The boxing trade got here to a screeching halt in 2020. With out the potential of capability crowds, the largest fights have been tossed to the aspect, together with the hundreds of thousands in gate income that might have accompanied them.
However starting in Might with Canelo Alvarez’s victory over Billy Joe Saunders in Arlington, Texas, a combat that broke the indoor attendance file within the U.S. with 73,126 followers, the boxing enterprise returned to normalcy. Gone have been the “bubbles,” changed by vigorous crowds spanning the world.
The yr completed robust with a string of marquee fights within the fourth quarter that set the stage for large issues to come back in 2022. Tyson Fury’s epic third battle with Deontay Wilder. Alvarez’s third combat of the yr, one by which he lastly achieved undisputed standing with a TKO over Caleb Plant.
And naturally, we will not neglect social media sensation Jake Paul, who headlined on pay-per-view 3 times. Naturally, 2021 was additionally marked by the fights that weren’t made, which is nothing new in boxing.
Listed below are a few of the greatest tales of 2021 and the influence they’ll make on 2022.
Fury-Joshua megafight implodes
Fury and Anthony Joshua have been set to battle it out after years of failed negotiations. On Aug. 14 in Saudi Arabia, they’d meet within the richest heavyweight combat of all time.
That was earlier than the arbitrator surprisingly dominated that Fury owed Wilder a 3rd combat. No drawback, proper? Joshua would care for his obligation to Oleksandr Usyk and Fury would finish his rivalry with Wilder. Then A.J. and “The Gypsy King” may meet in 2022 for all 4 heavyweight titles.
After all, the plan did not play out in accordance with script. Usyk did not simply upset Joshua after they met in August; he dismantled the heavyweight champion on the packed stadium in England. Two months later, Fury concluded the trilogy in brutal style with an Eleventh-round KO of Wilder in a heavyweight basic.
Joshua rapidly exercised his proper to a direct rematch with Usyk, so if he can precise revenge within the spring, the collision course with Fury will as soon as once more be again on monitor. However that is a tall order contemplating the style by which Usyk gained.
Fury, in the meantime, is engaged in negotiations with obligatory challenger Dillian Whyte for a March tilt within the U.Ok. The largest combat within the division would possibly find yourself being Fury-Usyk for the undisputed championship.
The Jake Paul impact
Certain, Paul made waves in November 2020 when he turned Nate Robinson right into a meme on the Mike Tyson-Roy Jones Jr. undercard. However 2021 can be marked because the yr Paul proved he took boxing significantly.
The boxing novice headlined on pay-per-view for the primary time with an April combat towards former Bellator and ONE champion Ben Askren. Paul rapidly distributed with the wrestler with a first-round KO on Triller.
Paul parted methods with Triller afterward and signed a multifight cope with Showtime, a longtime participant within the boxing trade. The community helped legitimize Paul with a dedication to pay-per-view occasions he headlined, coupled with world-class boxers on the undercard.
The maiden voyage with Showtime got here in August, an eight-round determination win over former UFC champion Tyron Woodley in Cleveland. The win wasn’t conclusive, however Paul confirmed off improved boxing capacity for a fighter studying on the job.
The 24-year-old was set to combat Tommy Fury, the half-brother of Tyson Fury, in December, however the Englishman withdrew after struggling a damaged rib. In his place returned a well-recognized face, Woodley, in a bout made in lower than 72 hours.
This time, Paul left little question with a spectacular KO of Woodley in Spherical 6. The late change in opponent robbed followers of the prospect to lastly see Paul compete with a reputable boxer, however he’ll have loads of time to face such a fighter in 2022.
May Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. match the invoice? He seemed torpid in a call loss to former UFC star Anderson Silva in June. Actually, Chavez represents the type of title recognition Paul seeks and, even at this stage, a leap in competitors.
One other viable opponent: Silva. He is confirmed to have first rate boxing expertise for an MMA fighter and makes loads of sense as one other Paul foe. Two fighters whom Paul known as out, Nate Diaz and Jorge Masvidal, are longshots given that they are each underneath contract with UFC.
Pacquiao bids farewell
Many fighters mentioned goodbye to the game in 2021. Shawn Porter following his loss to Terence Crawford. Luke Campbell after his TKO loss to Ryan Garcia.
None of these farewells can be felt as a lot as Manny Pacquiao’s retirement after a legendary profession that spanned 4 a long time.
The worldwide famous person was one of many sport’s few family names, a person who was synonymous with boxing. Certain, he did not field usually at this level; his final bout had been a July 2019 victory over Keith Thurman. However there was real anticipation surrounding Pacquiao’s scheduled combat with Errol Spence Jr.
After Spence suffered an harm it did not occur, and as a substitute, Pacquiao fought Yordenis Ugas, who accepted the bout on 11 days’ discover. The combat was aggressive, however Pacquiao, approaching his forty third birthday, did not resemble the whirling dervish who tore by way of eight weight courses.
He introduced his retirement in September with an emotional tribute video that closes the door on the superfights with Crawford and Spence that by no means materialized. Sure, Pacquiao has come out of retirement earlier than, however this time is totally different.
Pacquiao is gearing up for a presidential run within the Philippines in Might, and he clearly has nothing left to offer the game. He gained titles in eight divisions and can be a first-ballot corridor of famer.
