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Boxing: Johnny Nelson's 2021 wrap-up and 2022 preview

As a brilliant year of boxing comes to an end, I’m looking back at some of the highlights of 2021, as well as some fights and fighters to look forward to in 2022.

Fight of the Year

Tyson Fury v Deontay Wilder. Fury finally put Wilder in his place. There were no excuses; he got beaten comprehensively, but also the fight was exciting, there was drama, countless knockdowns, and incredible heart from both men, who gave the fans everything they wanted and more.

British Fighter of the Year

Tyson Fury – he gave everyone something to look forward to, he gave the Brits and British boxing a lot to be proud of and it’s been a great story to follow as he retained his WBC and The Ring heavyweight titles.

Fighter of the Year

This one’s got to be Canelo Alvarez. The successes he’s had over the last 15/16 months has been ridiculous. His boxing skill is second to none, and jumping through the weight categories and winning titles is something you have to commend. I think he’d be very hard beaten, but Artur Beterbiev is a good fighter to have with him, and hopefully we’ll come to that later down the line…

Upset of the Year

Kid Galahad, defending his IBF world title, losing to Kiko Martinez. He was winning the fight comprehensively, and then getting knocked out in the sixth round has left a rematch on the cards.

Also on the same bill, honourable mention to Alycia Baumgardner who stopped Terri Harper to claim the WBC and IBO female super-featherweight titles, but the biggest upset for me is Kiko Martinez.

Breakthrough Fighter of the Year

I’d have to go with Conor Benn. Watching his development as a professional fighter and how polished he’s becoming and how successful and dangerous he looks, especially for a fight fan – and a British fight fan at that – it’s an exciting ride.

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Three Fighters to Look Out for in 2022

Anthony Yarde

After his split decision loss to Lyndon Arthur last year, he re-established himself as the domestic boss of the light-heavyweight division with the TKO win in the rematch to take the Commonwealth and WBO Inter-Continental titles.

Donte Dixon

A young fighter from Sheffield. He’s really exciting and slipping under the radar, but this kid has got so much skill it’s unbelievable. He spent 11 months out of the ring before making his return with a win over Jordan McCorry in November, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of him in 2022.

Willy Hutchinson

The young Scot had a superb amateur career, winning gold in the 2016 Youth World Championships after his 2014 European Junior Championships success – though he did suffer his first professional defeat last year when fighting for the British and commonwealth super-middleweight titles.

I’ve seen this young man first hand. He’s a good, skilful fighter, he’s mouthy, he’s braggadocious. He’s certainly got the mouth to back up his skills.

Three Fights to Make in 2022

Fury v Whyte

I’d like to see Dillian Whyte get his crack at Tyson Fury for the world heavyweight title – at last! He’s one of the few top fighters who’s had the biggest struggle. He’s only lost two fights in his professional career, to Anthony Joshua and Alexander Povetkin – the latter coming after putting his opponent down twice in the early stages, and even then he won the rematch convincingly. Having being in the mix for so long, he deserves his shot.

Canelo Alvarez v Artur Beterbiev

I think that would be a wicked fight and he’s probably the only threat out there for him. We’ve seen Canelo step up to light-heavyweight before to take on Sergey Kovalev, where he won the WBO world title, but Beterbiev would present a different threat and would make for a fascinating fight.

Savannah Marshall v Claressa Shields

It could be Shields’ breakthrough fight to establish herself as the best female fighter in the world – if Katie Taylor steps out of the way. She’s won world titles at three different weight classes, has won all 11 professional fights, and currently holds the WBC, WBC, IBF and The Ring female middleweight titles. I’d love to see this one made

Who will be a world champion this time next year?

I think Conor Benn will win a world title next year. Give it time – the right opponent, the right opportunities, it’ll come. Every fighter of late that’s been asked to test him, he’s made easy work of. He reminds me of his dad; I was around when Nigel boxed and he was under the same criticism and scrutiny and, well, the rest is history.

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