Fighter of the Month – January 2021

The year has begun, though fights have been sparse there has been sufficient highlights among them to rekindle the long since dormant Fighter of the Month. An award with a parade of the great and garrulous among its previous winners, none of whom were aware of their success nor received any prize of garland for the achievement. But don’t let that distract you.

In 2018, the award briefly reemerged in an amalgamated form with, where a three-man panel decided on the winner. However, this latest reboot of the original 2008 concept will return to that simpler myopic format.

There were two performances that caught the eye in January 2021, though I was sad to read Cosme Rivera’s fight was postponed. The 44 year old was a strong contender for this prize regardless of the outcome, for I had a nostalgic yarn to weave about the veteran Welterweight.

Stephen Fulton’s win last weekend, and the nature of it, pushed his case for recognition beyond that of Caleb Plant last night. Fulton fought against a fellow unbeaten contender in Angelo Leo, and set a hot pace, an unexpected tactic for the American and helped him take the opportunity a lean calendar offered him to capture attention. A honourable mention for him and a fighter now on the radar of far more boxing fans than it was prior to his win.

This month’s winner, was Ryan Garcia. A lightweight with an enormous social media presence and matinee idol looks, he was accused of lacking substance behind the smile and Instagram filters. Opponent Luke Campbell, a veteran at 33, but fresh and determined too, proved a greater ‘handful’ than anybody Garcia had encountered and helped the 22 year old prove he was more than just a marketeer’s dream.

Climbing off the canvas, Garcia regrouped to land a fight finishing body shot and earn an Interim belt in the process. More important than that, he confirmed himself as a star of the here and now and not just the future. Subsequently he has demonstrated urgency and boldness by pursuing Filipino legend Manny Pacquiao despite weight difference and chasm in experience. Garcia himself revealed is close to signing to fight Manny Pacquiao at a catchweight below the Welterweight limit. In the modern world, where Garcia has 22million followers on Instagram, he has direct access to a huge market. He may be the next transcendent star the fight game unearths.

Lucrative? Yes. Daring? Most definitely.

A great month for Ryan Garcia.

For the morbidly curious here are the previous winners of this award with a selection of links back to the articles that summarised the reasons for their selection.

February promises to provide a deeper list of candidates as British boxing begins again and the world dares to contemplate life beyond the pandemic.

Boxing opinion and insight by David Payne

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