Thursday, January 27, 2022

Twelve to Watch for 2022

With the new boxing year now underway, I made a list of current fighters whom I love watching ply their trade. I then separated my list into two categories: champions or former champions in the first bucket and those who have yet to fight for a title in the second grouping. This article will cover 12 fighters from this second group; many of them are poised to have a big 2022. 

There's no real rhyme or reason or consistent theme for the boxers who appear on this list (although they all have fewer than 20 professional bouts), just fighters who have caught my eye. I won't say that these 12 are the best at anything yet, but they all have intriguing potential, solid skill sets and are generally entertaining in the ring. Some of these names will be more familiar to you than others, but all are worth keeping tabs on. And with that, here's the 12.    

Ra'eese Aleem (19-0, 12 KOs, junior featherweight, Age 31, USA)

Photo courtesy of Amanda Westcott

Aleem opened eyes last year with a masterful performance against Vic Pasillas, although he did have a more challenging fight against rugged opponent Eduardo Baez later in the year. Even though he's not a young fighter (31), he was still fighting on club shows as recently as two years ago. But as he has demonstrated in his past three fights on Showtime, Aleem possesses world-class talent. More than that, he can be a stylistic nightmare. Comfortable switching stances even during the middle of a combination, Aleem has an unpredictability that will make him competitive with anyone in the junior featherweight division. He has knockout power in both hands and features choppy movement that doesn't fall into regular patterns. One thing he needs to watch out for is a problem that many movers face: over-movement. He tries to do so many things at times, especially in close quarters, that he can find himself out-of-position for straight shots and counters.   

Jared Anderson (11-0, 11 KOs, heavyweight, Age 22, USA)

Anderson is the best heavyweight prospect in America. And although that sounds like high praise, it isn't. He might be the only one who could actually win a title. But being the best of a mediocre bunch isn't why he's on this list; Anderson has earned it. In multiple training camps with Tyson Fury, Anderson, by all reports, has given the heavyweight champion great work. He has stopped all 11 of his professional opponents, but he has more than just one-punch power. He features a relentless body attack that is uncommon for a young and tall (6'4") heavyweight. In addition, he's very comfortable fighting out of each stance. He also throws punches in combination and doesn't load up on one shot. As he hasn't gone past the sixth round yet, Top Rank needs to test his endurance this year. Anderson has tons of heavyweight tools, but he still has a few rungs to go up the ladder. There's no rush, but let's hope we can see some real progress in 2022.  

Felix Cash (14-0, 10 KOs, middleweight, Age 28, UK) 

Photo courtesy of Queensberry Promotions

The middleweight division has been lackluster in recent years. It's thin and the top guys haven't been in a rush to face each other. Those looking past the familiar names in the division might be interested in this potential sleeper. Cash was a solid amateur in the UK, has a great professional trainer in Tony Sims and has disarming power. In 2021 he knocked out fellow undefeated British prospect Denzel Bentley in three rounds. Cash can box and punch and has power from all ranges. It remains to be seen how he fares against superior athletes or those who try to muscle him on the inside, but make no mistake, he knows how to handle himself in the ring. Expect Cash to get an opportunity against a top-15 fighter in 2022. He could move fast – the division is weak and everyone is on the hunt for fresh faces.  

Charles Conwell (16-0, 12 KOs, junior middleweight, Age 24, USA)

Photo courtesy of Amanda Westcott

We don't often think of recent U.S. Olympians as wrecking balls in the ring, but that's what Conwell is. With a swarming style similar to Shawn Porter and Tim Bradley, but with more power than both, the 2016 Olympian is poised for big things in the sport. 2021 was mostly a marking time year for him with two fights against non-descript opponents; however, the junior middleweight division could soon have a bunch of titles available in the near future. Conwell could have some significant opportunities in the next 18 months. There are a couple of in- and out-of-the-ring concerns regarding his advancement. His defense still needs to be tightened up on the inside and his management (Split-T) is going through a variety of issues at the moment. Hopefully he will have a clear direction and at least one fight of real significance in 2022.   

