In a year where boxing was curtailed by the onset of coronavirus and one where opportunities to shine in the ring have been few and far between thanks to the havoc the pandemic has had on the sport’s schedule, picking out a ‘Fighter of the Year’ is a little different in 2020.
Most years a fighter would normally have to have recorded two or three big wins to be considered for such an honour. Take 2019 - Canelo was widely considered to be the Fighter of the Year (and is in contention again this year), opening his boxing calendar by outboxing the difficult Daniel Jacobs to unify the middleweight titles in May, then went on to stop the fearsome Sergey Kovalev for the WBO light-heavyweight strap, before capping it all off in December by blitzing Rocky Fielding for a secondary super-middleweight title. The end of year plaudits he received were a no-brainer. But this year, with the number of fights much lower than normal, the candidates have had less of a chance to impress.
That’s not to say there haven’t been a bounty of excellent fighters showcase their prowess over the last 365 days or so; Tyson Fury kicked off the year with an almost punch perfect display pummelling Deontay Wilder in their much-anticipated rematch. Katie Taylor, too, has been simply stunning this year, finishing 2020 as the pound-for-pound women’s fighter on the planet, displacing Claressa Shields. Then, of course, there’s the pound-for-pound king Canelo. But, for us at The Sportsman, one fighter stands head and shoulders above the rest this year - Teofimo Lopez.
Like we said, this year fighter’s were limited to stage time and therefore had to make their moment in the spotlight count, something that Lopez did with aplomb when he was pitted against Vasyl Lomachenko, a boxer whose talents over the past few years have defied hyperbole, who racked up an amateur record of 396-1 and became a three weight world champion in a handful of professional bouts... seemingly unbeatable, until Lopez that is.
It was an astonishingly assured performance from the New York-born student of the game, just 23, against a bona fide professor of the sweet science, nearly a decade his senior, when they met in Las Vegas on October 17. Lopez, quite aptly nicknamed ‘The Takeover,’ out-boxed the man who many previously thought could never be out-boxed, snatching the Ukrainian’s WBC ‘franchise’, WBA and WBO belts and adding to them to the IBF strap he already had, with a confident unanimous decision win.
The thing is, 2021 has the potential to be even better for Lopez. In a lightweight division packed to the brim with talent, Lopez has a bounty of superfight options for him on the table over the next 12 months including Devin Haney, Gervonta Davis, Ryan Garcia (should he beat Luke Campbell), and perhaps even a rematch with Lomachenko, who’s been uncharacteristically sour about the defeat.
This year ‘The Takeover’ took over and a superstar was born. That’s why he’s The Sportsman’s Fighter of the Year.