It's been yet another dramatic, euphoric and heartwrenching year for boxing.
Sunday Life’s two-weight world champion columnist Carl Frampton and Sunday Life’s award-winning boxing correspondent David Kelly hand out their 2020 gongs.
Carl Frampton: Tyson Fury
There is just no doubt that Tyson Fury’s performance against Deontay Wilder in their WBC world heavyweight title rematch was exceptional and so he is my stand-out UK fighter of the year. In my eyes, Fury won the first fight despite being knocked down twice but it was close and the judges gave it as a draw. This time he was determined to make sure it was clear cut and he just walked through Wilder. He proved he could change style and Wilder couldn’t handle him.
David Kelly: Tyson Fury
It was the most highly anticipated fight of the year and when Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder came together in February, there were even more fireworks than many expected. Fury bullied the world’s most feared puncher with his educated pressure and heavy artillery that left Wilder bewildered and by the fourth round he looked gassed.
The WBC world heavyweight title changed hands in dramatic fashion as Fury hammered Wilder to the point that his corner wisely threw in the towel. Since then, Wilder has made all sorts of excuses, including suggesting his alien ring suit had weighed so heavy it took away his energy. I think we can all agree it was more to do with Fury’s heavy hitting.
Carl Frampton: Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez
This was a very close run thing for me. Up until last weekend I would have gone for Teofimo Lopez on the back of his amazing win over Vasyl Lomachenko, but I’m going for Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez because of the way he totally dominated Callum Smith. He was favourite going into the fight but Smith was the undisputed No.1 super-middleweight in the world and yet he was left with no chance from start to finish. I know Canelo has great power but I love his defence more than anything. The way he evades shots up close is incredible and he can apply pressure without throwing a punch. That leads to opponents using up a lot of energy. He will go down as an all-time great.
David Kelly: Teofimo Lopez
All-time great fighters are noted for grabbing the opportunity to defeat a legend of the ring and at just 23 years of age Teofimo Lopez did just that when he overcame the boxing matrix that is Vasyl Lomachenko.
Following their world lightweight title fight Loma needed surgery on his right shoulder, an injury that had been picked up in training, but this cannot take away from a sparkling performance from Lopez whose charisma and talent has turned him into one of the most marketable fighters on the planet. Lopez, coached by his father, showed cunning and power to box his way to a points victory and over the coming years he is surely going to be in some memorable bouts. Huge credit to promoter Bob Arum for making the fight happen during a pandemic.
Carl Frampton: Joe Joyce v Daniel Dubois
There was a lot of hype about the heavyweight fight between Joe Joyce and Daniel Dubois and it lived up to expectations. It was high-paced, particularly for a heavyweight fight, and the skill level was very high. I had Dubois leading at the time of the stoppage, which was a talking point long after the fight. Dubois took a knee as he felt the pain in his eye, which was later revealed to be badly damaged. Joyce was the underdog and I think he proved a lot of people wrong. He’s now in line for a world title fight in 2021.
David Kelly: Ted Cheeseman v Sam Eggington
Ted Cheeseman and Sam Eggington lit up Eddie Hearn’s back garden with a furious 12 rounds of light-middleweight action on the first evening of Fight Camp on August 1.
Cheeseman survived a brutal 12th round to win 116-113, 116-113, 115-114 on points, and the emotion flowed following victory. “I cried my eyes out after losses last year,” said the 24-year-old. “I am a winner, I give my heart and soul to this sport and I stayed determined and pushed on.”
Another noteworthy bout was Belfast man Tyrone McKenna’s nail-biting Golden Contract light-welterweight Semi-Final victory over Mohamed Mimoune in February.
Carl Frampton: Carlos Cuadras v Juan Francisco Estrada
The fight between Jose Zepeda and Ivan Baranchyk was sensational but I’m going for the WBC world super-flyweight title fight between Cuadras and Estrada which was of the highest order. They traded terrific blows at a relentless pace. Estrada found the finishing blows in the 11th round of a fight to remember.
