Boxing is back and it looks like the wheels are moving so that some of the sport's biggest names are back in action in the near future.
After months without boxing amid the current coronavirus pandemic, the appetite for big fights and fun moments is voracious.
But let's not forget the incredible moments of boxing that we were privileged to experience in the first half of 2020. From the coronation of Tyson Fury as king of heavyweight boxing to the brutal knockouts of Eleider Alvarez and Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez, among many other times, boxing fans had a lot to appreciate.
The ESPN nine-person panel scoured the first six months of 2020 to recognize the best of the best in boxing by the end of June. While some of the races were close, there was an almost unanimous decision from the start.
The panelists: Timothy Bradley Jr., Steve Kim, Nick Parkinson, Ben Baby, Cameron Wolfe, Kel Dansby, Andres Ferrari, Andrew Feldman and Tim Fiorvanti
Best fighter: Tyson Fury
With an extensive range of the 2020 boxing calendar expired because of the coronavirus pandemic, the choices for the best fighter in the middle of the year were much more limited than usual. But one fighter clearly placed his flag on the top of the boxing mountain: Tyson Fury.
At the sport's unique signature event of the year, Fury made a dominant effort to win the WBC heavyweight title when he stopped Deontay Wilder in his rematch in seven rounds on February 22.
It was not just the result, but also the way in which Fury did it. Fury told an incredulous audience that he would march towards Wilder, widely recognized as the most dangerous puncher in the heavyweight division, and knocked him out. Many believed that Fury was involved in some combat psychology and promotional fights. After all, Wilder not only had one of the highest knockout percentages in heavyweight history (in his 43 previous fights, he scored 41 stops), but Wilder also defeated Fury twice in his initial encounter.
However, under the direction of the new trainer Javan "Sugar" Hill and the legendary Kronk Style Hill inherited from his uncle, the legendary trainer Emanuel Steward, Fury advanced tirelessly as promised. It wasn't exactly the knockout of the second round that he predicted, but for much of the fight, Fury had his front foot pushing Wilder back and taking Wilder's ability to open his lethal right hand. Fury physically dominated all aspects of the fight and used its size to push Wilder.
Fury scored two knockdowns in the third and fifth rounds, and he became more and more dominant as the fight ended. Finally, in the seventh round, Wilder's corner threw in the towel.
It was not only a victory for Fury, but also a characteristic and career-defining performance. That night, Fury won the WBC title and bet on his claim as the best heavyweight in the world. – Steve Kim
Others receiving votes: Clay Collard (3-0 in 2020)
Best fight: Roman Gonzalez vs. Khalid Yafai
Questions about Roman Gonzalez's form and future hung heavily on him as he climbed the ropes to face Kal Yafai. Gonzalez answered these questions emphatically with a vintage performance – make it a masterclass – that he ended with a perfectly executed knockout to remind us what a special fighter he is.
After two defeats in 2017, "Chocolatito" lost its status as world champion and king pound for pound. At 32 and after 50 professional fights, there were doubts that he could regain a world title against WBA junior bantamweight champion Yafai, who was making his sixth defense of that belt in February at the Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas . But four-weight world champion Gonzalez showed that his skills are still clear, as he became more and more dominant as the fight continued, repeatedly hitting head combinations in the seventh and eighth round.
It wasn't just a seesaw fight. It was a chance to see one of the best boxers of the season at the top of his game. Gonzalez's variety of punches and precision meant that Yafai – a good world champion – was never able to establish himself in the fight. Yafai finally fell at the end of the eighth round after a series of precise punches, and he was still under siege when the ninth round started. Gonzalez landed a left punch before planting a short right hand at Yafai's temple. Yafai fell on his back and referee Luis Pabon started counting before giving up the fight for 29 seconds.
Yafai, a longtime fan of Chocolatito, maybe he didn't appreciate it at the moment, as he was lying on his back, but, like all of us, he probably later admired how Gonzalez created the opening and made the perfect shot. – Nick Parkinson
Others receiving votes: Andrew Moloney vs. Joshua Franco; Fury vs. Wilder II; Adam Lopez vs. Louie Coria; Tevin Farmer vs. Joseph Diaz Jr .; Daniel Roman vs Murodjon Akhmadaliev
Best knockout: Eleider "Storm" Alvarez vs. Michael Seals
When Eleider Alvarez knocked out Michael Seals, we saw the result of Alvarez’s experiment. We could see Alvarez just sitting with his rear foot, waiting for an opportunity to hit the ball over the top, and when he did that, he did it at the perfect moment.
