The “Better Late Than Never” ITRBoxing 2023 Year End Awards

Better late than never, ITRBoxing brings your our 2023 year end awards!

Fighter of the Year: Terence Crawford

(Esther Lin/Showtime)

2023 was a year filled with standout performances. Naoya Inoue completely dominating Stephen Fulton physically and tactically; Devin Haney’s masterclass against Regis Prograis; David Benavidez’s stoppage of one of the most skilled guys in boxing, Demetrius Andrade; Joseph Parker sweeping Deontay Wilder; Chris Eubank Jr. avenging a knockout loss with a domination over Liam Smith; Bam Rodriguez career best win over Sunny Edwards. I could go on. But none truly match up to the historical significance of Terence Crawford’s demolition of the consensus other baddest man in the division, Errol Spence back in July.

This fight took about 5 years to make. And it had come close a few different times with ultimately no fight made, leading myself and a lot of other boxing fans to believe that it would be a fight we would never see, just another Bowe vs Lewis or Kovalev vs Stevenson in a sport where we as fans so often don’t get what we want.

But when the fight finally got signed, and the two faced off, I truly in my gut felt like it was a 50/50 fight, and flip flopped in my head multiple times about how I thought the fight would go. In the end, it would be Crawford (40-0, 31 ko) who would separate himself not just from Spence, but from every other fighter in boxing by completely picking apart and stopping the other generational fighter in his weight class in one of the great all time performances. And despite the fact that Crawford only fought once in 2023, and how divided our panel was, its hard to question who the standout fighter is of 2023. 

– Dakota McCormick

Fight of the Year: Luis Nery TKO11 Azat Hovhannisyan

(Cris Esqueda/ Golden Boy Promotions)

This was yet another category with plenty to choose from, and another where we were divided as an outlet. Kenny Simms war with Batyr Akhmedov; Rafael Espinoza’s stunning and grueling upset of Robeisy Ramirez, a fight in which both guys were down and Ramirez recovered from being badly hurt multiple times; Jaime Munguia’s slugfest with the dangerous Sergiy Derevyanchenko; Again, I could go on and on.

But when Luis Nery and Azat Hovhannisyan stepped into the ring February 18th, so early into 2023, they waged a war that I can only describe as “unhinged”. Nery, an explosive and versatile boxer puncher seemed to be having his way with Hovhannisyan early on, but as the rounds wore on, Azat began to assert his will, leading to an absolute classic until the 11th where Nery’s power and speed finally caught up to Hovhanisyan, who understandably has not fought since. Nery, one of the most explosive and fun fighters to watch will soon be fighting Naoya Inoue, a fight I have a hard time seeing him win, but one that I think he undeniably deserves and will make exciting for as long as he is in it. 

– Dakota McCormick

Round of the Year: Foster vs Hernandez Round 11

(Ed Mulholland/Matchroom)

There were several classic rounds in boxing this year, but there was one round that separated itself from the field and that was the eleventh round of the WBC 130lb title fight between champion O’Shaquie Foster and mandatory challenger Rocky Hernandez that took place on October 28th in Cancun, Mexico. If this round was in a boxing movie, it might be looked at by purists as being “too Hollywood-like”.

A left uppercut by Foster caught Hernandez off balance in the first minute of the round. For the next minute, Foster was on the front foot stepping to Hernandez and it appeared that he was on the verge of a stoppage victory. Just when it seemed like all hope was lost for the hometown favorite and that he was breaking down, he landed a right hand on the chin of the champion that forced him to the ropes. Hernandez would finish the round strong, throwing flashy combinations and getting back into the fight. Even under pressure, Foster never wavered and continued to clip Hernandez with counters until the bell and wound up getting the TKO victory a round later. Unbelievable scenes that embodied what boxing is all about.

– Jack Kelly

Knockout of the Year: Tie between Nakatani vs Maloney and Rayo vs Colbert

Good luck choosing between these absoliutely BRUTAL knockouts, because we couldn’t!

