcia
- Leigh Wood TKO 12 Xu Can
- Mauricio Lara TKO 9 Josh Warrington
- Kiko Martinez KO 6 Kid Galahad
KNOCKOUT OF THE YEAR
OSCAR VALDEZ VS. MIGUEL BERCHELT
WOW WOW WOW, what a knockout this one was, Oscar Valdez had already dropped the usual teak tough Berchelt but the last punch thrown was one to remember…..well maybe for us but not necessarily for Berchelt who was out cold before hitting the canvas, Anyways its probably best I link the video because the words in this column just won’t do it justice.
- Callum Smith KO 2 Lenin Castillo
- Anthony Dirrell TKO 4 Marcos Hernandez
- Efe Ajagba KO 3 Brian Howard
- Kiko Martinez KO 6 Kid Galahad
PROSPECT OF THE YEAR
WBC named Mark Maysano, the ring magazine went with Brandun Lee for their Prospect of the year whilst others opt for the new out of the box Keyshawn Davis as their pick who may I add looks to be every bit the star of the future and whilst I readily admit to being temped to follow suit, In the end I went another route in selecting Xander Zayas. The superb Puerto Rican fought six times in 2021 with only two men making the fully distance. I get a young Juan Manuel Lopez vibe from Zayas which is always a great career path to follow.
- Mark Maysano
- Keyshawn Davis
- David Picasso
- Frank Martin
- Omar Aguilar
TRAINER OF THE YEAR
Everything / Everyone Eddy touches turns to Gold, His is the stable which fighters are drawn to in order to fully realise their true potential, from Oscar Valdez to Ryan Garcia to Frank Sanchez to his jewel in the crown, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, The Mexican squeezes every drop of talent from each fighter that crosses the Threshold of his gym.
- Sugar Hill
- Shane McGuigan
- Ben Davison
- Anatoly Lomachenko