2022 Boxing Fight of the Year: Katie Taylor-Amanda Serrano slugfest; Michael Conlan and Leigh Wood's clash
Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano received such a huge buildup for their April 30 bout in New York for the undisputed lightweight title that it was almost impossible to live up to the over-the-top expectations. Madison Square Garden was sold out, and the fight was being portrayed in some corners as the female version of the epic March 8, 1971, men's heavyweight title bout at The Garden between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier.
Somehow, though, these two women managed to exceed expectations and clearly deserve to be the 2022 Yahoo Sports female Fight of the Year in boxing.
It was terrific back-and-forth action between a pair of highly skilled boxers who competed with heart, tenacity and grit in a jaw-dropping show. When it was over, there was dispute who'd won because both women did so much. In the end, Taylor pulled off the split-decision victory.
Everyone who was there knew they'd seen something both special and historic. It was an amazing fight and lapped the field in the race for Fight of the Year.
Men's Boxing Fight of the Year
Michael Conlan and Leigh Wood turned in an amazing battle on March 12 in Nottingham, England, for the WBA featherweight title. Conlan dropped Wood in the first, the first hint this night would be special. They went at it brutally, and in the 11th, Wood got even in the knockdown count when he dropped Conlan.
Conlan was ahead on all three scorecards heading to the last, but Wood made the cards academic when he knocked Conlan out of the ring in the 12th to end the bout and win by KO.
The lightweight bout on Sept. 4 between Edwin De Los Santos and Jose Valenzuela at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles was like something out of a Rocky movie. Both were dropped in Round 2, and De Los Santos dropped Valenzuela again in Round 3 to win the bout by a surprising KO.
As good as that was, it wasn't enough to overtake Wood-Conlan. The Wood-Conlan fight was sustained violence for 12 rounds between a pair of skilled fighters.
That makes it the 2022 Yahoo Sports male Fight of the Year in boxing.
KO of the Year
There are always a lot of knockouts in a given year, but if you saw Isaac Cruz's KO of Eduardo Ramirez on Sept. 4, in Los Angeles, you would understand it was hard to pick anything else. Cruz dropped Ramirez early in the second with a big left. When Ramirez got up, Cruz swarmed him and caught him with a crushing left hook/right hand combination that crumpled Ramirez and ended the fight on the spot.
That was an easy choice for the 2022 Yahoo Sports KO of the Year in boxing.
Prospects of the Year
First, the criteria: I only consider potential Prospect of the Year fighters who have fought fewer than 20 times through the end of 2022, who are under 25 years old and who have never fought for a world title. So someone like Jaron Ennis, a great prospect, doesn't qualify because he's 29-0.
Men: This is a slam dunk choice to me: Lightweight Keyshawn Davis is already close to world championship level and he's only had seven pro fights. He's extremely smart in the ring and has just about every skill a fighter could hope to have. He's in a deep division with some pound-for-pound greats that may slow his progress to a championship a bit, but have no doubt Davis will hold a world title some day.
Without doubt, Davis is the 2022 Yahoo Sports male Prospect of the Year in boxing.
Women: This is a two-horse race between Gabriela Fundora and Caroline Dubois, the sister of Daniel Dubois, a former Yahoo Sports Prospect of the Year who holds a secondary heavyweight title belt.
I think Fundora, the 20-year-old sister of Sebastian Fundora, has the edge here. She's 9-0 with four knockouts and is still growing into her body. She's a 5-9 southpaw who can box and punch. When she adds some muscle and grows into her gangly frame, she'll legitimately be dangerous.
So for that, Fundora is the 2022 Yahoo Sports female Prospect of the Year.
Trainer of the Year
Jose Benavidez Sr. trains his son, David Benavidez, as well as rising prospect Diego Pacheco. David is already a world champion and could make the next step to superstar status in 2023 with the right fights. But David is well-schooled and smart and that's a credit to his trainer.
I also considered Derrick James, who led Jermell Charlo to the undisputed super welterweight title, and coaches Errol Spence. James is up there with the greats like Freddie Roach, Stephen "Breadman" Edwards and a few others, but I think he comes up short a bit this year because his fighters didn't compete as much.
So Jose Benavidez Sr. is the 2022 Yahoo Sports Trainer of the Year for boxing.