New York: Canelo Alvarez continued to build his legacy and in all standards to many he is the 2021 Fighter of the Year. Some will debate this because there is an outstanding list of fighters that deserve that recognition, but Alvarez was the first to unify the 168-pound titles in the four belt division era.
More on the accomplishments of Canelo Alavrez in a moment. There were months of uncertainty because of a global pandemic but as we always say boxing stays strong and the sport made a good comeback in 2021. Of course there was the usual politics with the sanctioning organizations, more than one push and shove at a weigh-in, upsets, and title changes.
We leave the year and enter a new and more than one Latino fighter holds a major title belt and ranked in the top 10 of every weight class.
It was a great year for boxing, though, too many promoters overlapping shows on Saturday with Top Rank, Matchroom, PBC/FOX/Showtime Boxing, and pay-per-view events stretched together that failed to generate the major buy rates as the competition got intense.
But ESPN, DAZN, and FOX Sports/Showtime Boxing Networks are fulfilling their obligations with Top Rank, Matchroom, Golden Boy, and the PBC. There is either nothing or more than enough to fill the plate as was seen this year.
There was the continued hype of Jake Paul, more a media sensation, and until the YouTube turned pro fighter gets in the ring with a viable contender we can reserve judgment as to where he stands with the elite.
But Paul generates PPV numbers also at the box office which translates into revenue and his popularity means more to come in the new year. Like him or not, and I have not jumped on the bandwagon, a Jake Paul main event also delivers opportunity and a major purse for undercard fighters that would otherwise not be there.
The arenas opened again to fans and a process assuring the medical protocols were in place for safety. Fighters and personnel were administered COVID testing and that became the new norm with the pre-fight physicals. Social distancing and face masks for the most part were strict guidelines and vaccines were required.
Through it all, though, those positive COVID rates caused more than one main event to change direction and the June Miami based Teofimo Lopez lightweight title defense versus George Kambosos Jr. was canceled which became a story within itself.
The promoters moved on and provided more than enough. Matchroom across the pond, Top Rank, PBC, and Golden Boy saturated our appetite as fans slowly but surely returned to the arenas. Las Vegas retained their capital mark as the city of boxing, the 2300 Arena in Philadelphia became a hotbed for boxing shows, and the Mecca of Madison Square Garden was back in business with title fights.
If you kept track, as I often do, it was a boxing season from September until late December. Over 40 promotions were highlighted with mega title fights in a span of 12 weeks. I often said, on sports radio WIP Philadelphia and WFAN New York spots with Rickey Ricardo, I was boxed out.
Highlights included Canelo Alvarez unification of the 168-pound titles, the long awaited opportunity of George Kambosos Jr. to dethrone Teofimo Lopez of the supposed and unified lightweight titles, Terence Crawford defending a portion of the welterweight title and his major fight that put Shawn Porter into retirement.
Shakur Stevenson and Gervontay Davis continued their mark as two of the young superstars of the sport and headed to more stardon with lucrative purses as pay-per-view attractions for Top Rank. PBC and Mayweather Promotions.
Oh, Floyd, he can’t stay away from the spotlight and returned with another exhibition versus the other Logan brother that generated revenue and questions about the legitimacy of his win. Because he is Floyd Mayweather, he will command the industry..
But that Evander Holyfield exhibition of a disgrace and getting stopped early in the first round against Vitor Belfort, dangerous and concerning as it was, could put an end to this saga of legends returning to the ring at the expense of promoters.
Speaking of promotions, and after the Teofimo Lopez-Kambosos Jr. on and off nonsense, Triller learned a lesson and took a financial bath with the hefty purse bid and a fight that eventually was saved because Matchroom and Eddie Hearn took control. I would have to say, Triller is out of the big fight picture and focusing more on their entertainment theme with a fight or two in between,
Manny Pacquiao is headed to the Hall of Fame as the first eight-division champion and hung up the gloves because Yordenis Ugas got his opportunity, a WBA decision to flight for a portion of that welterweight title and that is a probable upset of the year as Ugas became the first welterweight title holder from Cuba.