Keyshawn Davis (4-0, 3 KOs, lightweight, Age 22, USA)

Davis is one of the more unusual prospects I've seen in recent years. He places his punches with patience and utmost care. Despite having athleticism and power, he's not in any rush in the ring. He seems wise beyond his years. A silver medalist in the Tokyo Olympics, Davis has also been a frequent sparring partner for champion Shakur Stevenson. Even with only four professional fights, Davis has pedigree, polish, and a number of veteran fighter skills. It will be interesting to see if he does possess the types of youthful flourishes that create new boxing fans. Does he have a killer instinct? Does he know when to turn on the jets? They say that youth is wasted on the young, but sometimes the young aren't burdened by caution. Let's see what's in store for Davis. To say that I'm intrigued by Davis is a massive understatement. 

Sebastian Fundora (18-0-1, 12 KOs, junior middleweight, Age 24, USA)

Photo courtesy of Esther Lin

The 6'5" southpaw junior middleweight (although he might actually be taller) is no longer a secret in boxing circles. Having been featured prominently on several PBC broadcasts over the last few years, Fundora is a unicorn in boxing. There's just no one like him in the sport. Not only is he five inches or so taller than almost everyone in the division, he also loves to fight inside and mix it up. Despite looking like a toothpick in the ring, he's actually a banger and a bruiser. He has deceptive toughness and physicality. But being unique isn't the same as being unbeatable. He had a draw with Jamontay Clary in 2019 and Sergio Garcia gave him a really hard time in his last fight. It's clear that Fundora would rather face brawlers than more disciplined and technical fighters. He has periods where he sometimes zones out and loses focus. He's rumored to face Erickson Lubin next in what could be one of the best fights in the first half of 2022.  

Bakhodir Jalolov (9-0, 9 KOs, heavyweight, Age 27, Uzbekistan)

The Tokyo Olympics super heavyweight champion, Jalolov has a powerful left hand, a sharp right hook and a natural ability for combination punching. The southpaw uses range well and can move, but some have questioned his gas tank, even in amateur three-round fights. He's still at least two years away from title contention, but he could move up the ladder fast. In 2022 he's going to need real opponents who will force him to go rounds. His knockouts and ring IQ will take him far, but more will be needed to round out his entire package in the ring. He's one of the best heavyweight prospects in the sport and he possesses an intriguing mix of power, skills and ring smarts.   

Frank Martin (15-0, 11 KOs, lightweight, Age 27, USA)

Martin opened eyes in 2021 by knocking out Jerry Perez in a battle of unbeaten prospects. Martin has also already fought in 2022, stopping veteran trial horse Romero Duno in four rounds on New Year's Day. Martin is highly skilled. A southpaw with great feet and excellent boxing acumen, he has power in both hands and the ability to land different punches for knockout blows. Fighting out of Derek James' gym in Dallas, Martin can box, but he has a nasty streak as well. Through 15 professional fights, Martin has barely lost a round. He's going to be a nightmare to outbox and he can hurt opponents too. Martin's recent opponents have been capable, but he's yet to face a solid combination puncher or a supreme athlete. We still need to see how good his defense is. His offense is already there.  

Artem Oganesyan (12-0, 10 KOs, junior middleweight, Age 23, Russia but fights out of Canada)

For those looking for a fighter who's a little off-the-grid, let me suggest Oganesyan. When doing research for a Ring City piece last year, Oganesyan hit my radar, and I became enthralled with his abilities. A southpaw with great feet, he's fantastic off the back foot, but he also can be aggressive when the situation calls for it. He's a pure boxer with pop, featuring hand speed, smooth movement and a high Ring IQ. Oganesyan isn't aligned with a huge promoter and didn't even fight in 2021, but he's certainly another of the young guns at 154 lbs. who could soon become a major factor in the division (Conwell and Fundora are also on this list). It's still to be determined just how big of a puncher he is. His knockouts are more a product of the accumulation of clean blows than one-punch finishing ability.  

