2021 Fighter of the Year: Usyk, Canelo, Taylor and Fury to battle it out for top prize

Between the four fighters on our shortlist, we have two undisputed champions, a unified heavyweight king and another heavyweight who concluded a compelling rivalry.

We're approaching that time of the year where The Ring will be determining their 2021 Fighter of the Year.

It's no secret that Covid-19 has disrupted the sport since 2020, but boxing's biggest names have all been in action this year.

Teofimo Lopez - last year's winner alongside Tyson Fury - will fight later this month while Gennadiy Golovkin ends the year in a middleweight unification against Ryota Murata.

From a new heavyweight champion to a certain Mexican making history, Planet Sport takes a look at the fighters in the frame to win Ring Magazine's coveted prize.

Oleksandr Usyk

Oleksandr Usyk

We were meant to get an all-British showdown to determine the first undisputed heavyweight champion since Lennox Lewis in 1999 this year. Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury had 'agreed in principle' to a two-fight deal for all of the marbles. It turns out in boxing unless two fighters are in the ring then you can never be too sure (shock horror).

August 14 was the date and Saudi Arabia was the location - until Deontay Wilder won a court battle to earn a rematch against Fury for the WBC title. No longer would fans witness a fight they had craved for years. Instead, Joshua met WBO mandatory challenger Oleksandr Usyk on September 25 in London.

Joshua made the second defence of his second reign of his WBA, IBF and WBO titles, and it would be his last at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. In front of nearly 70,000 fans, Usyk produced a dazzling performance to outbox Joshua, winning via unanimous decision with scores of 117-112, 116-112 and 115-113.

As well as retaining his undefeated record, Usyk also upset the home favourite and in doing so became a two-division world champion and just the second fighter after Evander Holyfield to unify the cruiserweight and heavyweight divisions. The pair are expected to collide in a rematch next year with April the date in mind.

Canelo Alvarez

Canelo Alvarez

The Mexican fought three times in 2021 and added titles to his mantelpiece in each fight. Returning in February - following his dominant December win over Callum Smith - Canelo stopped Avni Yildirim inside three rounds to retain his WBC and WBA super middleweight straps.

His win over the experienced Turkish fighter was more of a warm-up fight ahead of his Cinco de Mayo showdown with mouthy Brit Billy Joe Saunders. The duo collided for three world titles, two of Canelo's and Saunders' WBO belt. In front of 73,126 fans at the AT&T Stadium in Texas - an all-time attendance record for an indoor boxing event held in America - Canelo inflicted the first defeat of Saunders career.

The British southpaw was unable to return off his stool following round eight after fracturing his eye socket in three different places. Canelo had now unified the 168-pound division and had one title left to capture - the IBF title.

Months of negotiations with Caleb Plant led to a November clash in Las Vegas with all four major world titles on the line - the first time it had been done at super middleweight.

Similar to his bout against Saunders, Canelo dispatched Plant although he ended proceedings in round 11. His win made him the first undisputed champion at super middleweight and in doing so, he confirmed his status as boxing's Pound for Pound best.

Josh Taylor

Josh Taylor has won all 18 of his professional fights

Another undisputed champion was crowned this year - and the first Scottish fighter since Ken Buchanan in 1971. Taylor picked up from where he left off in 2019, where he won the World Boxing Super Series - by defeating Jose Ramirez in May.

In a back-and-forth contest, Taylor floored Ramirez twice on his way to earning a majority victory to win the only title to elude him at 140lbs - the WBC championship. The "Tartan Tornado" is hot property right now and huge fights await him in 2022.

Terence Crawford is an option should he decide to move up to welterweight and attempt to become a two-division world champion while lightweight king Teofimo Lopez has also spoken of his interest in facing Taylor.

Firstly, Taylor - under Ben Davison - must overcome WBO mandatory challenger Jack Catterall in the first half of next year.

Tyson Fury

Tyson Fury celebrates defending his WBC heavyweight title

The fourth and final name on our list. The "Gypsy King" fought just once this year but it was more than worth the wait as he completed his rivalry against Deontay Wilder.

Originally pencilled in to face Wilder in July, testing positive for Covid-19 delayed the bout and pushed it back to October 9. After knocking the American to the canvas in round four, Fury was then floored by Wilder twice in round five.

In a dramatic battle, Fury steadied the ship following round six and as the contest went on, Wilder started to tire and the Brit capitalised on it, knocking him out in round 11. This time there were no excuses from Team Wilder and the trilogy series finally concluded.

In three fights, from 2018 to 2021, Fury won two of them inside the distance while the first encounter ended in a draw.

Fury is a two-time winner of the Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year award, winning it with Teofimo Lopez last year for his seventh-round destruction of Wilder. Next year, he is expected to take on the WBC's mandatory challenger and Dillian Whyte is likely to be it.

Could we finally see an undisputed heavyweight champion by the end of 2022? One can dream...

Read more: Katie Taylor - Five-fight form guide ahead of December return in Liverpool

Latest Boxing Videos