With a bumper 2022 of boxing in the books, the time has come to take stock. There sure was a lot of fights we didn’t get this year. Tyson Fury vs Anthony Joshua, Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr and Chris Eubank Jr vs Conor Benn all got tantalisingly close to the ring. But we’re here to celebrate the fights that did happen, rather than those that never occurred.
The Sportsman has chosen the five finest bouts of 2022. Our choices take in technical excellence, all-out warfare, trailblazers performing on the biggest stage and the most stunning finish to a world title fight this year.
Read on for The Sportsman Fight of the Year ranking. Then do yourself a favour and binge watch all five of these instant classics. You won’t regret it.
5. Claressa Shields vs Savannah Marshall
Undisputed middleweight championship
London, England, 15th October 2022
It all came down to this. Marshall was the only boxer to have beaten Shields as an amateur or a pro. The bout took place in the headline slot of the first all-female boxing card in the history of the sport. The stage and the stakes could not have been any more monumental.
This heavily-hyped grudge match delivered on its promise and then some. Shields surprised many by mixing it up on the inside with knockout puncher Marshall. Fighting and boxing will equal brilliance against an opponent who just wouldn’t give up, ‘The GWOAT’ took a unanimous decision to end an enthralling spectacle.
4. Juan Francisco Estrada vs Roman Gonzalez III
WBC & The Ring super flyweight championship
Glendale, Arizona, USA, 3rd December 2022
Some fights are just a sure thing. If not in terms of result, then in terms of quality. This super flyweight showdown between two of the most gifted fighters in the world could have gone either way. But as soon as this trilogy fight between ‘El Gallo’ and ‘Chocolatito’ was announced, fans knew they were in for a third helping of something special.
A nip and tuck display of incredible technique and dramatic tension, Estrada and Gonzalez delivered in spades. The Mexican edged out the Nicaraguan, looking that little bit sharper than the former pound-for-pound king. Both men seemed agreeable to a fourth fight in the aftermath. If they do it again, don’t be surprised to see their fourth fight on our 2023 list.
3. Jermell Charlo vs Brian Castano II
Undisputed light middleweight championship
Carson, California, USA, 14th May 2022
Castano and Charlo had fought to a split draw in 2021. The result necessitated a rematch and the enthralling action back in May justified it. Skill and savagery combined to make for an unbelievable spectacle.
These were shots thrown to maim, but they were not thoughtless. The visceral exchanges saw both men throw with educated intent. This was full-throttle boxing at its best. Charlo emerged as the first four-belt light middleweight champion in history, knocking Castano out in the tenth round. But the beaten man walked out with his reputation intact, after playing his part in an instant classic. A third fight would be welcomed.
2. Leigh Wood vs Michael Conlan
WBA featherweight championship
Nottingham, England, 12th March 2022
When you switch on boxing, or attend a card, what are you looking for exactly? High stakes? A stunning comeback? A spectacular knockout? Wood vs Conlan had all this and more.
This riveting affair began with a bang. Conlan knocked Wood down in the first round. The Nottingham man was hurt several more times over the course of the ensuing eleven rounds, at times coming within a whisker of losing his WBA title.
Wood started to turn the tide when he knocked Conaln down in the 11th round. In the final session, ‘Leigh-thal’ produced a moment that will live forever. A forceful knockout sent Conlan flying out of the ring. The fight was over. Thankfully, despite some scary post-fight moments, the Irishman made a full recovery and has fought and won twice since.
1. Katie Taylor vs Amanda Serrano
Undisputed lightweight championship
New York, New York, USA, 30th April 2022
Superfights often fail to live up to their historic billing. But sometimes, the immense amount of hype surrounding a bout manifests itself into something truly special. When Taylor and Serrano did battle in the historic confines of Madison Square Garden, they surpassed even our wildest hopes for their fight.
Two of the greatest female boxers of all-time fought with such passionate ferocity that it feels vulgar to even gender them. As a sold-out New York arena went wild for their close, absorbing fight, it became clear we were quite simply witnessing two of the greatest boxers, full stop.
The decision was hotly-debated afterwards. Taylor was given the split nod, but many thought Serrano had done enough. The result wasn’t controversial especially, the fight was just close. But it was also utterly compelling and well worth a rematch. Taylor and Serrano became the first women to headline MSG. Perhaps next time, they’ll become the first women to headline a stadium.
*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change