Jesse "Bam" Rodriguez (14-0, 10 KOs, junior flyweight, Age 22, USA)

Rodriguez has footwork that may be on par with Lomachenko's, except it may even be more purposeful. Possessing speed, athleticism, power, a large punch arsenal and expert accuracy, Rodriguez is a young fighter who has genuine pound-for-pound ability. Trainer Robert Garcia has called him the best fighter in his gym and while that might sound like hyperbole considering Rodriguez's relative inexperience, let's not discount it either; he could be that good. Rodriguez is an aggressive southpaw with a rock-solid boxing foundation. Although he's definitely a knockout puncher, he doesn't force stoppages. His abilities have overwhelmed opponents to this point. It's still not clear if he's going to settle at 108 or 112 lbs., but he has the talent level to win a world championship in either division. It's going to come down to the sanctioning bodies for him, since champs won't be lining up to give him an opportunity. 

Gary Antuanne Russell (14-0, 14 KOs, junior welterweight, Age 25, USA)

Photo courtesy of Esther Lin

Yet another southpaw on this list, Russell mixes in blinding hand speed with significant punching power and spite. A brother of Gary Russell Jr.'s, Antuanne has a strong amateur pedigree, and seems to be more offensively-minded than his brother. In a perfect world Russell would be more active; he had only one fight in 2021 and one in 2020. I think that the only thing that Russell needs to improve on is his punch accuracy. He could sacrifice a little bit of speed to hit the target more frequently. A natural combination puncher, he could have even more success if he places his punches a little more carefully. He's a prime candidate to win a junior welterweight belt once Josh Taylor leaves the division.  

Dalton Smith (9-0, 7 KOs, junior welterweight, Age 24, UK)

Photo courtesy of Mark Robinson

Smith represented Great Britain in various amateur tournaments and in the World Series of Boxing. Trained by his father, Grant (who also corners champion Sunny Edwards), Smith has an impressive boxing foundation. And what separates him from many prospects in the UK is that he can really punch. Watching him in the ring, he fights like a guy with far more seasoning than just nine professional fights; his poise is one of his best qualities in the ring. The challenge for Smith is to ensure that he is moved correctly. Matchroom had difficulties developing their 2016 Olympians appropriately and the hope here is that Smith can move fast, but not too fast. He still needs to face more opponents who will provide genuine resistance and will be in the ring expecting to win. Matchroom's matchmakers are going to be essential in his development. Let's hope that they get this one right. The talent is there.

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of saturdaynightboxing.comHe's a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook. 

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Punch 2 the Face Radio

In this week's Punch 2 the Face podcast, Brandon and I handed out our 2021 awards and shared our overall perspectives on boxing for the year. We also got out our crystal balls and made predictions on what will be in store for boxing and some of the biggest fighters in 2022. To listen to the show, click on the links below: 

Apple podcast link:

Spotify link:

I heart radio link:

Stitcher link:

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of saturdaynightboxing.comHe's a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook. 

Saturday, January 1, 2022

The 2021 Saturday Night Boxing Awards

After a year that was curtailed by the COVID pandemic, boxing returned in 2021 with a full slate of compelling offerings. 2021 will be remembered for significant upsets and unification matches, including three undisputed fights: at junior welterweight, junior middleweight and super middleweight. Although boxing fans didn't get all of the big fights that they wanted (and frankly, this will never occur), there was more than enough quality to go around and some deserving award winners.  

Here are the 2021 Saturday Night Boxing Awards (the 11th annual edition), with accolades given for Fighter, Fight, Knockout, Round, Upset, Trainer, Promoter, Network and Referee. 

