As we wave goodbye to an extraordinary and difficult year, the Bad Left Hook staffers have revealed their picks for the 2020 awards. Scott Christ, Wil Esco, Patrick Stumberg and myself were given a free rein over five key categories, with the award going to the majority vote.
FIGHTER OF THE YEAR: Teofimo Lopez
This award was deemed as a no-brainer amongst the four of us. Teofimo Lopez’s upset over Vasiliy Lomachenko was the outstanding performance of the year, in a year where most of the top-tier fighters only took to the ring once.
I, like many, didn’t really see a route to victory for Lopez before this fight. Lomachenko was widely regarded inside most peoples top two or three pound-for-pound fighters, and the young pup was able to disarm the Ukrainian with brilliance and bravery.
Lopez dared to be great, and he backed up his bark with an emphatic bite as Lomachenko struggled to get going until late in the second half of the fight. Solid, consistent jabs and spiteful right hands to the head and body of “Hi-Tech” were met with hesitation. Lopez forced Lomachenko to fight with caution; his size and power in the lightweight division proved a step too far for the fallen champion.
“The Takeover” was complete as Lopez eased to a unanimous decision, punctuating his performance with a gutsy final round of uppercuts and aggression. Lopez was adamant on closing the show in style, despite the strict instruction of his father ringside.
Lopez made Lomachenko human, inside and outside of the ring. The two-time Olympic gold medalist has since suggested that the judges were bribed inside the MGM Grand – a disappointing admission from a man who we assumed would act more graciously in defeat.
Tyson Fury’s win over Deontay Wilder in February saw the “Gypsy King” run closest to challenging Lopez for this award. The British heavyweight pulverized Wilder over seven rounds of one-sided action, fueled with venom and power curated with the help of “Sugar” Hill Steward. The difference between Fury’s and Lopez’s wins, for me, was that Fury’s was more expected. We saw the first meeting between Fury and Wilder back in 2018 and were able to draw reasonable conclusions from their draw.
Lopez’s win changed the face of a division. His ego, personality and skill set are a welcome addition to the top table of the sport.
Also nominated: N/A
FIGHT OF THE YEAR: Jose Zepeda vs Ivan Baranchyk
Where do we even start with this one? In a fight where Zepeda and Baranchyk shared eight knockdowns, we enjoyed the very best and, arguably, the very worst of the technical side of the sport. Wild left hooks from Baranchyk were met by the more considered and effective work of Zepeda, and despite being dropped twice in the opening salvo, “Chon” eventually rallied to force a crushing stoppage in the fifth round, buckling the leg of the Belarusian.
At times, it was reminiscent of two drunks squabbling over who spilt who’s pint down the local pub. Clambering to their feet on countless occasions, squinting their eyes, only to continue the argument. Eventually, Baranchyk was told enough is enough.
There wasn’t the blistering intensity of a lower-weight classic on show, nor the technical brilliance of a Canelo-GGG or Taylor-Prograis (to cite recent contenders), but the up-and-down knockdown-fest was mesmeric, memorable and bordering on laughable.
If you’re looking to convert a friend or family member to this weird and wonderful world of boxing that we adore, you could do a lot worse than sticking this fight in front of them and asking them to attempt to draw any conclusions. Zepeda’s name will now forever be linked with Baranchyk’s and vice versa.
Also nominated: Juan Francisco Estrada vs Carlos Cuadras 2
TRAINER OF THE YEAR: Derrick James
This is usually the hardest award to dish out and with a majority of fighters only fighting once in 2020, even more so this year.
Derrick James got the nod ahead of Eddy Reynoso and Robert Garcia, for his work in guiding Errol Spence Jr. to an unlikely comeback in 2020 as well as Jermell Charlo’s stoppage win over Jeison Rosario, unifying the WBC, WBA and IBF straps at 154lbs.
Two perfect game plans were executed by both Spence and Charlo, with James receiving extra credit for the boxing rehabilitation of “The Truth”. James recalled to Insider.com receiving a phone call at 3 am the morning that Spence crashed his Ferrari in late 2019. James’ boxing brain turned off that morning, only concerned over the health of his friend.
Spence committed to his comeback in March, and James was by his side the whole way. As a fighter, you have to place a huge trust in your trainer, and the 48-year-old monitored the health and conditioning of his charge before re-building his desire to fight.
With two notable, world title wins over the course of 2020, it’s hard to look past Derrick James.
Also nominated: Robert Garcia, Eddy Reynoso
KNOCKOUT OF THE YEAR: Jose Zepeda KO-5 Ivan Baranchyk
It was the eighth and final knockdown of the Fight of the Year, as Jose Zepeda iced Ivan Baranchyk with a stubborn left hand. Baranchyk, known for his toughness, melted to the canvas under a bent right leg, arching his back reminiscent of a failed limbo attempt.
It proved the cherry on the icing of a wonderful lightweight cake, punctuating what had come before in a trading of knockdowns.
Gervonta Davis and Alexander Povetkin (down twice) may feel aggrieved at not scooping this prize, but the extra points have to be awarded to Zepeda for finding that punch after facing a count four times throughout the previous 15 minutes.
Also nominated: Gervonta Davis KO-6 Leo Santa Cruz, Jake Paul KO-2 Nate Robinson
ROUND OF THE YEAR: Jose Zepeda vs Ivan Baranchyk – Round 5
Sealing a hat trick of wins for Zepeda-Baranchyk, round 5 was the standout from their October slug-fest.
The fifth saw Zepeda neglect any caution in fighting off the back foot, deciding to walk towards the powerful Baranchyk and decide to trade off with the 27-year-old in close quarters.
Let hooks were fired off at will by both men until the action truly came to life with 40 seconds to go. Baranchyk connected with a looping right, putting Zepeda onto his heels and only being kept up by the ropes.
Kenny Bayless administered the eight-count, Zepeda walked forward, and two punches later the fight was over.
Also nominated: Seniesa Estrada vs Miranda Adkins – Round 1, Jose Zepeda vs Ivan Baranchyk – Round 2
After a crazy year, a thank you to the Bad Left Hook community for sticking by us and continuing to click, read and engage. There is light at the end of the tunnel after a bleak 2020, as the sport continues to clamber back to its feet after a gargantuan COVID-19 knockdown.
A happy and healthy 2021 to all of you.