Boxing needs more superstars to carry the sport, but certainly is not short on world-class talent.
The past few years have dispelled the myth of the best not fighting each other, with more unification and undisputed championship clashes than ever before making their way to the schedule.
The past year saw unbeaten lightweight Devin Haney (29-0, 15KOs) unseat Australia’s George Kambosos Jr. to become - at age 23 - the youngest undisputed champion in the four-belt era.
Earlier in 2022, Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez proudly put Gen-Z on the map, becoming the first 2000-born fighter to win a major title after outpointing former champ Carlos Cuadras for the WBC junior bantamweight crown on 5th February in Phoenix, Arizona.
Plenty of talent - young and seasoned - are poised to claim hardware in the year ahead.
Technically, San Antonio’s Rodriguez (17-0, 11KOs) qualifies as a contender as he vacated his 115-pound title in search of one at flyweight.
Shakur Stevenson (19-0, 9KOs) also enters the new year as a former champion, as he was stripped of the WBC/WBO junior lightweight titles for failure to make weight in his last fight and will now campaign at lightweight.
While both figure to reclaim title status in some capacity in 2023, bet365 also turns to this trio of boxers to also make their way to the championship circle in the year to come.
The 30-year-old Boricua could have easily hoisted a junior welterweight title at some point in 2022, if not for a bit of misfortune. Matias remains at the head of the line for the vacant IBF 140-pound title, as he is due to face Argentina’s Jeremias Ponce (30-0, 20KOs).
There were talks of a 15th October clash in Brooklyn, New York, though reports surfaced of Ponce having to withdraw due to an inability to secure a travel visa. Resolution of the matter will dictate when in 2023 the fight takes place.
For now, the rumour is 11th February, by which point Matias is expected to become Puerto Rico’s third active reigning titlist, joining Jonathan ‘Bomba’ Gonzalez and Amanda Serrano.
Houston presently boasts four reigning titlists (Jermell and Jermall Charlo, Regis Prograis, Marlen Esparza). It is possible that Foster is the nicest boxer of the bunch, though without the hardware to complement his supreme skillset.
The 29-year-old has advanced the hard way through the ranks, overcoming a pair of early career defeats and a recent promotional lawsuit to punch his way to contender status.
On deck for the streaking junior lightweight contender is a shot at the vacant WBC 130-pound title versus unbeaten two-division and reigning WBC featherweight champ Rey Vargas who moves up in weight.
A date is not yet assigned for the ordered title fight. It stands to reason that Mexico’s Vargas (36-0, 22KOs) would enter as the perceived favourite to win a third divisional title. Foster has grown accustomed to upsetting the odds in and out of the ring.
One of two scenarios figure to play out with this prediction. Benavidez (26-0, 23KOs) could receive an upgrade to full WBC super middleweight titlist from his current interim title status should reigning undisputed champ Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez (58-2-2, 39KOs) choose to relinquish the ‘Green Belt.’
There is also the distinct possibility that the unbeaten 26-year-old is blessed with the chance to challenge and beat the Mexican superstar. At some point, the sanctioning bodies will have to order Alvarez to honour his mandatory title defences, with Benavidez no worse than second in line.
There currently exists a dangerous grudge match with former IBF titlist Caleb Plant eyed for the first quarter of 2023.
A win by Benavidez will preserve his owed shot at the main title; receiving the belt by default still qualifies as being crowned champion in the year ahead, whereas wins over Plant and Alvarez would not only properly validate that status but also land him as 2023 Fighter of the Year.