Fighter of the Year: Saul Alvarez

Saul "Canelo" Alvarez made history in 2021, becoming the undisputed super middleweight champion. He fought three times during the year and stopped each opponent: Avni Yildirim, Billy Joe Saunders and Caleb Plant; the last two were undefeated titleholders. 

Canelo with all the 168-lb. belts
Photo courtesy of Esther Lin

As Alvarez has moved up in weight over the past few years, he has perfected a come-forward style that relies on power punches and defensive head movement. Even though he lacked the foot speed of Saunders or Plant, he was able to impose his style on both opponents. It's also clear that Canelo is fighting at his optimal weight class. His endurance and conditioning are now more consistent. He also doesn't waste punches. Everything is thrown with purpose and usually with bad intentions. And his punching power is devastating at the weight. 

Canelo's activity level and quality of opposition also work in his favor. He's not out of the gym for too long and this has helped his consistency. Furthermore, he is now able to deal with difficult styles with more ease. In the past, movers such as Saunders and Plant could have led to potential losses, but he has now proven he can defeat that style without any controversy. Canelo's march to undisputed status at 168 has been one of the highlights of 2021. He also becomes the first two-time Saturday Night Boxing Fighter of the Year.  

Previous SNB Fighters of the Year:

2020: Teofimo Lopez
2019: Saul Alvarez
2018: Oleksandr Usyk
2017: Srisaket Sor Rungvisai
2016: Carl Frampton
2015: Floyd Mayweather
2014: Naoya Inoue
2013: Adonis Stevenson
2012: Nonito Donaire
2011: Andre Ward 

Fight of the Year: Tyson Fury-Deontay Wilder 3 

Fury-Wilder 3 is my pick for the best heavyweight fight of the past 20 years. Featuring five knockdowns, wild swings in momentum and both boxers giving everything they had in the ring, Fury-Wilder 3 was far more than a sporting contest; it was a fight for survival, almost primal in nature. Fury scored knockdowns in the 3rd, 10th and 11th while Wilder dropped Fury twice in the fourth. And although Fury winning by knockout (11th round KO) wasn't surprising given their second fight, the end result was less meaningful than the action that preceded it. This is a fight to show non-boxing fans; it was a perfect advertisement for the thrills that boxing can provide.  

Fury and Wilder go toe-to-toe
Photo courtesy of Mikey Williams

The fight highlighted the considerable talents of both combatants. Fury showcased his unusually large arsenal of punches for a heavyweight: jabs, left and right hooks, uppercuts, straight rights and body shots. He also further demonstrated the development of his inside fighting skills. His ability to grapple, use his body to lay on Wilder, and work in the clinch helped to deplete Wilder; it wasn't just his punching that led to victory. 

Wilder uncorked his missile-like right hand in the fourth round, but he also displayed additional skills that weren't present in the first two Fury fights. He jabbed to the body well to start the fight. He landed a couple of hellacious right uppercuts. He also countered well at points. 

Ultimately, Fury was the more versatile fighter, but he had to take some huge shots to get the win. Nothing was given to him and his victory was not guaranteed. 

The Fury-Wilder trilogy will be remembered for producing thrilling moments in the ring and their third fight will become part of heavyweight boxing lore. This fight will be watched for generations to come.

Previous SNB Fights of the Year:

2020: Zepeda-Baranchyk
2019: Inoue-Donaire
2018: Chisora-Takam
2017: Joshua-Klitschko
2016: Vargas-Salido
2015: Miura-Vargas
2014: Coyle-Brizuela
2013: Bradley-Provodnikov
2012: Pacquiao-Marquez IV
2011: Rios-Acosta

Knockout of the Year: Gabe Rosado KO 3 Bektemir Melikuziev

In the beginning of the fight Bektemir Melikuziev, known as Bek the Bully, was having his way with Gabe Rosado. Throwing menacing straight left hands to the body and sharp right hooks to the head, Bek forced Rosado to take a knee in the first round to stave off additional damage. 

