Since neither rival heavyweight champion is going to fight again this year it’s okay to ask the question: who had the better, more impressive year here in 2021 – Tyson Fury or Oleksandr Usyk? One day, we hope quite soon, these two will face each other (in what could be one of the most fascinating heavyweight encounters in some time). But right now, who is the top dog, which heavyweight had the better 2021?
Both 33-year-old Fury, the WBC ruler, and 34-year-old Usyk, the WBA/IBF/WBO king, fought just once each this year, but both men sure made it count. Usyk stunned Anthony Joshua to take three belts in September, the gifted southpaw’s brilliant boxing display forever silencing those know-it-alls who said Usyk was “too small” to be able to live in the land of the giants, much less rule the roost there.
Usyk, 19-0(13) was nothing short of brilliant against AJ, and what’s more, he may well have held back on his best stuff. Usyk, some say, didn’t go for the KO or stoppage win he could certainly have scored had he wanted to. “Why the need for blood?” Usyk asked after his big win. It really is amazing to wonder how much more Usyk may have in his arsenal, in his bag of tricks. Whoever he fights next, be it Joshua in a return, Fury in the big one, or someone else (there has even been some talk of Usyk dropping back down to cruiserweight to face Canelo!), Usyk could well dazzle us even more.
Fury, 31-0-1(22) went over old, familiar ground in his one-ring appearance of the year. Battling Deontay Wilder for the third time, Fury and the man who may well go down as his career-defining foe, saved the best for last. The October 9 fight/war/slugfest for the ages was truly special and there were no moans or groans afterward about how Fury had taken a needless trilogy fight. Unlike Usyk in his commanding win over Joshua, Fury had to scrape himself off the floor, twice, in a torrid fourth-round.
Fury showed again, though, what a tough, born-fighting man he really is. And whereas Usyk didn’t empty all his guns and show his absolute best stuff in his big win, Fury later revealed he had been under the knife before the third Wilder fight and that he was not in any way 100 percent himself. In the end it didn’t matter, but Fury was pushed harder than at any other time in his career.
So who impressed you the most this year: Fury or Usyk? Fury gave us the most exciting fight of the two, in fact Fury KO11 Wilder is almost sure to win the FOTY award when the time comes, but Usyk’s win over Joshua was equally special. Fury was the blood and guts slugger, Usyk was the clever, stick to the game-plan boxer. Both Fury and Usyk won away from home, too.
Getting up off the floor (twice) to win a fight is very impressive, but not going down when facing a big puncher is perhaps equally so. In terms of heart and desire shown, Fury topped Usyk’s effort. But which of these two modern greats was showcasing more skill, more brains, more boxing brilliance?
Both rival champions had a great year with just one fight apiece, but in terms of who had the better, more impressive 2021, my vote goes Usyk’s way. But how about YOU?