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Boom or Bust: How boxing’s biggest and best fared in 2023

Who won and who lost across the last year?

This post originally appeared in Steve Wellings’ Substack 

Terence Crawford – 40-0 (31 KOs)

There was only one fight for Crawford in 2023, and what a performance it was. The road has been long and difficult, but smashing generational rival Errol Spence to bits in July earned the three-weight world champion all four belts at 147. 

SW rating: Boom

Tyson Fury – 34-0-1 (24 KOs)

Only one fight for Fury as well in 2023. It was barely a fight as Francis Ngannou crossed over from UFC to cause a fat and unfocused Fury a surprising amount of problems. His last proper professional outing was a meaningless third bout against Derek Chisora, and Tyson needs a huge 2024 to rekindle the magic. If only a pressing opponent was waiting in the wings for him…

SW rating: Bust

Oleksandr Usyk – 21-0 (14 KOs)

Since participating in two bouts in 2018, Usyk has become a once-a-year fighter. This year’s outing was technically a low point. Daniel Dubois may or may not have strayed below the beltline in their Polish encounter, and Usyk eventually got the job done in nine. The win kept Usyk unbeaten and preserved the Fury fight. Beating a tricky opponent while preserving the megafight, gets him a narrow tick in the box.

SW rating: Boom

Anthony Joshua – 27-3 (24 KOs)

Rehabilitation was the name of the game for AJ, who scored three wins to help erase the ghosts of back-to-back Usyk losses. The final victory over Otto Wallin showed Joshua back to simplistic dominance as he led with the jab and busted up the Swede. Unfortunately, the fight many were waiting for had been dramatically derailed just hours earlier.

SW rating: Boom

Deontay Wilder – 43-3-1 (42 KOs)

Missing since a quickfire wipeout of Robert Helenius, Deontay returned on the ‘Day of Reckoning’ card in Saudi and looked like a raw novice rather than a chiselled ex-champion. Joseph Parker made his one yearly outing a nightmare as Wilder was beaten to the punch over 12 clueless sessions.

SW rating: Bust

Naoya Inoue – 26-0 (23 KOs)

Where to start with this absolute phenomenon? As if unifying the entire Bantamweight division at the close of 2022 wasn’t enough, Inoue only repeated the trick the following year at super-bantamweight. Stephen Fulton was supposed to cause problems with his speed and trickery in July. Inoue smashed him in eight. Marlon Tapales held on for as long as he could in December before Inoue’s power told in 10. All four belts taken. An exceptional display from the complete package.

SW rating: Boooom!

David Benavidez – 28-0 (24 KOs)

While he seems to have been around forever, 2023 could be construed as a breakout year for Benavidez. A 12-round points win over Caleb Plant, followed by a pummelling of the previously undefeated Demetrius Andrade, added two high-class names to his record and set the stage for a Canelo clash in 2024. Speaking of whom…

SW rating: Boom

Canelo Alvarez – 60-2-2 (39 KOs)

Canelo was lesser spotted for most of the year, choosing to ply his trade in early May and September, around Mexican holidays. First, John Ryder showed his toughness as Canelo enjoyed a routine homecoming win. Then, he was too big and strong for 154-pound king Jermell Charlo, who moved up in weight and attempted to defeat the undisputed super-middleweight king. Two fights in a year is breakneck activity these days. Overall, this kept Canelo just about in the positive column.

SW rating: Boom

Devin Haney – 31-0 (15 KOs)

A strong year for ‘The Dream’, who defeated Vasyl Lomachenko in controversial circumstances before moving up to 140 and dissecting Regis Prograis. Haney is maturing into a quality champion.

SW rating: Boom

Shakur Stevenson – 21-0 (10 KOs)

The opposite can be said for Shakur. Once touted as the face of boxing, Stevenson needed a balaclava to escape unnoticed from the T-Mobile Arena in November as he put in a stinker against Edwin De Los Santos. Despite having a huge PR team behind him, nobody seems to be able to tell Shakur it’s time to turn off the phone as he digs deeper holes with tweets filled full of excuses and complaints. Even an April demolition of Yoshino could not save his year.

SW rating: Bust

Gervonta Davis aka Abdul Wahid – 29-0 (27 KOs)

It feels like Davis has only fought once this year, as his two outings were very close together. First, a blast out of overmatched Hector Luis Garcia, followed by a knockout of Ryan Garcia. Then nothing after that. The victory over Ryan will go down as a legacy success. Therefore, Tank gets a thumbs up for his endeavours.

SW rating: Boom

Dmitry Bivol – 22-0 (11 KOs)

The best boxer on the planet in 2022 was riding high until…2023 happened. Not only did a unification versus light-heavyweight rival Artur Beterbiev not materialise, but nothing much materalised. The Russian mover was inactive until the final week of the year when he beat Lyndon Arthur on points. A better effort is needed next year. However, that won’t be hard to achieve.

SW rating: Bust

Errol Spence Jr – 28-1 (22 KOs)

It was a horrific year for Errol whose physical and mental decline seems to have expedited. Still showing the effects of a car crash battering, losing his unbeaten record inside the ropes, he did at least put up a good fight. However, wandering around the ring, struggling to evade any accurate shots from Crawford is not a good look. A rematch is an even worse idea. Spence needs to retire before CTE truly kicks in. He’s a resoundingly busted flush.

SW rating: Bust

Other notable Boomers: O’Shaquie Foster, Zhilei Zhang, Leigh Wood, Emanuel Navarrete, Kenshiro Teraji, Teofimo Lopez.

More notable Busters: Regis Prograis, Juan Francisco Estrada, Josh Taylor, Artur Beterbiev.

News and Notes

Kazuto Ioka didn’t get Juan Francisco Estrada for the big New Year’s Eve show, but he dealt comfortably with WBA super-flyweight business. The Japanese star dropped Venezuela’s Josber Perez multiple times on the way to a seventh-round stoppage.

Vergil Ortiz Jr returns to the ring on January 6. After the cancelled Stanionis bout(s) and subsequent medical complications, it’s the first time Ortiz has graced the ring in over a year. Hard-punching yet vulnerable Ghanaian Fredrick Lawson is the opponent.

Media Credits: The Independent, Japan News, DAZN.


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