Editor’s Note: This will be a four-part series, with the next edition running on Sunday, January 15.
(A) is for ARTUR BETERBIEV vs DMITRY BIVOLYou’d do well to pick a fight in 2023 that, on paper, looks better than Beterbiev vs Bivol. This Eastern European clash blends raw, bludgeoning power with spiteful skill and is guaranteed to catch fire at light-heavyweight. But don’t count your chickens. Canelo Alvarez, bullshit politics and possible injuries are the frontrunners as to why we could be sitting here this time next year, sighing, adding this 175 lb unification fight to a 2024 wishlist.
(B) is for BAM RODRIGUEZBam was my 2022 FIGHTER OF THE YEAR and enters the new term with plans to further dominate the lower weight divisions. He’s lined up to fight Cristian Gonzalez for the vacant WBO flyweight title in April, and if successful, will be pressured to challenge the division’s numero uno, Sunny Edwards in the summer. Bam’s in-ring aggression and ability to work angles akin to (whisper it!) Vasyl Lomachenko is nothing short of a joy to watch, and his boyish charm outside the ring acts as the perfect contradiction to the belligerence he shows inside.
(C) is for CONOR BENN CLARITYThe truth behind Conor Benn’s failed drugs test needs to be uncovered. Repeated attempts to brush any wrongdoing by the British welterweight under boxing’s soiled carpet are becoming tiresome and setting a dangerous precedent for future breaches. Benn is taking a vow of silence in the interim hoping to clear his name following a WBC and VADA investigation whilst the public are three months out from the news breaking and still none the wiser. It’s still not clear what length of ban – if any – Benn will serve. Unless he is already serving a ban without releasing details? We have every right to speculate when not offered any reasonable explanations from the parties involved.
(D) is for DAZNDAZN are slowly backtracking on the promises made upon their bullish launch a few years back. They have slowly introduced pay-per-views, increased their subscription fees and had their heads turned by YouTube/Influencer boxing as well as exhibitions. Whether their pockets are still as deep is yet to be known, but they will have to pack out their schedule a lot thicker if they are to keep hold of customers. Not being able to show DAZN in pubs/bars (speaking as a British punter) is a ridiculously short-sighted drawback and one that limits the app’s potential reach. Still, with fighters such as Canelo Alvarez, Anthony Joshua, Ryan Garcia and Katie Taylor still heavily involved in DAZN, the comeback could be on in 2023.
(E) is for JARON ENNISIf such a betting market existed, backing Boots Ennis to be in the running for Fighter of the Year in December would be a no-brainer. Of course, this is dependent on the opportunities that come the way of the unbeaten Pennsylvanian, but an early win over Karen Chukhadzhian already has Ennis on the front foot. The 25-year-old passes the ‘eye test’ with ease and is heavily tipped to climb to the very top of the welterweight division. He’s now the interim champion with the IBF and will benefit from the ticking clock surrounding the match-up and careers of Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr.
(F) is for FATHER TIMEFather time waits for no fighter in boxing. As ever, questions will inevitably arise this year regarding how much is left in the tank of some of the stars of the sport. Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez will be the first name for many on this list. The legendary Nicaraguan is entering his 18th year as a pro and is 55 bruising fights deep into a wonderful career. The 35-year-old will no doubt be pressured into a fourth fight with his most treasured dance partner Juan Francisco Estrada – and as a born fighter Gonzalez will need little persuasion – but 2023 should probably see Chocolatito walk into the sunset with his faculties intact. British heavyweight Dereck Chisora is polar opposite in stature to Gonzalez but requires a similar arm around his shoulder and a friendly nod to the door. Boxing doesn’t discriminate and can make a successful career redundant if retirement can’t be enjoyed. A word to Danny Williams, too, who should have had his feet up on a beach more than a decade ago. Now 49 years and 54-32, Williams is continuing his Eastern European tour of self-destruction and is unaccompanied by a sensible voice in his corner.
Lewis Watson is a sports writer from London, UK, and a member of the BWAA.