By Gav Duthie: January can often be a quiet month in boxing. Promoters know that the public has eaten too much, drank too much, and spent too much after Christmas. It can be a risk to put on big shows, but there is plenty to look forward to in the new year. There was a disappointing end to 2022 in the sport, with many fights falling through, but 2023 as always, promises some big events. Will January set the scene for a big year? Here are the main stories and how 2023 could shape up next year.
6 January – The return of Eddie Chambers
I get it; probably not the big news you were looking for to kickstart the year. Eddie was a solid contender in the nineties and lost to Wladimir Klitschko in 2010 with his lone title attempt. His last outing was way back in 2016, a loss to Gerald Washington. Chambers fights Tyler Canning 5-5-0 but serves as a matchmaker for the event with promoter Corey Williams who also boxes from time to time. This is probably more a venture into the promotional side than a return for Eddie, which is good to see because he is very knowledgeable and is only 40, so can still offer a lot to the sport.
- Gervonta Davis v Hector Luis Garcia
- Jaron Ennis v Karen Chukhadzhian
- Rashidi Ellis v Roiman Villa
TGB promotions are going big with a massive event on January 7th. Gervonta Davis was arrested just the other night in a domestic incident, so it is uncertain if this fight will actually go ahead. Garcia is said to be a tune-up fight before Ryan Garcia next, but Hector is a world champion. Is it worth the risk?
Even if that fight doesn’t go ahead, I would like to think the event will, as there are two important welterweight prospect fights on as well. Many are hoping for a breakout year for Jaron Ennis, and he faces a tough test against Chukhadzhian, who hasn’t lost since his third pro bout. He fought three times in 1 night in a Ukrainian prospect tournament and lost the final. Rashidi Ellis, also the least talked about prospect of the Ennis, Ortiz, and Ellis trio, takes on Villa, who has 24ko’s from 25 wins. 2023 could be a huge year for welterweight boxing.
- Dainier Pero
- Efe Ajagba v Stephan Shaw
- Jonathan Rice v Guido Vianello
On different cards, on January 14th, we are treated to some great heavyweight action. Last year we were treated to an all-Cuban bout involving Lenier Pero on the Fury v Wilder undercard. His younger brother Dainier made his debut near the end of 2022 and continues against an unnamed foe. There definitely seem to be more Cubans flying the nest following the ban lifting on pro boxing in the country.
More importantly, Top Rank is promoting a huge heavyweight prospect fight between Nigerian Olympian Efe Agagba and American Stephan Shaw. Agagba was set to face WBC Bridgerweight champion Oscar Rivas, but for injury, so it’s great news that Shaw was willing to step in and risk his 0. Jonathan Rice also has his first fight since fully committing to boxing in wuitt8ng his job following back-to-back upset wins over Michael Coffie. He faces Guido Vianello, who was considered a top amateur.
There are several cards on the 21st of January, with the most significant promoted by Boxxer in the UK.
- Chris Eubank v Liam Smith
- Richard Riackporhe v Krzystzof Glowacki
- Joseph Parker v Jack Massey
Eubank gets his British grudge match all be it not against generational for Conor Benn. The main reason Smith signed for Boxxer and Sky was to get his hands on Eubank Jr. Riackporhe also takes a big step up by facing former world champion Glowacki who dethroned record-equalling 13 defenses champ Marco Huck. Glowacki is past his best but still. Joseph Parker also looks to bounce back against Cruiserweight stepping up Jack Massey 20-1, who, ironically, his only loss is to Riackporhe.
- Illunga Makubu v Noel Gevor Mikaelyan
- Jonathan Guidry v Bermaine Stiverne
91 year Don King is still holding onto the sport and delivers his once-a-year show involving his only world champion Cruiserweight Illunga Makubu. Former WBC heavyweight champ Bermaine Stiverne also gets dusted down and pulled from the shelf to face Jonathan Guidry, whose stock actually rose a little in his defeat to paper champion Trevor Bryan. Stiverne hasn’t won since 2015, but whilst King still has Makubu to promote, we won’t see the last of him.
Antonio Tarver Jnr v Drew Dwelly
The son of former light heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver a.k.a Mason Dixon from Rocky Balboa, takes his first real test. Tarver Jnr is 10-0, whilst Dwelly is 11-0 with 2 draws. Tarver Snr is promoting the bout as his 3rd event in total. Jnr turned pro in 2014 but has been slow, with this being only his 11th pro bout in 9 years.
- Agit Kabayel v Agron Smakici
The German Kabayel fights for the vacant EBU title, which he owned previously before giving it up in 2020 to secure more lucrative bouts. This didn’t quite happen with a Tyson Fury bout falling through, amongst others. Despite Smakici getting destroyed by Kazakh Zhan Kossobutsky in 1 round boxrec rates him higher than Kabayel probably due to higher activity and a good win over Lenroy Thomas recently.
- Artur Beterbiev v Anthony Yarde
This could be a great slugfest. Both can bang, but Beterbiev’s boxing skills are underrated. Yarde deserves another chance after a rebuild following defeats to Kovalev and Lyndon Arthur before revenge against the latter. Yarde will definitely go for the win, that’s for sure.
Setting up the rest of the year
Of all the prospects in boxing, fans are waiting to see the development of Ennis, Ortiz, Ellis, and, if he returns, Conor Benn. Would PBC risk putting Ennis and Ellis together if they both win? If Crawford and Spence finally fight, the belts could open up, or even if they don’t, they could seek titles at 154. Many could become vacant.
Artur Beterbiev will have his main mandatory out of the way if he defeats Yarde. Yarde is also the highest-ranked IBF challenger currently, and the WBC is usually happy to wait before enforcing mandatories if undisputed fights are on the line. Bob Arum has always shown a reluctance to work with Eddie Hearn on what he calls Deadzone (DAZN). He also said Bivol was boring, but he can’t say that anymore after wins against Canelo and Ramirez; Bivol is a star whether Arum likes it or not. They are both Russian, and the fight is basically huge around the world. Beterbiev is 38 a week before his defence so could he grow old overnight?
Efe Agagba fell well short in a top contender fight against Frank Sanchez but gets another chance against the talented Stephan Shaw. Agagba is a slight 8/11 favorite which I agree with, but this is a huge fight to see who moves onto the next level.
January could be a very interesting month and a good way to start 2023.