Slant Pattern 2020 Boxing Awards

It's an honor to be doing fight awards for Slant Pattern for the 63rd consecutive year. Don't think we've been around that long or that the internet has even existed that long? Well, you're wrong. Look it up.

Fighter of the Year: Teofimo Lopez

The narrative of his fight with Vasyl Lomachenko was supposed to be this: Can Lopez, with his one-punch KO power, find that punch against Loma, perhaps the smartest and greatest technical boxer on the planet?

Instead, it was Lopez who outsmarted and outworked Lomachenko in the ring, winning an unanimous decision without even needing to score a knockdown.

If Teofimo HAS one-punch KO power (he does) and can outwit the brainiest guy in the ring (he did), what can't he do, exactly? And how can you argue for anyone else being fighter of the year? Indeed, how can you argue against him losing another fight as long as he is in his prime and has good training camps? I won't be betting against him for the foreseeable future:

Runner-up: Canelo Alvarez

On reading/watching/listening other boxing award shows, Lopez as the fighter of the year is nearly a consensus pick, but the other nominees seem split between whether Canelo is a solid contender or not even worthy of a mention, due to a lack of a perceived effort to win by his 2020 opponent, Callum Smith, and the fact that he fought so late in the year.

Literally every elite fighter, thanks to Covid, has fought only one meaningful fight in 2020, so that Canelo's fight came in late December shouldn't make any kind of difference. As for Smith, his survival mode in the fight was all Canelo gave to him. This is a guy who won a World Boxing Super Series title and was ranked No. 1 by Boxrec in his weight class. Canelo clowned him and is still the pound-for-pound king.

Knockout of the Year: Alexander Povetkin TKO-5 over Dillian Whyte

I mentioned consensus earlier, and there's a lot of that for every category this year. This one may be the only one where I buck the trend. It seems everyone is asking: is Povetkin's knockout of Dillian Whyte KO of the year, or would it be Tank Davis's knockout of Leo Santa Cruz?

Most are going with Davis. In both cases, they landed a dramatic punch that knocked their opponent immediately and obviously out cold. And if we are going just by that, by the skinniest of slivers, Davis's KO of Santa Cruz looked more badass than Povetkin's KO of Whyte.

But I'm giving it to Povetkin because his knockout came out of nowhere. He had been down twice before landing his finishing blow. The knockout derailed Whyte, who was supposed to be next in line among the Fury/Joshua UK elite heavies. It was an upset win for Povetkin, whereas Davis was favored to beat Santa Cruz.

Runner-up: Tank Davis KO-6 Leo Santa Cruz

Fight of the Year: Jose Zepeda KO-5 over Ivan Baranchyk

Back to chalk. This is everyone's pick, and mine too. It's hard not to describe this fight the way a kid breathlessly describes something exciting he saw. First, Barancyk knocked down Zepeda twice in the first round! But then Zepeda knocked Baranchyk down in the second round, but Baranchyk knocked him down again! But then, Zepeda knocked Baranchyk down again in the third round! And again in the fourth round! But Baranchyk knocked Zepeda down in the fifth round! But then Zepeda knocked Baranchyk out also in the fifth round!

Yes, folks, 8 knockdowns in five rounds. It doesn't get any wilder than that. 

Runner Up: Samir Ziani UD over Alex Dilmaghani

This was for the European Boxing Union super featherweight strap, and it's a bit of a deep cut, this choice. But it left an impression on me. I had money riding on Dilmaghani, and he seemed to just be edging it out in the first (very close) 7-8 rounds, but Ziani then really started working the body and delivering just brutal combination after combination on Dilmaghani's guts. It's hard to make body shots look good unless they result in either a knockdown or visibly stun/stagger your opponent, but Ziana was doing just that with his steady diet of body blows, and even the Dilmaghani took them well enough, it was Ziani with a narrow, but unanimous decision win in the end. Just a great fight.

Prospect of the Year: Sebastian Fundora

Or as I call him, Sebastian FUNdora. Dude is a freak. He's 6'5" 1/2, which is ... so very much taller than the rest of the super welterweight division where he fights. He has absolutely no problems making his dimensions work for him. He's knocked out his two post-Covid opponents, including a very talented Nathaniel Gallimore. Remember his name.

Runner-up: Edgar Berlanga

Like Fundora, Berlanga is 23. Like Fundora, he's undefeated at 16-0 (Fundora is 15-0-1). Unlike Fundora, all of Berlanga's opponent's have lost by — are you sitting down for this? — first round KO.  

That's obviously amazing. So why isn't he the prospect of the year? One reason: strength of opponent. He has yet to fight anyone that you wouldn't expect him to knock out in the first round. In fact, I'm starting to get a bit suspicious of how slowly he is being brought along. The next two years should tell us if Berlanga's a future world champ or a sideshow attraction.

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