It’s been a stunning superb year in the world of combat sports. The knockouts, knockdowns, submissions, training camps, trash talks, and media days have all been spectacular. Indeed, the year 2022 was a wild roller coaster ride for many World Boxing Titlists. Our Combat Sports awards have been made after careful deliberation, while sifting through the muck of media banter and fighter drama. With that said, here is the RDX Sports’ Take Of The Year 2022.

Boxing

Knockout Of The Year: Callum Smith On Mathieu Bauderlique

Though many top contenders came into the line of sight for this glorious award, Callum Smith’s knockout just hit differently. The absolute awe of the audience afterwards and the ruthlessness of the strike itself makes it one of the most unique moments of the year.

Our other candidates included the mighty comeback KO of Leigh Wood and the masterful skill of Terrence Crawford against David Avanesyan.

Fight Of The Year: Katie Taylor Vs. Amanda Serrano

The Fight of the Year was our easiest pick of the year. These two women slugged it out unlike any other event this year.

Women’s boxing has not taken the giant leaps forward in the public consciousness as mixed martial arts. In part, that was because there weren’t enough compelling bouts between elite fighters.

That changed in 2022 with Taylor vs. Serrano and Claressa Shields vs. Savannah Marshall. Taylor vs. Serrano was presented as the biggest fight in the history of women’s boxing and placed in the iconic Madison Square Garden, giving the bout a lot to live up to.

Taylor and Serrano delivered the goods in a big way. They put on a thrilling bout in front of as loud of a crowd as you’re likely to hear at an American boxing event. The action was so thrilling and the crowd so loud that the referee at one point could not hear the bell for the end of a round.

In the end, Taylor edged out a split decision victory to retain her undisputed lightweight title. The narrow scorecards led to plenty of chatter for a rematch and fans would be lucky to see these two women throw down again in the future.

Upset Of The Year: Dmitry Bivol Over Canelo Alvarez

Dmitry Bivol’s spectacular victory over the previous #1 pound-for-pound fighter Canelo Alvarez last May rates the year’s upset for 2022.

Not only was Bivol’s win over the famous Canelo (58-2-2, 39 KOs) viewed as Sean Jones’ upset of the year, but also DAZN’s as well.

They saw it the same way, collectively viewing it as an unexpected win by WBA light heavyweight champion Bivol (21-0, 11 KOs) that surprised them and the world.

The victory over Canelo has turned Bivol into a superstar overnight. Resulting in him being recognized wherever he goes in the United States.

What’s even more surprising than Bivol’s win, is Canelo’s reluctance to try and avenge the loss by taking a rematch. It speaks volumes for Saul Alvarez, who doesn’t want to swim with the sharks again after the terrible ordeal he suffered in May at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

P4P Boxer Of The Year: Oleksander Usyk

Oleksandr Usyk delivered yet another impressive performance with one win for the year 2022. He secured a split decision victory over Anthony Joshua on the 20th of August to retain the WBA, WBO, and IBF heavyweight world titles. He also added the vacant Ring belt, making him the lineal champion in the division.

While maintaining his viper grip on his Heavyweight Titles, Usyk landed viperous strikes on the heavyweight top contender Anthony Joshua. Securing the fight of his dreams against the living legend, Tyson Fury for 2023.

Comeback Of The Year: Leigh Wood Against Michael Conlan

When you switch on boxing or attend a card, what are you looking for exactly? High stakes? A stunning comeback? A spectacular knockout? Wood vs Conlan had all this and more.

This riveting affair began with a bang. Conlan knocked Wood down in the first round. The Nottingham man was hurt several more times throughout the ensuing eleven rounds. Even coming within a whisker of losing his WBA title.

Wood started to turn the tide when he knocked Conlan down in the 11th round. In the final round, Leigh produced a lethal moment that shall live on forever. A forceful knockout hook sent Conlan flying through the ropes and out of the ring. The fight was over. Thankfully, despite some scary post-fight moments, the Irishman Conlan made a full recovery and has fought and won twice since then.

Women’s Boxer Of The Year: Claressa Shields

The unbeaten three-division champion capped the best year of her already stellar pro career by avenging the lone blemish in her boxing lifetime. It wrapped up a 2022 campaign that saw 27-year-old Flint Strong, earn two wins alongside the distinction of becoming the sport’s first-ever three-time undisputed champion in the multi-belt era.

