3rd Annual Boxing News 24 Top to Bottom Review (From a posters perspective)
By Charles C.B: BACK AT IT! This past year in sport has been very up and down as we have dealt with the Covid 19 pandemic. I also want to say rest in peace to all of the people lost and affected by the virus and prayers to their families. As a boxing fan and poster-like myself (Chuck_TheBoxingGuru), the year in boxing is coming to an end; we have seen our favorite sport held back. We missed out on some big potential match-ups but subsequently have been blessed to have witnessed some highly entertaining boxing as well.
On the contrary, we’ve been subjected to some disappointments, be it controversial decisions or bouts that were not made due to the usual politics with boxing. Therefore, my objective is to give a comprehensive and objective round-up of boxing in 2021 from a fan and boxing posters perspective and highlight some of the good, bad, and ugly of our favorite sport this year. And lastly, highlight the wish list of fights that would keep us all intrigued going into the coming year of 2022, which is sure to be an incredible year as boxing returns full time.
KO OF THE YEAR:
So let’s get into it! 20 Feb 2021 Oscar Valdez vs Miguel Berchelt ESPN/TR. What an amazing and game-changing victory. Valdez (30-0, 23 KOs), the two-division champion who nobody gave a chance against Berchelt, the dominant face of the 130-pound class, had no doubt that this fight was about him (38-2, 34 KOs). However, can we also discuss how terrible this one-punch knockout was? Valdez had previously scored two knockdowns to seize full control of the All-Mexican war, which had been staged inside the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas, since February. Few could have predicted such a dramatic conclusion, as Valdez landed with a devilish counter left hook to knock out his overly aggressive opponent when the fight was stopped with one second remaining in Round 10.
Jun 19, 2021 DAZN Gabriel Rosado vs Bektemir Melikuziev. The best knockouts are sometimes the ones you didn’t think were possible. Rosado (26-14-1, 15 KOs), a 35-year-old journeyman with the heart of a warrior, has never been known for his one-punch power. In June, that was especially true when he resumed a late-career move up to 168 pounds to fight “Bek the Bully,” an undefeated destroyer. Rosado was felled in the first round by Melikuziev, a punishing southpaw, who continued to hound him by Round 3. However, as he cornered Rosado and rushed in, Melikuziev was caught with his hands down. And KNOCKED OUT COLD, on a counter right hand caught flush on the chin and knocked him down face first under the ropes.
PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR:
22 May 2021 Josh Taylor vs. Jose Ramirez ESPN/TR. Josh Taylor of Scotland demonstrated he is the finest junior welterweight boxer in the world in a rare encounter of two unbeaten and unified titleholders for the four-belt undisputed championship at 140 pounds. Taylor (18-0, 13
KOs) fought back against Jose Ramirez (26-1, 17 KOs) with a pair of essential knockdowns before winning a close but unanimous decision inside the Virgin Hotel Las Vegas. Taylor won 114-112 on all three judges’ scores, unifying his WBA and IBF titles with the WBC and WBO titles previously held by Ramirez. Josh Taylor gave a brilliant performance, and all of Scotland should be proud of him.
May 29, 2021, Devin Haney vs. Jorge Linares DAZN. Haney looked crisp early before a combination in the later rounds made things interesting. For nearly 10 full rounds on, WBC lightweight champion Devin Haney seemed to be even better than advertised in his biggest fight to date. But the 22-year-old was hurt by former three-division champion Jorge Linares late and was forced to cautiously survive until the final bell. Fighting off boos from the crowd at Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas for excessive holding in Round 12, Haney (26-0, 15 KOs) came away with a unanimous decision win that was closer on the three judges’ scorecards than the majority of the fight seemed to suggest. Haney, in the third defense of his WBC title at 135 pounds.
UPSET OF THE YEAR
Unquestionably the easiest category to select in 2021 is 27 Nov 2021 George Kambosos Jr vs. Teofimo Lopez DAZN. Kambosos, mostly unknown and usually regarded as a fringe contender, stunned the boxing world by upsetting Lopez, the former champion. Teofimo Lopez promised to enter the ring against George Kambosos Jr. and defend his unified lightweight world championships with a first-round knockout in 2021, following one of the sport’s most stunning results in 2020. Lopez tried to keep his word by opening the fight with a barrage of enormous power blows, but Kambosos scored the knockout with a monstrous overhand right. That set the tone for the night and for what turned out to be a stunning upset, as the big underdog won a split decision inside the Hulu Theater in New York.
