Boxing's Biggest And Best Knockouts Of 2021: Featuring Fury, Canelo, Smith & Benn

It's been an exceptional year of boxing, as fans returned to arenas all over the world...
18:30, 31 Dec 2021

It’s been a busy half-year of boxing for me, finally getting back out on the road after the various covid lockdowns and ‘behind closed doors events’.

The first event ‘back’, so to speak, came in Leeds in September, when we saw a capacity crowd of 20,000 roar on Josh Warrington in his highly anticipated rematch with Mauricio Lara, the 23-year old Mexican who took the Leeds Warrior’s zero back in February. A fight which was believed by many in the industry to be a warm-up for a world title shot in America later in the year.

Josh Warrington vs Mauricio Lara

That’s where I want to start this round-up. Josh Warrington’s loss to Mauricio Lara on February 13th at the SSE Arena Wembley is first on my list of knockouts of the year for 2021.

Sadly I wasn’t in attendance for this one, but I watched live on Sky Sports and spat out my drink when Josh took a ferocious left-hook to the jaw in the fourth, before being sent to the canvas a few seconds later. He got back up to continue the fight, but he was shaken to his core. He looked lost opposite an opponent he had dismissed earlier in the week, declaring “I’m not happy. This isn’t the fight I want”, before succumbing to the spritely Mexican with a ninth-round KO which sent shockwaves through the sport and cut Warrington deep.

“He’s not the biggest puncher I’ve been in with,” Josh Warrington later told The Sportsman’s Dom McGuinness, “but he gave me the most injuries I’ve ever come away from a fight with.

“Normally I have the odd bump and bruise and my hands are a little bit sore. This one – perforated eardrum, fracture on my jaw, damage to my shoulder and elbow. My shoulder and elbow are still a bit rusty, but it takes time. I’ll make sure they’re 100 percent before I get back to full training.

“It’s at the stage now where it’s just fucking annoying. In 11 years of professional boxing and 30 fights, it’s always gone my way. On 13 February it didn’t. I paid the price for it.”

Miguel Berchelt vs Oscar Valdez

Whilst we’re celebrating Mexicans, we head to the MGM Grand in Las Vegas for Oscar Valdez’s WBC World Junior Lightweight (Super Featherweight) victory over compatriot Miguel Berchelt, also in February.

In a fight where you could hear every breath and feel every punch as it landed, Oscar Valdez dispatched of Miguel Berchelt in the last second of the tenth round with an expertly timed (and he makes it look easy) left hook, after successfully dodging an onslaught from his opponent who was presumably emptying the tank knowing he had a short rest period between rounds, not expecting Valdez to dodge, weave and counter with such devastating precision with just a second to spare.

Valdez took the WBC Junior Lightweight title back home to Mexico, before defending it in September with an unanimous decision win over Robson Conceicao in Arizona.

Kid Galahad vs Kiko Martinez

Kid Galahad headlined his first show since becoming IBF World Feather champion - beating James Dickens in Eddie Hearn’s back garden a few months earlier at Fight Camp.

I was ringside for this one and what a night it turned out to be. Galahad wanted to headline a show and defend his title in his hometown of Sheffield, in honour of the late Brendan Ingle, his trainer, mentor and friend. But things didn’t go to plan on the night for the Brit, who went into the fight with 28 professional wins from 29 fights, with 17 of them coming by way of knockout.

Kiko Martinez wasn’t there to get paid and go home, during fight week Kiko told me he was going to “ruin Kid Galahad’s night”, and that’s exactly what he did after knocking the Brit down at the end of round five, before continuing where he left off in the first seconds of round six, knocking Galahad out for the first time in his professional career.

Kid Galahad was winning the fight up until that point by all accounts, but Kiko used his years of experience to line up a shot and break through Kid’s defence, sending him to the canvas with just 17 seconds left of round five, before ending the contest with a single punch in round six to take the IBF World Feather title back to Spain. It is believed Kiko Martinez will make his first defence against Josh Warrington in 2022, a repeat of a fight Warrington won in June 2019 for the same belt.

