2022 Boxing Awards – NSB Recaps The Best Of A Successful Year
Male Fighter Of The Year – Dmitry Bivol
Dmitry Bivol pulled off a massive shock on Cinco De Mayo weekend when he dethroned the consensus P4P #1 Canelo Alvarez as a heavy underdog. Bivol has long been considered the #2 light heavyweight behind unified champion Artur Betebiev but in 2022 he made a solid case to not only be #1 but also on the P4P list.
Most people felt that Canelo would lose when he went up to a weight class that was more than he could handle and whilst this was partially true in his challenge of Bivol, it was more than just that. Bivol was not only the bigger but was also the better fighter on the night with a broader set of skills. The Kyrgyzstan native proved that this was not a ‘one-off” when he dominated division top 5 Gilberto ‘Zurdo’ Ramirez in his second fight of 2022, a fight many described as 50-50 going in.
A strong runner-up for fighter of the year is Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez who made headlines when he stepped up two weight classes in February on seven days’ notice to put in a masterclass performance, outpointing one of the four kings of the 115-pound division in Carlos Cuadras. Bam continued his momentum with a flawless eight-round beatdown of Srisaket Sor Rungvisai four months later and finished the year with a lacklustre points win over Israel Gonzalez.
Female Fighter Of The Year – Katie Taylor
Most people have picked Claressa Shields as the female fighter of the year and this is a completely acceptable pick, however, NoSmokeBoxing believes Katie Taylor has had the greater year.
Taylor and Amanda Serrano were recognised as the #1 and #2 P4P fighters respectively by numerous outlets such as ESPN and therefore a win for the P4P #1 over the P4P #2 is surely the sole biggest feat worthy of a fighter of the year award. Shields’ significant win came over Savannah Marshall, an undefeated world champion in her own right, but was absent from the majority of P4P lists.
Taylor-Serrano and Shields-Marshall were both huge events for women’s boxing and very evenly-matched contests, but Shields was a significantly stronger favourite against Marshall than Taylor was against Serrano. Saying this, Shields’s performance was also much more conclusive than Taylor’s. NSB has Taylor at #1 and Shields at #2, but there is a case for the roles to be reversed.
Male Fight Of The Year – Wood Conlan
Entering 2022, Leigh Wood vs Michael Conlan was a highly-anticipated, 50-50 fight that was expected to be a big night in British and Irish boxing. A sold-out Nottingham arena almost evenly split between Wood and Conlan fans witnessed a night that they’ll never forget. Wood vs Conlan is one of the most memorable fights in recent years and an absolute no-brainer for FOTY.
The contrast in styles between Conlan the boxer and Wood the puncher expected to produce an exciting battle. The fight almost finished in the opening round when Conlan feinted to the body and scored a near-perfect left hand to the chin of Wood that resulted in a heavy knockdown, one that most fighters might not have recovered from.
Wood spent the majority of the first six rounds getting outboxed, attempting to recover from the early knockdown. It took until the second half of the fight for Conlan to slow down and the Nottingham man to finally have some success. The body was the target for Wood and he pounded it for multiple rounds. In the 11th, Conlan was having the greater success in a round Wood desperately needed, with just seconds to go, Wood dropped Conlan with a left hook and not only won the round 10-8 but changed the perception of the fight.
Heading into the final round, the contest was up for grabs and both men attempted to win the round and probably the fight as a result. Wood backed the Irishmen up and delivered a combination that sent Conlan through the ropes and on the floor outside of the ring in a dramatic and sensational win for the WBA titleist. Neither Wood nor the fans could celebrate as the health of Conlan was unknown but luckily Conlan was rushed to hospital and suffered no major damage.
Female Fight Of The Year – Taylor Serrano
Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano made history when they became the first two women to headline at the world-renowned Madison Square Garden in the legendary venue’s 140-year chronicle. Boxing has often been criticised for a failure to match the best fighters on the planet against each other. But on that unforgettable night on April 30, fight fans were treated with a rare occurrence of the two best boxers, P4P, sharing the squared circle. And it did not disappoint.