Lopez (16-1, 12 KOs) got up from the canvas after the knockout, but he spent the rest of the fight going forward into Kambosos’ (20-0, 10 KOs) flurry, never stringing together extended offensive streaks. Instead, Kambosos slipped and fired off powerful jabs before coming back over the top with straight right hands as Lopez continued headhunting in the early rounds. The manner in which the bout began was all the more surprising, given that Kambosos entered the battle as a legitimate mandatory challenger. Despite the lightweight division being stacked with big names and top-tier competitors, Lopez was given an ultimatum by the IBF: face Kambosos or vacate the title. Lopez had gained the WBA and WBO belts to his IBF belt with a dramatic upset of long-time pound-for-pound elite Vasiliy Lomachenko in October 2020, and he was not about to relinquish any of them. Despite his supporters, the media, and his management, Lopez expected to fight to dismiss the Australian challenger as no test for the youthful phenom. The final scores were 115-111, 113-114, and 115-112, with Kambosos winning two of the three cards, which were egregious. That was enough for Kambosos to leave the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden with three of the four recognized world lightweight titles. True Grit from Kambosos demonstrated that he is a warrior above everything else.
Also a candidate for the performance of the year, but I chose to highlight it here, In what was quite frankly an utterly dominant performance 25 Sep 2021 Oleksandr Usyk vs. Anthony Joshua DAZN. Usyk (19-0, 13 KOs) Set a blistering pace from the start, landing the cleaner and heavier shots to outbox Anthony Joshua (24-2, 22 KOs) and take away his WBO, WBA, and IBF heavyweight crowns. Despite no knockdowns, the battle was a thriller in front of approximately 68,000 fans at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium outside of London. “This means a great deal to me,” Usyk remarked. “The fight played out just as I had predicted. Anthony pushed me hard a number of times, but nothing out of the ordinary.” Usyk, 34, threw a monkey wrench into the division’s preparations to crown the division’s first undisputed champion in the four-belt era. Joshua, 31, was set to fight WBC and lineal champion Tyson Fury this past summer, but the fight was canceled after Deontay Wilder was granted a court injunction to force a trilogy fight with Fury on Oct. 9. Usyk gave a breathtakingly brilliant performance.
FIGHT OF THE YEAR
In what is a shoo-in for the fight of the year 9 Oct 2021 Tyson Fury vs. Deontay Wilder PBC/FOX. Fight fans and historians revere classic heavyweight championship trilogies. Jersey Joe Walcott and Ezzard Charles fought four times, with the third fight (won by Walcott KO 7) being one of the division’s most devastating knockouts and being named Fight of the Year for 1951. Fury-Wilder 3 was greatly influenced by all of the other iconic heavyweight trilogy films. Both men were on the floor similar in the Patterson-Johannson 3 match. Wilder, the smaller guy, fought to overcome the bulk and talent of a much larger opponent, much like Holyfield-Bowe 1, but he covered himself in glory in the process. Like Frazier in his grueling battle with Ali in Manila, Wilder was willing to put his life on the line even when victory seemed improbable. We had a clean and emphatic knockout conclusion, just like Charles-Walcott 3. When Wilder lands flush with a right hand, as Fury discovered in their first encounter, the damage can be measured on a Richter scale. In the third chapter, Wilder walked Fury into a sonic-boom right hand in the fourth round, reliving history. The strike created a palpable tremor through Fury’s midsection, knocking him down and landing him on the canvas. He got up – of course, he did – but Wilder threw him back down in a spectacular match that is easily the Round of the Year for 2021. Fury v Wilder was not only a classic and FOY, but it was also the best Heavyweight boxing bout in the last two decades, if not more. Cheers to both warriors.
