In comparison to other years, there wasn’t a whole lot that happened in boxing’s historical glamour division. 2023, however, is looking like it will be a pivotal year in the heavyweight class.
Here’s a look at what’s in store for the coming year and where that could take the big man division:
Although Oleksandr Usyk holds three world titles (IBF/WBA/WBO) to Tyson Fury’s one (WBC), there’s a near consensus that “The Gypsy King” is the true heavyweight champ. Usyk will get a chance to change that if/when a unification clash takes place at some point in the year, which it most likely will. Fury, first, will have to beat Derek Chisora on December 3.
Former world champs Deontay Wilder and Andy Ruiz are scheduled to clash, likely in the first half of 2023. It’s officially billed as a WBC final eliminator for the world title, but it’s just pure logic that the winner of this bout should be the no. 1 contender to the winner of the Fury-Usyk unification bout.
Former 3-belt champ Anthony Joshua, after back-to-back loses to Usyk and a 2-3 mark in his last five bouts, now faces a real rebuild that will likely be accelerated by the fact that the UK star is still very much a mega-draw in his home country. His next opponent is still to be determined.
Of all the non-champs out there, Joe Joyce has probably made the best case for “I’m next” status. His recent eleventh-round KO of former world titlist Joseph Parker affirmed his world class chops and added to a body of work that is increasingly deep and impressive. Technically, the UK native won the interim WBO title in the Parker fight, but his team’s aspirations see a targeting of Tyson Fury next.
Croatia’s Filip Hrgovic and Cuba’s Frank Sanchez join Joyce as high-ranking, undefeated rising heavyweights. Depending on how the Fury/Usyk/Joshua/Wilder/Ruiz informal round robin plays out, they could find their way to a title shot in 2023.
Outside this group of champs, former champs, and rising contenders, there’s a pretty solid core of second-tier challengers who could, conceivably, be one good night and one solid performance away from challenging the elite.
Former title challenger and interim champ, Dillian Whyte, will be back in action this November 26 against the undefeated Jermaine Franklin. If Whyte wins, he’ll shoot back up to near the front of the line for a title shot in 2023. If Franklin wins, he’ll make the short list of new-blood challengers for the coming year.
Michael Hunter is ranked highly and biding his time when it comes to taking aim at a title. The 43-year-old Luis Ortiz may be well-worn at this point and just 2-2 in his last four bouts (with a loss to Andy Ruiz in his most recent effort), but it’s hard to deny that he has the skill and punch to upset anyone on any given night. 25-year-old Brit Daniel Dubois is 3-0 since he was stopped by Joe Joyce in 2020 and seems to have regained pre-loss form and confidence.
Martin Bakole, former titlist Joseph Parker, former Tyson Fury foe Otto Wallin, former 2-belt cruiserweight champ Murat Gassiev, heavy-handed Russian Arslanbek Makhmudov, Turkey’s Ali Eren Demirezen, and former titlist Charles Martin could also be in the mix for something big in 2023. All in all, the heavyweight division is sound and sturdy. Although clearly not as deep or as talented as it was in any of its golden eras, the big men should provide for some big fun in 2023.