2021 Boxing Awards: Top prospect, trainer, KO of the Year and more

The Prospect of the Year is a young fighter who has the most potential to become a star in boxing. To consider a fighter a prospect, he or she has to be 25 or under, have fewer than 20 professional fights and have never fought for a world title.

There are two significant choices this year who meet that criteria: unbeaten super welterweight Sebastian Fundora and unbeaten heavyweight Jared Anderson.

Fundora is 23 with an 18-0 record and 12 KOs. At nearly 6-6 with an 80-inch reach, he’s a matchup nightmare, though I believe he’ll be a super middleweight or even a light heavyweight when he hits his peak. He’ll still be overwhelmingly large for his division.

Fundora, though, isn’t just a big guy. He can fight and understands distance and timing well, and has a good punch.

As good as Fundora can be, he is my runner-up as the 2021 Prospect of the Year. Elite heavyweights are a rarity, and Jared “Big Baby” Anderson shows all the signs of being an elite heavyweight.

He has the physical size necessary to succeed in today’s super-sized heavyweight world. He’s 6-4, 245 pounds with a 79-inch reach, and he has legitimate dynamite in his hands.

Anderson has one-punch power in both hands, but he’s also athletic and knows how to box and move. Given his colorful personality, he could be a megastar in the not-too-distant future if he fulfills his potential.

Reynoso a shoo-in for Trainer of the Year

Eddy Reynoso is, for my money, the best trainer in boxing. He understands the game at a granular level and takes what his fighter has and makes it better. In the case of Canelo Alvarez, it’s the top fighter in the world. In the case of Frank Sanchez, it’s a guy who conceivably could win a heavyweight belt some day.

Reynoso is brilliant at game-planning, makes shrewd in-fight adjustments and is a motivator when need be. His fighters had a banner year in 2021 and if Ryan Garcia had fought more than once, Reynoso would have lapped the field.

He’s the only sensible choice for Yahoo Sports 2021 Boxing Trainer of the year.

LAS VEGAS, NV - FEBRUARY 20: Miguel Berchelt and Oscar Valdez exchange punches during their fight for the WBC super featherweight title at the MGM Grand Conference Center on February 20, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)
Miguel Berchelt went into his bout with Oscar Valdez as a heavy favorite, but was knocked out cold in Round 10. (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

Valdez locked up KO of the Year early

There were three KOs that stood out in 2021, but Oscar Valdez’s not only carried the most significance, it was also the most devastating.

Valdez knocked out Miguel Berchelt in an important bout for the WBC super featherweight title in a stunning finish.

That edges out Gabe Rosado’s crushing right hand KO of Bektemir Melikuziev.

The other contender was Brandun Lee’s third-round KO of Sam Teah. Teah threw a punch and left his chin in the air. Lee didn’t miss it with a right-hand that was a one-hitter quitter.

Broadcast awards

For the first time, I’m going to give out awards to boxing broadcaster. My choice for what I’ll call the Yahoo Sports Jim Lampley Award for the best overall boxing broadcaster goes to ESPN’s Andre Ward. Ward is perfect as an analyst (though his scoring is another matter). He’s willing to speak out when necessary, and is brilliant at breaking down why one fighter is succeeding or another is failing. There’s really no one close to him in the game.

The best overall crew in my opinion is DAZN’s threesome of Todd Grisham, Sergio Mora and Chris Mannix. Grisham stays up with the action, doesn’t play favorites and knows how to involve his partners. Mora uses his experience as a former world champion to break down the action well, though I could do without the jokes about Mannix. Mannix is always well-prepared, adds insightful comments and does excellent in-ring interviews.

The best studio host is Showtime’s Brian Custer. He knows the game and the fighters and sets the stage well. In between fights, he does a good job interviewing fighters and pulling nuggets out of them.

And the top ring announcer for 2021 goes to David Diamante, whose baritone voice and impeccable timing create plenty of drama both before the fight, when he’s introducing the combatants, and after, when he’s reading the decision.

Diamante was recently involved in a serious motorcycle accident in which he was critically injured. The prognosis is good, but prayers go to to him for a full recovery and a quick return to work.