2021 is in the books and awards season here at BoxingScene is winding down quickly. The debut of awards categories for the women’s side of the sport will close the show this year. On the men’s side, BoxingScene honors so far have gone to:

It leaves plenty to discuss in recapping what was largely a fascinating and exciting year in the sweet science. What were the best three minutes of 2021? Whose corner work was most exemplary? Where did US fans get the best volume of action on the year? And what event had the biggest impact on the sport?

Here is the best of the rest in men’s boxing from BoxingScene for 2021.

Round of the Year: Juan Francisco Estrada-Roman Gonzalez II, Round 12

Everything fans say they want from boxing has been there for them in recent years at Jr. bantamweight: depth, elite talent, and big fights getting made. The centerpiece has been the series between Roman Gonzalez, Juan Francisco Estrada, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, and Carlos Cuadras. The tenth fight in the series, dating to 2012, and the eighth since 2016, was a unification clash between the WBC and lineal champion Estrada and a rejuvenated Gonzalez with the WBA strap in tow. 

To no one’s surprise, the two likely future Hall of Famers put on a classic. They capped it with an unreal final frame. One a night where both men combined for over 2,500 punches, they threw more than 300 of them with only three minutes to go. Gonzalez got the better of it, landing more and seeming to stun Estrada but Estrada wouldn’t wilt and kept firing. It was a time capsule for the night and for the incredible era both men continue to play a part in.

The decision for Estrada wasn’t popular but it was a case where something to debate leads to something to look forward to. Estrada and Gonzalez will do it one more time in 2022. It will be hard to top their first two fights and even harder to ever top what they gave us in the final frame on March 13, 2021.      

Honorable Mention: Tyson Fury-Deontay Wilder Round 4, Kid Galahad-Kiko Martinez Round 5, Stephen Fulton-Brandon Figueroa Round 10

Trainer of the Year: Eddy Reynoso

Saul Alvarez had perhaps the best year of his career in 2021 and is a near-universal selection from every outlet for Fighter of the Year. His man in the corner could take pride in the work he does with Alvarez but Eddy Reynoso’s reach extended beyond boxing’s biggest star. Reynoso helped to engineer Oscar Valdez’s mammoth knockout of Jr. lightweight titlist Miguel Berchelt, navigated former heavyweight titlist Andy Ruiz through a rocky start in his showdown with Chris Arreola, and seconded Ryan Garcia for Garcia’s best career win to date against Luke Campbell.

That’s a hell of a year for any trainer and Reynoso capped it with Alvarez becoming the first man to unify the WBA, WBC, IBF, and WBO belts at super middleweight. It was more than a year’s worth of work and earned a deserved trainer of the year for Reynoso here.

Honorable Mention: Ben Davison, Anatoly Lomachenko, Wahid Rahim, Marc Ramsay 

Event of the Year: WBA Reform

In 2000, the WBA ruled Lennox Lewis could make a voluntary defense before facing mandatory John Ruiz but that didn’t address an outstanding contract issue. Lewis went to court to protect that title and the courts ruled against him. Legend has it a suggestion from Lewis for the future gave birth to the WBA “super” titles, a solution to allow unified titlists to keep their belts. However well intentioned, it resulted in one of boxing’s longest running punchlines as often the WBA would have as many as three ‘champions’ in a weight class at a time with super, regular, and interim beltholders who irregularly were forced to face each other.

The WBA would make statements about cleaning it up but the fees kept coming and so did the belts. Change wasn’t coming. 

On August 07, 2021, change became a matter of survival. Nationally televised on Fox, the decision in the bout between Mykal Fox and a 3-0 Gabriel Maestre in favor of Maestre, despite what appeared a clear win for Fox that included a knockdown, sparked outrage in the industry. It was arguably the worst televised decision of the year, rendered even more absurd by the idea that the fight needed a title at all. 

As reported here by Jake Donovan, the Association of Boxing Commissions put its foot down and the WBA finally acted. Real consolidation began in earnest as the WBA moved toward one titlist per division. It’s not done yet, but the process is continuing and nearly scuttled a planned unification clash at welterweight between Errol Spence and Yordenis Ugas. 

The only question left is what took so long? 

Honorable Mention: Saul Alvarez-Caleb Plant, Saul Alvarez-Billy Joe Saunders, Floyd Mayweather-Logan Paul

Network of the Year: Showtime

In 2019, some fans wondered if Showtime was in trouble. They answered by coming out of the pandemic in late 2020 with a strong slate over the last third of the year and their advance formatting continued in 2021 for one of the best years at the network since 2013. 

The practice of announcing full slates of cards months out became a new standard for the industry in 2021, creating a sense of expectation and anticipation that revolved around more than one show. Fans might not love every fight, but having more than one thing at a time to talk about for fans created a new type of buzz in social media.

In the ring, the quality was high from bantamweight to super middleweight. There were multiple unification matches (Jermell Charlo-Brian Castano II, Stephen Fulton-Bradon Figueroa), an inspiring comeback for aging Nonito Donaire, two pay-per-view appearances from Gervonta Davis, and a marriage with the Paul brothers sideshow that brought Floyd Mayweather back for an exhibition and yielded big returns for with Jake Paul facing former MMA champions. Showtime also secured the return of the biggest active draw in the sport, Saul Alvarez and delivered big box office success for his unification with Caleb Plant.  

Honorable Mention: ESPN, DAZN

Comeback of the Year: Kiko Martinez

Kiko Martinez was supposed to be a walk over, the sort of recognizable name long past their sell by date many a young titlist beats in their first title defense. Just three months after winning the IBF featherweight belt, Kid Galahad faced the 35-year old Spainard as a prohibitive favorite. Martinez, a former IBF titlist at Jr. featherweight, was 3-2 in his previous five fights and arguably hadn’t posted a notable win since his 2014 stoppage of Hozumi Hasegawa.

Then the bell rang.

Odds don’t matter once the leather flies. Martinez worked through a cut to drop Galahad in the fifth and stopped him with a big right hand in the sixth. Martinez may not be long for the title ranks at featherweight but he’s there now and there wasn’t a better comeback story in 2021.

Honorable Mention: Nonito Donaire

Best wishes and health to everyone who takes a moment to read us here at BoxingScene for the rest of 2022.          

Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.  He can be reached at roldboxing@hotmail.com