Mar 13, 2021 Juan Francisco Estrada VS 12 Roman Gonzalez DAZN. In 12 rounds of scintillating action, Estrada and Gonzalez combined for over 2,500 punches. Any two men would struggle to live up to the kind of expectation placed on that Saturday’s super flyweight unification match between Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez and Juan Francisco Estrada by boxing fans. In an instant classic that saw Estrada’s hand raised following a split decision, Gonzalez and Estrada not only met but far exceeded expectations. Estrada came out swinging in the first round, attempting to put pressure on Gonzalez and throw him off his game. Estrada’s early success didn’t last long, as Gonzalez appeared to gain control of the battle until the halfway point. Gonzalez maintained his forward momentum, delivering clean combinations that were nearly match-for-match by Estrada’s fists, albeit Gonzalez’s strikes appeared to be the more effective in the exchanges. The action was even better than the two men’s 2012 fight. Gonzalez won by unanimous decision, putting Estrada on a near-decade-long search for a rematch across three weight categories. Estrada won the fight on two of the three official scorecards after 12 rounds of action, with scores of 115-113, 117-111, and 113-115, with the 117-111 card standing out as oddly wide, while a narrow card in either direction seemed a fair outcome.
ROBBERY OF THE YEAR:
The worst category in the sport, but in 2021, this was an extremely easy pick 09 Sept 2021 Campbell Hatton vs. Sonni Martinez DAZN. In what was supposed to be a step-up fight for Hatton, the boxing public witnessed not only the worst robbery on a big stage of the year but quite possibly the worst robbery since GGG vs. Canelo one or Chavez vs.Whittaker, in what would be a shameful scorecard that had Hatton winning 58-57 after six rounds. Hatton was utterly humiliated in a 6-0 loss and was given an undeserved victory in his own country, giving boxing a bad name and sending a message that money talks in boxing. His 2-4 journeyman opponent overpowered Hatton on the Anthony Joshua vs. Oleksandr Usyk undercard, but he prevailed thanks to a points decision from referee Marcus McDonnell. Martinez surprised Hatton by boxing smartly and using his movement well to evade Hatton’s swarming blows early in the fight. Martinez’s uppercut was routinely landed throughout the battle, and he appeared to be delivering them more frequently and with more telling punches. According to Sky’s ringside scorer Andy Clarke, Martinez led the fight 4-1 after five rounds. Hatton made little progress in the last round, and Martinez celebrated when the final bell rang. Regardless, referee McDonnell called the game 58-57 in favor of the Brit, triggering outrage on social media. “I’m not thrilled with my performance at all, to be honest,” Hatton remarked in his post-fight interview. “I’m a lot more capable than that.”
In what would be yet another black eye on the sport in both outcome and even in the decision to allow for the bout to take place after a positive PED test on 10 Sep 2021 Oscar Valdez vs. Robson Conceicao ESPN/TR. Boxing fans were given to yet another terrible scorecard and outcome in a match that was plainly simple to score. In parts of the battle, Valdez was overpowered, but Judge Stephen Blea disagreed, scoring the fight 117-110 for the champion and 115-112 for his compatriots. Blea has issued an unusual statement apologizing for the score and voluntarily withdrawing from any championship assignments until he completes a “thorough training and review program.” Early on, Conceicao used his four-inch reach advantage to keep Valdez on the outside and unable to land anything significant. That is, until the third round when Valdez delivered a powerful overhand right flush on Conceicao’s head, but the Brazilian shook it off in a flash and returned to peppering Valdez’s face with his jab. Oscar Valdez did not win this bout on any rational basis.
I personally do not think this bout belongs in the robbery category because I, like most objective observers, had it very close. I don’t view close bouts as robberies, but for the sake of objectivity, I decided to include it due to a minority outcry. Jul 17, 2021, Jermell Charlo vs. Brian Castano PBC, After all, the three judges in San Antonio couldn’t agree on a winner; therefore, no clear champion was recognized. Despite what appeared to be a lack of urgency in the middle of the fight, when Charlo, the 31-year-old counter puncher, was far too selective in his output, the Houston native ramped up the pace significantly in the final three rounds. Charlo wounded Castano in Round 10 but couldn’t knock him out or finish him, leading many to assume the 31-year-old Argentine had done enough. Castano not only avoided implosion despite Charlo’s late punches, but he also fought well to neutralize his opponent with a defensively responsible pressure approach heavy on lead right hands. Charlo became far too willing to fight off the ropes, allowing Castano to harass him by serving as ring general in a number of close rounds. Even better for Castano, he routinely finished rounds with a massive flurry that could have (and probably should have) quickly turned the judges in his favor at the end of each contested round. The rematch is set for February 26, 2022.
