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As the world grappled with the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, boxing struggled to find a path forward. That set up an odd year for the sport, with many of boxing’s biggest stars unable to keep up a “regular schedule” either because of lockdowns or the lack of a live crowd making big fights financially unrealistic.

Despite those rough months, boxing fans were still treated to dramatic moments, incredible performances and some thunderous knockouts. More important than anything else, several rising stars proved that the future of boxing is safe.

A panel of CBS Sports experts sat down to vote on our picks for fighter, knockout and fight of the year, with some very interesting results. Let’s take a closer look at who shined the brightest throughout boxing in 2020.

Awards as voted on by Brian Campbell, Luke Thomas, Brent Brookhouse, Jack Crosby and Brandon Wise.   

Fighter of the Year

Winner: Teofimo Lopez Jr. — 1-0 (def. Vasiliy Lomachenko)

In a year where few top names were able to fight more than once, the vote came down to who scored the most impressive win. In beating Vasiliy Lomachenko, Lopez announced himself as a true elite fighter. Lopez and his father had spent years promising that he would be beat Lomachenko, a longtime fixture at the top end of pound-for-pound lists. Lopez not only beat Lomachenko, but raced out to a big lead, winning every round for the first half of the fight. Lomachenko started to come on midway through the fight, but Lopez showed his true quality as a champion by putting in the best round of the fight in Round 12, showing he still had plenty in the tank as he delivered in the biggest moment of his career. 

Second place: Tyson Fury 1-0 (def. Deontay Wilder)

In many ways, Lopez and Fury were No. 1 and No. 1a in 2020. Both men picked up massive victories, but Lopez just edged out the win in the vote by unseating a pound-for-pound talent. Fury’s demolition of Deontay Wilder was another case of a fighter delivering on a promise. Fury guaranteed that he wouldn’t just beat Wilder but would knock him out. The fight was complete and total dominance by Fury before the stoppage, sending Wilder into a spiral of excuses ranging from his walkout costume sapping his energy to accusations that Fury had doctored his gloves to a wide-ranging conspiracy involving his own cornermen fixing the fight. For beating the common sense out of Wilder, Fury secured his second-place spot in our vote.

Others receiving votes: Charlo edged out a crowded field for third place over Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez and Gervonta Davis. Charlo’s clear decision win over Sergiy Derevyanchenko during September’s loaded Showtime pay-per-view was enough for him to land in third place for the year.

Knockout of the Year

Winner: Alexander Povetkin knocks out Dillian Whyte

Dillian Whyte waited for his shot at the WBC heavyweight title for years, locked in as the sanctioning body’s top contender while never being set up for a title fight. With hopes of a massive payday against the likes of Anthony Joshua or Tyson Fury, Whyte kept plugging along, looking to stay active and maintain his status until his chance came along. Povetkin, viewed as well past his prime, seemed like a safe option for Whyte. The fight played out as expected, with Whyte controlling the fight and scoring a pair of fourth-round knockdowns. Things changed on a single punch, however, with Povetkin landing a massive uppercut early in Round 5, flattening Whyte and winning the WBC interim heavyweight belt in the process.

Second place: Gervonta Davis knocks out Leo Santa Cruz 

Davis is loaded with talent and could be one of boxing’s brightest stars moving forward — if he can get his life together outside of the ring. Against Santa Cruz, Davis scored the biggest win of his career. As the action was heating up against the ropes, Davis dipped down and uncorked a perfect uppercut to shut Santa Cruz’s lights out for one of most vicious knockouts of 2020.

Third place: Jose Zepeda knocks out Ivan Baranchyk

Eight knockdowns in five rounds. That should tell you enough about the level of power punching on display when Zepeda and Baranchyk shared the ring. But the final shot from Zepeda was the one that closed the show. A cracking left hand sent Baranchyk backward, bending his leg at an unnatural angle under his unconscious body.

Others receiving votes: Jake Paul TKO Nate Robinson (November); Joe George KO Marcus Escudero (August); Jermell Charlo KO Jeison Rosario (September); Ryan Garcia KO Francisco Fonseca (February)

Fight of the Year

Winner: Jose Zepeda vs. Ivan Baranchyk 

Boxing fans aren’t typically treated to a fight this dramatic unless it takes place within the scripted world of a “Rocky” movie. Yet the pair of junior welterweights combined in October to produce eight knockdowns over a thrilling five rounds in Las Vegas that was all-action from start to finish. Zepeda was knocked down four times in all, including twice in the opening round and once shortly before the fight ended in Round 5. But he saved his most savage combination for last when he caught Baranchyk with a right hand and a left hook that caused the former IBF champion to hit his head hard on the back of the canvas and pin his right leg awkwardly behind him. The fact that Zepeda, a slick boxer and counter puncher, has never been known as a brawler only made the outcome more unexpected. 

