Five fights in the second half of 2024 that will determine the Fighter of the Year

Considering that the 2023 Fighter of the Year race wasn’t decided until after Naoya Inoue fought on December 26, it’s safe to say the midpoint of the year — which we just reached as Sunday became Monday — is a bit early to be deciding the 2024 Fighter of the Year.

But there’s no such thing as too early to be discussing the topic.

Notably, with half the year behind us and half the year left to come, any such discussion involves liberal use of the word “if.”

After what the boxing world agrees nearly unanimously was a tremendous first six months of matchmaking and thrills, we head into the second half of 2024 with a reasonable sense of how the FOTY competition is shaping up and with an equally reasonable sense of what major fights are left to come.

Here, then, are the five fights expected to happen over the next six months that will, to varying degrees, decide who’s receiving next year the plaques and trophies that Inoue collected this year.

Oleksandr Usyk-Tyson Fury II

Heavyweight champion of the world Usyk is the clear Fighter of the Half-Year, the current leader in the clubhouse, and the odds-on favorite to win Fighter of the Year.

He and Fury are scheduled for a rematch on December 21, and the “if/then” statement here is rather straight-forward: If Usyk beats Fury a second time in a calendar year, once again doing so cleanly and without significant controversy, then it’s almost impossible to imagine anyone else topping him for this award. If Usyk-Fury II goes as well (or better) for the Ukrainian as Usyk-Fury I did, the rest of this article is probably rendered moot.

But there are two things that can prevent Usyk from being the Fighter of the Year. One, of course, would be losing the rematch. At one sportsbook, Usyk is a -175 favorite, Fury a +140 underdog, so split the difference in those prices and we have an implied probability of about 36.5 per cent that Fury wins and Usyk is not the Fighter of the Year. (And, no, Fury would not be a realistic candidate for Fighter of the Year if he improves to 1-1, even if he bombs Usyk out in the first round.)

The other roadblock for Usyk would be a postponement of the rematch. With a date of December 21, there’s no wiggle room. If it’s pushed back for whatever reason — as the first fight was due to a cut suffered by Fury in sparring — then Usyk’s chances grow slim. It’s not impossible to be named Fighter of the Year by going 1-0, but it requires stumbles by just about every other boxer in contention.

Still, all things considered, Usyk is no worse than 50/50 as June turns to July to be named 2024 Fighter of the Year.

Dmitry Bivol-Artur Beterbiev

This is the light heavyweight equivalent of Usyk-Fury I — all the marbles, two undefeated guys in the pound-for-pound conversation.

It’s supposed to happen on October 12 in Saudi Arabia. And, importantly, it will be the second fight of the year for both. Beterbiev stopped Callum Smith in the seventh round in January, and Bivol stopped Malik Zinad in the sixth in June.

Whether the oft-injured Beterbiev can make it to the ring looms as a major “if,” but provided he does, whoever wins, as long as it’s not via bogus decision, shoots to the upper reaches of the FOTY conversation. Comparisons will be made pitting how impressive the Bivol-Beterbiev was against Usyk’s performance(s) against Fury, but if either man proves dominant on October 12, that makes him the top choice outside an Usyk who has hypothetically handled the 260-pound Fury twice.

By the way, Bivol is going for his second Fighter of the Year in a three-year span, which would put him in a club that, in the 21st century, includes Manny Pacquiao, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, and, if using the BWAA’s choices rather than The Ring’s, Floyd Mayweather.

Gervonta Davis-Vasiliy Lomachenko

This fight is distinct from all the others covered in this article in that it has not been announced, formally or informally. But word on the street is that negotiations for this lightweight showdown are progressing in an encouraging manner.

If indeed it happens, the winner is in the thick of the Fighter of the Year conversation — particularly if that winner is Lomachenko, simply because he’s currently listed as about a 2-to-1 underdog. Pulling off upsets always helps a year-end awards case, and this one, in combination with Loma’s dominant KO win over George Kambosos in May, would draw him close to his Ukrainian compatriot Usyk.