Rosado celebrates after his knockdown
Photo courtesy of Stacey Snider

But the veteran Rosado started to notice some patterns. Before Melikuziev would throw his left to the body, there would be a slight hitch or delay in his delivery. In the third round Rosado waited for this hitch, and he unfurled the punch of his career. As soon as Bek cocked his left hand back, Rosado beat him with a straight right that connected with maximum force. Instantly, Rosado knew. He high-stepped it across the ring and celebrated triumphantly. The fight was over and in a career full of close losses and disappointments, belatedly Rosado had his signature moment. 

What made this knockout even more impressive was that there had been no softening up of Bek prior to the knockout. Rosado took out a rising prospect who was at full capacity. It was the perfect punch at the perfect time.  

Previous SNB Knockouts of the Year:

2020: (tie) Alexander Povetkin KO 5 Dillian Whyte and Gervonta Davis KO 6 Leo Santa Cruz
2019: Nonito Donaire KO 6 Stephon Young
2018: Naoya Inoue KO 1 Juan Carlos Payano
2017: Zolani Tete KO 1 Siboniso Gonya
2016: Hassan N'Dam KO 1 Alfonso Blanco
2015: Yenifel Vincente KO 3 Juan Dominguez
2014: Andy Lee KO 5 John Jackson
2013: Stephen Smith KO 5 Gary Buckland
2012: Juan Manuel Marquez KO 6 Manny Pacquiao
2011: Takashi Uchiyama TKO 11 Jorge Solis

Round of the Year: Kenshiro Teraji-Masamichi Yabuki, Round 9 

This little-seen fight from Japan was an absolute treat. Yabuki scored one of the upsets of the year when he defeated light flyweight champion Teraji by tenth-round stoppage. And the fight provided unexpected surprises throughout. Although Teraji was supposed to be the more polished and technical fighter, in the early rounds of the bout Yabuki was superior, especially when countering on the inside. But eventually Teraji's pressure and work rate would lead to a tightening up of the scorecards. 

The ninth round was a thrilling battle with both fighters staggered at different times in non-stop action. In a dramatic moment, Teraji literally throws blood off the side of his face before uncorking a barrage of power punches, which forces Yabuki back to the ropes. In another great moment in the round, Yabuki is getting peppered with punches along the ropes and then explodes out of the corner with menacing punches that stun Teraji. Yabuki then takes the initiative and marches forward behind power shots, forcing Teraji, who had been the aggressor, to the other side of the ring. 

For those who like action along the ropes, this round was an example where both fighters did tremendous work. Teraji chopped away at Yabuki's body with left hooks and right uppercuts. And while Yabuki couldn't match Teraji's volume, he countered with brilliant right hands to the body and right uppercuts to the head. Overall, Teraji would get the best of the round, but not without taking significant punishment. There aren't too many available streams of this fight floating around, but if you can find one, check this gem out.   

Previous SNB Rounds of the Year:

2020: Jose Zepeda-Ivan Baranchyk Round 5
2019: Anthony Joshua-Andy Ruiz Round 3
2018: Deontay Wilder-Tyson Fury Round 12
2017: Anthony Joshua-Wladimir Klitschko Round 5
2016: Edwin Rodriguez-Thomas Williams Jr. Round 2
2015: Edwin Rodriguez-Michael Seals Round 1
2014: Thomas Williams Jr.-Cornelius White Round 1
2013: Tim Bradley-Ruslan Provodnikov Round 12
2012: Sergio Martinez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Round 12
2011: Hernan Marquez-Luis Concepcion I Round 1

Upset of the Year: George Kambosos SD Teofimo Lopez

George Kambosos was an IBF mandatory challenger for Teofimo Lopez. In his previous fight, he had been fortunate to get the nod over the tricky Lee Selby, winning by split decision. It's not that Kambosos was a fighter undeserving of a title shot, but it was tough to foresee areas where he would have advantages over Lopez, who had dethroned Vasiliy Lomachenko in his last bout. 

