Boxing Awards

Boxing Awards 2022

With the 2023 schedule up and running, there are plenty of upcoming boxing fights to whet the appetite of fight fans in the coming months.

We look back at 2022 in boxing to highlight the biggest and best fight moments of the year in our DAZN Bet Boxing awards for 2022.

Male fighter of the year: Dmitry Bivol

This one is a really tough one to pick, with 2022 being a standout year for so many fighters. Oleksandr Usyk and Jemell Charlo are two names who could have grounds to claim this award with their own belt unifying exploits, but with both fighting just once were probably not active enough to be in contention.

That said, Bivol’s victory over pound for pound great Canelo in May could have won him the award in itself. Following this up in November with a convincing victory over a 44-0 mandatory challenger in Gilberto Ramirez makes him a fairly inarguable winner for me.

To the outside world, Bivol’s victory over Canelo came as a bit of a shock, but many boxing fans voiced ahead of the fight that he may have bitten off more than he could chew stepping up to light heavyweight this time. Despite Canelo’s previous foray to 175lbs, defeating Kovalev for the WBO title, Bivol proved to be an entirely different proposition, taking the fight to Canelo and comfortably out boxing him to retain his WBA belt.

Honourable mention: Jesse Rodrigues           

“Bam” Rodriguez had an incredible 2022. Stepping up a weight class in February to beat betting favourite Carlos Cuadras for the vacant WBC belt with relative ease. He then followed up with two incredible defences, first defeating Srisaket Sor Rungvisai by TKO, then a unanimous decision victory over Israel Gonzalez in September to set up a shot at the vacant WBO title this year.

 

Female fighter of the year: Claressa Shields

While there may not have been as broad a selection pool as the male award, the competition between notable contenders was probably fiercer in what was an exceptional year for women’s boxing.

It’s hard to ignore the year Katie Taylor had, twice defending her WBA, WBC, IBF, WBO, and The Ring lightweight titles against Amanda Serrano (more on this later), and Karen Carabajal, but Shields just about pips her at the post.

Shields is undoubtedly one of the leading lights in the sport; a two-time Olympic gold medal winner and the only professional boxer to hold undisputed status in two weight classes at the same time.

Starting the year with a comfortable unanimous victory over Ema Kozin in February, she followed up against Brit Savannah Marshall – who is the only fighter to have defeated Shields – albeit at amateur level nearly a decade ago.

Shields avenged the loss with a hotly contested UD decision to add the WBO belt to her WBA, WBC, IBF, WBF, and The Ring middleweight titles and cement her status as the best female boxer in the world.

Honourable mention: Natasha Jonas

While there are several fighters worth mentioning here, Liverpool’s Natasha Jonas’ won three championship belts in three fights in 2022, including a second round TKO against Chris Namus in February.

 

Knockout of the year: Leigh Wood vs. Michael Conlan

Possibly the most coveted of any end of year boxing round up, knockout of the year felt like a no brainer this time round.

2022 treated us to spectacular finishes, but there is little virtue in waxing lyrical about contenders when the winner is almost certainly Leigh Wood’s remarkable 12th round stoppage of Michael Conlan in March.

The whole fight was like something out of a Rocky film. Wood had entered his first WBA title defence as marginal favourite against the dangerous opponent in the 16-0 Irishman.

Conlan starting at lightening speed, scoring a thumping knockdown in the first round and largely dominated the first half of the fight. The result had started to look inevitable until the tide turned in and around the seventh.

It seemed like Conlan had emptied the tank in trying to get Wood out of there, and the Brit began to take control. He dropped Conlan in the 11th, before closing out the fight with little over half a round to go, sending Conlan through the ropes with a devastating flurry to send his hometown crowd absolutely crazy.

Honourable mention: Joe Cordina vs. Konichi Ogawa

Joe Cordina announced himself on the world stage to claim the IBF super featherweight title with what is one of the cleanest one punch knockouts you’re likely to see against Konichi Ogawa in front of his native Cardiff supporters.

 

Fight of the year: Katie Taylor vs. Amanda Serrano

Let’s be clear, there were some unbelievable fights in 2022. The fact that one of the fights previously mentioned in Wood vs. Conlon doesn’t take the award is testament to this.

One might be forgiven for expecting a fight of the year to be a ‘blood and guts’ knockdown-filled affair. Taylor vs. Serrano, however, was not only an incredible fight in and of itself, but also scoops the award for the ground-breaking significance it held for the sport.

Heading into the contest, lofty expectations had been created by the intense promotional tour surrounding the bout. It was the first ever female headline event at Madison Square Garden, the highest ever female fight purses and quickly the biggest fight in the history of female boxing.

As is often the case, such fervour and build up creates a level of anticipation that writes a cheque reality can seldom cash. In this case, it definitely cashed in.

It transpired to be the fight we all hoped it would be and more. A fantastic back and forth fight between two brilliant boxers, which was so close that I’m not sure anyone watching could have been confident on the outcome prior to the judges decision.

Taylor took the win via split decision on what was a momentous night for boxing, and looks certain for a rematch, reportedly in the works for Croke Park this year.

Honourable mention: Wood vs. Conlon

Goes without saying that Wood vs. Conlon is runner up. Nothing more needs to be said.

