2023 has been a blockbuster year in the vast realm of boxing. Titles have been unified, fighters have become the undisputed number one in their respective divisions and redemption has been gained all across the planet. And it doesn’t stop there.
The biggest fight of the year was arguably Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr. finally unifying the welterweight division after almost two decades. Pundits and experts had talked about the contest for years however, it had never come to fruition.
WBO champion Crawford instead opted to battle it out with the likes of Amir Khan, Kell Brook, and David Avanesyan while ‘The Truth’ defended the rest of the marbles at 147 pounds against contenders such as Danny Garcia and Yordenis Ugás. While many thought the bout would be a 50/50 pick ’em type of affair, it was the veteran Crawford who dominated, dropping Spence three times en route to a ninth-round TKO victory.
Elsewhere, we saw Tyson Fury dropped by former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou in the Cameroonian’s boxing debut. The Predator wasn’t given a hope against the reigning WBC king however, he shocked everyone and very nearly walked out of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia with the victory. Instead, the Gypsy King survived with his undefeated record and his reputation – barely – intact. He can now look forward to a contest with Oleksandr Usyk scheduled for 2024 to crown the first undisputed heavyweight champion since Lennox Lewis at the start of the millennium.
The rest of the contenders in the heavyweight division will all be in action in the same Arabian Gulf State on December 23rd. Anthony Joshua has been made a -435 favorite by a popular boxing sportsbook for his upcoming contest with Otto Wallin, while Deontay Wilder – who will shockingly be competing on the same card – is a -650 favorite for his bout against former WBO champion Joseph Parker.
If either of those two underdogs manage to spring the upset, then they may very well force us to re-write this list. But at present, these are the biggest shocks of 2023.
Liverpudlian Liam Smith was a +330 underdog for his bout against former light middleweight world champion Chris Eubank Jr. in their contest in Manchester back in January. The 36-year-old had never managed to win on the biggest stage, dropping defeats to both Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and Jaime Munguía in his maiden world championship tilts, and it seemed like he would never get a chance to shine under the bright lights. The marmite-like Eubank Jr. gave him that opportunity, and boy did he grasp it with both hands.
The favorite headed into the bout undefeated since a lopsided 2018 unanimous decision defeat to fellow Brit George Groves and had picked up victories against veterans such as Matt Korobov and James DeGale in the years since. As such, he was expected to dominate underdog Smith, especially considering that he looked the bigger man on fight night. However, it was the underdog that managed to drop his opponent twice in the fourth round, much to the delight of the 15,000+ in attendance.
Eubank would ultimately have his revenge, dominating Smith in the pairs rematch en route to a late stoppage victory. However, nothing will change the fact that he was thoroughly beaten in their first contest. And he was beaten in shocking fashion.
Throughout the last decade or so, Katie Taylor has become the queen of women’s boxing. Alongside promoter Eddie Hearn – and fellow female fighters Claressa Shields and Amanda Serrano – the Irish star has catapulted the female form of the sport into the mainstream.
She unified the lightweight division with a razor-thin decision victory against Delfine Persoon in Madison Square Garden back in June 2019 and successfully defended her title seven times, including in an event of the year contender against the aforementioned Serrano. She was expected to become undisputed champion in the light welterweight division as well when a homecoming bout in Dublin against Britain’s Chantelle Cameron was announced.
But at the ripe old age of 37, it was clear on fight night that the veteran Taylor didn’t have the speed required to keep Cameron at bay. Add to that the step up in weight and it was the champion, rather than the challenger as expected, that bullied her opponent. The crowd in the Irish capital was stunned into silence as Cameron continued to march forward and put together power punch after power punch on Taylor and when the final round got underway, many thought that the home fighter needed a knockout to secure the win.
Unfortunately for her and her adoring home public, that knockout never came, and the English fighter retained her titles against all odds. Taylor would have her revenge though, securing victory in the rematch with a hotly contested decision victory. Don’t be surprised to see the pair square off for a third time in 2024.