2021 Boxing Fighter Of The Year Nominees

Welcome back to The Queensberry Rules’ annual year-end boxing awards, continuing over the course of a week. Here’s how we do it around these parts:

The major categories are Knockout of the Year, Fight of the Year and Fighter of the Year. For each category, we give five finalists, with video and/or relevant info, as well as honorable mention candidates.  On the second day after a category is introduced, we’ll give you the winner and explain why.

Previously: Knockout of the Year nominees, Knockout of the Year winner, Fight of the Year nominees, Fight of the Year winner. On deck: Fighter of the Year winner.


Canelo Alvarez

Became the true champion at super middleweight in November with a stoppage victory over Caleb Plant… That win also gave him his second straight erasure of an undefeated opponent, following his win against Billie Joe Saunders… Retained the title of best active pound-for-pound boxer… Fought three times in 2021, a rarity for any fighter let alone anyone, with his third success his first chronologically against overmatched Avni Yildirim… Looked poised and destructive in all outings, having become a complete fighter with almost no flaws, and rose among the list of Mexico’s finest … Still the biggest star in the sport, too.

Nonito Donaire

Ended his year having cemented a Hall of Fame career legacy regardless of what comes next… At age 39 to close 2021, the number “four” was important, as both his wins came in that round… First was an upset of Nordine Oubaali, although anyone who saw Donaire go toe-to-toe in 2020 with  Naoya Inoue shouldn’t have been surprised… Next was a big body shot KO of fellow countryman Reymart Gaballo… Seemingly ageless, his speed, power and boxing IQ remain elite… If he’s not again pound-for-pound top-10 right now, he might be just one win away… Firmly ensconced in the pantheon of all-time great Filipino boxers.

Tyson Fury

Completed one of the best heavyweight trilogies ever having one two of the three, and arguably should’ve been 3-0… Stopped Deontay Wilder in the TQBR Fight of the Year… Proved, once more, that his mixture of size, fortitude, determination and agility make him worthy of the heavyweight championship he holds — one that bequeaths him the semi-honor of “baddest man on the planet”… About the only knocks on his 2020 resume are that it was only one fight long, and the bout underperformed on pay-per-view even considering low demand… Overall, with a personality as big as his frame, he’s no worse than the second biggest attraction on the planet, and among the P4P elite.

Josh Taylor

Proved once more that he’s rarely in a bad fight… And he just wins… Cleaned out the top of the junior welterweight division, earning the true championship in the class against the previously undefeated Jose Carlos Ramirez… It was a close battle, but there was no dispute about the victor, either from the judges or fandom…. There doesn’t seem to be anyone he doesn’t want to beat and has already been turned down by big names at welterweight… He’s also a P4Per via his all-around abilities and skills, and his toughness.

Oleksandr Usyk

Ascended from perhaps the best cruiserweight to lace them up to a real threat to takeover heavyweight… Like several finalists, had just one win, but it was maybe the best of them all… Despite a clear size gap, thoroughly whipped Anthony Joshua, derailing Joshua’s comeback trail and likely the richest fight in boxing, Fury vs Joshua… Outsmarted Joshua, but demonstrated a resilient chin against a bigger puncher, plus had enough pop to threaten a late stoppage… A fan favorite for his deadpan humility and humor, if not a big draw by himself yet hailing out of Ukraine… Deservedly considered second only to Alvarez in the P4P rankings.


Terence Crawford, Stephen Fulton, George Kambosos

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (http://www.tbrb.org). He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.