The game’s greatest star for a while has been Alvarez anyway, and Fury is ably filling the void behind him stateside.
With Pacquiao becoming a member of Floyd Mayweather in retirement, there’s now extra oxygen for boxing’s rising stars, all of whom are jockeying for place within the sport’s hierarchy.
A yr for all of the belts
Talking of undisputed, 2021 can be remembered because the yr we lastly acquired some readability in boxing’s 17 divisions.
Josh Taylor kicked off the festivities with an exhilarating determination victory over Jose Ramirez in Might to seize the undisputed junior welterweight championship. George Kambosos Jr. completed the stretch of four-belt fights with a stunning victory over former undisputed champion Teofimo Lopez in November.
In between, Alvarez scored an Eleventh-round TKO of Caleb Plant to turn out to be the undisputed tremendous middleweight champion earlier that month, the primary time boxing’s prime star has achieved the feat in any weight class.
The thrilling July battle between Jermell Charlo and Brian Castano did not crown an undisputed junior middleweight champion when the combat was scored a attract a controversial determination, however the 154-pounders will run it again on Feb. 26.
On that very same date in Scotland, Taylor will defend all 4 of his 140-pound belts towards Jack Catterall.
These bouts may very well be the primary of many undisputed title fights if 2022 is something like its predecessor.
Stephen Fulton shined in a November win by determination over Brandon Figueroa to say a second belt at junior featherweight. A combat between Fulton and Murodjon Akhmadaliev would create an undisputed ruler at 122 kilos.
The largest undisputed title combat of all, in fact, would characteristic Fury towards the winner of Usyk-Joshua 2.
Lightweights take heart stage
Heavyweight stays boxing’s glamor division, however the hottest weight class within the sport is undoubtedly 135 kilos.
The motion kicked off in November with the long-awaited combat between Lopez and Kambosos. Lengthy-awaited as a result of the date moved eight instances, not due to what was anticipated within the ring.
What many predicted could be a Lopez rout changed into a breakthrough victory for Kambosos, who floored the champion within the opening spherical and survived a Tenth-round knockdown to show the light-weight division the other way up.
There have been three extra high-stakes bouts within the division over the following two weeks, and Kambosos attended two of them earlier than returning residence to Australia.
First, he was ringside in Las Vegas for Devin Haney’s career-best efficiency, a call victory over Joseph Diaz Jr. that featured some rocky moments late within the combat for the rising star. Someday later, Kambosos was in Los Angeles for Gervonta Davis’ battle with late alternative Isaac Cruz.
Maybe the perfect light-weight of all competed final, as Vasiliy Lomachenko defeated Richard Commey in a dominant determination. Lomachenko scored a seventh-round knockdown however as a substitute of ending his foe, he signaled for his opponent’s nook to cease the combat — which it didn’t.
In 2022 we’ll see who Kambosos defends his 4 titles towards subsequent. Will it’s Haney, Davis or Lomachenko? Or perhaps even Garcia, who scored his personal spectacular victory in January, the seventh-round stoppage of Campbell, and is now recovered from wrist surgical procedure?
Whomever Kambosos chooses, the light-weight division ought to characteristic even larger fights in 2022, even with Lopez seemingly headed to junior welterweight.
Crawford alerts High Rank departure
Terence “Bud” Crawford retained his WBO title with a TKO of Shawn Porter in Las Vegas.
Crawford lastly lured certainly one of PBC’s vaunted welterweights into the ring, however it would seemingly find yourself being Bud’s final combat with the promoter.
After Crawford stopped Porter in Spherical 10, he made it look like his future with Bob Arum had reached its conclusion. With the legendary promoter sitting subsequent to him and his cope with High Rank expired, Crawford mentioned he is “fairly certain my determination is made already.
“Bob could not safe me the Spence combat after I was with him, so how is he going to safe me the Spence combat after I’m not with him? I am shifting ahead with my profession now.”
If that is certainly the tip for Crawford and Arum, it does not come as a shock. Forward of Crawford’s November 2020 win over Kell Brook, Arum forged doubt on the prospects of a long-term relationship.
“The query is, ‘Can we wish to preserve him?”’ Arum instructed The Athletic. “I may construct a home in Beverly Hills on the cash I’ve misplaced on him within the final three fights.”
Crawford earned tens of hundreds of thousands throughout his profession with High Rank, however the greatest purse got here in November, a $6 million payday for his win over Porter.
It doesn’t matter what Crawford does subsequent, the intention stays the identical: a combat with Spence.
Now recovered from the indifferent retina that derailed his deliberate August bout with Pacquiao, Spence is ready to combat Ugas in March or April with three welterweight titles on the road.
With Crawford as a promotional and community free agent, a matchup with Spence ought to be simpler to make. There’s additionally Keith Thurman, who like Spence, is aligned with PBC. The previous unified champion will finish a 31-month layoff when he takes on Mario Barrios on Feb. 5.
However the man Crawford fights subsequent may find yourself being Taylor — if he takes care of Catterall. Taylor is a big 140-pounder who has expressed a willingness to leap to 147 kilos within the close to future. And like Crawford, Taylor is suggested by Daniel Kinahan.