Second place: Juan Francisco Estrada vs. Carlos Cuadras II 

For as good as their 2017 scrap was, this October rematch for Estrada’s WBC junior bantamweight title was even better as both fighters got up off the canvas before “El Gallo” finally stopped him in Round 11. Cuadras was game but ultimately outgunned in the face of Estrada’s more technical shots as the two brawled inside an empty television studio in Mexico City. 

Third place: Masayoshi Nakatani vs. Felix Verdejo

In his first fight following a 15-month layoff due to a broken jaw suffered against Teofimo Lopez Jr., Nakatani went through hell and back to deliver a thrilling comeback in December against the once can’t-miss prospect Verdejo. Nakatani simply refused to be denied as he recovered from two early knockdowns to floor Verdejo twice in Round 9 before the stoppage in Las Vegas.

Others receiving votes: Teofimo Lopez vs. Vasiliy Lomachenko (October); Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez vs. Kal Yafai (February); Katie Taylor vs. Delfine Persoon II (August); Jermall Charlo vs. Sergiy Derevyanchenko (September); Adam Lopez vs. Luis Coria (June) 



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Showtime Boxing: Angelo Leo vs. Stephen Fulton fight prediction, card, odds, start time, how to watch

stephen fulton

Undefeated junior featherweights Angelo Leo and Stephen Fulton were originally set to fight for the then-vacant WBO super bantamweight title this past August. Unfortunately, Fulton tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the planned scrap and Leo instead beat Tramaine Williams to capture the title.

Leo and Fulton are finally ready to face off on Saturday, meeting in the main event of a triple header from Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut (9 p.m. ET, Showtime). In a sport that often keeps young, talented and undefeated prospects separate for as long as possible, it’s a refreshing change of pace to see the commitment to putting these two in the ring for Leo’s WBO title.

“I’ve known I was going to fight Fulton for almost a year now,” Leo told The Ring. “I’ve been preparing for him for a while. Now that it has finally come, everything we have worked on has come more naturally to me.

“It’s going to be a great match up. It’s what boxing needs: You’ve got two undefeated fighters, two fighters in their prime with similar records. What more can you ask for? All the way around, on paper, it looks like a great fight. But deep down inside, I know I’ll come out with the victory.”

Can’t get enough boxing and MMA? Get the latest in the world of combat sports from two of the best in the business. Subscribe to Morning Kombat with Luke Thomas and Brian Campbell for the best analysis and in-depth news, including a preview of Showtime Boxing on Saturday night below.

The fight represents an opportunity for Fulton to become world champion after holding some secondary and fringe titles in his first 18 fights. It’s a moment Fulton says he’s ready to take advantage of.

“To me, it means everything to be a world champion from Philadelphia,” Fulton told ESPN. This is what I’ve been working for my whole career. To my city, it would show people from my neighborhood that there’s a way out. But I don’t feel any pressure because of it. This sport teaches us the discipline to perform in moments like this. The pressure is just a part of my job.”

Plus, Vic Pasilas and Raeese Aleem will square off in the co-main event with the interim WBA super bantamweight title on the line. Pasillas boasts an undefeated record at 16-0 with nine knockouts to his name. Aleem is also unbeaten at 17-0 with 11 knockouts. The winner will be next in line to challenge full WBA champ Brandon Figueroa.

Leo vs. Fulton card, odds

Stephen Fulton -160

Angelo Leo (c) +135

WBO super bantamweight title

Vic Pasillas

Raeese Aleem

Vacant interim WBA super bantamweight title

Rolando Romero (c)

Justin Pauldo

Interim WBA lightweight title

Prediction

Leo vs. Fulton is a very competitive fight on paper. Both men have a lot of skill and Leo easily handled a decent — though not great — opponent in Williams to win the WBO title last time out. Fulton isn’t likely to blow the doors off anyone with sheer power. He only has eight knockouts in 18 fights. But his skills are enough that he doesn’t require that kind of one-punch power. Fulton works well off the jab and has good hand speed to follow up that jab with straight shots that can connect before the opponent has even reacted to the initial shot. With neither man having that one-shot knockout power, it’s possible they have the confidence to mix it up a bit and there’s potential for an exciting fight to break out. All that said, Fulton’s edge in speed should be enough for him to get off first and control the action. Pick: Stephen Fulton via UD



