Canelo Alvarez, Tyson Fury, Oleksandr Usyk: Who features in The DAZN News 2021 Boxing ...

Despite the challenging background dominated by the COVID-19 Pandemic, boxing still managed to provide enough satisfying moments in 2021 to remind audiences just how dramatic the sport can be. 

Through a number of fighter’s chasing greatness, the year had multiple memorable moments that saw numerous rivalries settled and new ones emerge. Here, the DAZN News staff provide you with their thoughts on the year as we reward the fighters and fights that made 2021 an outstanding year for boxing. 

Christopher Walker

Fighter of the Year: Canelo Alvarez 

The undisputed ruler at 12st had one goal in 2021 and he achieved his dream with brutal ease. Ending 2020 as the world's best super-middleweight following a dominant win over Callum Smith, Canelo spent this year erasing his competition as he unified the entire division with stoppage victories over Avni Yildrim, Billy Joe Saunders, and Caleb Plant. 

With 2022 set to be the year Canelo makes his move to cruiserweight, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see this award go the Mexican again this time next year. Junior Makabu, the WBC cruiserweight champion appears to be first up in May and there’s a range of possibilities for what Canelo might do next. His every move is linked to enhancing his already blated legacy and that’s what makes him the best fighter in the sport today. 

Fight of the Year: Tyson Fury WTKO11 Deontay Wilder 3

Mocked by some in the industry, figures who should know better, as a pointless fight due to the one-sidedness of their second meeting, Tyson Fury’s thrilling win over Deontay Wilder was nothing short of sensational.  

After dropping Wilder heavily in the third session, the fight appeared over, but this was only the beginning of a see-saw battle that went every way imaginable before Fury finally kept his man down. Even in defeat, after dropping Fury twice, Wilder’s stock rose massively, as one of the modern era’s greatest rivalries was settled in a memorable encounter that will never be forgotten. 

Tyson Fury vs. Deontay Wilder 3

Knockout of the Year: Gabe Rosado over Bektemir Melikuziev 

Gabe Rosado wasn’t expected to trouble Bektemir Melikuziev. The Uzbek talent has long been identified as one of boxing’s brightest prospects and a win over the Philadelphia veteran was intended to fast-track him towards bigger fights.  After the first session, that plan was being stuck to as Melikuziev dropped Rosado following a heavy onslaught.  

With the fight seemingly in Melikuziev’s favour, he continued to attack his opponent. Sizing up Rosado for another painful attack, the former outstanding amateur left himself open for a split second and that was all that Rosado needed.  A perfectly timed right hand ended the fight immediately as Rosado scored the biggest win of his career, which set up a superb fight with Jaime Munguia where Rosado fell short. 

Upset of the Year: Sandor Martin WPTS Mikey Garcia 

Before Mikey Garcia returned to action following a lengthy lay off to face Sandor Martin in October, there was a case that the talented Californian would be too good for all fighters at 140lbs. Now, it’s hard to imagine what Garcia’s next move might be as he was humbled by Spain’s unheralded Sandor Martin. 

Despite possessing a decent enough reputation within Europe, Martin’s typical level of opponent was a million miles away from the calibre of Garcia, but that wasn’t evident when the pair finally met. Martin was excellent from the outset and although many expected Garcia to come on strong, his push didn’t arrive as Marti shocked the world to take a deserved verdict on points. 

Matt Astbury

Fighter of the Year: Oleksandr Usyk

Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez would be an obvious choice considering what the Mexican has done in the super middleweight division, but one man who has sent shockwaves through the sport of boxing is the unified heavyweight champion of the world, Oleksandr Usyk.

After becoming the undisputed champion at cruiserweight, Usyk made the move up to boxing's most glamorous division, but didn't impress at first. His wins against Chazz Witherspoon and Derek Chisora led to some questioning whether the Ukranian could mix it up with the world's best, but then came the clash with Anthony Joshua last September for the WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight titles.

