10 talking points from the Day Of Reckoning

1. Money talks

It wasn’t just Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren who were working together, there were plenty of others who came to feast at the table of riches. The amount of money being spent for grudges to be buried, pride to be swallowed and matches to be made must be eye-watering.

2. Looks don’t kill

It’s always a little strange to hear commentators talking about how fearsome a fighter looks on the eye, whether it’s his physique or demeanour, because ultimately it doesn’t matter. Anyone would have felt Arslanbek Makhmudov was a love child of Freddy Krueger and Jason, but he was comprehensively defanged by Agit Kabayel in a performance that deserves respect and attention. Kabayel will surely find himself on a flight back to Saudi Arabia in 2024.

3. Activity matters

Compare the performances of Joseph Parker, four fights in 2023, and Anthony Joshua, three fights in 2023, to that of Deontay Wilder… There are a lot of well-paid champions sitting on big purses and not being active. And plenty of them, such as Errol Spence, have been bumped off this year. Activity and lifestyle are key components in a fighter’s make-up, but the importance of both are too frequently overlooked.

4. Opetaia catches the eye again

Two fights looked like they could be mismatches on paper, and they were. Mark De Mori had no business fighting Filip Hrgovic and Ellis Zorro had done nothing to earn his shot at Jai Opetaia, who had to forego his IBF title in fight week as they wanted him to fight Mairis Briedis again instead, even though a deal could not be done. Whatever, Zorro was put into the line of fire and obliterated in a round as the victim of one of the Knockouts of the Year. Opetaia is a force and has great career momentum.

5. Bivol needs that dance partner

Credit to Lyndon Arthur for surviving Bivol, but the WBA light-heavyweight champion is excellent; one of the best pound-for-pound in the sport. Bivol is keen on the winner of the January clash between Artur Beterbiev and Liverpool’s Callum Smith. He reckons Saudi has the money to make the Beterbiev fight, while Smith has other plans. But whoever Bivol fights, they have to be good and ready because he looks all but untouchable.

6. Dubois has a heart

Through rounds four and five for Dubois against Miller, it got tough. He wasn’t able to stop Miller in his tracks with anything he threw. The Londoner seemed to be fatiguing and Miller was gradually getting on top. But not only did Dubois battle through a hard spell, he changed his strategy midway and boxed with desire, courage and real skill to claim the last half of the fight and then scored an excellent late finish with the clock running down. Also, credit to trainer Don Charles for his advice and adjustments.

7. Who knew?

The best matches on paper, Daniel Dubois and Jarrell Miller and Agit Kabayel against Arslanbak Makhmudov, delivered. Sure, there is an art to matchmaking and the timing of fights but there are sometimes bouts that can’t miss, and it did not look like either of them would. Whether Miller, a two-time performance enhancing drug cheat, deserved his spot on the bill is another matter entirely.

8. The Joshua-Ben Davison link up is encouraging

Plenty will say there has been something missing from Joshua in recent times, but he was imperious against – it has to be said – a poor Otto Wallin. Wallin never got a foothold in the fight and was bullied from the first bell. But credit to Joshua for the emphatic nature of the display and Davison for laying out the tactics. It was the best Joshua has looked in a long time, and against an opponent who was at least supposed to present him with some problems.

9. Atmosphere

We might have been spoilt with some great atmospheres in boxing, and often the crowd is referred to as the 12th man in sport. But a severe lack of atmosphere comes through the screen from Riyadh, certainly if you compare it to a Chris Billam-Smith crowd in Bournemouth or a Josh Warrington audience in Leeds. That said, at least there is some (although not much) interest in the undercard. In Las Vegas, for Canelo-Charlo, the crowd was largely absent until only the main event.

10. Will a loss mean much in Saudi?

While Wilder-Joshua is now no longer inevitable, does that mean it has gone for good? It is surely still a marketable fight. There is so much history there and the fight would still have plenty of intrigue. But will Wilder be consigned to the scrapheap or will they want to see him again?