Event of the Year: 3-Way Tie

There were many great events, and our panel was split as to which was the best of the year. The “Day of Reckoning Card” featured an abundance of big names in the sport and had both electric knockouts and stunning upsets. Filip Hrgovic and Frank Sanchez were victorious in stay-busy fights, and Danel Dubois ended his grudge match with Jarrell Miller in satisfying fashion with a last-second stoppage win. Jai Opetaia also added to the KO of the year conversation with a brutal left hand, Agit Kabayel pulled off a shocking upset over Arslanbek Makhmudov and Dmitry Bivol boxed a virtually perfect twelve rounds. The card was built around Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder though, who with wins would face each other early in 2024. Joshua held up his end of the bargain looking great in a dominating performance over Otto Wallin, but Joseph Parker had other plans. He dominated the former champion Wilder, never letting him land that big right hand of his, and hurt Wilder a few times most notably in the eighth round.

Spence vs Crawford was the most anticipated fight of the year by hardcore fans, a fight between two pound-for-pound champions that had been building for years and would determine the best welterweight champion of this era. The undercard saw Yoenis Tellez put himself on the map at 154 with a stoppage win over Sergio Garcia, Alexandro Santiago pick up a career-defining victory over the legendary Nonito Donaire and Isaac Cruz win a close decision over Gio Cabrera. Though the main event may have not been the fight we anticipated with Crawford being so dominant, the event as a whole had a special buzz about it and it was great to see him and Spence finally get in the ring together.

Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia’s April showdown was the biggest event of the year numbers-wise, as the two undefeated superstars used social media and their enormous followings to create an event that spilled over into the mainstream unlike a boxing fight in recent years. Davis dropped Garcia twice en route to a KO victory that established him as boxing’s next big star. Though the main event was what everyone tuned in for, the PPV and off-TV undercards featured some great young talents as well. Jalil Hackett, Floyd Schofield, Lorenzo Simpson, and Vito Mielnick all picked up victories before the pay-pay-view broadcast began, which saw Elijah Garcia pick up a quality win over a game Kevin Salgado, Bektemir Melikuziev get his revenge against Gabe Rosado and David Morrell score a vicious KO over Yamaguchi Falcao.

– Jack Kelly

Prospect of the Year: Elijah Garcia

For our prospect of the year, we evaluated various factors, including the fighter’s activity level, the quality of opposition faced, and the likelihood of securing a world title shot. Elijah Garcia not only met but exceeded expectations in all these aspects. At the beginning of 2023, he was a relatively unknown figure in the realm of Boxing. However, after engaging in three challenging bouts against top-ranked opponents, he not only emerged victorious in all three encounters with excitement and flair but also propelled himself onto the fast track to a world title.

Elijah, now a prominent figure in the boxing world, has secured rankings within the top five of every major governing body, except for the WBO, where he holds the 11th position. His rankings stand at #3 by the WBC, #2 by the WBA, and #5 by the IBF. Beyond the accolades, Elijah possesses an engaging and fan-friendly fighting style. His bouts are anticipated treats for fans who can expect thrilling performances whenever he steps into the ring.

– Felix Gracia

Prospect of the Year (10 or less Fights): Bruce “Shu Shu” Carrington

(Getty Images)

The prospect of the year is best given to a young fighter who is turning themself into a contender. That’s exactly what Carrington did this year, fighting five times and entering 2024 as a legit contender in the featherweight division. He defeated the rugged Juan Antonio Lopez by decision in January and followed that up with a second-round stoppage victory over the previously undefeated Brandon Chambers in April. He would fight two times this summer against respected veterans, scoring another stoppage win over Luis Porozo and followed that up with a decision over Angel Antonio Contreras.

Carrington was already the frontrunner for this award, but he ended any debate with how he closed the year on Heisman Night. Carrington became the first man to stop tough veteran and former title challenger Jason Sanchez, who previously had been competitive in each of his losses against top opposition.

– Jack Kelly

Manager of the Year: Bill Haney

(Getty Images)

Bill Haney has perfectly constructed the career of his son Devin Haney thus far. After two fights in Australia last year to become undisputed lightweight champion, team Haney set their sights on a massive 2023 and delivered on their promise. After defending the undisputed crown against future Hall of Famer Vasyl Lomachenko, they moved up in weight and defeated the reigning WBC champion Regis Prograis to become a two-division champion and a lock for the pound-for-pound list.

Bill has his son in a great position, now as both a multi-time PPV headliner and now a certified ticket seller after selling out the Chase Center where they are from in Oakland, California. Jake Paul was mentioned also in the conversation for all the great opportunities he has provided for his fighters, but technically being a promoter he was not eligible for nomination.

– Jack Kelly

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Dakota McCormick

Dakota McCormick

Gym rat, trainer, and host of "The Slip and Weave Podcast"