LOOKING BACK ON the year 2022, one man stands head and shoulders above everyone in more ways than one and that is our heavyweight King of the Ring, Tyson Fury.
It was the year where Tyson parked up his roadshow firmly back here in the UK and proved himself as the genuine star of British and world boxing. He savoured the support and adulation of the home fans across two major promotions where his WBC World Heavyweight title was on the line.
I am personally delighted that Tyson is getting the plaudits he deserves from his home nation and he admitted himself that the atmosphere at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium earlier this month he found overwhelming.
Some 154,000 fans bought tickets to watch Tyson in his domestic battles against Dillian Whyte and Derek Chisora, which is an incredible number that reflects the place in the heart he holds with the British public.
The good news, following his short ‘retirement’, is that Tyson wants more of the same on a regular basis and wishes to be something of a fixture on the home front. Because his next fight is intended to be an undisputed unification against Oleksandr Usyk, it potentially has to land where the most money is, but there are plenty of other fights in the offing for Tyson that he will insist on delivering for the home fans.
One such fight will hopefully be against our Big Juggernaut, Joe Joyce, who really established himself as a force to be reckoned with at the highest level with his win over Joseph Parker in Manchester.
It was a real breakthrough night for Joe in September. Some 16,000 fans packed into the AO Arena for a BT Box Office event and Joe did the business in a big way in what was a thrilling fight and one of the best of the year.
Joe is now right up there with the top dogs of the division, he is the WBO Interim world champion and he will get his full world title shot in 2023. He is more than ready for it.
Going back to April and Tyson’s St George’s Day spectacular at Wembley Stadium on what was a record-breaking night all-round, there was another breakthrough made by a young featherweight who made everyone sit up and take notice.
Nick Ball announced himself as a world champion in waiting with a brutal stoppage of the far more experienced Isaac Lowe to win the WBC Silver championship. It was a demolition job and no fluke because he repeated the trick a further two times this year in a hugely impressive fashion.
I can see Nick really putting himself in the world title mix next year and making himself a household name. His teammates at the Everton Red Triangle Gym – Andrew Cain and Brad Strand – won’t be far behind him and there is the potential to once again establish a fighting foothold in Liverpool after a few years away.
I know I do tend to bang on about our younger contingent and I make no apologies for doing so because giving young fighters a start and developing careers is the bedrock of our business and what we do best.
It can sometimes be a case of ‘jam tomorrow’, but a healthy clutch of our young guns made big steps forward in 2022, illustrated by the fact that no fewer than eight of them now hold WBC ranking belts – Silver or International Silver – and one holds a similar status with the IBF.
For the record, our WBC title holders are Nick Ball, Andrew Cain, Dennis McCann, Hamzah Sheeraz, Sam Noakes, Louie Lynn, Henry Turner and Pierce O’Leary, while Mark Chamberlain holds an IBF title.
These belts can be mocked or overlooked, but they mean the world to the fighters and they have a purpose. They are the most effective route to closing in on a No.1 spot and not relying on champions offering up voluntary defences for short money or giving up options.
All of our young champions have put themselves in a position to be in big fights across 2023 and really start making moves that will ignite their careers and public profile.
Hamzah is one who really looks the part as a strapping middleweight. If sacrifice and dedication wins you world titles then you should put your money on young Hamzah.
He takes himself off to LA to train and test himself to the limit in sparring and conducts himself with great professionalism at all times. I was thrilled to reward him for his progress by putting him top of the bill in November and he didn’t disappoint with a ferocious destruction of the more than capable River Wilson-Bent.
Hamzah won’t be rushed because he wants to build a career by taking all the right steps, but he is going to be in good fights and will continue to make strong progress in 2023.
Dennis McCann is another one who is nudging himself to the forefront and closing in on being a headline attraction. His last three fights have been for significant titles – WBO Youth, WBC International Silver and Commonwealth – and he is stepping up the levels all the time.
I must mention our big success story of the Midlands in Liam Davies, who won both the British and European super bantamweight titles this year with big performances against Marc Leach and Ionut Baluta.
There is a fight to be made between Liam and Dennis and it is just a question of getting the timing right to make it as big a fight as possible for both of them.
Mark Heffron provided another standout moment in what was a quickfire thriller against Lennox Clarke in July to win the British, Commonwealth and IBF European super middleweight titles.
I was very pleased for Mark, who is a terrific pro and person, to finally get some hardware to reflect his hard work and talent. He is a big draw in the North West and he will now be in more fights that get him the recognition he deserves.
Other high points of the year include Daniel Dubois heading Stateside to become WBA world heavyweight champion and then making a roller coaster first defence against Kevin Lerena at Tottenham, Ekow Essuman winning his British welterweight title outright and Anthony Cacace becoming IBO world champion at super featherweight.
All three will have a big part to play in 2023 and, in the case of Daniel, he is right in the thick of it amongst the top heavies and will get the opportunity to become the WBA Super champion at some point next year.
Of course, with so many ups, there will inevitably be a few downs and a big disappointment for me was Zach Parker sustaining an injury in his WBO Interim world super middleweight title fight against John Ryder.
Two of our fighters travelled to the States bidding to win world titles and, while they did not return with the bounty, both Denzel Bentley and David Avanesyan took on formidable champions in Janibek Alimkhanuly and Terence Crawford and will be stronger for the experience.
In next week’s column I will look ahead to what is on the cards for 2023, but what I will say now is that we are starting as we mean to go on with a huge night on January 28 at Wembley, where Anthony Yarde will attempt to become a unified world champion at light heavyweight by taking on the unbeaten banger Artur Beterbiev in a fight that is not to be missed.
This is the sort of fight we want to make more of and, if Anthony is successful, himself, Tyson, Big Joe and Daniel will be leading the Queensberry charge in what we hope will be a year to remember.