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A Boxing Year Of Ups And Downs

Top Rank


New York-There was that time in the early weeks of 2020 of normalcy. Soon the world changed as COVID-19 got us all into a different norm. The sports world shut down as did the world of boxing.

After a second fight for the WBC heavyweight title in February, that went to Tyson Fury over Deontay Wilder, it was a matter of time when boxing would follow other sports and take a long hiatus due to safety and medical protocols.

I did not envision what would come after Adam Kownaki lost to Robert Helenius in a heavyweight title eliminator on March 20 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Boxing was shut down and at ringside that was the talk. There was no idea when the sport would resume and that left major fights in limbo, Fighters were left in the dark, promoters and managers were in a holding pattern. The networks that televise boxing showed fights of the past.

The state of female boxing was in jeopardy and with exception of top fighters, the others who would otherwise get some work and exposure on undercards are hoping for the better and return in 2021.

Most of the boxing gyms that are a forefront of the sport for fighters and trainers shut their doors and many have not reopened due to the financial difficulty of doing so.

Through it all, fighters tried to stay in shape and hoped the day would come when they could step in the ring again. Promoters sat still and waited for their next move. However, Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum had things in motion and announced that Top Rank boxing on ESPN would resume at a closed venue bubble setup situated at the MGM Grand Conference Center on the strip in Las Vegas.

It was a costly venture and it worked for Top Rank on the televised ESPN platforms. A series of Saturday evening telecasts resumed in early June at the MGM closed door quarantine bubble in accordance with strict testing of COVID that followed state and medical protocols.

Though, there were numerous setbacks with fighters and the limited number of personnel that worked corners attributed to a positive COVID test. Fighters, including Jermel Herring were forced to sit back and await a negative test after his two super featherweight title defenses were cancelled against Jonathan Oquendo prior to Herring getting cleared and successfully defended his title.

Shakur Stevenson got it started in June and he finished the year in December with a convincing win over Toka Kahn Clary. He established himself as one of the superstars in the sport with aspirations at getting a title in the new year, and plenty of potential and good opponents are waiting.

Top Rank paved the way and others followed with bubble situations including the PBC at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut and at the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles with telecasts on Showtime, FOX Sports, and pay-per-view. Matchroom resumed with closed door shows in the backyard of a mansion setup of Eddie Hearn across the pond in the UK.

Oscar De La Hoya, in between a legal battle with Canelo Alvarez, resumed a few Golden Boy outdoor and closed shows in Los Angeles. Freddie Roach converted a backyard venue near his Wild Card gym in Los Angeles and NBC Sports Net televised outdoor closed door fights

The Charlo Brothers opened up the PBC pay-per-view calendar with twin bill title defenses. The PBC and FOX Sports in late November provided another PPV matchup with the welterweight titles on the line.

The return of Errol Spence Jr. was a success as Danny Garcia was no match for Spence who made a return after a hiatus of 13 months due to an almost fatal car accident. Spence showed no signs of losing his ability to be dominant and retained a portion of the competitive titles at 147.

In between it was oldtimers night in the ring as Mike Tyson returned and got a draw against Roy Jones Jr. at a closed venue in Los Angeles The exhibition generated over 1.5 million buys on pay-per-view. Another pay-per-view that had doubts, but the mystique of Tyson and popularity of a YouTube star caught the attention and will lead to more in the new year.

And the Tyson-Jones fight gave us another alphabet soup title. The WBC sanctioned Legends belt as we all needed that?

But it was Top Rank and they should be promotion of the year. Teofimo Lopez became the young and next superstar. He unified the lightweight titles with a commanding win over Vasil Lomchecko at the MGM and televised on ESPN.

The lightweight division has become the talk of boxing with Lopez, Devin Haney, Geontay Davis, and Ryan Garcia who will open up the new year on DAZN with his biggest test coming Saturday against Luke Campbell.

And Top Rank delivered a knockout star in Edgar Berlanger. His undefeated knockout streak of 16 is nearing a record. Berlanger has become a phenom after three quick finishes in the bubble.

