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Avila Perspective, Chap. 170: Looking Back at a Great 2021 

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  • Avila Perspective, Chap. 170: Looking Back at a Great 2021 

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    By David A. Avila

    We, who love the sport of boxing, just witnessed one of the greatest 12 months of matchups seen in many years. Believe it.

    Virus, schmirus. After an underwhelming 2020 due to the coronavirus spread that paralyzed the entertainment world, including prizefighting, 2021 brought the world a flood of outstanding matchups from February to December.

    It was crackling. This is how it happened:

    Mexico’s Oscar Valdez opened eyes with a shocking knockout win on Feb. 20 when he delivered a counter left hook to the chin of fellow Mexican Miguel Berchelt. Valdez became a two-division world titlist with the win over WBC super featherweight titlist Berchelt in Las Vegas. That was the bang that started it all.

    A week later, fellow Mexican Saul “Canelo” Alvarez stopped Avni Yildirim in the third round on Feb. 27 in Florida. Then the fighter considered by most as the best Pound for Pound in the world, added knockout wins of undefeated Billy Joe Saunders on May 8, at Arlington, Texas and Caleb Plant on Nov. 6 in Las Vegas.

    Any questions why Canelo is number one?

    Another Mexican pugilist, Juan Francisco Estrada, engaged Nicaragua’s Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez in a rematch overdue by nine years. The two battled back and forth feverishly with Estrada claiming the victory by split decision in Dallas on March 13, for the WBC and WBA super flyweight world titles. It was one of the best fights of 2021.

    Next, a battle between super lightweight world titlists saw United Kingdom’s Josh Taylor become the undisputed super lightweight world champion with a unanimous decision victory over Jose Carlos Ramirez on May 22 in Las Vegas. Taylor floored Ramirez twice in grabbing all the world titles. It was a dominant performance.

    A week later in Los Angeles, one of the veterans of the sport, Nonito Donaire, returned to the ring after more than a year and promptly knocked out WBC bantamweight titlist Nordine Oubaali in the fourth round on May 29.

    Also on May 29, but in Las Vegas, WBC lightweight titlist Devin Haney beat Jorge Linares in a very close and entertaining clash. Seven months later Haney would defend against two-division world titlist Jojo Diaz and win another good scrap by decision on Dec. 4 in Las Vegas.

    Japan’s Naoya “Monster” Inoue battered Michael Dasmarinas and ended it in the third round to retain the WBA and IBF super bantamweight world titles at Las Vegas on June 19. Inoue proved scary good once again. It seems the only one capable of fighting Inoue on equal terms is Donaire.

    Summer and Beyond

    Gervonta “Tank” Davis won by stoppage over Mario Barrios in 11th round on June 26 in Atlanta to win the WBA lightweight title. More than 13,000 fans witnessed the knockout win. Then Davis met Mexico’s Isaac Cruz on Dec. 5 in Los Angeles and managed to survive a 12-round battle and win a decision in front of more than 10,000 raucous fans.

    July heat saw Jermell Charlo and Brian Castano battle to a split draw after 12 rounds for the undisputed super welterweight world title at San Antonio, Texas. It was back and forth action with the two super welterweights on July 7. Both are slated to do it again in March.

    Yordenis Ugas replaced Errol Spence Jr in a match to face boxing legend Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao on Aug. 21 in Las Vegas. Then the Cuban fighter retired Pacquiao with a convincing win by decision. The Filipino all-time great announced he would be hanging up his gloves for good after the loss.

    Social media darling Jake Paul challenged former MMA champ Tyron Woodley in a boxing pay-per-view match in Cleveland on Aug. 29. He edged out the UFC fighter by split decision. Four months later they would meet again with Paul winning by dramatic knockout in a cruiserweight fight. Entertainment is entertainment.

    On September 25, undisputed cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk moved up to heavyweight and toppled unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua by unanimous decision. It was a masterful display of boxing by the Ukrainian fighter. And also proof that size does not matter when skill is involved.

    A few weeks later Tyson Fury knocked out Deontay Wilder on Oct. 9, in Las Vegas. It was their third clash and the most exciting of the three as both fighters were decked. After five total knockdowns, Fury emerged the winner in the 11th by knockout.

    Six days later, on Oct. 15, much smaller featherweights battled to the end in San Diego as WBO titlist Emanuel Navarrete outslugged Joet Gonzalez. It was a furious and vicious display of two fighters unwilling to relent or surrender. After 12 rounds Mexico’s Navarrete was declared the winner.

    Former featherweight titlist Shakur Stevenson moved up a weight division and toppled the reign of WBO super featherweight titlist Jamel Herring with a stoppage win in the 10th round on Oct. 23 in Atlanta. Stevenson added a second division world title.

    In a non-world title fight Jose Zepeda destroyed Josue Vargas in one round on the main event in New York City on Oct. 30. After bragging and shoving and other histrionics by New York City fighter Vargas, the quiet Californian promptly shut him down in less than one round proving sometimes it’s not wise to wake up a lion.

    In California, former super welterweight titlist Jaime Munguia engaged in a middleweight slugfest against veteran Gabe Rosado on Nov. 13. Blow after blow were exchanged and neither gave in. After 12 violent rounds Munguia convinced the three judges he was the victor in another top fight in 2021.

    Welterweight titlist Terence Crawford met former champion Shawn Porter in Las Vegas on Nov. 20 and ended the fight in the 10th round. Porter announced his retirement immediately after the fight.

    One week later, on Nov. 27, Australia’s George Kambosos Jr. upset Teofimo Lopez by split decision for the unified lightweight titles in New York. Both fighters scored knockdowns in the fight.

    And then, the “Filipino Flash” Nonito Donaire victimized fellow Filipino Reymart Gaballo by knockout on Dec. 11 in LA. The future Hall of Fame fighter seeks a rematch with Japan’s Naoya Inoue.

    The year 2021 saw many other fights too numerous to include. Champions and contenders like Vergil Ortiz Jr., Mairis Briedis, Regis Prograis, Jermall Charlo, Vasyl Lomachenko, Sandor Martin and Demetrious Andrade also performed.

    Hopefully, 2022 can match last year.

    Irish Bomber

    After losing his original foe, WBO light heavyweight titlist Joe “Irish Bomber” Smith (27-3, 21 KOs) accepted last-minute replacement Steve Geffrard (18-2, 12 Kos) out of Miami, Florida, to vie for the title on Saturday Jan. 15. ESPN will televise and stream the Top Rank fight card.

    Smith has one-punch knockout power and can never be counted out of a fight. He’s proven that again and again with wins over Bernard Hopkins, Jesse Hart and Eleider Alvarez.

    Geffrard replaces Callum Johnson who was forced out due to a positive Covid-19 test. The Florida fighter only has two losses that he sustained in his first two pro fights. After that, he has been undefeated.

    Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank via Getty Images

    Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel

  • #2
    Great summary, David, great.

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