Though it was supposed to be the anticipated Pacquiao versus Errol Spence Jr.showdown. Spence had to pull out of the fight with a detached retina and a much talked about mega fight with Terence Crawford could come in the new year.
Anthony Joshua was in line to meet Tyson Fury, a mega heavyweight title fight that would take place in the UK and determine supremacy in the division. Oleksandr Usyk, though, at Tottenham Stadium, defied the skeptics and spoiled the plan with 12-rounds of spectacular boxing before 75,000 or more and rabid fans.
Of course, Joshua would have been waiting. The fight with Fury was bypassed because boxing politics and Deonaty Wilder intervened with all the nonsense.
In turn, the fight of the year came and Fury versus Wilder a third time was a heavyweight trilogy that will be remembered for a long time and in boxing history. It did not matter that a Fury and Joshua fight was bypassed because Fury and Wilder delivered what was better.
So we wait a little more to unify the heavyweight division, then again, the face of the division belongs to Tyson Fury and he seems determined to unify the titles and a showdown with Usyk is inevitable. In the mix after a successful year are Dillian Whyte and Joe Joyce.
Other highlights included the emergence more of the female champion and Claresa Shields with a commanding win over Marie-Eve Dicaire and undisputed junior middleweight and middleweight titles.I am not an advocate of female boxing, but you have to give Shields her props along with Amanda Serrano and Katie Taylor as the rank of the female fighter has become a main event for the promoters.
Josh Taylor started the year of unification with a classic win over Jose Ramirez as the 140-pound division got more interesting. You look at the divisions of 135, 140, 147, and why boxing had a good year. Deven Haney will find a way to claim that his WBC lightweight title deserves a shot to unify versus Kambosos Jr. as Visaily Lomachencko returned and made his statement to regain the titles with a comeback year and win at Madison Square Garden.
And you can look at how David Benavidez recovered from a COVID setback and returned with a dominant win with his eyes still on regaining the titles at 168, possibly though not against Canelo Alvarez who has decided to move on and unify the cruiserweight division.
Oscar Valdez had a knockout over Miguel Berchelt on ESPN, the Mexican warriors went toe-to-toe for the super featherweight title. Valdez is a two-time champion and the Mexican fighter was a major highlight of the year.
Nonito Donaire proved you can still be a champion at nearly 40-years of age and retained the WBC bantamweight titles. Vergil Ortiz Jr. and Jaron “Boots’ Ennis are two young superstars who paved their way up the ranks with potential title opportunities in the welterweight division.
And congratulations to Miguel Cotto the four-division champion from Puerto Rico inducted to the 2021 class of the international Boxing Hall of Fame.
There was so much more and I probably missed others. For that, I can be excused because this was a year of the fighter as boxing had that rebound of a year with the controversy that always does its part.
But there is no debate about this: Canelo Alvarez is the face of boxing and king of the throne after unifying the 168-titles versus Caleb Plant. Alvarez is special and that rarity of a fighter defending his titles three times in the calendar year and took on the best including a commanding win over Billy Joe Saunders.
But we have to wait until May before we see Alvarez in the ring again as he continues his legacy.
2001 Picks: Subject to Debate
Fighter of the Year: Canelo Alvarez
Fight of the Year: Tyson Fury vs. Deontay Wilder
Upset of the Year: Teofimo Lopez vs. George Kambosos Jr.
Character and Champion: Jermal Herring
Knockout of the year: Oscar Valdez vs. Miguel Berchelt
Out of Nowhere: George Kambosos Jr.
Female Fighter: Amanda Serrano
Prospect of Year: Zander Zayes( Welterweight, San Juan, PR Top Rank)
Promotion of the Year: Top Rank (They continue to produce and have ESPN as the vehicle and strive for the unification)
Broadcasters of the year: Joe Tessitore (ESPN). Mauro Ranallo (Showtime Championship Boxing)
And we don’t have to wait long. January 1, 2022. FOX/PBC PPV heavyweights Luis Ortiz vs.Charles Martin. 12 rounds, IBF heavyweight eliminator.
Happy New Year. Stay Safe. Keep It In The Ring
Rich Mancuso: Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso
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