2020 in Review: The Fights and Fighters that made the Year

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Full of ups, downs and cancelled fights, 2020 was one of the strangest years on record for international boxing.  

Looking back on the past 12 months, while there may have been surprising upsets and crushing disappointments, it was also a year like no other for professional boxing. 2020 was a breakthrough year for women’s boxing, and the WBC rematch between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder is one that will be remembered for years to come. 

Meanwhile, back home here on Irish shores, we also saw some dramatic events unfold as our fighters delivered some of the best performances of their career. Here’s a round-up of the fighters and fights that made the year such an unforgettable one for Irish boxing.  

The Fighters 

Katie Taylor  

The Bray native is quite simply peerless. Now rated the number one pound-for-pound athlete in women’s boxing, Taylor has outclassed and outperformed every opponent to go toe to toe with her in the lightweight division.  

She kicked off 2020 with a rematch against Delfine Persoon. Their first fight in June 2019 may have gone to the wire, with Taylor’s majority decision win causing some controversy, but Taylor vs. Persoon II left no doubt as to the Irish champion’s supremacy. 

True to form, Taylor closed out the year headlining a historic event at Wembley Arena that featured three all-female World title fights on the card. Taking on the previously unbeaten Miriam Gutierrez, Taylor completely obliterated the challenger, retaining her Undisputed Lightweight World Titles in the process. 

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The event wasn’t just a milestone for every pro fighter on the card; it was also a key night for women’s boxing in general, as punters across the world took advantage of the numerous betting markets opened up by global bookmakers and wagering experts. In the UK and Ireland alone, 2 million viewers tuned in to watch the blow-by-blow action.   

Lewis Crocker  

‘The Croc’ has been climbing up the ladder in the Welterweight division since 2017. With an impeccable record of 10-0, he started 2020 on a high note. In a sold-out Ulster Hall on February 1st, Crocker took on former British title challenger John Thain and emerged with another win under his belt.  

He then travelled to England to compete for the vacant WBO Welterweight strap against the more experienced Louis Greene. On paper, Greene had been boxing at a higher level for longer, with some viewing him as the clear favourite. In the ring, however, it was Crocker who dominated, knocking ‘The Medway Mauler’ out with a lightning-left hook.  

Now, with a WBO belt firmly around his waist and a 12-0 record to his name, all avenues are open for this emergent Welterweight champ in 2021.  

The Fights 

Tommy McCarthy vs. Bilal Laggoune 

31st October 2020 – EBU Cruiserweight Title  

2019 wasn’t McCarthy’s year. After suffering a KO loss to Richard Riakporhe in March, the chances of the Belfast cruiser challenging for a belt again seemed slim to say the least.

But, after a slow-but-steady climb back to challenger level, which saw him defeat Fabio Turci in Italy, in 2020, he honed in on the vacant European Cruiserweight title left by Lawerence Okolie (who, himself, moved on to the WBO). 

The result was one of the best performances and fights on the Irish boxing calendar in 2020.  

While the Belgian displayed competitive form for many of the rounds, he was no match for a fitter-than-ever McCarthy. After 12 blistering rounds, McCarthy was declared winner by majority decision.  

Having proven his mettle at European level, McCarthy has his sights set on the current reigning IBF Cruiserweight champion Mairis Briedis in 2021.

Eric Donovan v Zelfa Barrett 

14th August 2020 – IBF Inter-Continental Super Featherweight Title 

While the result of this bout left Irish fans disappointed, there’s no denying that this title fight at Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Fight Camp was one of the best of the year.  

For six rounds, Donovan put on the fight of his life as he out-boxed the greener Barrett. It seemed that the belt would be heading home to Ireland at the end of the night. However, a massive left hook from Barrett in the seventh round quickly turned the tables. Although he showed true heart by getting back on his feet, Donovan was finished in the eighth by another thunderous left hook.  

Ireland may have suffered a loss that night, but “Lilywhite Lightning” would regain his form with a win in Belgium in December. 

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