Usyk had fooled everyone with his previous two performances at heavyweight and gave Joshua a boxing lesson in front of a packed Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Usyk was rightly given the victory on the judges' scorecards and has now become a major player in the heavyweight division. 

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Fight of the Year: Joseph Parker WPTS Derek Chisora 2

It was a rematch that no one wanted after a dissapointing first fight last May, but Joseph Parker and Derek Chisora made sure to end the boxing year with a bang after producing a slugfest in Manchester in December.

Forget the shocking scorecards, Parker dominated the fight, but struggled to put Chisora away despite being knocked down three times by the former WBO heavyweight champion. Anytime it looked like the fight would be stopped by referee Howard Foster, Chisora managed to hit back with some hard-hitting punches of his own much to the satisfaction of a raucous crowd.

This was a rematch which surpassed all expectations and credit has to be given to both men for leaving it all in the ring, and closed out the British boxing year with a bang!

Knockout of the Year: Oscar Valdez over Miguel Berchelt

This Mexican all-affair set the tone in the first few months of 2021 with boxing still taking place behind closed doors. Oscar Valdez's devastating 10th round knockout to claim the WBC super featherweight title ended what was a 'war' inside the MGM Grand bubble in Las Vegas.

Valdez had knocked Berchelt previously in rounds four and nine, but the former champion continued to fight back. However, Valdez's power proved too much for the 30-year-old who failed to rise off the canvas in round 10.

It's a knockout punch which long live in the memory of boxing fans and whenever it circulates on social media, it's a blow which I cannot avoid watching numerous times on a loop.

Upset of the Year: George Kambosos Jr. beats Teofimo Lopez on points

After months of postponements, Teofimo Lopez finally defended his WBA, WBO, IBF and WBC 'franchise' lightweight titles against mandatory challenger George Kambosos Jr. at Madison Square Garden in November and it produced an epic battle.

Many had written off Kambosos Jr, but the Australian's grit and determination saw him send Lopez to the canvas in the first round setting the tone for what would be a gruelling contest. 

After dominating the middle stages of the fight, there was a late resurgence from Lopez who knocked down the Australian in the tenth, but that wasn't enough with Kambosos being awarded the split decision and as a result became one of boxing's biggest names. 

Liam Happe

Fighter of the Year: Stephen Fulton Jr.

Philadelphia's Fulton had two pro fights in 2021. He went into both not as a complete and utter underdog, but certainly being slept on by many against highly-rated and formidable foes. And yet, 'Cool Boy Steph' would go on to impress as he defeated both Angelo Leo and Brandon Figueroa, claiming the WBO and WBC super-bantamweight titles in the process and handing both foes their very first defeats. 

Fulton made 2021 his year in the face of two very good fighters tipped by many to make 2021 their year. And now he's set to enter the coming years, still in his 20s, and with much more respect on his name.

Figueroa-FultonJr_2711

Fight of the Year: Troy Williamson WTKO10 Ted Cheeseman

I've said for some time now that if you were a boxing promoter trying to construct the perfect card for one evening of action, one of the first people you would call for an undercard slot is Ted Cheeseman.

'The Big Cheese' seemingly does not know how to have a dull fight, and though he was conquered in round 10 of 12 by the also-entertaining Troy Williamson in Liverpool back in October, the thrilling war showed exactly what a card can deliver outside of the main event which of course draws the house in the first place.

Knockout of the Year: Callum Smith over Lenin Castillo

CRUNCH!

That was the frightening sound as Smith connected with a serious shot early in his light-heavyweight debut against Castillo on the Anthony Joshua vs. Oleksandr Usyk undercard.

There was a lot of concern immediately after as the Dominican looked in a very bad way. Fortunately, he was ultimately discharged from hospital. But that finish was absolutely shuddering.