 

Comeback of the year: Jordan Gill vs. Karim Guerfi

A standout winner for this. Back in February, Jordan Gill looked set to lose out on his chance at the European featherweight title despite a gritty showing against Guerfi. It had been a relatively one-sided affair, with Guerfi asserting his dominance throughout and looked to be coasting to victory.

In the seventh round, he knocked Gill down, who beat the count, but was not in a good way. With his head still clearly fuzzy, a bizarre incident occurred whereby, during a clinch, Guerfi appeared to slam Gill’s head into the floor in a move resembling a DDT from professional wrestling.

At this stage, either a referee stoppage or Gill’s corner throwing in the towel would not have been out of the question, particularly as he continued to take punishment throughout the eighth and into the ninth.

Then, back against the ropes both literally and figuratively, a complete bolt from the blue saw Gill land an enormous right hand to send Guerfi staggering back and dropping to the canvas to end the fight in an instant, with the referee waving off the contest without even counting.

A massive comeback, and with a title at stake, it doesn’t come much bigger or better than that.

Honourable mention: Edwin De Los Santos vs. Jose Valenzuela

De Los Santos was a relative unknown prior to this stepped in as a late replacement against highly fancied Mexican prospect Valenzuela and clocked a brilliant upset KO victory. Valenzuela had dropped De Los Santos midway through the second and looked on course for a win, only to be stunned by the Dominican with a knockdown of his own. He managed to make it out of the round, only to be knocked down again early in the third before being correctly waved off by the referee.

 

Performance of the year: Errol Spence Jnr vs Yordenis Ugas

Much of the talk around Spence remains about if he and Terrence Crawford will ever step into the ring, but his return to action after nearly a year and a half against Ugas was a hugely impressive standout of 2022.

As often seems the case with Spence, the backstory of the fight wasn’t without its turbulence. After defeating Danny Garcia in his first fight back since his car crash incident, Spence was due to meet Hall of Fame legend Manny Pacquiao but was forced to pull out due to injury and replaced by Ugas.

With Ugas’ WBA Super welterweight title on the line, the Cuban recorded a huge upset over Pacquiao to set up a unification bout with Spence. It was a masterful performance from Spence, winning by 10th round stoppage, despite nearly suffering his first professional knockdown with a powerful right hand from Ugas sending his mouthpiece flying, only to follow up and clock Spence as he went to retrieve it.

Whether or not it sets up the fight versus Crawford boxing fans have been clamouring for is unclear at best, it was some performance by Spence.

Honourable mention: Jermell Charlo vs. Brian Castano 2

After a draw in their first fight, Jermell Charlo’s 10th round knockout of Brian Castano to become the first ever undisputed four belt champion at super welterweight was an incredible performance and certainly one worth noting in the highlights of 2022.

 

Breakthrough fighter of the year: Keyshawn Davis

Going into 2022, Keyshawn Davis was a 4-0 lightweight prospect showing huge potential, but there was always the question as to how he would cope with stepping up in competition. At just 23 years old, his talent alone made him a potential future champion, and with the likes of Shakur Stevenson and Terrence Crawford as his mentors, it felt written in the stars that he would go onto achieve great things.

Nevertheless, with all the hype aside, there is the small matter of actually stepping into the ring to realise the potential, and that’s exactly what Davis did in 2022.

He began the year with a convincing stoppage against Esteban Sanchez in April, followed by an equally emphatic finish of Omar Tienda Bahena September to set up a championship showdown against Juan Carlos Burgos in December for the vacant WBO Inter-Continental lightweight title. In what was his sternest test to date, Davis came through with a unanimous victory to put the rest of the division on notice.

One thing to note here is that there can be a tendency within boxing for fighters to build slowly, padding out their records against fighters with questionable-looking records, which is absolutely not the case with Davis. The opponents he has breezed through this year all had strong, winning records, with Sanchez (18-1), Bahena (25-5) and Burgos (35-6) prior to facing him. He has been thrown into deep waters early in his career and has come through with flying colours.

Honourable mention: Caroline Dubois

Sister of British WBA (Regular) Heavyweight champion Daniel Dubois, Caroline became a breakout star in her own right winning five fights in 2022, four by TKO, including a spectacular 49 second KO of Martina Horgasz at Wembley. She will be looking to carry this momentum into this year and line up a shot at a belt.

 

One to watch for 2023: Jaron “Boots” Ennis

With just 7 days gone in 2023, Jaron Ennis has already clocked up a victory, winning the vacant IBF interim welterweight title with a unanimous victory over Karen Chukhadzhian. While it was a slightly subdued performance by his own incredibly high standards, it continues Boots’ momentum as one of the brightest prospects in the sport.

Still only 25 years old, he has a record of (30-0-1), with 27 of those wins coming by knockout. Aside from a no contest against Chris van Heerden in 2020 due to a cut from an accidental clash of heads, you have to go back as far as 2017 for anyone taking Boots to a decision. He switches stance effortlessly, both his punch selection and precision are as clean as they come, and so far in his career there have been few to make it past a few rounds with him.

His latest victory in theory sets up a fight with Errol Spence Jnr as a mandatory, but whether or not that will come to fruition remains to be seen. Whichever direction he goes next, Ennis will be looking to step up his opposition and get a high-profile scalp in 2023.