From ‘Bam’ To ‘Big Baby’ - Five Boxers to Keep An Eye On In 2023

Here are five boxers we're expecting to make a big splash over the next 12 months
07:00, 31 Dec 2022

Another year in the ring is about to come to a close. We’ve already run through our favourite knockouts of the past 12 months, our men’s and women’s Fighter of the Year, and our pick for the best bout, but what about the upcoming year ahead?

Below we’ve picked out our five fighters to watch out for in 2023. 

Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez

Jesse Rodriguez came out of absolutely nowhere in 2022. In February, on just seven days’ notice, the San Antonio native took the place of an ill Sriskat Sor Rungvisai to face Carlos Cuadras for the vacant WBC super-flyweight title, stepping up two weight classes in the process. The short notice and weight discrepancy made little difference to ‘Bam’, who dropped Cuadras en route to a convincing unanimous decision (117-110, 117-110, 115-112) on the scorecards.

The American impressively went on to stop former pound-for-pound star Rungvisai four months later, before capping off a tremendous year with a unanimous decision victory over a top contender in Israel Gonzalez. 

So what’s in store for the 22-year-old unbeaten star in 2023? Rodriguez vacated his strap in October, since won by Juan Francisco Estrada, and has moved back to flyweight where an array of options await him such as IBF champion Sunny Edwards and WBC king Julio Cesar Martinez. First up though, it looks like Rodriguez is on a collision course to face Mexico’s Cristian Gonzalez for the vacant WBO bauble.

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Jared Anderson 

The heavyweight division might see the rise of a new superstar in 2023. Jared Anderson has assembled a mighty impressive 13-0 (13) record since turning professional in 2019.

The 22-year-old American is yet to have an opponent last more than six rounds against him, with ten of his 13 knockouts coming inside the first two rounds and has even drawn comparisons to Muhammad Ali from his promoter Bob Arum. 

Comparing him to arguably the greatest of all time might seem a bit premature, but there’s no denying ‘Big Baby’ has the potential to be a superstar. Capping off his year with a second round stoppage of Jerry Forrest, the man from Ohio will now be seeking bigger tests and with fights against the likes of Daniel Dubois, Filip Hrgovic and Arslanbek Makhmudov being mooted for the new year, we expect to hear a lot more from him. 

Dalton Smith

Fresh off the back of signing a new contract with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing, Dalton Smith is one of the hottest properties in British boxing right now. 

‘Thunder’ had a landmark year in the ring in 2022, winning all four of his fights, stretching his unbeaten record to 13-0, with ten wins inside the distance, while picking up the WBC Silver international and British super-lightweight titles along the way.

Smith is targeting world titles and a stadium fight at Hillsborough, home of his beloved Sheffield Wednesday, in 2023. Whether we’ll see Smith with a world title around his waist this time next year isn’t certain, but what is guaranteed is you do not want to miss the next chapter of one of the most exciting prospects in the world.

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Ben Whittaker

Fresh from his light-heavyweight silver medal win at the Tokyo Games last summer, Ben Whittaker turned to the paid ranks in 2022, signing with BOXXER and working under the guidance of Tyson Fury trainer SugarHill Steward.

The West Bromwich man made a solid start to life in the pros, marking his professional debut in July on the undercard of Chris Billiam-Smith vs Isaac Chamberlain in Bournemouth with a second round stoppage of Greg O’Neill. A month later, Whittaker fought for a second and final time in 2022 with a unanimous decision win over the previously unbeaten Petar Nosic in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. 

Flashy, ruthless and outspoken, Whittaker’s career might only be at an embryonic stage at this point but he’s blockbuster viewing and is destined for superstardom. 

Caroline Dubois 

Another Tokyo Games graduate, Caroline Dubois, also had a scintillating year in the ring. In a busy opening year as a professional, the 21-year-old silver medallist built up a reputation as something of a knockout artist with four of her five wins finishing inside the distance - twice in the opening round. 

Dubois, sister of WBA (regular) heavyweight champion Daniel, told The Sportsman that the last year was about getting used to the pro game and in 2023 she wants to step up to bigger fights and maybe even a world title shot. 

“By the end of next year. I definitely want to be fighting for titles or in major contention to fight for one,” the southpaw told us in December. “I know I have the ability, and I have the skills. Hopefully by the end of the year, I'll be fighting for a massive title.”

After a stunning breakthrough year for the lightweight, we wouldn’t argue with those grand plans.

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