Kambosos (right) springs the upset
Photo courtesy of Ed Mulholland

But this is why they fight the fights, and in this case, the bout was postponed multiple times over several months before it finally happened. According to Kambosos, he continued his training throughout the year, whereas Lopez had COVID, family problems, promotional difficulties and a huge case of hubris. He and his father were expecting an easy knockout. 

Lopez started the fight guns blazing, throwing every punch with knockout intentions. He connected with several power shots, but they were only coming one at a time. By the end of the round, Kambosos timed Lopez and dropped him with a beautiful counter right hand. 

Kambosos seized this moment and dominated the next several rounds of the fight. Featuring intelligent, compact boxing, he was far more active and he landed impressive right hands, jabs and left hooks. He also got the spacing right. He understood that Lopez was just trying to wing power punches. So, he used his legs and wasn't too greedy. He realized that Lopez wasn't interested in winning rounds and took advantage of that.

Lopez did eventually come back into the fight and dropped Kambosos in the tenth, but Kambosos dominated the eleventh, perhaps his best round of the match, and had a solid final round. Ultimately, Kambosos won by split decision, but all three judges were perhaps a little too kind to Lopez; he didn't have a legitimate case for winning. 

On a final note, some fighters don't like to watch tape of their opponents, claiming that what you see in the ring on fight night might not resemble what you've observed on tape. Although I'm not advocating that position, Lopez-Kambosos is an example of where the tape may not always be the final story. Kambosos scarcely resembled the rugged plodder who fought against Selby. Against Lopez he was a polished boxer with fluid skills and a multiplicity of weapons. Lopez and his father didn't foresee that level of improvement in Kambosos, and perhaps few others would have either, but Lopez and his corner never made any impactful adjustments. And that played a significant role in why they lost. 

Previous SNB Upsets of the Year:

2020: Robert Helenius TKO 4 Adam Kownacki
2019: Andy Ruiz TKO 7 Anthony Joshua
2018: Rob Brant UD Ryota Murata
2017: Caleb Truax MD James DeGale
2016: Joe Smith Jr. KO 1 Andrzej Fonfara
2015: Tyson Fury UD Wladimir Klitschko
2014: (tie) James de la Rosa UD Alfredo Angulo and Tommy Karpency SD Chad Dawson
2013: Jhonny Gonzalez KO 1 Abner Mares
2012: Sonny Boy Jaro TKO 6 Pongsaklek Wongjongkam

Trainer of the Year: Eddy Reynoso  

Even if Reynoso only trained Canelo during 2021 then he would still garner serious consideration for Trainer of the Year. However, his year included far more creditable work than just the results of his most famous pupil. Reynoso helped set the game plan for Oscar Valdez's destruction of Miguel Berchelt. He saw Ryan Garcia notch the most impressive win of his career over Luke Campbell. He won an intriguing 50/50 heavyweight prospect matchup with Frank Sanchez over Efe Ajagba. And he saw Andy Ruiz return to the win column, with a victory over Chris Arreola. 

In fact, Reynoso didn't lose a notable fight all year. He won fights as favorites and as underdogs. He demonstrated his abilities with fighters of vastly different skill sets and styles. In addition, he has helped to improve his fighters. Witness Oscar Valdez using his foot speed and clever angles to beat Berchelt or Garcia's ability to go to the body even with his tall frame. It was a great year for Reynoso and he becomes the first two-time winner of the Saturday Night Boxing Trainer of the Year. 

Previous SNB Trainers of the Year:

2020: Teofimo Lopez Sr.
2019: Eddy Reynoso
2018: Anatoly Lomachenko
2017: Derrick James
2016: Shane McGuigan
2015: Peter Fury
2014: Freddie Roach
2013: Kenny Porter
2012: Robert McCracken
2011: Robert Garcia

Promoter of the Year: Premier Boxing Champions   

I don't think that there was one boxing promoter/entity that had a truly magnificent year, but I believe that Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) was the best of the bunch. They were responsible for several of the best fights of the year, including Fury-Wilder 3 (co-promoted), Apochi-Glanton, Fulton-Figueroa, Charlo-Castano and Davis-Cruz. They also put together a series of outstanding fights in the junior featherweight division. 

