One of the problems in boxing recently is that champions tend to be risk averse and don’t dare to be great. Thus, they don’t seek out the fights that would prove their greatness.
The most obvious example of this is unified welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr., one of the most gifted fighters in the world, who seems to be doing everything in his power to avoid a bout with WBO champion Terence Crawford.
Thankfully, that’s not how Canelo Alvarez rolls, and it’s why Alvarez is the 2021 Yahoo Sports boxing Fighter of the Year.
Alvarez went 3-0 in 2021, knocking out Avni Yildirim in a ridiculous mandatory he took to keep the WBC belt and keep his dream alive of becoming the first fighter ever to become the undisputed super middleweight champion.
He followed that up by stopping previously unbeaten Billy Joe Saunders after eight rounds, adding Saunders’ WBO belt to the WBA-WBC belts he already held. Then in November, Alvarez stopped another unbeaten world champion, finishing Caleb Plant in the 11th round to become the IBF champion and became the first undisputed super middleweight champion in the division’s history.
In the process, he became the first boxer of Mexican descent in any weight class to be an undisputed champion.
Alvarez fought three opponents who were a combined 72-2 at the time he met them and won all of them by knockout.
He won the WBC bantamweight title from Oubaali, making him at 38 the oldest fighter to hold a bantamweight title. He then successfully defended it in December against Gaballo.
Boxing Fighter of the Year honorable mentions
• Crawford only fought once, but he point on a clinic in retaining his WBO welterweight title by stopping Shawn Porter. He showed he’s the only legitimate challenge to Alvarez’s spot as the sport’s top pound-for-pound champion.
• Oleksandr Usyk was the undisputed cruiserweight champion in 2018 and then moved to heavyweight. In his only fight of 2021, he showed he belonged by dominating Anthony Joshua and becoming the unified champion, winning the IBF-WBA-WBO belts.
• Shakur Stevenson was 2-0 and defeated Jamel Herring in October to become the WBO super featherweight champion. He opened the year with a wide, if uninspiring victory over Jeremiah Nakathila. He heard the critics and rebounded with a vengeance, stopping Herring in the 10th of a one-sided bout.
• Tyson Fury signed to fight Joshua for the undisputed title, but a day later, an arbiter ruled he must fight Deontay Wilder. He survived two fourth-round knockdowns to stop Wilder in a wildly entertaining slugfest.
• George Kambosos Jr. won a split decision over Teofimo Lopez to become the undisputed lightweight champion. It was a dominant performance by Kambosos, who was lightly regarded going in but never wavered in his belief that he’d beat Lopez.
• Josh Taylor defeated Jose Ramirez to become the undisputed super lightweight champion, winning by scores of 114-112 on all cards. Taylor put Ramirez, who held the WBC-WBO belts entering the bout, down in Rounds 6 and 7 and cruised to the impressive win.
• Gervonta Davis went 2-0, stopping Mario Barrios to win a secondary super lightweight title, then defeated Isaac Cruz by decision in December.
• Vasiliy Lomachenko rebounded from his 2020 loss to Lopez with a ninth-round stoppage of Masayoshi Nakatani and a wide decision win over Richard Commey.
• Amanda Serrano established herself as arguably the best female fighter in the world in going 3-0 with a knockout of Daniela Bermudez and decisions over Yamileth Mercado and Miriam Gutiérrez.
• Mikaela Mayer successfully defended her WBO super featherweight title twice, and added the IBF belt in the second of those.
• Katie Taylor went 3-0, defending her undisputed lightweight title each time with a decision, by defeating Natasha Jonas, Jennnifer Han and Firuza Sharipova.