Tis Dec. 26, and yes, there five days and six nights remaining in this year hand-crafted by Satan and his wretched band of advisors and consultants.
But we think it’s time to do some summating of the strangest year in boxing history, and share our thoughts, from looking back, on some of the highlights of the 11.5 months (or so) of pugilism which played out.
“When it comes to 2020, there are three fighters that did something significant for me to recognize them above all,” said NYF managing editor Abe Gonzalez aka Sarge. “I am going to start with Tyson Fury and the beatdown he gave Deontay Wilder. Leading up to the fight, Fury told everyone what he was going to do and most just blew it off as promotion for the fight. On fight night, he did exactly what he said he would and the result was a definitive win against then WBC Champion Deontay Wilder.
“Next up is Teofimo Lopez and the job he did on Lomachenko who was arguably in the top 2 or 3 on most pound for pound lists. This fight was for all of the marbles and Teofimo came away with the decisive win (don’t know the fight Andre Ward saw) making him the Undisputed Lightweight King.
“Last but not least, the KO of the year for me was Gervonta “Tank” Davis and that savage left uppercut he landed on Leo Santa Cruz. Even those that don’t follow the sweet science, were talking about it as it made its rounds through social media. 2020 has finished strong for boxing and let’s hope, 2021 brings us more big fights and less marinating.”
One highlight for the year, for me, was when the Gat came back. John Gatling weighed in: “I think the Fight of the Year has been Covid-19… What a ball breaker,” Gatling shared. “But my FOTY is Teofimo Lopez. To have the mental focus he displayed against Vasiliy Lomachenko at such a young age with Honduras on his shoulders was impressive. His big win sets up a truly interesting 2021 at lightweight.”
***CLICK HERE, for maybe the best in detail analysis of the Teofimo Lopez win over Loma, it was written by Tommy Rainone.***
“Michael, a pleasure to weigh in,” said Gayle Falkenthal. “First, let’s pause and thank our Sweet Science stars we have good choices to pick from after boxing’s successful return in the year of the pandemic. Otherwise, we’d be talking about Russell Jr. vs. Nyambayar and Kownacki vs. Helenius, you feel me? No disrespect to any of the four involved. My choices are worthy athletic accomplishments, but I also evaluate how they seized the zeitgeist of the time. Look it up, use in it a tweet, and thank me later.
“Fight of the Year: Zepeda and Baranchyk was lots of fun and seemed to have it locked up by October. I loved it and it was 2020 craziness on a plate. But I’ll argue Wilder vs. Fury 2 made more of a lasting impact on boxing. Many of the decisions made since then (to fight or not to fight, gate or no gate) followed the outcome of this bout. If you claim you bet money on Fury stopping Wilder, you’re lying.
“Round of the Year: Without a doubt, the nutty fifth-round between Jose Zepeda and Ivan Baranchyk. You like action, you got it.
“Knockout of the Year: Gervonta Davis’s uppercut knockout of Leo Santa Cruz was a contender, but I’m more impressed by Alexander Povetkin’s uppercut knockout of Dillan Whyte. If a 41-year-old can drop a man who weighs 30 pounds more than he does, you’ve got my attention.
“Prospect of the Year: Edgar Berlanga seized the moment and delivered must-see fights. Not going rounds might hurt him down the road, but Berlanga’s style inside the ring and personality outside give him every look of a star.
“Comeback of the Year: Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez. The beloved Nicaraguan champion was all but written off after two losses to Srisikat Sor Rungvisai, and after the death of his longtime trainer. But Gonzalez regrouped and recommitted. Just before the pandemic shutdown, he stopped rising star Kal Yafai, then he battered Israel Gonzalez. Now fans finally get to see the rematch with Juan Francisco Estrada on March 13.
“Fighter of the Year: He talked the talk and then he walked the walk. No question, unified lightweight champion Teofimo Lopez is the 2020 Fighter of the Year. He took a big risk, and took a big pay cut to do it. ESPN rolled the dice and put the fight on free cable TV. Imagine the next bout for Lopez on PPV. Top Rank and ESPN will make up whatever money they lost and then some. Fox and PBC, are you following?”
Here is the fightnight write-up, which expounded on Teofimo’s triumph over Loma, which ran on NYFights.com.
I asked Glen Sharp, esteemed author, what he liked as “Fight of the Year.”
“Fury stopping Wilder,” Glen opined. “There were more competitive fights, and more exciting fights, but Fury-Wilder was certainly one of the more meaningful fights of the year. And how it played out, with Fury’s courageous adjustment of the fight plan from their first encounter, is something for the historians and strategists to talk about.”
I asked Bob Arum, the 89 year old all-time all-star promoter, who is his fighter of the year. Brooklyn Bob didn’t hesitate, he fired the answer fast like a Berlanga fight: “Tyson Fury,” Arum said.
Matt Andrzjewski, an astute analyst, weighed in:
“Fighter of the Year – Teofimo Lopez
Fight of the Year – Zepeda v Baranchyk (quick honorable mention to Ramos v Perrella (Feb. 15, 2020), which had tons of action and drama)
Knockout of the year – Alvarez KO7 Seals
And let’s not forget upset of the year…Baluta over Doheny in March.” (March 6, in Dubai, to be specific. This was the card that unfolded right before COVID stomped on the scene and made smithereens of the testicles of the world.)