Upset of the Year: George Kambosos WPTS Teofimo Lopez

There was something about Kambosos' 2020 win over Lee Selby, which earned him the right to eventually challenge Teofimo for most of the lightweight division's gold, that stood out as being more than just one guy who wasn't on Lopez's level beating another guy who wasn't on his level. The manner in which he responded to and changed tack from the first five rounds, which saw many have Selby up narrowly on the cards and left George retreating to his corner in frustration, was elite level stuff regardless of opponent.

Despite that, not even I could see coming just how great a performance the Australian would enter at MSG's Hulu in November.

A thrilling and long-awaited showdown saw Kambosos show he was indeed on Lopez's level after all, not only putting the American in trouble at times but soaking up serious damage of his own. People were expecting this fight to help reinforce Lopez as the new top man, but they spent the minutes immediately after the fight hoping the judges wouldn't shaft the challenger. They didn't, and just like when Teo beat Vasiliy Lomachenko, heads were turned in a big way by the lightweight realm.
 

Steven Muehlhausen

Fighter of the Year: Canelo Alvarez

Don't get me wrong. There some great candidates this year. But only one stood above them and it's Canelo Alvarez. 

Three fights in 2021 in starching Avni Yildirim, and then Billy Joe Saunders and Caleb Plant to become the first-ever, four-belt undisputed super middleweight champion. In addition, the 31-year-old became the first Mexican-born fighter to hold all four belts simultaneously. 

Typically, top fighters compete two times in a calendar year. Alvarez made a point to get three fights under his belt so he can attempt to make history.

Canelo-Alvarez-110721-GETTY-FTR.

Fight of the Year: Tyson Fury WTKO11 Deontay Wilder 3

It's so hard to pick just one fight because there's so many to choose from. Because of the stakes and the weight class involved, this was a no-brainer.

The first fight between the two in December 2018 went to split-draw, despite the consensus being Fury warranted the decision. They locked horns again in February 2020. This time around, Fury left no questions. The Brit sent Wilder to the canvas twice before the American's former co-trainer Mark Breland threw in the towel in the seventh round as he didn't want the 2008 Olympic gold medalist to suffer any more damage. 

After some legal maneuverings and the COVID-19 global pandemic, the trilogy didn't commence until October. What we witnessed was a truly epic heavyweight title fight. 

Fury and Wilder combined for five knockdowns. There were so many ebbs and flows that just when one guy would get an advantage and look to be on the verge of putting the other away, the one at a deficit would roar back. Entering the 11th round, Fury and Wilder slung the heavy artilery and threw the kitchen sink at one another but the former had appeared to have all the momentum. And that continued in the early stages of the stanza. 

Fury blasted Wilder with another right hand. Somehow, some way, Wilder was still standing there looking to win. Another right snapped Wilder's head back and to the ropes. Sensing he could finally put Wilder out of his misery, Fury connected on a left hook and a right hand to send Wilder face-first to the canvas. Mora jumped right in over Wilder and waved it off to put an end to a trilogy people will always remember.

Knockout of the Year: Gabe Rosado over Bektemir Melikuziev

Rosado had been known as a guy who when he'd secure a marquee fight, he'd come up short. Melikuziev was a highly touted prospect who many felt could be a major player in the coming years. At the end of the day, that's why you fight. Things can change with just one shot. And that's what happened in June.

Melikuziev had Rosado in the corner. He attempted to unload a left hand but Rosado's holster was quicker to the draw as an overhand flattened Melikuziev to score the massive KO and a major upset.

Upset of the Year: Sandor Martin WPTS Mikey Garcia

Garcia, a former four-division world champion was a massive favorite over Martin. He'd been expected to shake off the ring rust and then get Martin out of there in the second half of the fight. Add in the fact, Martin had never competed in the United States but never faced anyone close to the caliber of Garcia. You can never underestimate your opponent. That's what Garcia did on this fateful October night in Fresno, Calif. 

Martin was more active, landed the harder shots and he looked like the one who was a former world champion and being on the verge of significant fights. Garcia came in out of shape, was sluggish because he felt Martin brought nothing to the table. 

Martin fought the fight of his life to propel himself into a household name among boxing fans.

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