PROSPECT OF THE YEAR
This year I chose Jared Anderson as the prospect of the year. The 22-year-old Toledo Ohio Native impressed with four bouts, all by KO and each a slight step-up from the previous.
Anderson is showing all of the signs of becoming an elite, world-class heavyweight. On the Saturday evening of his last outing, he fought veteran Oleksandr Teslenko, who is 17-1, at Madison Square Garden in New York. Anderson is 10-0 with 10 KOs and isn’t looking to take things slow. Anderson shared a card with highly regarded Cuban heavyweight Frank Sanchez on the Tyson Fury-Deontay Wilder undercard in October. Anderson is polished; he has tools that show he has been boxing his whole life. His potential is exponential.
“I’m here to represent the Boricuas!!!” In 2021, Xander Zayas gave us six performances, demonstrating that he can hurt all styles and has the talent and work ethic to go rounds and box when necessary. Zayas was the youngest fighter ever signed by Top Rank when he turned pro in February 2019. He is staying active at the age of 19, which is ideal for prospects at his level. He had won the 69 kg (152.2 pounds) medal at the USA Youth national event in Salt Lake City two months prior. That was the crowning achievement of an illustrious amateur career. Zayas won four state competitions, two regional tournaments, and a national championship in one year. He started his pro career as a welterweight and now fights at 154 pounds, but he has the frame to grow into a super middleweight or maybe a light heavyweight. In 2021, Top Rank kept him busy by sending him to post six times, and in 2022, the competition will be much more challenging. And if Xander continues to demonstrate the promise and work ethic that he has shown thus far, he will most likely be regarded as one of the best Puerto Rican fighters of all time when his career is over.
FIGHTER OF THE YEAR
In what is sure to bring a bit of spirited debate, I chose Usyk as the 2021 fighter of the year. My rationale for this selection was, quite frankly, his performance vs. Anthony Joshua; anyone who follows boxing knows Usyk’s acumen from his history at Cruiserweight; Usyk is next to Evander Holyfield, the greatest fighter in that division’s short history. Usyk not only surprised the boxing public, but he surprised Anthony Joshua, who was shell-shocked and had zero answers for the pace that Usyk set against him.
Usyk’s stamina is otherworldly; after adding thirty-plus pounds, he embarrassed Joshua in front of his countrymen. To answer the controversy that is sure to come with me selecting Usyk over Canelo, my selection is due to both performances as I believe Usyk’s Performance was superior to any of Canelo’s. Secondly, Usyk was seen as the significant underdog to the adonis and reigning now-former unified Heavyweight Champ…feel free to offer your rebuttal to this in the comment section. I have a detailed rationale to provide.
THE NETWORK OF THE YEAR
Since there seems to be lines drawn in the sand for many fans on what network or promotional company they root for, I will once again rank each of them and explain why they are in that spot.
3. DAZN/Matchroom, DAZN gave boxing some outstanding fights this past year with a hectic schedule, Usyk vs. AJ, Haney vs. Linares and Estrada vs. Gonzalez, and Lopez vs. Kambosos, but with that came some horrific cards, to say the least, DAZN to their credit, gives boxing at all levels on their platform low, mid and high but with that methodology comes terrible matchups and bad mismatches alike, a terrific year for DAZN but a little too much fluff.
2. FOX/CBS/PBC With an enormous stable of the three with the most champs and top ten ranked fighters, PBC gave us some great fights and cards this year with Pacman v Ugas, Crawford vs. Porter, Wilder vs. Fury, Canelo vs. Plant, Charlo vs. Castano, and James vs. Butaev and some outstanding cards as well. But I could not give PBC network of the year despite the quality matchups and great cards due to the over-saturation of PPV’s. PBC had seven PPV bouts, and only two deserved to be on PPV, which was Fury vs. Wilder III and Pacquaio vs. Ugas; the PPV model was overused to a fault in 2021 by PBC.
1. ESPN/Top Rank – Top to Bottom ESPN/TR had the best cards and fights of 2021 Loma vs. Nakatani, Stevenson vs. Herring, Navaratte vs. Gonzalez, Valdez vs. Berchelt, Inoue vs. Dasmarinas and I can go on and on ESPN was just amazing in 2021, not to mention the BT cards as well that are on their platform, there are almost too many good fights to mention. ESPN brought the heat in 2021, and Bob deserves credit for that. The ESPN model seems to be three fight cards on ESPN plus and limit the PPV, and in 2021 it worked for them.