Charlo-Castano was one of 2021's undisputed fights
Photo courtesy of Amanda Westcott

Most of PBC's top fights went to Showtime in 2021 (see the next award) while Fox has seemingly become a platform for several of their young fighters. In a perfect world, perhaps PBC would use the higher visibility of Fox for larger fights, but nevertheless, the company delivered quality throughout the year, and in 2021 that was more than enough to win the Promoter of the Year award. 

Previous SNB Promoters of the Year:

2020: Top Rank
2019: Matchroom Boxing
2018: Premier Boxing Champions
2017: K2 Promotions
2016: Matchroom Boxing
2015: Golden Boy Promotions
2014: Matchroom Boxing
2013: (tie) Golden Boy Promotions and Top Rank
2012: Golden Boy Promotions
2011: Top Rank

Network of the Year: Showtime

After a couple of down years, Showtime rebounded with a strong 2021. Showtime sports head Stephen Espinoza did an excellent job in working with the PBC to get many of their best fights on his network or via Showtime pay per view. In particular, Showtime (and PBC) rewarded boxing fans with a series of great fights at junior featherweight and junior middleweight. 

At 122 lbs. this year, Stephen Fulton demonstrated that he is among the best fighters in the sport while Brandon Figueroa, Ra'eese Aleem and former champ Danny Roman have proven that they are formidable. At 154, Showtime broadcasted the undisputed fight between Jermell Charlo and Brian Castano. It was an excellent match, which resulted in a draw, and it certainly delivered value to their subscribers. 

ShoBox, Showtime's developmental series, went missing through large stretches of the year. I'm sure that the pandemic played a role in this, but hopefully we will see more of ShoBox in 2022; it plays a crucial role in the North American boxing developmental ladder.   

Previous SNB Networks of the Year:

2020: ESPN
2019: DAZN
2018: Showtime
2017: Showtime
2016: Sky Sports
2015: No award given
2014: ESPN
2013: Showtime
2012: BoxNation

Referee of the Year: Mark Lyson

In the fourth round of the Terri Harper-Alycia Baumgardner fight, Baumgardner connects with a short, powerful right hand and Harper completely freezes. She's out on her feet, but somehow she remains balanced in the center of the ring, with her hands down and her back towards Baumgardner. She's in no position to defend herself. Baumgardner rushes toward Harper and is about to throw a left hand, but referee Mark Lyson is quick enough to get between the two fighters and call off the bout. 

This all happens in an instant. Many refs wouldn't be in position to see the damage of Baumgardner's punch or wouldn't be close enough/fast enough to stop the action. But by not letting Baumgardner connect with that left hand, Lyson saved perhaps untold damage for Harper. 

A referee has a series of responsibilities to ensure that a fight transpires according to the rules, but what's paramount in all of their duties is fighter protection. Lyson was a credit to his profession on this night. He ensured that a defenseless fighter was saved from further punishment. In a normal year, the exemplary work that Nevada referee Russell Mora did in several high-profile fights would have won this award, but Harper-Baumgardner was a special circumstance. It was an unusual occurrence in the ring and Lyson handled the moment perfectly. He was in the right position and reacted incisively to limit further damage. His performance was an example of refereeing at its finest. 

Previous SNB Referees of the Year:

2020: Michiaki Someya
2019: No award given
2018: Jack Reiss
2017: David Fields
2016: Raul Caiz Sr.
2015: David Fields
2014: Steve Smoger
2013: Tony Weeks
2012: Eddie Claudio

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of saturdaynightboxing.comHe's a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.