Deontay Wilder scoops unwanted accolade in our end-of-year boxing awards

Deontay Wilder scoops unwanted accolade in our end-of-year boxing awards | Boxing | Sport

2023 was a step in the right direction for boxing. Seven undisputed champions were crowned this year while fans were treated to several seismic super fights including Gervonta Davis vs Ryan Garcia, Devin Haney vs Vasiliy Lomachenko and, of course, the long-awaited blockbuster showdown between Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr.

As always, there were plenty of dramatic upsets, scintillating fights and devastating knockouts dished up. So, here, Express Sport counts down our winners from five coveted categories.

Male Fighter of the Year: Naoya Inoue

Naoya Inoue sealed his spot as the Express Sport Male Fighter of the Year following a stunning display against Marlon Tapales on Boxing Day to become the first undisputed super-bantamweight champion of the four-belt era. There is a case for Crawford to scoop the gong for 2023 after collecting all of the major sanctioning body straps at welterweight but Inoue’s activity edges it for us.

Inoue kicked off the year by taking the undefeated record of highly-rated WBO and WBC super-bantamweight champion Stephen Fulton. Many believed this would be the toughest test of ‘the Monster’s’ career yet he made it look easy as he outclassed and stopped Fulton in the eighth round.

The Japanese puncher then closed out 2023 by knocking out IBF and WBA titlist Tapales in the tenth round to become a two-division undisputed champion, one year after fully unifying the bantamweight division.

Female Fighter of the Year: Amanda Serrano

Amanda Serrano is our deserved Female Fighter of the Year. The Puerto Rican icon went 3-0 in 2023, became the undisputed featherweight champion and defended her belts two times – excluding the WBC title, which she vacated before her last outing.

She also competed in the first women’s world title fight over 12 three-minute rounds since 2007, when Layla McCarter defeated Melissa Hernandez. Two of her three wins came against former world champions, Erika Cruz and Heather Hardy, while a fight with the lesser-known Danila Ramos was ordered by the WBO. Shout out to Katie Taylor and Chantelle Cameron as well, who traded wins and losses with each other for all four light-welterweight world titles.

Fight of the Year: Artur Beterbiev vs Anthony Yarde

There were plenty of contenders for Fight of the Year in 2023. From the barnburner that was Robeisy Ramirez vs Rafael Espinoza to the technical clinic put on by Haney and Lomachenko. There isn’t really a right answer for this category but the fight we enjoyed the most was the all-action clash between Artur Beterbiev and Anthony Yarde at Wembley Arena in February.

Beterbiev, the only reigning world champion to have won all his fights in the paid ranks by knockout, maintained his unblemished record by stopping Yarde in the eighth round of an enthralling contest for the Russian’s WBC, IBF and WBO light-heavyweight straps. Yarde’s head trainer Tunde Ajayi compassionately waved off the bout when his fighter was stunned by a couple of stiff right hands moments after picking himself up off the canvas.

But the brave Brit put up one hell of a fight before succumbing to the third defeat of his professional career. Yarde went toe toe-to-toe with Beterbiev and had his adversary on unsteady legs in the fifth stanza before the champion came back with some spiteful shots of his own to close out one of the most exciting rounds ever witnessed on British soil. The whole fight was a thrilling back-and-forth encounter that had fans on the edge of their seats throughout.

Knockout of the Year: Junto Nakatani vs Andrew Moloney

Knockouts don’t come much better than this. Junto Nakatani dropped Andrew Moloney three times en route to one of the most devastating finishes to a fight in recent memory to claim the vacant WBO junior-bantamweight title. In the final round, as Moloney pushed the pace, Nakatani landed an overhand left on his advancing foe that laid the Aussie flat on his back. Moloney was rushed to hospital after the crushing stoppage loss but was thankfully discharged shortly after.

Upset of the Year: Deontay Wilder vs Joseph Parker 

Joseph Parker shook up the boxing world as he dominated Deontay Wilder on the ‘Day of Reckoning’ bill in Saudi Arabia to end all hopes of a fight between the ‘Bronze Bomber’ and Anthony Joshua. The Kiwi came into the contest as a sizeable underdog with the bookies but was in complete control throughout as he cruised to a unanimous decision victory with scorecards of 118-111, 118-110 and 120-108 in his favour.

Wilder, who had only completed one round of boxing in just over two years since his trilogy fight with Tyson Fury, looked as though he was feeling the effects of his inactivity and struggled to land anything of note over 12 rounds. By contrast, Parker repeatedly found a home for a concussive overhand right that nearly got the American out of there in the eighth. A remarkable performance from Parker, whose career looked to be on the rocks after a convincing stoppage loss to Joe Joyce at the back end of last year.


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