For the favored “Tank,” just winning probably wouldn’t be enough. But if he were to become the first to knock out future Hall of Famer Lomachenko? On the heels of a Knockout of the Year-level finish against Frank Martin? Now we’re talking about FOTY-worthy accomplishments, depending on what happens in Usyk-Fury II and Beterbiev-Bivol.

Anthony Joshua-Daniel Dubois

Several things need to break right for the winner of this battle of heavyweight contenders to earn top honors for 2024. Fury would need to even the score against Usyk. Bivol-Beterbiev would need to either not happen or end in controversy. And the Tank-Loma negotiations would probably need to fall apart.

But take that trio of modest leaps, and “AJ” vs. “DDD,” on tap for September 21 at Wembley Stadium, could produce the FOTY.

Dubois, listed as about a +400 underdog (which seems a tad steep to me), has a redemption narrative on his side and this would be the biggest triumph of his career by far. If he can knock out Joshua in September to follow up a minor-upset KO of Filip Hrgovic in June, that’s a dream campaign for a fighter who was an afterthought a year ago.

The path is less clean for AJ because he’s expected to win, but there’s something to be said for victories that transcend the sport and touch the mainstream. Joshua’s destruction of Francis Ngannou in March did that. And to an extent, flattening Dubois in front of some 90,000 fans at Wembley would cross over as well.

Sebastian Fundora-Errol Spence

This 154-pound bout, expected to happen in October in Dallas, is your “break glass in case of emergency” FOTY decider. It requires all the “ifs” listed above in the Joshua-Dubois section, plus a dud from the British heavyweights, and even then it’s no sure thing that Fundora-Spence impacts the final Fighter of the Year decision.

But it could — if Fundora wins and does so in style.

Should Spence win, he’s hardly even an honorable mention for FOTY at the end of a one-fight year. But if Fundora beats up Spence after upsetting Tim Tszyu in March as a late sub — a somewhat fluky result, but a fun and ballsy win just the same — there is a one-percent, outlier scenario at the end of the flowchart that has “The Towering Inferno” accepting some hardware next year.

Other options, and an asterisk

If this were a year with a shortage of viable options, either Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez or Naoya Inoue could have a shot at Fighter of the Year. Both pound-for-pounders got off the canvas to win thrillers — Inoue over Luis Nery in May, Rodriguez over Juan Francisco Estrada last weekend to close out the first half of the fistic year — and either could sneak into the conversation if they could fight twice more in the second half of 2024 and have one of those be a legitimately major fight.

Jack Catterall is also worth a quick sentence, not because there’s any remote possibility of him being named Fighter of the Year, but because if he defeats Regis Prograis as a followup to outpointing Josh Taylor, he’ll at least warrant an honorable mention at year’s end.

And then there’s this asterisk: Any random boxer can enter the mix with one massive upset win.

For example, suppose Artem Harutunyan shocks the world this Saturday and hands Shakur Stevenson his first defeat in front of his hometown fans. Or imagine Israil Madrimov upends all-time great Terence Crawford in August. Or some massive underdog pulls off a stunner against Inoue. Or, stacking “ifs” on top of each other, Fury pulls out of the Usyk rematch with an injury a week before the fight, and in steps, say, Joseph Parker on short notice, and Parker lands the perfect punch and topples Usyk to become the heavyweight champion of the world.

One way or another, we probably aren’t going to know who the Fighter of the Year is until at least December 21.

If it’s Oleksandr Usyk, that’s 2024 playing out according to the script. If it’s Joseph Parker, you heard it here first.

Eric Raskin is a veteran boxing journalist with more than 25 years of experience covering the sport for such outlets as BoxingScene, ESPN, Grantland, Playboy, Ringside Seat, and The Ring (where he served as managing editor for seven years). He also co-hosted The HBO Boxing Podcast, Showtime Boxing with Raskin & Mulvaney, and Ring Theory and currently co-hosts The Interim Champion Boxing Podcast with Raskin & Mulvaney. He has won three first-place writing awards from the BWAA, for his work with The Ring, Grantland, and HBO. Outside boxing, he is the senior editor of CasinoReports and the author of 2014’s The Moneymaker Effect. He can be reached on X or LinkedIn, or via email at

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