There are a handful of fighters right now in the race for fighter of the year in 2023. Terence Crawford, David Benavidez, and Tim Tszyu are among them and have all made whatever statements they will.

Two men heading to scratch in the last month of the year may be the real battle for ballots. The dates that matter for these two men will play out before and after Santa comes down the chimney:

  • 12/09: 140 - TBRB #1 Regis Prograis (29-1, 24 KO, WBC) vs. World Lightweight Champion Devin Haney (30-0, 15 KO, IBF/WBA/WBC/WBO)
  • 12/26: 122 - #1 Naoya Inoue (25-0, 22 KO, WBC/WBO) vs. #2 Marlon Tapales (37-3, 19 KO, IBF/WBA)

  Haney is taking his second significant test this year after narrowly defeating the excellent Vasyl Lomachenko in what is a front-runner for Fight of the Year. Haney didn’t look for a soft touch for his second appearance, heading up the scale to face one of the best junior welterweights in the world. A win over Prograis would make for a pair of standout victories.

Inoue, the BoxingScene Fighter of the Year in 2014 and no less than 1A to Crawford in the pound-for-pound race, was passed over by a lot of US outlets in favor of Crawford that year. Their careers, which have run in close parallel in the years since, converge again in 2023. Inoue beat Stephen Fulton for two belts over the summer and a win over Tapales would make him undisputed in his second weight class in just a year and change. A Tapales win would also make a case for him as the Fighter of the Year, considering his upset of undefeated Murodjon Akhmadaliev, and a win over Inoue would be one of the upsets of the century to date. 

Both fights are must-see and a great way to close what has been, inside the ring, an outstanding year for the sport.

They aren’t the only fights of note with Saudi hosting a monster card spotlighting some of the biggest names in the heavyweight division.

Joshua, Wilder in the Spotlight

A showdown between Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder has been talked about for years. They still aren’t in the same ring together, but they’ll be sharing a ring soon:

  • #3 Anthony Joshua (26-3, 23 KO) vs. #4 Otto Wallin (26-1, 14 KO)
  • Deontay Wilder (43-2-1, 42 KO) vs. Joseph Parker (33-3, 23 KO)

Wilder slipped out of the TBRB rankings for inactivity but was ranked number two prior to that and his lofty standing can be assumed heading in. Parker is a former titlist on a three-fight win streak since a loss to Joe Joyce. It’s a fight that  has the potential to get wild and explosive. Joshua has a Wallin whose only loss was highly competitive versus lineal king Tyson Fury. Neither man is in soft and a big money showdown, hopefully just one fight away, isn’t guaranteed. It’s part of an excellent card also featuring the return of lineal cruiserweight king Jai Opetaia and light heavyweight titlist Dmitry Bivol.

And that’s still not all that boxing has to offer in December. The heavyweights are putting on a show. Two of the best little men in boxing are putting their belts on the line.

Edwards-Rodriguez Could be a Gem

  • 12/16: 112 - #1 Sunny Edwards (20-0, 4 KO, IBF) vs. #4 Jesse Rodriguez (18-0, 11 KO, WBO)

Edwards is slick, smart, and crafty. Rodriguez is skilled, bruising, and still only 23. Rodriguez burst from the pack with wins over Carlos Cuadras and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai in 2022, a herald of the nearing end of the junior bantamweight golden age of the “Hardcore Four.” Dropping back to flyweight, Rodriguez grabbed a belt and now he’s going for two.

In Edwards, he will find a young but seasoned veteran with serious wins over Moruti Mthalane and Felix Alvarado. Edwards, 27, has aspirations past Rodriguez already, hoping to face living legend Roman Gonzalez before Gonzalez hangs them up for good.

This is a fantastic fight, one more of many for what has made this a special year. 

Additional Title Fights in December


12/08: 126 - #5 Robeisy Ramirez (13-1, 8 KO, WBO) vs. Rafael Espinoza (21-0, 18 KO)

12/10: 200 - #1 Chris Billam-Smith (18-1, 12 KO, WBO) vs. #8 Mateusz Masternak (47-5, 31 KO)

12/16: 112 - #3 Julio Cesar Martinez (20-2, 15 KO, WBC) vs. Angelino Sordova (18-0-1, 12 KO)

12/23: 200 - World Champion Jai Opetaia (23-0, 18 KO, IBF) vs. Ellis Zorro (17-0, 7 KO)

12/23: 175 - #1 Dmitry Bivol (21-0, 11 KO, WBA) vs. #8 Lyndon Arthur (23-1, 16 KO)

12/31: 115 - #2 Kazuto Ioka (30-2-1, 15 KO, WBA) vs. Josber Perez (20-3, 8 KO)


12/15: 168 - Franchon Crews-Dezurn (8-2, 2 KO) vs. Shadasia Green (13-0, 11 KO); vacant WBC 

12/16: 108 - Yesica Nery Plata (29-2, 3 KO, WBA/WBC) vs. Sarah Bormann (17-0, 7 KO) 

Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.