For years, many have said that boxing is a dying sport. With viewership levels declining, iconic fighters such as Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao retiring and the UFC growing into an unstoppable beast, it would be easy to reach that conclusion. However, 2023 has resurrected big-time boxing somewhat, and there have been bucketloads of mouth-watering fights already this year.
Those include the Gervonta Davis KO win in his PPV bout with Ryan Garcia in April in the highest grossing PPV in years. Terence Crawford’s demolition of Errol Spence to win the undisputed welterweight title in July and Canelo Alvarez re-asserting his dominance at 168 lbs. with a September easy, impressive decision win over Jermell Charlo to retain his undisputed belts.
Meanwhile in the U.K., back in February British stars Liam Smith and Chris Eubank Jr. battled it out for domestic bragging rights. The former got the victory initially in shocking fashion before the latter earned his revenge with a knockout of his own in September. Two of their countrymen haven’t been quite so lucky though with Anthony Yarde and Joe Joyce (twice) both suffering crushing knockout losses, ending their hopes to become genuine contenders in their respective divisions.
There is plenty to be excited about throughout the second part of the year as well. WBC Heavyweight Champion Tyson Fury aims to officially become the baddest man on the planet when he battles against former UFC heavyweight king Francis Ngannou in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Bovada Sportsbook Online have made the Brit a heavy -1200 favourite for that particular contest and victory should clear the way to a unification bout between and fellow heavyweight belt holder, Oleksandr Usyk.
Ireland’s Katie Taylor will also look to restore some pride as she battles it out with her English conqueror Chantelle Cameron in a rematch of their recent bout that took place in Ireland. KT was hoping to go up in weight and usurp the Northampton-born fighter as the undisputed light-welterweight champion but was ultimately unsuccessful. She will get a second bite at the cherry later this year.
Cameron has already upset the apple cart this year, as has Teofimo Lopez, who stunned Josh Taylor to become the king at 140 pounds. And here are three other fighters who could do the same over the next 12 months.
Chinese heavyweight sensation Zhilei Zhang has already ruffled a few feathers. Britain’s Joe Joyce was thought to be first in line for a heavyweight title shot once Fury and Usyk finally unified all the marbles. Those hopes have been obliterated by the hard-hitting 40-year-old, whose back-to-back knockouts of the Juggernaut have left him in pole position.
With Deontay Wilder unsuccessful in his three attempts to defeat Fury looking for a fight with long-time rival Anthony Joshua, which may very well clear the way for Zhang to get the first crack at a newly minted undisputed king. And if he performs as he did against Joyce, Zhang won’t be an easy prospect for either Fury or Usyk to conquer.
For years, one man has reigned supreme in the super middleweight division, that being the box office sensation that is Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez. Throughout 2022, the Mexican star became the undisputed champion at 168 pounds, adding Billy-Joe Saunders’ WBO and Caleb Plant’s IBF titles to the straps he already owned. However, over the course of the two years since, he has stepped away from his division somewhat.
He shockingly lost in his bid to become champion in the light heavyweight division when he was outpointed by Russian boxer-puncher Dmitry Bivol. He then handled business with Gennady Golovkin by finally earning a convincing victory against the Kazakh at the third time of asking. He has also defended his titles in a homecoming against mandatory challenger John Ryder, before barely loosing a round to Charlo in their late September PPV.
During that time, however, perhaps his greatest challenger yet at super middleweight has risen in the form of The Monster, David Benavidez. While Alvarez has been handling business elsewhere, the 26-year-old American has firmly established himself as the next challenger to the throne. Standing at 6’2 and with a wingspan far bigger than his Mexican adversary, there’s a very real possibility that Canelo could be running on borrowed time at 168 pounds, hence why he has opted to take fights with the aforementioned Ryder and Charlo in recent bouts.
Benavidez has also been adding experience to his usually power-reliant arsenal. He dominated former champion Plant en route to a convincing unanimous decision victory back in March and should he manage to knock off another former champion in the form of Demetrius Andrade in November, there can be no denying that he should face Canelo next. And when he does, he has a very real chance to stay undefeated and become the new undisputed super middleweight champion.
English light welterweight Jack Catterall fell victim to one of the biggest robberies in British boxing history when he was denied a clear points victory over undisputed champion Josh Taylor. The pair signed for an immediate rematch which was eventually scrapped due to an injury to the Scottish champion. And Catterall’s misery was compounded further when Taylor lost his titles to Teofimo Lopez earlier in the year.
The 30-year-old just dominated veteran, former champion Jorge Linares this past weekend and will possibly be in line for Lopez – or Taylor should he take up the option of a rematch. Catterall is also rumored to possible get the winner of the Regis Prograis-Devin Haney WBC title bout in December. And, he is very much a live underdog against any of those fighters aobve and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him pull a world title upset at 140 pounds at some point in the next year.