May 20, 2024

2022 has been a very good year for boxing fans. Big names have routinely taken big fights, leading to far less disappointing matchmaking than the sport has seen in many recent eras.

There have been massive upsets, plenty of unification clashes and some foundation-shaking results in the first half of the year, setting up the rest of 2022 for some potentially huge matches. But before looking ahead, it’s time to look back at some of the biggest and best moments from the sport over the first six months of the year.

Let’s take a look at six moments from the first half of the year that shook up boxing.

Dmitry Bivol scores massive upset over Canelo Alvarez

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez has spent much of his career chasing history. From facing Floyd Mayweather early in his career to marching up and down weight classes collecting belts, recently unifying all four world titles at super middleweight. In May, Alvarez returned to light heavyweight, the highest weight at which he’s fought and where he won the WBO title from Sergey Kovalev in 2019. Instead of something of a softer touch like a past-his-prime Kovalev, this time Alvarez battled Dmitry Bivol, a true top fighter at 175 pounds. Despite the challenge, oddsmakers still favored Alvarez to win and collect Bivol’s WBA title.

Bivol proved his quality that night, using a combination of strength and skill to outbox the man many considered the pound-for-pound best fighter in the sport. It was a reality check for Alvarez that some mountains may be too high to climb. Now, Canelo moves on to a super middleweight title defense against Gennadiy Golovkin before planning to rematch Bivol. Bivol, meanwhile, also has his eyes on a potential four-belt unification bout with the division’s other top star, Artur Beterbiev.

A bevy of undisputed title fights

One of the best things to happen in the past few years, continuing through the first half of 2022, has been a large number of battles for unified and undisputed championships, effectively establishing true top fighters across many divisions. This year has seen multiple fights for undisputed status, with more potentially coming before the year is up. In February, Josh Taylor put his four world titles at junior welterweight on the line against Jack Catterall in a fight that brought out some of boxing’s more disappointing tendencies. Despite Catterall putting on a top-shelf performance that absolutely deserved to see him leave Glasgow as undisputed champion, Taylor was awarded a split decision win so bad that some bookmakers refunded Catterall bets.

Things went in a better direction in May when Jermell Charlo and Brian Castano met in a rematch for all four junior middleweight championships. The pair put on a thrilling Fight of the Year contender before Charlo scored a 10th-round knockout. Then in June, Devin Haney put on a boxing masterclass to take all four lightweight belts off of George Kambosos in Australia. It’s tremendous to see this trend in boxing and that’s without even getting into arguably the best undisputed fight of the year.

Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano make a statement for women’s boxing

Marketed honestly as “the biggest fight in the history of women’s boxing,” Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano met with Taylor’s status as undisputed lightweight champion on the line. It was a wild battle between two of the best women in the sport, with both having great moments before Taylor was able to able to edge out a split decision victory. It wasn’t a “great women’s fight,” it was simply a great fight.

Adding more weight to the fight was that it was held in Madison Square Garden, the first time women had headlined in the iconic arena. The crowd was red hot the entire fight, providing a perfect atmosphere for a matchup that delivered everything you could want from two elite boxers. Now, if boxing could just get rid of the ridiculous rules where nearly all women’s boxing matches take place with two-minute rounds and championship bouts only go 10 rounds. Serrano and Taylor proved women in the sport deserve better.

Tyson Fury dominates and announces retirement

Tyson Fury, fresh off back-to-back knockouts of Deontay Wilder, finally granted Dillian Whyte his long-awaited title shot. As expected, Whyte was little challenge for Fury, who has done more than enough to establish himself as the world’s best heavyweight. A Fury uppercut in the sixth round closed the show. Fury had retained his WBC title and seemed set up for a showdown with the winner of the unified championship bout between Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua to crown an undisputed heavyweight champion.

Instead of turning his attention to that massive potential fight, Fury used his post-fight interview to announce that he was retired. Fury has since reiterated that he believes his in-ring career is done — with the exception of a desire to box UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou. He has, however, said that $500 million would be enough to lure him back for an undisputed fight. That suggests that, at some level, Fury’s retirement talk is a negotiating tactic.

Errol Spence Jr. unifies three titles to set up welterweight superfight

It says many good things about the sport that so many of these moments revolve around unifications and battles for undisputed status. One fight has been on the minds of boxing fans for years, however, and now seems closer than ever. Welterweight kings Errol Spence Jr. and Terrence Crawford have been elite pound-for-pound talents for years, making it all the more frustrating that promotional politics kept the two from facing off.

After Crawford easily handled Shawn Porter in November, he left Top Rank, removing the primary hurdle that had prevented him from facing Spence, a PBC fighter. The final domino to fall to make the fight possible was Spence needing to get by WBA champ Yordenis Ugas in April. Spence did so easily, putting on a show against an extremely talented boxer. Now, Crawford and Spence both say they want the fight and there’s nothing stopping them from making it a reality — possibly by the end of the year.

Artur Beterbiev and Naoya Inoue make pound-for-pound statements

Needing to keep pace with Bivol in the discussion for best light heavyweight in the world, Beterbiev brought his WBC and IBF titles to a June unification showdown with WBO champion Joe Smith Jr. Smith is a notoriously gritty and durable fighter. Beterbiev made one of the biggest statements of the year by dropping him over and over until the stoppage was forced in the second round. It was one of the most impressive performances of the year and one that reminded that Beterbiev is more than a mauler; he’s a brutal, technically-adept savage.

Similar in his June dominance was Naoya Inoue. The bantamweight superstar returned for a highly-anticipated rematch of the 2019 Fight of the Year with Nonito Donaire. Rather than 12 rounds of back-and-forth action like the first meeting, Inoue put his power on display early, knocking Donaire to the canvas in the first round. Donaire never got back on track and Inoue finished the fight in the second frame to unify the WBA, IBF and WBC titles. Inoue now has his sights set on becoming undisputed as he eyes a bout with WBO champ Paul Butler.

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