Terri Harper vs Alycia Baumgardner

We can’t talk about Kid Galahad vs Kiko Martinez without mentioning Alycia Baumgardner’s iconic display earlier in the same night.

The American was brought in to challenge Doncaster’s Terri Harper for her WBC and IBO World Super Feather titles and challenge she did. Baumgardner oozed confidence throughout fight week, whilst Harper looked more like the challenger than the holder and it told on fight night as Baumgardner threw the kitchen sink at her opponent, who was coming into the fight after a year out with a broken hand.

Alycia Baumgardner looked every part as mean in the ring as she portrayed outside of it, pressuring Harper from the first bell until she ended the contest with a brutal standing knockout in the fourth round.

Harper was slowly navigating herself through the fight, using her experience to score points with jabs and keep her defence tight, but Baumgardner was just too strong when countering and that power shone none more so than in the fourth when the American countered a left jab with a devastating right hook to the chin of Harper, leaving her standing in a daze before referee Steve Gray jumped in to stop the fight as a contest.

I’ve not seen a knockout of this nature in person before, but remember watching David Price KOd on his feet when he fought Alexander Povetkin in 2018. It’s a fight I will most certainly never forget and look forward to seeing Baumgardner in action again in 2022 - hopefully in a blockbuster against Mikaela Mayer.

Callum Smith vs Lenin Castillo

Smith returned to the ring for the first time since his defeat to Canelo Alvarez and has now moved up to light heavyweight, a weight which suits his physique much better he revealed in his post-fight press conference, “I felt good, I felt strong, I said all along I believe the weight will suit me and I think the performance has showed that.”

Callum fought on the undercard of Anthony Joshua vs Oleksandr Usyk in September at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium in front of 70,000 fans and made his debut at light heavyweight vs Lenin Castillo who was there to give the youngest of the four fighting Smith brothers a stern challenge as he adapts to 175lbs before pushing for a world title fight in the not too distant future.

 

Liam Smith vs Anthony Fowler

SmithFowlerJPG

When this was announced, many in boxing were a bit confused. It wasn’t asked for, it wasn’t a mandatory title fight and it most certainly wasn’t a match-up we expected to see in 2021. But it happened and it was a great fight and a great night in Liverpool, with Smith coming out victorious over his cross-city opponent, Anthony Fowler.

Fowler began the bout in spritely fashion, cutting the eye of Smith giving him the edge. Smith looked a little worst for wear in the opening third, but began to turn the proverbial screw in round four and gain the upper hand that the majority expected would be the case from the off.

Smith proved his class in the fifth, knocking Fowler down, taking some of the wind out of his sails in the process. He recovered well, better than expected which is credit to his trainer, Shane McGuigan and Fowlers own resilience as a warrior, and for the most part looked back in the fight. But Smith once again turned up the heat and in the eight round put his man on the deck with a sublime left hook.

Anthony Fowler has since moved up a weight division and will hopefully return to the ring in early 2022, whilst Liam Smith looks set to face Jessie Vargas in the USA in the first quarter of 2022.

Tyson Fury vs Deontay Wilder

The fight nobody wanted, but we all watched and thoroughly enjoyed. I was in the Hilton Hotel in Liverpool alongside a handful of my media colleagues from Blue Moon Boxing, Boxing UK, Boxing Social and Boxing News TV for this one after we’d watched Liam Smith beat Anthony Fowler a few hours earlier.

Fury came into this with a few question marks over his preparation after suffering with Covid and dealing with a serious family matter in hospital, leaving some to believe he wouldn’t be in the right headspace to beat Wilder for arguably a third time.

However, eleven rounds and several knockdowns later, Fury emerged victorious in what is regarded as the best heavyweight clash of the modern era, if not up there in the all-time rankings.

Both Fury and Wilder hit the deck on more than one occasion, with Wilder visibly vacant for most of the bout after going down in the third round. However the Bronze Bomber struck back and put Fury down twice in round four leaving us with our jaws on the floor wondering whether Fury may succumb to Wilder’s hulk-like power.