Our UK ace, Hamza Ahmed, gave us his takes on end of year designations:
Fight of the Year – Jose Zepeda V Ivan Baranchyk. When it was first announced, we knew we’d get a great fight …. but we never expected what actually transpired. Zepeda V Baranchyk went to hell and back in evidently the best fight boxing produced this year. Eight knockdowns in five rounds, punctuated with a knockout blow rendering Baranchyk stiff legged and unconscious. This was as amazing of a fight as you will ever see, the 140 lbs answer to the timeless George Foreman V Ron Lyle classic. This link tells you what Bert Randolph Sugar thought of the mutaully assured destruction.) There aren’t many superlatives to properly articulate how sensational this fight was so if you haven’t seen it, drop everything and go watch it.
Fighter and Performance of the Year – I’m cheating here but both of these categories have to be between Tyson Fury and Teofimo Lopez. I can’t pick a winner so I’m going to do a Ring Magazine and pick both men for both awards. I think both of their performances speak for themselves. Fury was utterly flawless in employing a Kronk-Terminator style in dropping and stopping Deontay Wilder back in February, something which none of us were expecting to be honest given Fury’s reputation and past performance as a slick outside boxer. Lopez–click here to see how he as thinking after the win, when he made the cover of RING– dethroned the lightweight king Lomachenko but completely shutting him out in the 1st 6 rounds, rendering Loma ineffective and publicly showing us all the glitch in the matrix. He had some rocky moments in between rounds 7 to 11 but he commanded the 12th and resulted in becoming another world champion to hail from the glorious fight city of Brooklyn, NY.
“By far and away, these 2 were a class above everyone this year, both in terms of how they dominated their opposition and the context surrounding their monumental wins. Major 3rd place shout out to my man Roman Gonzalez stopping Kal Yafai. The Nicaraguan magician turned back the hands of time with a sensational performance to capture the WBA title. It was the 115 lb Duran savaging Moore all over again, made all the more sweeter since Gonzalez was considered done.
Event of the Year – Tyson V Jones. With Wilder v Fury 2, Spence v Garcia, Canelo V Smith and Davis V LSC all happening this year, I have to say the event of the year for me was definitely Mike Tyson V Roy Jones Jr. Why an exhibition you might ask?
Well, it exceeded everyone’s expectations and was an amazing blast from bottom all the way to the main event. Jamaine Ortiz had a breakout performance on the main card, Jake Paul sent social media ablaze with a viral KO over NBA legend Nate Robinson but really, this card was all about Tyson, the once and forever baddest man on the planet. The last time we’d seen him in a boxing ring was when we all deserted him in a crumpled mess as he fell to the primitive Kevin McBride. We’d had enough – Tyson was done as both a fighter and an attraction. Fast forward to 2020 and he remains an enigma, an icon who despite going through several changes ranging from movie star to weed smoking teddy bear to self analytical sage to podcast host, remains as compelling and terrifying as he was in the mid 80’s. I love both Mike and Roy and as a fan, it filled my heart with so much joy to see them get in the ring, move around a little, make a boatload of millions, give us all a much needed overdose of nostalgia and rewind back the painful memories of their losses which they sustained after their indomitable primes. This was wholesome, seeing the modern day loving Mike resurrected to do battle once more with Roy, who was also called upon to put on his Superman cape for one last dream dance. Nobody got seriously hurt and there was enough drama to leave scope for another exhibition. And Tyson, well, he remains one of the sport’s biggest stars and that’s because his star, like Ali’s, transcends boxing and well into everyday culture.
Knockout of the year – Alexander Povetkin KO5 Dilian Whyte. Still to me the most shocking and beautiful KO of the year, made all the more sweeter by the narrative of the fight as it unfolded. Povetkin, in his 40s and coming off a fortuitous draw against Michael Hunter last December, was expected to be time-passing cannon fodder for Dillian Whyte, a ranked name with some gloss left over but not dangerous enough to really topple Whyte and his WBC title aspirations. And things were unfolding by each letter of the script that warm London night in August, as Whyte had dropped Povetkin twice in the first 4 rounds and built a dominant lead. Until Povetkin tore the entire script apart. The 5th round arrived and soon in, a slip to the left, left uppercut to the middle and Whyte was sent to the afterlife, his body crumpling in a mass heap as his head crashed just underneath the ring apron. It was concussive, it was brutal and it was unexpected. A past prime heavyweight contender, who was in his 40s, a big underdog, picked due to the little risk he realistically offered, dropped twice and slowly running out of gas, summoning an uppercut of all uppercuts and scoring a sensational win – it doesn’t get any better than that.
Sore Loser of the Year – Deontay Wilder and Donald Trump. Gypsy curses, drug accusations, heavy suits, pre-existing injuries etc – everything Wilder blathered after his baptism by Fury bore all the hallmarks of a bitter and sore loser in complete denial of the reality he lives in. His excuse making displayed a sheer lack of sportsmanship and respect, something this sport has been crying out for. Remember the costume excuse? Him and Trump, who has successfully convinced tens of millions of people his response to coronavirus has been competent, should sit in a room together and make excuses all day just for our entertainment.