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Recent Match Report – Sri Lanka vs England 2nd Test 2020/21

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Tea Sri Lanka 381 (Mathews 110, Dickwella 92, Dilruwan 67, Chandimal 52, Anderson 6-40) vs England

An ageless James Anderson bagged six wickets while delivering England the breakthroughs they needed against Sri Lanka on the second day of the second Test. The home side fought their way into a strong position, however, through impressive innings from Niroshan Dickwella and Dilruwan Perera.

By shortly after lunch, Anderson, the 38-year-old seamer playing his 157th Test, had doubled his tally from the first day, adding three more wickets to help end Sri Lanka’s innings on 381 and finish with figures of 6 for 40 off 29 overs.

They were important wickets, too, as he removed centurion Angelo Mathews with his sixth ball on day two and denied Dickwella an elusive Test century. Dickwella gifted Anderson his five-for, chipping to Jack Leach at mid-off for 92, his highest score in 41 Test appearances. Anderson then drew Suranga Lakmal into a poke outside off-stump and Zak Crawley took a sharp catch at gully.

It was Anderson’s second straight five-wicket haul in Tests away from home, following his 5 for 40 in Cape Town a year ago, and the 30th of his career – only Richard Hadlee has more among pace bowlers with 36.

Still, Sri Lanka’s performance represented further improvement with multiple contributors and a stubborn tail. Dilruwan made an impressive fifty from No. 8, taking to Leach in particular, dancing down the pitch three times to plunder fours through mid-on and mid-off and a six down the ground. He helped add 89 in partnership with Dickwella and then another 49 for the last two wickets to frustrate England.

Anderson picked up where he left off the night before but, where Mathews could not, Dickwella stepped up to keep Sri Lanka in an engaging tussle through the morning session.

Mathews added just three runs to his overnight score before a subdued England appealed for what appeared to be lbw, with the ball appearing to pass the inside edge and deflecting via the knee roll to Jos Buttler behind the stumps. Mathews was originally given not out but Joe Root called for a review and UltraEdge revealed a spike as the ball passed the bat to end Mathews’ fine innings and give Anderson his fourth wicket for the match.

Anderson continued in miserly fashion, conceding just five runs from his four-over spell.

Dickwella, meanwhile, shifted gears into drive, quite literally at times, as he assumed the lead upon debutant Ramesh Mendis’ arrival at the crease. Dickwella unfurled a series of well-timed boundaries, carving Sam Curran through backward point and punching Mark Wood through long-on.

A fantastic take by Buttler had Mendis out for a duck, a faint edge off Wood going down the leg side and finding Buttler’s glove at full stretch to his left.

Sri Lanka had lost two wickets for 11 runs in the space of 19 balls but Dickwella remained in excellent touch, piercing the covers with two beautiful drives, first off Wood then Anderson. He used Wood’s pace to guide the ball effortlessly to the rope at fine leg before bringing up his fifty with a single off Dom Bess, whom he then swept twice to the boundary.

Leach joined Bess in the attack as England opted for dual spinners after the first hour, to Perera’s delight. Bess was also on the receiving end of some harsh Perera treatment after lunch, spilling a return catch struck so hard it caused considerable pain to Bess’s non-bowling hand.

The spinners went wicketless as Wood’s hard graft was further rewarded with the wicket of Lasith Embuldeniya and Curran finally accounted for last man out Perera, who holed out to Leach at deep backward square leg.

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Badgers’ third period rally falls short against Penn State

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After falling behind by three goals in the first period, the Wisconsin Badgers rallied late, but fell short in a 5-4 loss to Penn State on Friday night.

The Badgers pulled within one goal twice in the third, but couldn’t find the equalizer.

Dylan Holloway got the Badgers on the board in the second period, but Penn State restored its three-goal lead, scoring a few minutes later to make it 4-1.

Roman Ahcan scored halfway through the third period and Ty Pelton-Byce brought the Badgers within one at 12:02.

Penn State took advantage of an open net and regained their two-goal lead before Cole Caufield added a goal in the final minute of the game.

Cameron Rowe made 13 saves in net for the Badgers, while Robbie Beydoun, who entered the game in the first period, ended the night with 21 saves.



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