2021 Boxing Fight of the Year: Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder deliver a thriller

In March, the boxing world celebrated when Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua signed a two-fight deal to meet each other and unify the heavyweight champion.

The winner of the first fight would be the undisputed heavyweight champion.

The euphoria over the pending bout between the two giants and long-time rivals lasted less than 24 hours. That’s when an arbiter ruled in favor of Deontay Wilder, ordering Fury to live up to the terms of a previous agreement and make the next defense of his WBC heavyweight belt against Wilder.

While there was much disappointment, given largely that Fury had dominated Wilder in seven one-sided rounds in 2020, that changed when the pair finally met in October.

There were five knockdowns in the fight, numerous momentum shifts and nonstop action. Fury dropped Wilder in the third and seemed on the verge of a stoppage. But Wilder, one of the game’s hardest punchers, put Fury on the floor twice in the fourth.

Fury got up, though, just as he had in 2018 when Wilder decked him in the 12th round, and went on to control the fight. He put Wilder down again in the 10th and 11th before referee Russell Mora stopped it.

Unlike in their 2020 bout, when Wilder did little in return, he was vastly better in the third fight. It made for easily the most compelling bout of the year.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - OCTOBER 09: Deontay Wilder (R) punches Tyson Fury during their WBC heavyweight title fight at T-Mobile Arena on October 09, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder's third matchup was a heavyweight title fight for the ages. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

It was an easy choice over the two runners-up, a super bantamweight bout between Stephen Fulton and Brandon Figueroa and a cruiserweight match between Brandon Glanton and Efe Apochi.

The sustained action and the momentum shifts lead me to Glanton-Apochi as the No. 2 choice behind Fury-Wilder III. Glanton and Apochi each entered their June 27 bout in Minneapolis undefeated, if not unheralded.

But it was a firefight from the beginning and Glanton won a split decision that was a direct result of a knockdown at the end of the sixth-round in the 10-round bout.

Fulton became a unified super bantamweight champion when he won a majority decision over Figueroa in a ferocious battle.

Boxing Fight of the Year honorable mentions

• Oscar Valdez KO10 Miguel Berchelt on Feb. 20 in Las Vegas for the WBC super featherweight title.

• Juan Francisco Estrada won a split decision over Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez on March 13 in Dallas for the WBA-WBC super flyweight title.

• Shannon Courtenay won a unanimous decision over Ebanie Bridges on April 10 in London for the WBA bantamweight title.

• Josh Taylor won a unanimous decision over Jose Ramirez on May 22 in Las Vegas for the undisputed super lightweight title.

• Terence Crawford TKO10 Shawn Porter on Nov. 20 in Las Vegas for the WBO welterweight title.