It was all going so swimmingly wasn’t it? For the first 9-10 months of this boxing year, 2022 we were treated to numerous quality matchups and exciting fights. And then, it all came stumbling to the finish line if not crashing to the ground. How did it happen that a year with so much sweet, sweet science suddenly turned sour on us? Well, I’m here to tell you.
Step One: Get off to a great start
This is a key step. To be fair, much of this boxing year has been pretty terrific. We have gotten far too used to bad matchups and inactivity at the top of each and every division, but for most of the year, we saw at least some progress in this regard from January into October. Perhaps the biggest star in the fight game, Canelo Alvarez, boldly came up in weight against Dmitry Bivol, and took a rare L against the sharply skilled Russian, who proved that size and craft do matter. Alvarez then took on GGG for a fourth time and won the first clear decision of their quartet of bouts.
Oleksandr Usyk renewed hostilities with Anthony Joshua and consolidated his first victory over the big Brit with an even more impressive and controlled performance in their second fight. In doing so, Usyk proved he’s no fluke at heavyweight, and rocketed up the P4P rankings.
Vasyl Lomachenko returned to the ring against Jamaine Ortiz and was given a surprising challenge by the somewhat lightly regarded opponent. As gifted and skilled as Lomachenko is, he has shown vulnerability in recent years.
Speaking of vulnerable fighters, “The Bronze Bomber” Deontay Wilder re-entered the square circle after consecutive brutal defeats against Tyson Fury and proved to still have deadly KO talent in dispatching Robert Helenius in round one, keeping his top-tier status in the heavyweight division alive.
Errol Spence Jr. put away any lingering concerns over his terrible car accident in dominating the very tough and game Yordenis Ugas, winning by TKO, and clearing the way (seemingly) for a mega-bout against Terence Crawford.
Jermell Charlo avenged his draw (if a draw can be avenged) by winning an exciting bout over Brian Castano via TKO, and strengthening his position among the elites in the sport.
Naoya Inoue scored a breathtaking second round TKO victory over a rejuvenated Nonito Donaire, further strengthening his own case for the P4P title in boxing.
Shakur Stevenson continued his rocket-fueled ascent by dominating an A-level opponent in Oscar Valdez in taking a UD victory that was notable due to the ease in which Stevenson provided Valdez with his first career loss.
Devin Haney forced us to take him seriously by scoring two dominating decision victories over George Kambosos Jr., and, to his everlasting credit, taking both fights in Kambosos backyard of Australia.
Artur Berterbiev’s crushing defeat over a near-peak Joe Smith was another electrifying performance in a year full of them.
In some ways, the women of boxing actually outshined the men over the calendar year. Taylor/Serrano was a real barnburner, full of drama, pain, and even a bit of controversy when the final scorecard found Taylor winning a split decision despite being badly hurt early in the fight.
Shields/Marshall was also a competitive women’s fight that further burnished the GWOAT credentials of Shields in pulling out a tough decision. On the undercard of that fight, Mikaela Mayer suffered a mild upset loss (her first) to Alycia Baumgardner by split decision.
Between Taylor/Serrano and Shields/Marshall, the women’s version of the sport was greatly elevated. The hype and buzz met evenly with the quality of the bouts, and, perhaps more importantly, in terms of viewership and butts in stadium seats. Quickly, we are seeing the women’s variation of the sport grow in popularity, quality, and excitement. It’s a great thing to see. Now, if the old men who run boxing will just allow them to fight 3-minute rounds and 12-round title bouts. They are ready, and so are we.
All of these terrific bouts (and yes, I know I missed a few, but this ain’t no laundry list) of the year seemed to set us up for a spectacular end to a promising year. But as we know, getting your hopes up around boxing is often an errand run by a fool. It’s almost as if the sport exists to disappoint.
Step Two: Make big promises
Fights floated as possibilities by the end of the year:
Any of these bouts would pull in not only the hardcore fans, but casuals too. These scraps would be good for the sport, but, and this is key, not necessarily good for the fighter who would end up on the short end of the bout.
Which brings me to…
Step Three: Don’t keep your promises
We got none of those fights. Instead, we are getting Crawford/Avasyan (no one wants this), Munguia against another tin can, Mayweather/Olatunji (whatever), and most grotesquely, Fury/Chisora 3.
And look, we all know why this is happening. There are too many organizations, too many belts, and, most significantly, too many promoters protecting too many of their fighters, and leaving us with fights that are like 6-day leftovers instead of a full and fresh meal. But we can’t just blame the Eddie Hearns and Al Haymons of the world for protecting their fighters. Guys like Munguia and Davis can take easier fights that are almost sure victories and not give away that much money for themselves and the “brain trusts” making the matchups. Why do they get away with taking shit fights and collecting easy money? Because we turn out anyway. We are like the Cubs fans who endured over 100 years of garbage play, but kept showing up at Wrigley to get shit-faced in the outfield and throw back the other team's home run balls.
When you have no expectations and come out for whatever junk fights offered up, we’ll continue to get junk fights. Look at where we are now: One of the most reliable draws in boxing is a fake boxer who takes on undersized opponents, mid-life crisis fighters, and rarely a true boxer. I don’t even like saying Jake Paul’s name aloud, but hey, he’s the big dumb elephant in the room, but if he is that big and dumb, what are we?
For the life of me, I can’t understand the thought behind throwing money at a clown show that’s moving this formerly great sport in the direction of WWE level of entertainment. Boxing can and should be better than this. But, it’s up to us.
When Davis, Crawford, Fury, and Munguia get in the ring next, we should tune out. We should expect more. In the age when boxers fought 3-4 times a year, a couple of those bouts being “warm up” fights was completely acceptable because you knew they were leading to something greater. That’s seldom the case anymore. These safe fights just seem to lead to more safe fights, and too many of the scraps between the top-flight boxers take place in the media and on social media instead of in the ring.
For a good part of this year, that wasn’t the case. We had many terrific fights in 2022, and all of them promised to lead to even better fights, but boxing gonna boxing, and as long as we let boxing get away with it, these substandard bouts are what we can expect. Even worse, it will be what we deserve.