THE body of work for our fighters has been quite abridged due to the pandemic and so our leading candidates for Fighter of the Year -- Tyson Fury and Teofimo Lopez -- only have one fight each to show.
With all things being equal, I will have to give the nod to Lopez simply because he defeated a far more superior opponent in Vasyl Lomachenko.
Fury (30-0, 21KOs) did good in knocking out Deontay Wilder (42-1, 41KOs) in the 7th round, but Wilder was not on anyone’s pound-for-pound lists. He was a devastating puncher all right, but one with so many flaws.
LOPEZ. At the time they fought, Loma (14-2, 10KOs) was number one on most pound- for- pound lists and was heavily favored to defend his WBC, WBA and WBO belts against Lopez. Dubbed “The Matrix” for his seemingly preternatural boxing skills, Loma is so good he is thought to be invincible.
Lopez held the IBF diadem, the only belt left in the division to be coveted by Loma. Prior to the fight, I thought that if this were a video game and you had the option to create your own version of a fighter that would match up quite well with Lomachenko, Lopez would be your avatar.
A big, strong lightweight with sleeper power in both hands, Lopez turned out to be the perfect foil for the accomplished Loma.
I predicted Loma to win as most did, but Lopez proved he had arrived and defeated Loma quite convincingly.
Loma started out slow, which is typical of him, but this one would come back to bite him big time as Lopez began to build a wide enough margin on the cards that Loma practically needed a knockout or several knockdowns in the championship rounds to win.
Lopez was fast, strong and boxed well enough to keep Loma at bay and deter him from being more aggressive and taking chances. Loma finally woke up in the second half of the fight and tried to rally furiously. But unlike previous opponents who would typically wilt, Lopez kept his composure and even won the 12th round on all the judges’ cards.
Though Lopez was a clear victor, there was some controversy with one of the judges’ cards who turned in a bewildering 119-109 tally which meant Loma won only one round.
All told, Lopez certainly deserves to be our Fighter of the Year for 2020. And with Loma pining for a rematch next year, who knows -- if he defeats him again and probably defends against a top-ranked contender, he could repeat this feat next year.
UPSET. This victory over Loma catapulted Lopez (16-0, 12KOs) into the pound-for-pound rankings and because he was also the underdog coming in against a heavily favored opponent, he also wins Upset of the Year honors. Not too shabby, for a 23-year-old who most people had never heard of when the year started. But like the adage goes, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
VERBATIM. I want to fight Fury, beat him again in the rematch -- two difficult hurdles, serious fights -- then I will go straight back to try to fight for that title again. -- IBF, WBA, WBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua (www.guardian.ng)
LAST ROUND. It’s on a dear friend, Nani Puno, who celebrates his birthday this week. Cheers!