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Jake Donovan's 2022 boxing awards

Depending on your viewpoint, 2022 was either a year of disappointment over the biggest matchups not happening or one that saw one competitive fight after another throughout the world. 

There is truth that the second half of the calendar dramatically slowed, with one proposed superfight (Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis-Ryan Garcia) pushed into 2023, while two (Tyson Fury-Anthony Joshua, Errol Spence-Terence Crawford) fell through the cracks altogether. 

It doesn’t discount the number of spectacular moments provided over the course of the past twelve months. Some stood out more than others, as honoured below in the inaugural edition of bet365’s year-end boxing awards. 

Men’s Boxer of the Year: Dmitry Bivol

The long-reigning WBA light heavyweight titlist went 2-0 on the year, including his handling of the sport’s biggest star in Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez. 

Bivol entered their 7th May fight at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada literally as man without a country, not permitted to acknowledge his Russia homeland (where his family relocated from Kyrgyzstan during his youth) due to the nation’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

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He rose above the politics in and out of the ring, outpointing Guadalajara’s Alvarez over 12 rounds.

Bivol capped the year with a dominant win over previously undefeated former WBO super middleweight titlist Gilberto ‘Zurdo’ Ramirez in Abu Dhabi.

Hon. Mention: Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez; Hector Luis Garcia; Devin Haney; Kenshiro Teraji

Women’s Boxer of the Year: Claressa Shields

The self-proclaimed ‘GWOAT’ (‘Greatest Woman Of All Time’) went 2-0 on the year. Both fights took place in the U.K., ending with a 10-round win over England’s Savannah Marshall to once again fully unify the middleweight division. 

Shields’ only defeat as an amateur came to Marshall in the 2012 World Amateur Championships, although she would go on to win back-to-back Olympic Gold medals and become a three-time undisputed champion in two weight divisions through just 13 pro fights.

Hon. Mention (in alphabetical order): Alycia Baumgardner; Chantelle Cameron; Natasha Jonas; Katie Taylor; Yokasta Valle

Men’s Fight of the Year: Leigh Wood KO12 Michael Conlan

It was truly a tale of two fights on 12th March in Wood’s Nottingham hometown. 

Belfast’s Conlan had plenty of support on the road, with the Motorpoint Arena evenly divided between the two fan bases for the WBA ‘Regular’ featherweight championship. 

Conlan floored Wood in the opening round and built a sizeable lead through ten rounds.

Wood dramatically turned the tide with an eleventh-round knockdown, erasing a scorecard deficit altogether with a dramatic 12th round knockout. 

A right hand by Wood caused Conlan’s arms to fall to his sides as he tipped through the ropes and out of the ring to end their unforgettable affair.

Hon. Mention: Sebastian Fundora TKO9 Erickson Lubin; Jermell Charlo TKO10 Brian Castano; Sivenathi Nontshinga SD12 Hector Flores

Women’s Fight of the Year: Katie Taylor SD10 Amanda Serrano 

The first-ever women’s combat sports bout to headline at New York’s famed Madison Square Garden somehow surpassed exceedingly high expectations.  

Ireland’s Taylor was the superior boxer early in their 30th April DAZN headliner, before Serrano - a Puerto Rican southpaw based out of nearby Brooklyn - rallied hard in a round five that saw the unified featherweight champion land 44-of-114 punches in just two minutes.

Taylor enjoyed a strong finish, fending off a late rally by Serrano to retain her undisputed lightweight championship in a fight that drew immediate cries for a rematch that seems likely for spring 2023 in Dublin.

Hon. Mention: Claressa Shieds UD10 Savannah Marshall; Defline Persoon UD10 Elhem Mekhaled

Knockout of the Year: Caleb Plant KO9 Anthony Dirrell

Of all the outcomes predicted in this 15th October grudge match at Barclays Centre in Brooklyn, New York, the modest-hitting Plant flattening Dirrell - or any opponent for that matter - was one that few saw coming. 

A largely awkward and at times dirty affair between former super middleweight titlists ended in an instant, with Plant landing a left hook to the body and then one upstairs.

The latter caused Dirrell to collapse to the canvas in a heap, prompting referee Harvey Dock to immediately halt the contest at 2:57 of round nine.

Plant’s post-fight celebration included his mockingly shovelling dirt of Dirrell’s figurative grave, though - as he quipped - symbolised his officially burying their beef.

Hon. Mention: Leigh Wood KO12 Michael Conlan; Joe Cordina KO2 Kenichi Ogawa; Deontay Wilder KO1 Robert Helenius; Terence Crawford KO6 David Avanesyan; Chris Billam-Smith KO5 Armend Xhoxjaj

Prospect of the Year: Keyshawn Davis

The 23-year-old lightweight from Norfolk, Virginia is a perfect 4-0 since bringing home a Silver medal last summer in the delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Three of the wins came in a productive 2022 for ‘The Businessman.’ 

He earned knockout wins over Esteban Sanchez (18-1 at the time) and Omar Tienda (25-5 and having won seven straight at the time) before posting his most notable win to date - an eight-round shutout of former title challenger and hardened gatekeeper Juan Carlos Burgs on 10th December at Madison Square Garden.

Hon. Mention: Katsuma Akitsugi; Diego Pacheco; Hamzah Sheeraz; Austin ‘Ammo’ Williams

Trainer of the Year: Derrick James 

The long underrated cornerman from the greater Dallas area saw his top three pupils go 5-0 on the year. 

Frank Martin enjoyed a breakout campaign with three wins, including a dominant twelve-round victory over Michel Rivera in their 17th December battle of unbeaten lightweights.

James was the architect behind Errol Spence’s tenth-round stoppage of Yordenis Ugas in their 16th April WBA/WBC/IBF welterweight unification bout and Jermell Charlo’s revenge-fuelled tenth-round knockout of Brian Castaño in their 14th May rematch to become the undisputed junior middleweight champion.

Hon. Mention: Colin Nathan, Bob Santos, Bill Haney, Joel Diaz, Gennadiy Mashyanov 

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