2020 Fighter-of-the-Year: Teófimo López

Teófimo López Jr. (16-0, 12 KOs) defeated Vasyl Lomachenko (14-2, 10 KOs) via a twelfth-round unanimous decision (116-112, 119-109, and 117-111) to obtain the WBO, WBA (super), WBC (Franchise), The Ring Magazine, and the vacant lineal lightweight title. He already held the IBF belt from a second-round technical knockout over former world champion Richard Commey last year. López became the youngest four-belt champion in boxing history at twenty-three years old and in just his sixteenth professional fight.

The unbeaten López dominated the first half of the fight as he out-boxed and out-landed Lomachenko. He displayed hard jabs and body shots that consistently landed. Surprisingly, Lomachenko was extremely reluctant to let his hands go in the early going, which caused him to land less than ten punches per round for the first seven rounds. He finally picked up the offensive pace in the eighth-round and won the next four rounds, however, it was too little, too late. López regained momentum in the twelfth-round as he appeared to hurt Lomachenko with a series of left hooks and body shots that forced him back to the ropes. López out-landed Lomachenko in eight of the twelve rounds.

What made López’s upset victory so impressive was that he beat the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world so decisively. The former two-time Olympic gold medalist and three-time division titleholder was unbeaten in the last six years and during that stretch, he fought thirteen elite fighters, none of whom gave him any real trouble until López. López’s significant win catapulted his career overnight to become one of the best boxers in the sport. He is ranked the fifth-best pound-for-pound fighter in the world by ESPN and sixth by The Ring Magazine’s independent rating.

Runner Ups:

In a battle between two of the best heavyweights in the world, undefeated Tyson Fury (30-0-1, 21 KOs) solidified his spot as arguably the best fighter in the division with a technical knockout victory over previously undefeated Deontay Wilder (42-1-1, 41 KOs) when Wilder’s assistant trainer Mark Breland stopped the one-sided bout with one minute and thirty-nine seconds in the seventh-round. Fury captured the WBC and The Ring Magazine belt and retained the lineal heavyweight champion title. He became the third heavyweight (Muhammad Ali and Floyd Patterson) to hold The Ring Magazine belt twice, the first heavyweight to obtain the WBA (Super), WBC, IBF, WBO, and The Ring Magazine title, and the first heavyweight to beat two world champions who had ten or more title defenses (Wladimir Klitschko, 18 and Wilder, 10). The first time these two fighters met in December 2018, it was a controversial twelve-round split decision draw that many boxing experts and fans believed that Fury had won.

Fury dominated the bout from the opening bell as he immediately attacked Wilder with power shots and hard jabs. Wilder struggled to get into any type of offensive rhythm from being under Fury’s constant, smothering offensive attack. Fury knocked Wilder down in the third-round from a left hook and overhand right to the head, which caused Wilder to be on shaky legs and busted his left eardrum that bled heavily for the rest of the fight. Fury scored a second knockdown in the fifth from a hard-left body shot and Wilder began to bleed from his mouth. Wilder also had a swollen jaw by the end of the bout. Before this fight, Wilder had never been knocked down and had only gone the full twelve rounds twice. Fury was ahead on all three judge’s scorecards (59–52, 58–53, and 59–52) at the time of the stoppage and had won every round except the second on Judge Glen Feldman’s scorecard. He had a point deducted in the fifth-round for hitting Wilder when referee Kenny Bayless called for a break.

Undefeated super featherweight knockout artist Gervonta Davis (24-0, 23 KOs) scored a potential knockout-of-the-year over Léo Santa Cruz (37-2-1, 19 KOs) at two minutes and forty seconds in the sixth-round. The four-time world champion in two-divisions landed a powerful left uppercut that had Santa Cruz knocked out cold on the canvas for a couple of minutes, after which he slowly got up. Davis has knocked out fifteen consecutive opponents and holds a ninety-six knockout percentage, which is the best of any boxing titleholder. Santa Cruz, a four-division world champion, had never been legitimately knocked down in his previous thirty-nine bouts. Davis obtained the WBA World Super Featherweight and retained the WBA World Lightweight Champion. He was ahead 48-47 on all three judges’ scorecards at the time of the stoppage. Santa Cruz won the first two rounds and Davis won the next three.