2022 BOXING WISHLIST
- Crawford vs. Spence – Arguably the biggest bout in the sport and is overdue. With Spence taking another unification, this bout seems closer than ever for 2022, with all parties being successful in their return bouts.
- Fury vs. Usyk/AJ – Undisputed of the Heavyweight division, the likely outcome seems to be Usyk vs. Fury on paper. Hopefully, we get to see that division settled in 2022.
- Haney vs. Kambosos – The battle for the first undisputed lightweight champ in boxing history is a bout that boxing fans have wanted for most of 2021, and it looks like we will get to see that in the spring of 2022.
- Charlo vs. Andrade – A fight that should have happened years ago and still seems unlikely, but one can hope we get to see a unified champ at 160 in 2022
- Charlo vs. Castano – One of the more controversial bouts of 2021 has been scheduled for the first day of spring 2022.
- Valdez/Navarrate vs. Stevenson – A fight that Bob and Valdez both seem to be avoiding. This is the bout to make at Jr Lightweight.
- Beterbiev vs. Bivol– Another overdue bout that we seem to forget both champs have been circling one another for years now; this fight is overdue.
- Loma vs. Haney/Kambosos – After the undisputed bout is completed, either Haney or Kambosos should fight Loma. As many fans believe Loma is the best at Lightweight, the boxing community wants this fight.
Return of Deontay Wilder
Return of Teofimo Lopez
Return of Keith Thurman
Step up of Tank Davis – It’s overdue. As a Tank fan, let’s leave the milking in 2021. He is a clear talent, but it’s time for him to get in the ring with a quality opponent at 135. Loma, Haney, or Kambosos would do even a Gary Russell Jr…its time
Canelo vs. an opponent the fans want to see- I don’t have much to add to this, but Canelo should choose to challenge himself as the face of the sport. I believe fighting Plant was a start.
END OF THE YEAR P4P LIST
1. Canelo – He is here by default. He has the most names on his resume is a top 3 boxer in the world he has the strongest argument to be number 1, for now.
2. Usyk – Who has a very good argument for number 1. I think he has been fighting better fighters than Canelo over the last five years and is a more versatile but less sharp of a boxer.
3. Terrance Crawford – I put him above Errol due to being inactive in 2021; Crawford is the best pure boxer in the world.
4. Errol Spence – Is the best Welterweight in boxing and has one of the best resumes as well; the winner of Spence vs. Crawford will be the clear number 1 P4P boxer in the world, and I don’t think that can be debated.
5. Josh Taylor -Undisputed Champ at 140 and a very good boxer. He has cleared that division and, in my humble opinion, should stay at 140. I don’t think he does well at Welterweight.
6. Naoya Inoue -Maybe he is the most serious fighter in the sport. He is an utterly dominant Bantamweight on earth and is quite frankly a murderer with boxing gloves; his resume keeps him out of the top 5 for me.
7. Tyson Fury -The Best Heavyweight on earth and has beat the two best heavyweights of the last twenty years outside of himself, but Fury’s resume outside of that is very, very shallow.
8. Juan Franciso Estrada – A beast!! He has been in the ring with all of his contemporaries for classics affairs; Estrada is one of the best little men on earth and is never in a boring affaire
9. Artur Beterbiev – The best light Heavyweight on earth is “Beerus the destroyer” in real life; Artur is a wrecking ball.
10. Vasyl Lomachenko – Formerly a top 5 p4p fighter, I have him here because of who he has been fighting, not because of his talent
Jermell Charlo – Arguably is the best fighter in the deepest and most competitive division in the sport with a victory over Castano. With his resume, he is easily p4p.
Devin Haney – A victory over Kambosos will put him at the bottom of the p4p list; that said, a victory over Loma as well will put him in the top 5 by year’s end.
Gervonta Tank Davis – The talent is there, but the resume needs work, Tank is a powerful young man that can box and is a draw, but his step-up is overdue at 27 years old.
- Andre Ward ready for Kambosos Jr to choose between Haney & Lomachenko for next fight
- Bob Arum wants Deontay Wilder vs. Jared Anderson fight
- It’s Devin Haney’s turn. Loma lost, let’s move on!
- Is George Kambosos Jr. the undisputed 135-lb champion? WBC president Suliaman dances around question