In a year that was something of a mixed bag in the world of men's boxing, one fighter stood well above his peers.
Few could have guessed that Dmitry Bivol would be the consensus Fighter of the Year at the beginning of 2022 and when it was announced that the Russian light-heavyweight world champion would be taking on pound-for-pound king Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, only a slim minority believed he could win.
Fast forward to May and not only did Bivol beat boxing’s golden child, he utterly dismantled him, changing the current landscape of the sweet science in the process. Just a few months earlier, as the curtains were drawn on 2021, it was Canelo who had been the go-to Fighter of the Year after an absolutely stellar 12 months that saw him beat Avni Yildirim, Billy Joe Saunders and Caleb Plant inside the distance, and become the undisputed super-middleweight champion.
- Dmitry Bivol On 'Zurdo', 'Canelo' and 'Sugar Ray'
Bivol was supposed to hand over his 175lb bauble to the Mexican superstar on a platter, but nobody told him that. The unbeaten 32-year-old saw all three judges score the fight 115-113 in his favour at the end of 12 rounds, such was his dominance over the pre-fight favourite. Canelo was rarely able to find a way through the disciplined Bivol's defensive guard, and the latter’s regular use of the jab kept the former on his heels throughout.
Handing Canelo his second career loss and first since 2013 could have been enough on its own to name Bivol Fighter of the Year, but the Russian cemented that honour in November by putting in an even cleaner performance against Gilberto Ramirez. Even after beating arguably the best boxer on the planet a few months earlier, the outcome of a showdown with the less heralded former super-middleweight champion was a tough one to call.
‘Zurdo’ entered the bout with an unblemished record of 44 wins from 44 fights, 30 of which ended in the distance, and had beaten some top light-heavyweight names in the run up to Bivol. Outmatched, outclassed and outgunned from the opening bell, Ramirez never stood a chance against the Kyrgyzstan-born champion who earned scores of 118-110, 117-111 and 117-111 from the judges.
Who knows what will happen in 2023, but with Bivol on a collision course with Artur Beterbiev in a clash that would decide who’s really numero uno at light-heavyweight, and with a rematch with ‘Canelo’ looking likely, don’t be surprised to see him named Fighter of the Year this time next year too
Honourable Mentions: Devin Haney, Naoya Inoue, Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez
*18+ | BeGambleAware