If you’ve gotten to this point and aren’t happy, it’s your own fault.
You should have seen it coming last year.
In keeping with tradition in this Tuesday morning space, we greet the New Year with a preview of stories other boxing scribes will be reacting to about 12 months from now.
Of course, if you recall from last week’s piece, 2020 was a forecasting year to ignore… if not forget.
But hope springs eternal, so – in the recurring quest to match the glory of our spot-on advance pick of a then-unheralded Andre Ward as the fighter of the year in 2011 – we’re giving it another go a decade later.
Unlike football, baseball or their collective ilk, there are no master schedules from which to pluck events to predict. And even if I was prescient enough to know now which fights would be made between which guys, say, next October, there's always a chance that three people sitting on the ring's perimeter would pound my forecasting into dust with their definition of what constitutes a “boxing lesson.”
But those are excuses and gripes for another day.
Today is a day of forward thinking, and with that, here’s an advance look at what everyone else will be looking back on while taking down the tree next December.
And hey, if even some of this stuff really does happen… it’s going to be a good year for all of us.
UPSET OF THE YEAR: Billy Joe Saunders UD 12 Gennady Golovkin
OK, when you really look at it, maybe it’s not so big a surprise.
Gennady Golovkin turns 39 in 2021’s fourth month, hasn’t clearly won a fight against a top middleweight since dusting David Lemieux in 2015 – has never done so against a top super middleweight – and would be in against a fighter in Billy Joe Saunders who’d arrive with slight edges in height (half an inch) and reach (an inch), and a big one in age (by seven years).
Not to mention speed.
Still, when the official scores are read and Saunders’s hand is raised, it’ll be a shock to the system.
Saunders can maximize his physical advantages in the early going by throwing combinations and never giving Golovkin a stationary target, and he’d bring it home down the stretch by standing and firing to fight off a determined rally from a surely desperate Kazakh.
Your move, Canelo.
KNOCKOUT OF THE YEAR: Tyson Fury KO 9 Anthony Joshua
This hurts me more than it hurts you. Well… more than it hurts Anthony, I suppose.
Because I’m as big an AJ fan as there is. I thought he was terrific in winning the title from pretender Charles Martin, brave in fending off the challenge of a determined Wlad Klitschko and compelling in returning from oblivion to avenge a loss to surprise nemesis Andy Ruiz.
But it’s that Ruiz loss that scares me going forward. Or, the combination of it and Tyson Fury.
Not only was I probably a bit too sold on Joshua, I was surely not bought-in enough on Fury until he changed competitive persona and whacked Deontay Wilder hard enough to turn the ex-champ into the second-most powerful conspiracy theorist in the free world.
Joshua’s mettle after the Ruiz loss tells me he’ll handle adversity a bit better than his Alabama-based contemporary has, but it’ll be no less brutal when – let’s say around Round 9 – he’s behind, exhausted and out of ideas when the “Gypsy King” takes him down for the night with a cringe-worthy uppercut.
FIGHT OF THE YEAR: Gervonta Davis KO 8 Ryan Garcia
It’s a fight Ryan Garcia has been angling toward for what feels like years… with his mouth.
And now that he’s finally climbed to the elite level – thanks to a thrilling post-New Year’s Day vanquish of former two-time title challenger Luke Campbell – it’s finally one that he’s earned with his fists.
In the aftermath, nearly everyone will hope it happens at least once or twice more.
The brash Californian has long claimed he’ll be capable of bullying the Mayweather-groomed Baltimore product, and I can see him backing up the promises early on – perhaps even dropping a lunging Davis with a quick hook in the early going.
Problem is, it’ll trigger a ferocity the two-weight champ is certainly comfortable unleashing.
Don’t be surprised if Davis responds with a knockdown of his own in a subsequent round and begins taking over exchanges with sharper, thudding shots. Garcia will be bloodied and reeling by the end of the seventh, before finding himself rescued by his own corner team sometime in Round 8.
FIGHTER OF THE YEAR: Errol Spence Jr.
It’s never an easy pick.
Incumbent champions defend and unify titles. Hyped prospects fulfill championship-level promise. And legit superstars maintain their status atop the sport.
But when a guy begins a year in one place and finishes it in another, he separates from the pack.
Such is the 2021 case, again… for Errol Spence Jr.
The Texas-based welterweight stud vacated his elite perch after a serious car accident in 2019, but leaned on already-established street cred to stay in the Manny Pacquiao sweepstakes – a position he solidified with the one-sided defeat of Danny Garcia to close out 2020.
And once he dispenses with the Filipino legend – let’s call it a one-sided Round 10 finish – and regains majority status atop pound-for-pound lists, the front-runner status in the Fighter of the Year race becomes a slam dunk proposition to close out 2021.
And who knows… we might just get the Crawford fight someday after all.
* * * * * * * * * *
This week’s title-fight schedule:
No title fights scheduled.
Last week's picks: 1-1 (WIN: Alvarado; LOSS: Tanaka)
Final 2020 picks record: 39-10 (79.6 percent)
Overall picks record: 1,156-375 (75.5 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.