2023 looks like it’s shaping up to be very good year for boxing fans. There are several fascinating bouts slated to take place including Anthony Joshua v Jermaine Franklin at London’s O2 Arena, Alberto Puello v Rolly Romero for the WBA Super-Lightweight title and, for the same weight category in women’s boxing, Katie Taylor v Chantelle Cameron in Dublin on May 20th.
But the meeting that has every fight fan licking their lips in anticipation is the proposed battle between Tyson Fury and the Ukrainian heavyweight Oleksandr Usyk. The encounter is due to take place at Wembley Stadium on April 29th and, according to the early betting, Fury is hotly tipped to retain the title that he’s held ever since beating Deontay Wilder back in 2020.
The war of words has started long before the pair are due to meet with Usyk expressing doubts about whether Fury is really in training and the English fighter assuring the world that he’s already in great shape.
If the fight itself turns out to be as contentious as the run-up it may even be set to eclipse these five fine bouts from the last ten years.
Timothy Bradley v Ruslan Provodnikov, March 16, 2013
This was Bradley’s first time back in the ring following on from the controversy-racked split decision that saw him beat Manny Pacquiao the previous year. Given the circumstances, he obviously felt the need to assert himself and he certainly came out hoping to dominate.
His big punching style was soon unravelled by Provodnikov who was more than a match for it. It’s true that the Siberian sustained two eye cuts and his trainer tried to get the fight stopped in the 11th round. Luckily this didn’t happen and he prevailed in the end.
Francisco Rodriguez v Katsunari Takayama, August 9, 2014
If there was ever any evidence needed that even the lightest weight categories can produce incredible fights, this provided it.
At the time of the encounter the veteran Takayama was the 105 pound IBF champion and hadn’t suffered a defeat in any of his fights of the previous two years. At just 21 years of age, his opponent was the reigning WBO champion.
The fight was conducted at a furious pace and, eventually, youth conquered experience as Rodriguez held on to the title.
Andrjez Fonfara v Nathan Cleverly, October 16, 2015
Going into this light-heavyweight battle no-one was expecting the electrifying spectacle that awaited them. But once the Chicago-based Pole and the Welsh fighter found themselves in the ring, the fireworks started. So much so that the Compu-box punching records for the weight category had been completely rewritten on the night.
On his way to a points victory, Fonfara threw no less than 1,413 punches to Cleverly’s 1,111. At one point it looked like a bleeding nose might rule Cleverly out for the rest of the fight but the ringside doctor decided that he was fit to carry on – but unfortunately the points went against him.
Anthony Joshua v Wladimir Klitschko, April 29, 2017
90,000 people were there at Wembley Stadium on the night to witness what was already being billed as the fight of the year. The British Olympic gold medallist took on the Ukrainian former heavyweight champion and provided an object lesson in coming back when all seemed lost.
Throughout the fight fortune went one way and then the other with both men hitting the canvas at one point. But Joshua fought on and prevailed, ending proceedings with a piledriver upper cut in the 11th round.
Tyson Fury v Deontay Wilder, December 1, 2018
It may have ended in a split decision draw that both fighters believed they should have won, but it was a captivating contest all the same. The fight took place in the Staples Center in Los Angeles and saw two very different styles of fighting. Wilder relied on powerful punching while Fury tried to bamboozle him with unorthodox movements around the ring.
This worked right up until the final round when Fury was caught by a right-left combination that sent him to the canvas. It looked like it was all over – until Fury hauled himself to his feet to hang on for the draw.
Of course, along with these showcase fights there have also been more than a few damp squibs in recent years, two of the most disappointing of which featured the Paul brothers. First there was the highly anticipated meeting between Jake Paul and Ben Askren. But it was all over in the first round with Askren proving he was a better MMA fighter than a boxer.
Then there was Logan’s ill-advised match-up with Floyd Mayweather. Fans did get to see the full eight rounds, but they contained very little action.
The same almost certainly won’t be said of the Fury/Usyk fight – and here’s hoping we’ll soon be putting at the top of the decade’s classic encounters.