ProBox TV's Top Five Fights of the Year

1. Artur Beterbiev-Anthony Yarde, January 28

The high quality near-shootout that unfolded between Beterbiev and Yarde at Wembley Arena took place too early in 2023 to immediately declare it the fight of the year, but that’s what it ultimately proved to be.

For eight dramatic rounds Yarde produced his finest performance to so often and so admirably go toe-to-toe with a fighter who represents not only one of the world’s most fierce punchers, but remains one of its most accomplished boxers. That that evening has contributed to questions surrounding his perceived decline is a reflection of the fact that he was involved in his toughest fight and not that he in any way underperformed. Shortly after the stoppage one his cornermen could be heard saying, partly in awe at the fight that had just unfolded, that Yarde had forced Beterbiev to fight in “fifth gear” from the opening rounds, when he hadn’t planned to do so until considerably later. Yarde, unusually for a fighter who was rescued by his corner when again under attack in the eighth round, emerged with his reputation greater than ever; Beterbiev, having again defended his IBF, WBC and WBO light heavyweight titles, had provided the latest reminder of him being the great champion so many had long believed.

2. Devin Haney-Vasyl Lomachenko, May 20

Haney, then the undisputed lightweight champion, became one of the victims of the culture surrounding his profession when he was denied the credit he deserved for producing what was then his finest performance in the highest quality fight of 2023.

That evening at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand might also prove the last time Lomachenko performs as an elite-level fighter. Haney more recently moved to 140lbs and produced a punch-perfect performance as the considerably bigger fighter to win every round against Regis Prograis. He had an even greater size advantage against Lomachenko, who regardless came close to outworking him via his fine punch variety and narrowly lost on an evening when, unlike against Teofimo Lopez, he made a fast start and didn’t underperform. It’s his misfortune that he started slowly against Lopez on an evening in 2020 when the talented Lopez was at his very best, and similarly it was his misfortune that Haney – unusually and intelligently fighting on the front foot – had developed to a point where he was just capable of being sufficiently clinical and accurate in the face of Lomachenko’s speed. Haney was awarded two scores of 115-113 and another of 116-112; that so many believed those scores unjust – 116-112 was too wide, despite Haney being a deserved winner – is a reflection of how competitive Haney-Lomachenko was from the first to the final bell. The willingness of the observers of boxing to detect injustice on occasions it doesn’t exist means that the scoring became one of the controversies of the year, and overshadowed Haney’s claims to victory in the most exciting fight in which he has been involved.

3. Robeisy Ramirez-Rafael Espinoza, December 9

The night of December 9 was another evening on which the fighters got so much right and boxing’s power brokers once again got so much wrong. One of the fights of the year – between a Cuban and a Mexican, at featherweight – was scheduled for the same evening as Regis Prograis-Devin Haney, and was therefore largely overlooked. 

Haney’s profile soared off the back of his cultured performance, but he had been the significant favourite; Espinoza was not only a similarly significant underdog, he won at Charles F. Dodge City Center, Pembroke Pines after recovering from a fifth-round knockdown and by dropping Ramirez in the 12th. To give further context, until that 12th round, Ramirez had come to be seen as the biggest threat to the great Naoya Inoue – considered by many the fighter of the year and unquestionably an elite-level fighter in his prime. Espinoza paid minimal respect to his reputation by forcing him into his toughest fight via a display of pressure and aggression that ensured consistent and exciting action in so competitive a fight that he needed to win the 12th round as he did to win overall, as the scores of 113-113, 114-112 and 115-111 in his favour demonstrate.

4. Jaime Munguia-Sergiy Derevyanchenko, June 10

None other than Gerry Cooney, while ringside in New York at Josh Taylor-Teofimo Lopez, was absorbed by what was unfolding between Munguia and Derevyanchenko at the same time at the Toyota Arena in Ontario. 

Munguia – so crucial to the plans of Golden Boy Promotions at a time when their stock is relatively low – was involved in his toughest fight over the course of 12 bruising rounds against a proven fighter not intimidated by his aggression and, long recognised as a fighter of potential, was forced to answer questions that he had never consistently been asked. If Derevyanchenko was the fighter with the superior ring craft and experience, Munguia was reliant on being fresher and on his youth, and was at risk of defeat until the powerful body punch that put Derevyanchenko down in the 12th and final round and earned him two controversial scores of 114-113 and another of 115-112. Derevyanchenko arguably deserved a similarly narrow decision, such was the competitive nature of their fight; if Munguia can still prove the fighter Golden Boy have long hoped, he will emerge from the experience vastly improved, having passed the test he had long needed.

5. Luis Nery-Azat Hovhannisyan, February 18

The exciting fight that was anticipated succeeded in surpassing expectations, both among those at the Fox Theater Pomona and those watching from afar. 

Fighting to be in contention to challenge the winner of Naoya Inoue-Stephen Fulton, Nery was hurt in the second round, triggering the toe-to-toe battle that unfolded until the end came in the 11th. Hovhannisyan bled from under his right eye from the third, and – with Nery gradually building a narrow lead – after his consistent determination to absorb the punishment Nery’s aggression was ensuring, he was dropped in the 10th by a hurtful combination and survived until the 11th by fighting off the ropes. He continued to fight back in the 11th, but another hurtful succession of punches left him struggling to defend himself, forcing the referee Ray Corona to intervene.

Honourable mentions Chantelle Cameron-Katie Taylor II; Jesse Rodriguez-Sunny Edwards; O’Shaquie Foster-Eduardo Hernandez; Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov-Joe Cordina; Subriel Matias-Jeremias Nicolas Ponce