He turned his head away from the line and stepped away from Seals' punches, charged with his back foot, and that was it. The punch fell close to Seals' jaw. Seals' knees buckled and he fell on the carpet and the ropes. End of the game.
Alvarez had the experience of knowing how dangerous an intermediate position is. He knew that Seals had a big right hand and that Seals was getting ready to play a 1-2 combination, but Seals started very late.
Selos got a late start in boxing, and he made a simple but expensive mistake, just punching. That's what guys often do when they see that their opponent is in the middle range – they feel they need to play and be the aggressor. Instead, they could put themselves in a good defensive posture, throw a feint and prepare for the attack to happen, so they could set up a counter.
Until the knockout, the rest of the fight was pretty boring. The two were respecting each other. But any good fighter will look for these openings, because these are the moments that decide fights.
Often, the best punch in boxing is the punch that has never been thrown. I bet Seals now wishes he could get back that punch he threw at Alvarez. – Timothy Bradley Jr.
Others receiving votes: Gonzalez x Yafai; Sergio Sanchez vs. Alan Pina; Ryan Garcia vs. Francisco Fonseca
Best perspective: Ryan Garcia
We saw just 80 seconds of Ryan Garcia in action in 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic put our lives on hold, but it was enough to confirm what the boxing world already knew: Garcia has the potential to become boxing's biggest star.
The 21-year-old from Los Angeles has already set an impressive record – 17 knockouts in 20 wins – and in February, we had a brief glimpse of his prodigious talent. It took Garcia just 80 seconds to demolish Francisco Fonseca with a single knockout on the left hook at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.
The pandemic may delay its transition from a light perspective for a candidate and even a world champion beyond this year, but its trajectory is pointing in that direction. Furthermore, with 6.6 million followers on Instagram, there's no denying Garcia's star appeal, and his rapid progress puts him on the verge of winning a title shot. He is number 3 on the WBC, number 2 on the WBA and number 2 on the WBO in the most competitive division of boxing.
The future has great fights for Garcia against the best fighters in the division – Teofimo Lopez Jr., Gervonta Davis and Devin Haney – but before that, Garcia can face former world champion Jorge Linares in what would be a necessary step in the class. Vasiliy Lomachenko, who holds two world title belts and is ESPN number 1 in the pound for pound, is the man who wins the lightweight, and perhaps Garcia, with a combination of strength and hand speed, is the man to do . in 2021. – Parkinson
Others receiving votes: Jaron Ennis; Bek Melikuziev; Vergil Ortiz
Most memorable moment (s): Everything around Fury-Wilder II
Imagine a boxing industry in which everyone works together, promotional rivalries have been put aside for the sake of sport and the division's best fights. That's exactly what happened in the rematch between Wilder and Fury at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. From collective interviews in the preparation of the fight through the spectacles of the entrances of the ring for what happened inside the ring, it seemed that every moment that Fury and Wilder were tied up they maintained some magic.
The divisions of the boxing industry sadly overshadow moments of pure joy that all sport can leave behind, but on that rare occasion, all of that was left out and everyone benefited. ESPN and Fox shared the task of marketing this Top Rank-PBC pay-per-view event, and for several weeks, this fight became much more than a boxing match. It has become part of conventional sport and, to some extent, pop culture. It was one of those rare nights when boxing took center stage internationally.
Few will forget Fury being carried to the ring on a throne, and Wilder elaborate costume he became a scapegoat for what happened in the fight. The fight itself was one-sided, but it had abundant unforgettable moments, from Fury apparently licking blood from the middle of Wilder's fight to the final moment when Wilder's singing threw in the towel.
Fights like Wilder-Fury II don't happen very often and are particularly lost during a time like this. But everything that was loved that night proves how valuable it can be for boxing power players to work. together and fight the sport. – Kim
Others receiving votes: Fury and Joshua announce deal for two future fights