Despite widespread concern over the marketability and interest in a female fight topping the bill at the 20,000-capacity arena, there was not a single empty seat in the house on the night – a success that even surprised the promoter, Eddie Hearn. Taylor-Serrano had a crowd of 19,187 for a live gate of $1.45m. Additionally, DAZN announced a healthy global audience of 1.5m viewers around the world who watched the fight on their streaming service.
Katie Taylor won the early rounds by staying on the outside and using her ‘amateur boxing’ style. In the fifth round, however, Serrano’s pressure caught up and forced the Irishwomen to hold her feet. Although Taylor didn’t go down, she was badly hurt in the round and on the verge of being stopped. Serrano couldn’t force a TKO but controlled the middle rounds until she took her foot off the gas in the last three rounds and allowed a fight that was 50-50 heading into the eighth to go Taylor’s way via split decision.
KO Of The Year – Cordina KO 2 Ogawa
Joe Cordina took a huge leap in opposition when he challenged Kenichi Ogawa for his IBF 130-pound championship back in June. Cordina was the bookies’ underdog despite having the amateur pedigree and home advantage, which consisted of a sold-out 5,000 lively fans in Cardiff.
The Welshmen didn’t enter the contest as a puncher and was perceived as the boxer in the matchup so it came as a massive shock when Cordina unleashed a pinpoint right hand in just the second round that devastatingly knocked out Ogawa.
A mix of how early the KO was, the step-up in competition for Cordina and him not being known as a puncher all contributed to making this a clear front-runner for KO of the year. A night fans in Cardiff will never forget and hope is repeated in April 2023 when Cordina attempts to become a two-time champion against Rakhimov.
Prospect Of The Year – Adam Azim
Adam Azim started the year a little bit under the radar at 2-0 without a great deal of hype behind him but 2022 could not have gone any better for the Slough super lightweight. A stoppage win over the normally very durable Jordan Ellison on a massive platform in the Khan-Brook undercard began to shift attention to the 20-year-old’s development.
Azim was stepped up five weeks later against the reigning southern area champion Connor Marsden who was bought in to extend Azim some rounds. It took just 12 seconds for Azim to floor Marsden for the first time, finishing the fight in under a minute in what was his breakout night.
The rising star was then handed back-to-back international tasks in Anthony Loffet and Michel Cabral but neither fighter managed to leave the opening round with the ‘The Assassin’ Azim. Fans called for him to be stepped up once again and BOXXER delivered just that in November.
Rylan Charlton was a fight that had been bubbling for months now. It was boy against man, would Charlton kill the hype train or take it to the next level? Charlton, who had been in with quality opposition and fought as high as welterweight, quickly learnt that The Assassin was at a different level than anybody he had ever shared the ring with. Azim made a capable fighter look like any other of his opponents and blitzed him inside two rounds.
Upset Of The Year – Opetaia Beating Briedis
Waking up on July 2, British fight fans expected to see a routine title defence for the #1 cruiserweight Mairis Briedis before a potential unification with WBO champion Lawrence Okolie. They were instead treated to a boxing masterclass from heavy underdog Jai Opetaia who ripped up the script and turbocharged Australian boxing’s growing momentum.
Opetaia had the perfect start, breaking the nose of Briedis in round 1 and forcing him to breathe out of his mouth for the whole contest. The sharp boxing of the Australian southpaw managed to secure him a massive lead heading into the second half of the fight whilst the Latvian had really struggled to get into the contest.
Briedis began to have some success in the third quarter of the bout and had a terrific spell in the 9th round snapping Opetaia’s head back with a right hand and rocking him with an uppercut. It was clear to see here that Opetaia had broken his jaw but still battled against a ferocious finish from the champion who had left it a little too late.
Opetaia won a unanimous decision on all three cards in not only a massive upset but a definite contender for performance of the year.