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32Red’s year in boxing – the standout fights & fighters of 2023


32Red’s year in boxing – the standout fights & fighters of 2023

32Red’s year in boxing – the standout fights & fighters of 2023

2023 has been a sensational year of boxing and TNT Sport have had their fair share of memorable moments.

Every fighter who stepped between the ropes for our entertainment deserves some kind of award but 32Red decided to hand out some highly unofficial gongs and give you a few things to look out for next year.

Fighter of the Year – Nick Ball

Frank Warren exclusive

The Liverpool featherweight enjoyed an outstanding year. The unbeaten 26-year-old guaranteed himself a shot at the famous WBC featherweight title and did it in his trademark aggressive style.

In May, Ball wore down Ludumo Lamati, stopping the previously unbeaten South African in the 12th and final round. Thankfully, brave Lamati recovered after spending some time in hospital following the gruelling fight.

That win set Ball up for a final eliminator with the accomplished and dangerous Isaac Dogboe. The two fought in Manchester in November and Ball produced a tremendous display, mixing his natural attacking intent with some smart boxing. He solved every problem Dogboe posed him and grew more and more dominant as the fight went on.

Ball started out on the small hall scene and has climbed the rankings without compromising his all-action, seek-and-destroy style. He thoroughly deserves his shot at the title and it will happen – hopefully in Britain – in 2024.

Honourable Mentions

Liam Davies – The underrated British and European super bantamweight champion stopped Jason Cunningham inside a round. He then knocked out Vicenzo La Femina after an up-and-down thriller.

Nathan Heaney – The Stoke hero shocked many and delighted his army of fans by outboxing Denzel Bentley to win the British middleweight title.

Moses Itauma – The 18-year-old heavyweight sensation fought seven times, producing some spectacular knockouts. There is little doubt that he is the most promising young heavyweight on the planet.

Fight of the Year – Beterbiev v Yarde

The WBO/IBF/WBC light heavyweight title fight between Artur Beterbiev and Anthony Yarde had 32Red’s Fight of the Year award sewn up before the end of January.

Beforehand, many questioned Yarde’s ability to stand up to Beterbiev’s bone-bruising power. The Russian-Canadian fighter started as a strong favourite to retain his belts and continue his 100% knockout record.

Yarde put forward a tremendous effort. His willingness to hold his feet and trust his hand speed might have put him at great risk. But it also gave him the opportunity to land plenty of heavy punches himself. Beterbiev was definitely hurt on more than one occasion but remained stone-faced and continued to press forward in his unhurried, methodical way.

Wasting little and happy to hit what he could, when he could, Beterbiev kept his composure during some edge-of-the-seat exchanges and continued to chip away.

Eventually, Yarde took one right hand too many and hit the canvas. He got to his feet but his corner saved him from himself, instructing the referee to stop the fight in the ninth round.

It was a hard, gripping fight which always felt like both men were always just one punch away from a stunning finish or a sensational turnaround.

TNT televised some outstanding fights this year but Beterbiev – Yarde was world championship level boxing at its very best.

Honourable Mentions

Andrew Cain v Inout Baluta – In terms of action, the most thrilling fight of the year. Cain and Baluta went to war with Baluta winning a close split decision.

Nathaniel Collins v Zak Miller – An exciting, technical battle that grew in intensity as it went on. Collins retained his British featherweight title by majority decision.

Dennis McCann v Ionut Baluta – McCann had to settle for a draw in his acid test after a fierce, bloody battle in a steamy York Hall.

Unsung hero – Ionut Baluta

Ionut Baluta

The Romanian has been a thorn in the side of British super bantamweights for a few years now. He engaged in two of the best fights of 2023.

His fights with Andrew Cain and Dennis McCann were wild affairs in which he dragged the previously unbeaten prospects to places they have never been before. Baluta beat Cain in a crazy fight and had to settle for a draw with McCann when a clash of heads left McCann unable to continue.

European super bantamweight champion, Liam Davies, may have outboxed him in 2022. But that is an indication of just how good Davies is rather than a signal of Baluta’s level.

Baluta is more than just another opponent. He may be unorthodox at times but he is an extremely tough man and a legitimate test any fighter needs to pass if they are to progress to European level and beyond.

Maybe the biggest compliment you can pay Baluta is that if things aren’t going to plan, he doesn’t decide to stay safe and do just enough to make himself a viable opponent for the next young prospect. He is willing to go to hell and back to win.

Storylines to watch in 2024

Boxing will crown its first undisputed heavyweight champion since Lennox Lewis beat Evander Holyfield in 1999. All the belts will be on the line when Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk meet in Saudi Arabia on February 17th.

Moses Itauma’s quest to become the youngest heavyweight champion in history continues. Itauma is still only 18 years old and crammed seven fights into his first twelve months as a professional. Six of those finished early.

More multi-title shows. Following the success of November’s seven-belt ‘Magnificent Seven’ show, look for more of the same in 2024.

Nick Ball will fight for the WBC featherweight title. The man in the opposite corner will be either Rey Vargas or Brandon Figueroa. But the Liverpudlian wrecking ball guarantees fireworks whoever he faces.

Queensberry’s stable of young fighters to continue progressing quickly. Itauma, Royston Barney-Smith and Dennis McCann are just three of an exciting crop of talent.

The building rivalry between Sam Noakes and Mark Chamberlain should come to a boil. The lightweights are two of British boxing’s hardest punchers and seem certain to meet in an exciting shoot-out in 2024.

To see all our latest boxing markets, check out 32Red Sport here. If you’re up for a flutter on table games or the slots, be sure to check out our award-winning casino too!

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