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Rob Tebbutt's 2023 Boxing Awards: Terence Crawford, Katie Taylor & Nathan Heaney capture end of year accolades

Our resident boxing expert Rob Tebbutt reflects on a memorable 12 months and reveals his selections for men's and women's fighter of the year, fight of the year, upset of the year and knockout of the year...


Men's Fighter of the Year
Terence Crawford

My 2023 'men's Fighter of the Year' was quite easy for me to pick, despite the fact that we have seen some brilliant performances during the calendar year.

It could only be one man - it was a fight we had been waiting and praying for for such a long time; it was a fight that was designed to define a generation at welterweight, and Terence Crawford produced undoubtedly the performance of the year against Errol Spence Jr.

He dominated his American rival from start to finish, and yes, I know that was his one and only venture into a ring in 2023, but considering the stage and scale of this fight, and the performance of Terence Crawford on the night, how could I possibly look anywhere else?

It was an absolute boxing masterclass, and a performance that will go down as one of, if not, the very best in the history of the 147lbs division!

He is my 'Fighter of the Year' for 2023.
 

Women's Fighter of the Year
Katie Taylor

Now, this may be a little controversial picking a fighter who has taken a defeat in the calendar year, but I'm going to overlook that fact, and award the title of 'Women's Fighter of the Year' to Katie Taylor.

The Irish sensation came up short as she stepped up in weight to tackle the bigger and more powerful Chantelle Cameron earlier in the year, but bounced back in sensational style; producing a real Herculean effort to become a two-eight undisputed champion in the rematch.

Cameron was a clear winner in the first bout, and many - myself included - expected things to pan out identically in the second fight too. But how wrong were we... as Taylor showed what 'greatness' is all about by producing a career-best performance in Dublin.
 

Fight of the Year
Robeisy Ramirez v Rafael Espinoza

There were two fights that immediately sprung to the front of my mind for this award... Joe Cordina v Shavkat Rakhmonov and Robeisy Ramirez v Rafael Espinoza!

I could easily make a strong and justifiable case for both, but after much deliberation, I opted to go with Espinoza's success over Ramirez in their WBO featherweight title showdown in December.

Ramirez was being touted as a pound-for-pound star... that was until he met the relatively unknown Cuban, who twice picked himself up off the canvas to prevail in a real featherweight war in Florida and become world champion for the first time!

It was an absolute cracker; and for me, the 2023 'Fight of the Year'.
 

Upset of the Year
Nathan Heaney def Denzel Bentley

I could easily have opted for Marlon Tapales' sensational victory over Murodjon Akhmadaliev in this category given the magnitude of that upset, but, I feel that there was one other shock victory that just about pipped it to the post!

And that was Nathan Heaney's stunning points decision success over Denzel Bentley; a bout that captured the well-backed, and hugely popular, fighter from Stoke-on-Trent, the British Middleweight title.

'The Hitman' tore up the script and produced a career-best performance to dethrone Bentley in Manchester, with very few people outside of the Potteries backing the 7/1 underdog to extend his unbeaten record against a fighter who was expected to soon be challenging for world honours once again.
 

Knockout of the Year
Zhilei Zhang (versus Joe Joyce)

There were a couple of contenders for this one, but my winner has got to be Zhilei Zhang, who uncorked a massive shot to stop Joe Joyce in the third round of their pulsating dust-up in September.

Joyce, long considered to have the best chin in the heavyweight division, saw his jaw shattered by the powerful Zhang, being sent crashing down to the canvas on a night that saw his world title aspirations go up in smoke!

I also really liked Junto Nakatani laying out Andrew Maloney in the super-flyweight division, but, for me, I have to edge towards Zhang for the 'Knockout of the Year' gong.
 

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