New York– Boxing is healthy and reflected again this year with the lucrative streaming and televised networks that provided fans with diversity on the menu. There was no denial of champions defending their respective alphabet soup titles and rising young talent in the sport continued to make an impact.
From this perspective, though, the championship mega fights were conspicuous with their absence, attributed to the consistent greed of sanctioning organizations, promoters, and personnel that argue about dollars and cents.
Basically, the mega fight did not occur and a novice of the sport will continue to put blame on controversy that always provides a black eye in the boardroom and not in the ring.
So this was a year of building to an anticipated 2023 of the mega fight, as pay-per-view numbers continued to decline while the streaming networks (ESPN and DAZN) delivered.
But this did not happen: Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr. for the unified welterweight titles, Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk for the unified heavyweight titles. Ryan Garcia and Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis were on the agenda. All the buzz leads to a reported April fight between two of the young superstars in the sport and contested at a catch weight of 135.
Canelo Álvarez, to many, is still a face of the sport as the unified super middleweight champion, despite losing to light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol in his quest to continue a legacy in another division. It was not a memorable Canelo Álvarez fight and it was a unanimous and failed effort.
Álvarez, though, continued to generate revenue at the box office. His is a spectacle and reflected with DAZN subscribers. He remains that face and rebounded with a resounding win in September, his third fight with middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin, thus concluding a controversy of two previous fights with his adversary.
Álvarez is seeking redemption and wants a rematch with Bivol, though defending the unified 168-pound titles are more likely with David Benavidez on his trail. Benavidez could be next, assuming he prevails in a fight to be scheduled against Caleb Plant.
And this was a year for the female fighter, a division that is surrounded with controversy because they don’t get to fight three minute rounds and go the two minute limit. Promoters are aware about their potential and have quietly seen an influx of their popularity.
Attribute the popularity and awareness to Amanda Serrano, a champion who may have had that fight of the year at Madison Square Garden in a hotly contested battle with Katie Taylor.
Serrano, the Puerto Rican female fighter, lost the lightweight title and claim for supremacy in a historic event as the first female boxing main event at the Garden that sold out. The impact is awareness for the female division that expects to continue in the new year.
Serrano got a boost from Jake Paul. The YouTube turned pro fighter co-promoted the card and his popularity as a media sensation became a major headline, though boxing purists and skeptics continue to question the legitimacy of where his career is headed as a major contender for a title.
Teófimo López commenced his comeback trail at junior welterweight after losing the undisputed lightweight titles a year ago with a takeover. Two fights at 140, including a not so convincing win against Sandor Martin, at Madison Square Garden this month, leads to questions about López and a quest for another takeover to unify the 140-pound division.
Also, López may have lost that popularity as the Garden main arena was not sold out on the Top Rank Boxing promoted card, though in all fairness, that could have been attributed to a boxing card in New York televised on ESPN being held during the holiday season. López also, heard boos from the crowd and that was a rarity from his previous fights at the Garden.
Regardless, a division López attempts to take over is stacked with champions and elite fighters all vying for the same prize. José Ramírez, the Mexican, a former champion, is next in line for titles currently around the waist of Regis Prograis and Josh Taylor. López, though with his latest win was declared a mandatory challenger for one of the titles.
Xander Zayas, on the López undercard continued his rise as the undefeated 20-year old from San Juan, Puerto Rico. He continued to overpower opponents and destined to become the next champion from Puerto Rico.
Other highlights and who to watch in 2023: Devin Haney, the 24-year old undefeated lightweight, who took the undisputed titles from George Kambosos Jr. including a rematch in Australia, continues to propel himself as a top five fighter and Lopez has called him out at 140.
Gilberto Ramírez, the Mexican with a fierce jab got his opportunity and had a dismal effort in his quest to dethrone Bivol. The Oscar De La Hoya Golden Boy Promoted fighter, disappointed the boxing world and with exception of one judge, lost 11 of the 12 rounds.
Back in April, Yordenis Ugás, the first Cuban to win a major portion of the welterweight titles, gave little effort to Errol Spence Jr. and went home. Vergil Ortiz Jr. also under the Golden Boy banner, continued to propel towards a welterweight title opportunity in a division stocked with talent.
Known as “The Towering Inferno” Sebastian Fundora, continued to impress and used height to his advantage. The Mexican-American is worth the watch and two wins got him close to challenge Jermell Charlo for all the belts at 154.
And a year that highlighted the weight classes at featherweight and super flyweight, divisions that don’t get the deserved acclaim, but fighters who come to punch and jab.
Rey Vargas punched himself to title contention, a Mexican with power and knockout ability. The featherweight quickly rebounded with a split decision after going down in the 9th round versus Mark Magsayo.
And another trilogy to end the year, Juan Francisco Estrada got the decisive win over Román González on a Matchroom promoted card televised on DAZN, three fights with a total over 1,500 punches exchanged and there is talk about a fourth in the new year.
No doubt, Mexican fighters had their share of headline fights. The sport is diverse and every year there is a change, no different in 2022 as the Latino fighter can no longer claim to hold a majority of the major titles.
But that could change in the year ahead with an anticipated slate of mega fights. Indeed, boxing is healthy as the promoters, sanctioning organizations, and televised networks look to 2023 as a year for the mega fights.
Rich Mancuso senior writer at LatinoSports.com: Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso. Watch “Sports With Rich” with Rich and Robert Rizzo Tuesday evening live 8pmET on the SLG Network and YouTube
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