Bob Arum was a winner for boxing fans. Understanding the difficulty of paying $74.00 for a pay-per-view championship card, he delivered Terence Crawford on ESPN with a successful welterweight title defense in the bubble and a commanding win against Kell Brook.

Now the speculation is how to get Crawford and Spence the top two welterweights in the ring. They, too many, are possibly pound-for-pound the top two in the sport with Canelo Alvarez. But the PBC and Top Rank need to work out the logistics and be on the same page in order for Spence and Crawford to be a mega fight in the new year

And confronting the promoters are getting the live gates to return at venues. Spence-Crawford is one of those fights that will generate revenue that helps with purses for the fighters. Though, the PBC and Matchroom were able to get medical clearance which allowed for a limited number of fans to attend the Garcia-Spence fight at AT&T Stadium in Arlington Texas.

Still, no fans at venues took away a lot of steam and atmosphere that goes with championship fights. No fans also cut into revenue. Promoters had to improvise and depend on sponsorship with television revenue in order to make ends meet as there was a major disparity with purses for the fighters.

But boxing is a survivors game and the promoters delivered. The impact of a global pandemic has presented more of a hardship on the smaller promotions who shutdown this year and some will confront more difficulties to promote in the new year and beyond.

But a struggling economy became a hardship for boxing fans with the PBC delivering Pay-per-view fights, that included Deontay Davis vs. Leo Santa Cruz, Danny Garcia against Errol Spence Jr.

What didn’t work was a sport that is always with controversy that closed the year with a robbery of the year. Undefeated bantamweight Reymart Gaballo scored a controversial split-decision victory over former world champion Emmanuel Rodriguez on a PBC/Showtime telecast in an obvious win that should have gone to Rodriguez who scored more rounds.

And Gabriel Rosado, on DAZN left the ring a disappointed fighter in what appeared to be another robbery after his super middleweight split decision loss to Daniel Jacobs.

There were many more decisions that leave a lot of questions. Boxing leaves the year with that stigma of getting it right and resolving the issue of assuring that judges at ringside are competent. Fighters work hard to get their opportunity and deserve better than leaving it in the hands of “Three Blind Mice.”

Instant replay was an issue on a Top Rank ESPN card as the Nevada Athletic Commission has a need to improvise a system that won’t work the way it was. The mishap irritated Bob Arum to the extent he could be heard screaming obscenities at officials. The delay of a half hour became a distraction prior to the Crawford-Brook main event.

Of course fighters again had their struggles making weight at the bubbles.

But the biggest controversy was waiting for the return of Canelo Avarez who distanced himself from Oscar De La Hoya and is now the biggest free agent in boxing after his $365 million contract dispute with DAZN.

He returned in late December and was again on DAZN, which makes you think was all of that litigation worth it to get away from Oscar?

But Alvarez is dominant and showed he is the best fighter on the planet. His quest to achieve more will be answered soon in the new year. Gennady Golovkin also returned after a long hiatus.

December 19, 2020; San Antonio, TX; Saul Alvarez and Callum Smith during their WBA, WBC and Ring Magazine super middleweight championship bout at the Alamodome in San Antonio, TX. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom.

Yes, Canelo and Triple G need to settle the score with a trilogy at middleweight or above. That is one of many possible fights going into 2021 along with the heavyweight division that draws interest with Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury.

Or does Deontay Wilder get another opportunity to regain the title and conclude his lame excuses of the year as to why he lost to Fury in their second fight back in February?

It’s boxing. It was a good year and the sport pulled it off during a global pandemic. The hope is we get back to normal and those that sat out this year will see a return to the ring in 2021.

Peace, health and happiness to you all in 2021. Thanks for your continued support and staying with us here at World Wide Boxing. Happy New Year. Keep It In The Ring

Rich Mancuso: Twitter@Ring786 Mancuso Sports With Rich YouTube. Like, Comment, Subscribe.

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