Dillian Whyte KOd by Alexander Povetkin (Mark Robinson / Matchroom)
As a highly turbulent year is now over, it’s time to think about 12 months of boxing that will never be forgotten. In a time of fear and uncertainty, Boxing survived for a while along the sidelines and came back with a bang, though largely without the fans. And while we’re looking forward to what will hopefully be a better 2021, it’s just right to look back on some outstanding moments from 2020.
Upset of the Year: Anthony Yarde defeated by Lyndon Arthur
We start with an honest bizarre battle, in which world-class prospect Anthony Yarde lost to lightweight Commonwealth champion Lyndon Arthur, who moved up 18-0 with a win, in a two-way decision. Although he suffered his first professional defeat against the experienced Sergey Kovalev in 2019, Yarde answered many questions with a highly encouraging performance in a hostile atmosphere in Chelyabinsk, Russia. The Briton apparently proved that, set aside experience, he was a top-level fighter in the making. And after two bounce-back TKO wins against Diego Jair Ramirez and Dec Spelman, Arthur was mostly expected to be nothing more than another step in the rebuild. However, this should not have been the case. Instead, Arthur’s sting was problematic for the 29-year-old, who seemed strangely cautious in his approach. Perhaps with the petrol tank in mind, it was only in the 12th and final round that Yarde made his first long-range attack, in which he almost spared the judges their duties. Instead, it went to the scorecards, with Yarde’s response to Arthur’s hand raised no less than worryingly. Yarde initially described the result as a “robbery”, refused to accept the result and has since confessed his desire for a rematch. Where 2021 could have seen a return to elite level for Yarde, he is now ready for another rebound mission. Many believe he should move away from current coach Tunde Ajayi, and although Yarde has hinted that changes will be made, the details have yet to be seen.
Punch of the Year: Alexander Povetkin knocks out Dillian Whyte
There were two outstanding candidates in the Punch of the Year, the other coming in Gervonta Davis’ terrifying knockout victory over former four-division champion Leo Santa Cruz. The American threatened with the left hook while slightly above in an even opening of five rounds, but no one could have expected what was to come. After never being knocked out, Santa Cruz was sent to the canvas after a fierce left bean was tied clean on the chin. The Mexican was cold when Davis sent out a pertinent message to his super-featherweight opponents.
While Davis’ emphatic fistfight will be present on highlight roles for years to come, Alexander Povetkin’s astonishing top spot against Dillian Whyte comes out on top. The 41-year-old looked like a sluggish shadow of his former self when Whyte collided with him twice in the fourth round. However, the course of history changed in a fraction of a second, as Povetkin’s left hand in the fifth dropped him both in title fight and robbed Whyte of his longtime WBC mandatory position. With no fans present, the silence was deafening. Shock overcame Matchroom’s Fight Camp in an ominous encounter that once again shifted the landscape in the heavyweight division.
Statement Winner of the Year: Teofimo Lopez defeats Vasyl Lomachenko
To be the best, you have to beat the best, something Teofimo Lopez has definitely done this year. At just 23 years old, Lopez is already arguably one of the pound-for-pound best fighters in boxing after proving too big, strong and skilled for the usually masterful Vasyl Lomachenko. A net she 16ste pro-fight, the American added the WBA and WBO lightweight titles to his IBF belt. Lopez now stands at the top of an abundant lightweight division, with mouth-to-mouth fights against people like Gervonta Davis and, more likely, Devin Haney will hopefully come sooner rather than later. Many would consider Tyson Fury’s win over Deontay Wilder to be the win of the year, but Lopez announced himself to the world with a rather spectacular win.
Coach of the Year: SugarHill Steward
When the Coach of the Year is decided, there can be only one winner. It goes to SugarHill Steward, nephew of legendary coach Emanuel Steward. Of course, SugarHill is now the coach of Tyson Fury, who initially raised a few eyebrows when he divorced Ben Davison. However, his decision was emphatically justified by a career-best performance in his stoppage victory over Deontay Wilder in February. It was not just the end result that was so impressive, but the performance itself. Fury is known for his elusive style, deceptive speed, boxing IQ and an unparalleled sting – a master on the back foot, you might say. What we saw against Wilder was a brand new Fury, one that never took a step back; one that essentially bullied Wilder and flattened him twice until his corner was finally in the towel in the seventh round. In addition to his remarkable powers of recovery and boxing skills, Fury has proven that he actually carries the power and aggression to bother any heavyweight in the world. By bringing this new ferocious Fury to the fore, Hill earns an abundance of credit. Next awaits a mouth-watering, legacy-defining all-British clash with Anthony Joshua.
Heavyweight on the rise: Joe Joyce
Staying with the heavyweights will simply feel difficult to leave Joe Joyce out of any end of 2020 list. After becoming a professional at the end of 2017 after an excellent amateur career, the Juggernaut quickly moved into the world title battle, with 2020 a defining year for the 35-year-old. After stopping Michael Wallisch in July, Joyce sharpened his caliber of opponent with a highly anticipated fight against the fearsome Daniel Dubois. It was the young man who came into the fight as the favorite; and if ‘DDD’ had won, Joyce’s title aspirations would have been over before they ever really started. While Joyce’s style will never win a beauty pageant, its effectiveness can not be disputed. His engine, chin and accuracy of a fierce stab was too much for Dubois, who took a knee and remained in the 10th round of their intrigue fight, in which it later emerged the 23-year-old suffered a double fracture to his left eye socket. Joyce is now looking forward to a promising 2021 with an abundance of options at its disposal. With Joshua and Fury in search of horns, a reunion with Oleksandr Usyk – who beat him in the amateurs – could make sense for both parties.
Female Fighter of the Year: Katie Taylor
Now this one will hardly be a surprise, because Katie Taylor has shown again this year why she is rated so highly. The 34-year-old may have been lucky enough to hold on to her belts when she was crowned a 2019 majority decision winner over Dolphin Person in Madison Square Garden in Madison Square Garden. as she outwitted the Belgian in a more one-sided affair in August. Taylor was back at it less than three months later, this time completely dominating the WBA compulsory challenger Miriam Gutierrez, who hit the canvas in a demolition work at Wembley Arena. Taylor is now looking forward to a big 2021, with potential super fights against Amanda Serrano, Jessica McCaskill, Cecilia Braekhus or Cris Cyborg hopefully ahead. Although the award goes to Taylor, special mention should go to both Terri Harper and Chantelle Cameron. Harper started the year with a bang and defeated Eva Wahlstrom in February to win the WBC super featherweight title. She then defended her title with a difficult points win over Natasha Jonas, before heading off to a 2020 TKO win over Katharina Thanderz. After years of transplantation, Cameron also became a world champion this year thanks to a dominant points victory over Adriana Arujo to become the WBC super-lightweight queen.