Despite COVID-19 once again proving to be a challenge, some of the world’s biggest names in boxing fought in memorable and thrilling bouts. The Inner Sanctum takes a look at the best of the best from another disrupted boxing calendar.
Many fighters chased greatness while others faced heartbreak, new rivalries surfaced, and the world was treated to epic trilogies and an outbreak of prospects across the weight classes.
We rewind on some of the greatest KOs, fights, upsets, comebacks, and plenty of other notable moments from a brilliant 2021.
Men’s Fighter Of The Year: Canelo Alvarez
The now undisputed Super-Middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez had an extremely successful year. The 31-year-old ended 2020 as the Super-Middleweight champion of the world, and had his eyes set on unifying the division in 2021.
Stoppage victories over Avni Yildrim, Billy Joe Saunders, and Caleb Plant saw Canelo officially rise to the top as the greatest pound for pound fighter currently boxing and potentially one of the best ever.
2022 will see Canelo challenge Junior Makabu, the WBC Cruiserweight champion in May, as he sets his goals on destroying another weight class with ease.
Honourable mentions: Tyson Fury; Oleksandr Usyk; George Kambosos Jr; Naoya Inoue
Women’s Fighter Of The Year: Amanda Serrano
2021 saw Serrano confirm herself as one of the greatest boxers on the planet.
The 33-year-old started the year strong, winning the IBO Featherweight title to unify the Featherweight titles. Serrano now has targeted Katie Taylor as her next opponent, and if she does fight the 35-year-old Irishwoman, it could be one of the biggest fights of 2022.
Taylor is currently the unified champion at Lightweight, and is undefeated at 20-0. Serrano immediately called her out for a super-fight into 2022 after she defeated Miriam Gutiérrez by UD in a year that also saw Serrano defeat Yamileth Mercado and Daniela Romina Bermúdez.
Honourable mentions: Katie Taylor; Clarresha Shields; Jessica McCaskill
Men’s Fight Of The Year: Tyson Fury vs Deontay Wilder III
After an already scintillating first two fights between the two Heavyweight giants both vying for a shot at unifying the Heavyweight division after disposing of one another, the world was treated to a third consecutive fight between the duo.
The match-up previously saw Fury knockout Wilder inside seven rounds, though the third fight was delayed due to COVID-19.
It was a battle for the ages which saw Wilder come out firing from the gates early on. Fury, who looked to dispatch Wilder for a second time, fought back strong and after dropping Wilder the fight looked to be over. What would happen next was well past any imagination.
Back and forth the two battled across 11 long rounds before a devasting right-hook put Wilder straight to sleep, capping off one of the greatest modern rivalries ever seen.
Honourable mentions: George Kambosos Jr vs Teofimo Lopez; Canelo Alvarez vs Caleb Plant; Oleksandr Usyk vs Anthony Joshua
Women’s Fight Of The Year: Ebanie Bridges vs Shannon Courtenay
35-year-old Australian Bridges looked to upset Courtenay as both vied for the WBA Bantamweight title in London. What the boxing world was shown was nothing other than a straight war between the two.
10 Championship rounds of gruelling punch for punch action saw the pair give everything in an extremely captivating clash.
Courtenay won the bout and claimed her first-ever World title in her short career so far, while Bridges looked to bounce back immediately against Mailys Gangloff in Leeds.
Honourable mentions: Claressa Shields vs Marie-Eve Dicaire, Amanda Serrano vs Miriam Gutierrez
Prospect Of The Year: David Morrell Jr
The young 23-year-old who made his professional at the back end of 2019, Morrell Jr immediately saw himself fighting for an interim belt and claimed his first-ever interim World title with a decision win over Lennox Allen.
The young Super-Middleweight is still unbeaten as he looked to defend his interm title in 2021.
Consecutive wins for Morrell Jr in 2020 over Allen and Mike Gavronski teed him up perfectly for his next two opponents in Mario Abel Cazares and Alantez Fox, who he defeated in spectacular fashion.
2022 is shaping to be a big year for the 23-year-old as he looks to challenge for other available belts in the Super-Middleweight division, especially after the departure of Canelo Alvarez to the Cruiserweight division.
Honourable mentions: Jose Valenzuela; Jesse Rodriguez; Chavez Barrientes
Upset Of The Year: Kambosos defeats Lopez
After postponements, changes in streaming services, and issues with COVID-19 after a prolonged period of time, Teofimo Lopez finally got the chance to defend his WBA, WBO, IBF and WBC franchise Lightweight titles against Aussie challenger George Kambosos Jr. at Madison Square Garden in November.
Nobody had given the 28-year-old Australian a single chance of defeating Lopez, especially after his decision win over Vasiliy Lomachenko in 2020.
But cometh the end of the first round and a brilliant placed right-hand from Kambosos floored the champion. Domination across the middle and final rounds is what saw him stun the Madison Square Garden crowd, and claim the WBA, WBO, IBF and WBC franchise Lightweight titles in a split decision win.
Devin Haney or Lomachenko looks to be the next most likely opponents as Kambosos looks to defend his four titles in Australia and potentially ‘unify’ the Lightweight titles in 2022.
Honourable mentions: Oleksandr Usyk defeats Anthony Joshua; Josh Warrington vs Mauricio Lara I; Sandor Martin vs Mikey Garcia
Knockout Of The Year: Magsayo over Ceja
Julio Ceja and Mark Magsayo faced off in August for the WBO International Featherweight title, and both put on a spectacular battle.
Magsayo threw a short left hook which connected beautifully on the chin of Ceja, who immediately dropped to the floor as he was knocked straight out from a punch that can only be described as picture-perfect.
The two were scrapping back and forth for 10 rounds, and the fight brilliantly set up the evening for the main card between Manny Pacquiao and Yordenis Ugás in August.
The 26-year-old Magsayo faces off against Gary Russell Jr. in 2022, who has held the WBC Featherweight title since 2015, making him one of the longest-reigning World champions in history.
Honourable mentions: Tyson Fury over Deontay Wilder; Jaron Ennis over Thomas Dulorme
Storyline Of The Year: Usyk shakes up the Heavyweight division
Former unified Cruiserweight champion and now WBA (Super), IBF, WBO, and IBO Heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk shocked and shook up the Heavyweight division when he defeated Anthony Joshua by decision in September.
The relatively shorter Ukranian dominated Joshua as he consistently landed short-range jabs and hooks inside, nullifying the reach and power of his bigger opponent.
Usyk is touted against Fury for a unified Heavyweight title fight in 2022, as the 34-year-old looks to embark on shaking up the Heavyweight division once again.
For now though the heavily-awaited clash as Fury takes on Dillian Whyte sometime in 2022.
Honourable mentions: George Kambosos becomes World champion; Manny Pacquiao retires
Comeback Of The Year: Nonito Donaire
It was one of many great comebacks of the year, but Donaire just claims the award for 2021.
Heading into 2021 the former multiple World champion in four weight classes had lost four of his last 10 fights, fighting for a World championship title in all of them.
Donaire lost his last World title fight against current Bantamweight world champion Naoya Inoue by decision in 2019.
But since then, the 39-year-old Filipino has bounced back to once again become a world champion.
Donaire faced at the time current WBC Bantamweight world champion Nordine Oubaali and defeated him by way of knockout in the fourth round. Donaire was then able to re-defend his title with success against fellow Filipino Reymart Gaballo in December.
2022 could see a rematch between Donaire and Inoue as the two look to become unified champions of their weight classes.
Honourable mentions: Vasiliy Lomachenko
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