David Kelly: Jose Zepeda v Ivan Baranchyk
Jose Zepeda climbed off the canvas four times before stopping Ivan Baranchyk in a thriller which saw eight knockdowns in five rounds.
If ever fight fans need to look up the definition of barn-burner then it will surely state Zepeda-Baranchyk, 3.10.2020, MGM Grand Las Vegas.
Zepeda was down twice in the first round and then roared back to floor Baranchyk in the third and fourth rounds. Despite being put down in the fifth, the American ended the war in the same round with a savage straight left. It was simply an extraordinary contest, one worth checking out on YouTube.
Carl Frampton: Gervonta Davis
Gervonta Davis delivered as sweet a shot as you are ever likely to see to end his fight with my old rival Leo Santa Cruz. It was an uppercut that could have taken out an elephant and he had been looking for it from the start of an exciting fight. Davis had thrown it a few times but in the sixth he managed to walk Santa Cruz onto the shot, slipped outside Leo’s right hand and landed flush, sending the Mexican to the canvas, out cold.
David Kelly: Gervonta Davis
Gervonta Davis and Leo Santa Cruz were settling down into what could have been a fight of the year contender when Davis brought about a stunning finish to their world title fight.
Davis, guided by Floyd Mayweather, calls himself ‘Tank’ and he unloaded a rocket left uppercut which sent the Mexican crashing to the canvas, having arguably been ahead at that point in the bout. Alexander Povetkin’s crunching stoppage of Dillian Whyte was just edged into second place.
Carl Frampton: Jaron 'Boots' Ennis
Despite what he said about me, Shakur Stevenson was one of the top young fighters of the year but I’m going with Jaron ‘Boots’ Ennis who has made rapid progress. He may not be known to the wider public but believe me, this guy is a big talent. He’s from Philadelphia and a real throwback — very skilful and punches hard. Ennis has it all and I’m really looking forward to seeing what 2021 holds for him. On the UK scene, meanwhile, Dennis McCann continues to develop at a high pace.
David Kelly: Junto Nakatani
Junto Nakatani is the latest hard-hitting sensation to come out of Japan and someone who looks like he can move up the weights and have a very exciting career.
At just 22 he landed the WBO world flyweight title with an eighth-round stoppage of Giemel Magramo and sent the Japanese television commentator into a breathless frenzy. The future is very bright for this young hotshot.
Carl Frampton: Teofimo Lopez Snr
Nobody had come up with a plan to defeat Vasyl Lomachenko but Teofimo Lopez Snr found the way to overcome boxing’s matrix. He has clearly schooled his son perfectly and when he laid out the game plan, Teofimo Jnr executed it to perfection. Lopez Snr does like to make some noise and is never short of an opinion but he has been backing that up and while Loma was carrying an injury it was still a masterful game plan for one of the most exciting fighters on the planet.
David Kelly: Sugar Hill
Tyson Fury’s tactics against Deontay Wilder shocked everyone — except his team. The world heavyweight champion had predicted that he would knock out Deontay Wilder and the manner of the win was simply stunning.
Some doubted the decision by Fury to switch coaches from Ben Davison to Sugar Hill but it paid off handsomely. Hill got Fury to make the right adjustments to his style and he bulldozed his way to the WBC crown.
Carl Frampton: It was great to see my gym-mate Chantelle Cameron win the WBC world light-welterweight title in October. It wasn’t the most exciting fight but she did a good job and can hopefully look ahead to a showdown with Katie Taylor. I was very pleased for my coaches Jamie Moore and Nigel Travis, who now have their first world champion. Hopefully I can be the second when I finally face Jamel Herring early in 2021.
David Kelly: There were a few contenders for this but for me it has to be Tommy McCarthy’s post-fight interviews following his European cruiserweight title victory over Bilal Laggoune in October.
McCarthy’s smile was so bright that viewers had to don sunglasses as he tried to express just how much European glory meant to him — including an impersonation of coach Pete Taylor. It has been a long and winding road for the Belfast man, who after a couple of setbacks can now look ahead to some very big fights in 2021.