Boxing Social has announced its inaugural award winners for 2020, reflecting on the outstanding performances and performers of a testing year in the fight game and beyond.
Despite a global Pandemic, boxing was still able to serve up some memorable fights that will live long in the memory.
After battling back from the depths of despair, a magnificent Tyson Fury appeared to set the tone for a terrific year for the sport with a stirring, seventh-round beatdown of long-time WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder in Las Vegas in February. But the Coronavirus was to prove even more destructive.
Boxing was halted in its tracks in early March when the Covid-19 Pandemic swept the world, but Top Rank led the industry’s renaissance in June at its protective ‘Bubble’ in the MGM Grand, headlined by Shakur Stevenson’s sixth-round KO of Felix Caraballo.
Other promoters soon followed suit, with Frank Warren and Queensberry Promotions staging the first UK show in a Post-Covid world with British and Commonwealth 122lbs champion Brad Foster outscoring Jimmy Beech Jr. behind closed doors at the BT Sport Studios in Stratford.
In August, Eddie Hearn launched his successful Fight Camp series in the grounds of Matchroom Headquarters in Brentwood. The four promotions served up some terrific fights including the predictable cracker between proven warriors Ted Cheeseman (W12) and Sam Eggington and the breathless draw between WBC 130lbs champion Terri Harper and an inspired Natasha Jonas before Alexander Povetkin crowned it all with a stunning KO of Dillian Whyte.
Great fights and more surprises followed as boxing gradually came to grips with the ‘new normal’, staging fights in sterilised bubbles and, latterly, before small, but socially-distanced crowds.
New stars were born and others saw their stock fall in the last three months of 2020. Teofimo Lopez toppled Vasiliy Lomachenko, Gervonta Davis gunned down Leo Santa Cruz, Daniel Dubois was stunned by Joe Joyce, Anthony Yarde was pipped by Lyndon Arthur, Errol Spence returned with a clinic against Danny Garcia before the year ended on a high note with superstars Anthony Joshua and Canelo Alvarez performing at their best before a limited number of fans, trumping Kubrat Pulev (WKO9) and Callum Smith (W12) respectively.
It’s been a troubling year, but boxing is used to rising from adversity and, here, Boxing Social pays tribute to those in the fight game who stole the show in 2020. So, without further delay, here are the Boxing Social Awards Winners for 2020 as voted by its contributors.
Boxing Social ‘Prospect of the year’ 2020
It was a tough year for prospects to gain momentum with few shows and opportunities available yet some emerging talents particularly caught the eye. San Antonio southpaw Jesse Rodriguez (13-0, 9 KOs) looks like a force to be reckoned with at light-flyweight whilst gifted Dominican 140-pounder and KO artist Elvis Rodriguez (10-0-1, 10 KOs) also drew the recognition of our judges. But Boxing Social’s narrow winner was Puerto Rican 168lbs banger Edgar Berlanga (16-0, 16 KOs) who maintained his incredible one-round KO streak with three more first-round finishes this year. Berlanga’s explosiveness is undeniable. Will he carry it to a higher level?
Boxing Social ‘Upset of the year’ 2020
Whilst many observers might opt for Teofimo Lopez’s memorable performance in wresting the undisputed lightweight crowns from Vasiliy Lomachenko in October as the leader in this category, something far less believable took place at the start of a disrupted 2020. In January, unified 154lbs world champion Julian Williams was riding the crest of a wave and closing in on a blockbuster fight against rival WBC title holder Jermell Charlo then the unthinkable happened as unsung Dominican Jeison Rosario – a 15-1 underdog in some outlets – ripped up the form book to prevail in five rounds. It was a shock result no-one saw coming and Boxing Social’s narrow winner in the ‘Upset of the Year’ category.
Boxing Social ‘Trainer of the year’ 2020
The sport’s leading coaches had limited chances to shine this year, but there were some outstanding performances nonetheless. SugarHill Steward masterminded Tyson Fury’s annihilation of Deontay Wilder in February, Teofimo Lopez Sr. found the perfect gameplan for his son to unseat pound-for-pound king Vasiliy Lomachenko in October and Eddy Reynoso led Canelo Alvarez to a dominant victory over a much larger Callum Smith in December. But Boxing Social’s ‘Trainer of the year’ is Derrick James, who rejuvenated WBC and IBF welterweight king Errol Spence after his 2019 car crash to score a clearcut points win over Danny Garcia and gained a second unified champion at 154lbs when Jermell Charlo KOed Jeison Rosario in September. James had two great nights in one year.
Boxing Social ‘KO of the year’ 2020
Two contenders stood out from the rest. Gervonta Davis is a Tank by name and nature. In October, the Baltimore banger was at his destructive best, steamrollering the smaller Leo Santa Cruz in six rounds with a truly chilling KO courtesy of an exquisite left uppercut. But Boxing Social’s awards committee narrowly opted for another left uppercut finish two months earlier. Russian veteran Alexander Povetkin had been dropped twice and looked down and out against a surging Dillian Whyte before rising from the canvas to stunningly spark the Londoner in the fifth round with a perfectly-timed left uppercut. It was a punch that sealed victory from the jaws of defeat for the 3-1 underdog and a worthy winner of any contest.
Boxing Social ‘Fight of the year’ 2020
Despite a paucity of promotions, there were still some terrific fights in 2020. Two stood out from the rest for Boxing Social’s judges. The thrilling rematch between WBC super-flyweight champion Juan Francisco Estrada and Carlos Cuadras gripped the imagination in October. Estrada rose from a third-round knockdown to engage in a full-blown war, shrugging off a gaping cut over his left eye before twice dropping and grinding down a game-as-they-come Cuadras in the 11th. But the winner is the mad firefight between 140lbs contenders Jose Zepeda and Ivan Baranchyk. The duo shared eight knockdowns in their wild up-and-downer in early October. The very best fights are defined by improbable momentum swings and this breathtaking battle had them in abundance. Eventually, the heavier hands of Zepeda prevailed as he scored a brutal left hand KO in the fifth round that left Belarussian Baranchyk motionless for several minutes. Just 28 seconds earlier, Zepeda had been dropped for the fourth time. It was that kind of fight.
Boxing Social ‘Fighter of the year’ 2020
In a near unanimous decision from the Boxing Social judges, one fighter stood out from the rest after a breakthrough 2020 where his star rose to meteoric heights. Teofimo Lopez talked a great fight and, like the very best in the game, backed up those words with his fists. In a majestic display of poise and precision, Lopez unseated undisputed lightweight champion Vasiliy Lomachenko on the cards in October to elevate himself to the highest echelons of the sport. With his boundless charisma and previously proven power, the future looks extremely bright for the Honduran-American with ready-made rivals at 135lbs and 140lbs as he seeks to carve his name in boxing history. A pathway to greatness has been mapped out and, at this time, Lopez looks capable of taking it. Remarkably, he is still only 23 years old. ‘The Takeover’ is underway.