Saturday, February 24, 2024  |



Tyson Fury Is The Fighter of the (Half) Year

Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank
Fighters Network

Boxing is slowly creeping its way back. Top Rank has fights scheduled for June in empty arenas. Hopefully, major fights can be made in the future.

But there were major fights that happened in the opening months of this COVID-19 pandemic, riot-filled 2020.

So, what would happen if there were no signature fights the rest of the year?

Based on what occurred from January to March of 2020, a highly unofficial independent poll was set out (by a bored boxing writer who had nothing better to do) through social media, private emails and phone calls.

It was also open to boxing fans through social media to voice their opinions as to who their fighter for the first half of 2020 was, along with the fight, trainer, manager, knockout and round. A great many fans (which accounted for 68% of the respondents) participated.

It was a highly informal poll, though it did involve numerous people from the boxing community, including media.

Here’s what the poll revealed:

Fighter of the (Half) Year: Tyson Fury

Fight: Murodjon Akhmadaliev W 12 Daniel Roman (for the WBA/IBF 122-pound titles)

Trainer: Javan “SugarHill” Steward

Manager: Carlos Blandon (Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez’s manager)

Knockout: Ryan Garcia KO 1 Francisco Fonseca

Round: Clay Collard-Raymond Guajardo Round 1

Fury was an overwhelming choice for the Fighter of the (Half) Year, and by the way 2020 is going, that selection may hold up for the entire year. The other fighters who received consideration were Jeison Rosario, whose fifth-round stoppage upset over Julian “J-Rock” Williams for the WBA and IBF junior middleweight titles came on Williams’ home turf in Philadelphia; and Murodjon Akhmadaliev, who defeated Daniel Roman for the first time in seven years in a split-decision upset for the WBA and IBF junior featherweight belts.

Akhmadaliev, who tied former heavyweight world champion Leon Spinks’ record of becoming a men’s unified titleholder in only his eighth pro fight and first unified world titlist from Uzbekistan, does share one honor, as the 2020 selection for Fight of the (Half) Year, with Roman.

Fight of the (Half) Year was much more contested.

WBC flyweight titlist Julio Cesar Martinez’s first defense in February against the valiant Jay Harris received attention, as did Clay Collard’s second-round kayo upset over rising prospect Raymond “Tito” Guajardo in February. The scheduled six-round middleweight bout saw both fighters touch the canvas on the PBC on FS1 telecast.

Mikey Garcia’s 12-round unanimous welterweight decision over the tough Jessie Vargas on February 29 merited mention, and Jaime Arboleda’s split-decision, junior lightweight victory over Jayson Velez in a 12-round war in February received consideration.

Javan “SugarHill” Steward was the easy selection as the trainer, after his work with Fury in the Wilder rematch. Going in, many questioned Steward’s strategy of having Fury come in heavier and attacking Wilder. The thought being Fury would play right into Wilder’s strength.

But Steward, the nephew of late, great Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward, had it right.

Fury did attack and used the famous Kronk Gym lean. Effectively using the great tactic, “The Gypsy King” did come in heavier—and there was a reason for it. Fury used his 273 pounds on the smaller Wilder as a body rest, wearing him down and eventually wearing him out at 1:39 of the seventh round.

Fury executed the plan perfectly.

Not many replied to the manager, but those that did thought Carlos Blandon, Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez’s manager, did an excellent job in getting the junior bantamweight a belt again. MTK Global also received a handful of nods.

The knockout pick for 2020, so far, went to lightweight Ryan Garcia’s emphatic first-round kayo of Francisco Fonseca in a scheduled 12-round bout in February.

Light heavyweight Eleider Alvarez’s seventh-round knockout over Michael Seals, Fury’s seventh-round stoppage over Wilder and Rosario’s fifth-round stoppage of Williams also merited consideration.

Other knockouts that received votes were junior lightweight Mark Urvanov’s seventh-round knockout of Akzhol Sulaimanbek Uulu in March, heavyweight Robert Helenius’ fourth-round stunner over Adam Kownacki, also in March, and WBO junior featherweight titlist Emanuel “Vaquero” Navarrete’s 11th-round TKO of Jeo Santisima in February.

The Round of the (Half) Year did not garner the kind of feedback that the other categories did, though it did generate enough to select the first round of Collard-Guajardo. There were three knockdowns in the opening stanza, with the underdog Collard delivering two of them.

“Cassius” went on to win the fight at 1:42 of the second. Other considerations were Fury-Wilder2 round 3 and welterweight Abel Ramos’ dramatic 10th-round stoppage of Bryant “Goodfella” Perrella with one second left in the February fight on the Caleb Plant-Vincent Feigenbutz undercard. At the time of the stoppage, Perrella was up 88-83 on two judge’s scorecards and 87-84 on the other.

Disclaimer: This poll is not affiliated with The Ring’s 2020 final choices, nor associated with the Boxing Writers Association of America’s official selections. It originated by someone with a lot of free time on his hands, though there were over three figures of respondents to weed through.

Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter who has been working for Ring Magazine/ since October 1997 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on twitter @JSantoliquito.