But plucky Brit Fury weathered the storm and broke down his American opponent before ending the contest in the eleventh round after putting Wilder down once more in the tenth to retain his WBC World Heavyweight title and tee up a possible defence against Dillian Whyte in the spring of 2022.

Conor Benn vs Chris Algieri

December 11th, 2021. The card that was announced a few weeks before it took place and what a night it turned into as Conor Benn demolished veteran Chris Algieri with a left shot, right hook to render him unconscious in front of a Liverpool crowd desperate to see another KO after hometown hero Liam Smith beat Anthony Fowler a couple of months earlier.

Algieri looked in fantastic shape for this bout and many in America believed he would end Benn’s hype, but Conor Benn had other ideas and his demeanour in the press conference changed from laid back and relaxed to focused and fired up. Benn left the room after the press conference and headed straight to the gym to let off steam after speaking to promoter Eddie Hearn on stage, declaring he wanted to “iron someone out” in the ring, Algieri his target.

BennvsAlegrijpg

Benn brought serious power to the ring that night, again I was ringside and watched the action unfold from what was quite literally touching distance from the fighters performing in the squared circle.

Algieri brought agility and speed to counter Benn’s power, but it only need one sweet connection from Conor, son of British boxing icon Nigel Benn, to put an end to the contest in the round, rendering Chris Algieri unconscious before he’d even hit the canvas.

It was a fantastic knockout and one to put to bed rumours that Conor Benn isn’t the real deal. I asked Promoter Eddie Hearn whether he’d take Conor Benn over to Australia to perform, given he has roots there, but Hearn stated he’d like Benn to headline at the o2 Arena in London, rather than be on the undercard to a potential Australian card featuring George Kambosos Jr, which could be when we next see Conor Benn fight.

Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez vs Caleb Plant

We can’t look back at a year of KOs without Canelo Alvarez. He is simply the best. He began his 2021 by beating Avni Yildrim in February, then dethroning Billy Joe Saunders of his WBO World Super Middle title, before ending the year with by knocking out Caleb Plant in a fight made more of a spectacle (If that was even possible) by the fracas that took place at the press conference, where Plant threw a punch at Canelo, who countered leaving Plant with a cut under his right eye a few weeks before the fight was scheduled to take place.

Canelo didn’t look his authentic, devastating self, leading some commentators to score the first half of the fight to Plan. But Canelo found his power and in the eleventh round it came to fruition as he floored Plant with a scintillating left hook to screw his American opponents equilibrium and send him tumbling to the ground to become the first-ever undisputed super-middleweight champ.

I want to give a very special mention to Troy Williamson for his incredible performance against Ted Cheeseman took which was an all-out war.

I also feel obliged to finish this off with a mention for Jake Paul, who turned Tyron Woodley’s lights out in their recent rematch. It was a great KO, credit where it’s due, but whilst I do like Jake Paul and his brother Logan on a personal level, I just can’t take the whole Jake Paul the boxer thing seriously until he faces off against an actual boxer and wins, regardless of that boxer's level.

He’s produced a great showreel for the casual boxing audience, which is great exposure for the sport, and for that I am grateful, but part of me just won’t let it slip that he’s had a fistful of fights against MMA fighters, a YouTuber and a basketball player.

As we say goodbye 2021, I am looking forward to 2022 and salivating over the prospect of seeing some incredible match-ups take place: Katie Taylor vs Amanda Serrano, Josh Warrington vs Kiko Martinez, Tyson Fury vs Dillian Whyte or Andy Ruiz Jr, Tyson Fury vs Oleksandr Usyk or Anthony Joshua, Oleksandr Usyk vs Anthony Joshua, George Kambosos Jr vs Vasily Lomachenko, Savannah Marshall vs Claressa Shields and of course Eddie Hearn vs Leonard Ellerbe on the undercard of Jake Paul vs Tommy Fury. The list really is endless.

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