Breakthrough Fighter Of The Year: Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez

The 22-year-old faced his toughest test yet — by far — and delivered an eye-opening performance, an eight-round TKO of longtime champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai in June that showed off his excellent southpaw jab.

The win was particularly impressive because Rodriguez was able to stop a man who isn’t far removed from victories over future Hall of Famers Juan Francisco Estrada and Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez. He floored Rungvisai with a left hand in Round 7. Then finished him off with a barrage of punches in the following round.

Following a unanimous decision victory over Israel Gonzalez on the 17th of September. The budding star remains the front-runner for fighter of the year. He expressed a willingness to chase titles at 108 pounds or 112 pounds, but he could also remain at 115. A future bout awaits him vs. the winner of Estrada-Roman Gonzalez 3 could await.

Promoter Eddie Hearn planned for Rodriguez to fight a fourth time in 2022 with a bout on the 3rd of December. If Rodriguez can land a bout with either Estrada or Gonzalez next year, he could find himself squarely among the top 10 pound-for-pound fighters in short order.

Men’s Boxer Of The Year: Naoya Inoue

Naoya Inoue, known as “The Monster” (怪物 Kaibutsu), had himself a monster of a 2022. That’s why he’s the Fighter Of The Year. And before you take points off the man’s accomplishments for fighting past-his-prime Donaire or a less-than-stellar fellow titlist in Butler, ask yourself, who else has had the year Inoue has had?

Inoue unified and dominated his entire division and now rules supreme at 118, bantamweight. And, as of this moment, there seems to be no sign of the 29-year-old Inoue slowing down anytime soon.

In a career that’s lasted a bit over ten years, Japan’s Inoue has become a world titlist in three weight divisions and currently has a resume of twenty-four wins against zero losses. What’s more, all but three of those wins have come within the distance. Inoue, as is quite obvious, can hit. Hard.

He also closes the show in a wildly impressive fashion. Just ask Donaire and Butler. In the case of Donaire, Inoue knew he had a fight on his hands. The future Hall of Famer gave Inoue a great run in their first match. Still, Inoue rose to the occasion quickly in the rematch, dropping Donaire in the first and finishing the esteemed veteran in the second with thudding power shots.

As for Butler, the Englishman, no doubt, entered the ring to face Inoue with enormous confidence. Upon tasting Inoue’s strength and skill, however, the man simply did what he could to stay in the fight. He almost made it to the final bell. Almost.

A brutal combination of head and body shots sent Butler crumpling to the mat in the eleventh. Suffice it to say, he couldn’t beat the count. Looking over both of Inoue’s 2022 fights, it’s clear he is the most complete fighter of the year. Not only because he wins the big fights, but does so in brilliant fashion.

Our Honorary Mentions

Although we don’t have specific awards for the following fighters, any serious boxing fan would be familiar with the following Big Winners of 2022.

Errol Spence Jr.

Double champ, Errol Spence recovered from an extremely devastating car accident in 2019. Following 17 months out of the ring, he fell into a welterweight title unification fight on April 16th, 2022.

Spence created a sparkling 10th-round technical knockout victory, the 28th of his career without a loss and the 22nd stoppage – marking the first time the 35-year-old Yordenis Ugas (27-5, 12 KOs) had ever been stopped – earning “The Truth” multiple title accolades for the year.

A more active year, or an undisputed challenge against Terence Crawford and he would be in contention with Usyk and Naoya for both the P4P and Fighter of The Year.

Jermell Charlo

It’s very difficult to remove Charlo from the conversation of the best of the year. He maintained his undisputed status while changing divisions and adding titles to his name.

He is now… Undisputed. To some, it might seem such a simple word. Who could think that a mere 10 letters and four syllables would carry such far-reaching import and significance?

But to any boxer with aspirations of being acknowledged as the very best in their weight class, “undisputed,” is the most cherished word in any language.

It elevates a fighter’s status beyond that of a mere alphabet world champion, on all those unofficial pound-for-pound rankings which basically boil down to some individual’s subjective opinion.

Only seven male boxers have ever made it all the way to enter that ultra-exclusive throne room. Jermell has made it to the top of his weight class and moved through to challenge the classes above him as well, making him one of our Honorary Picks Of The Year.

Devin Haney

Took out his only competition in George Kambosos Jr. to become another Undisputed champion in the lightweights. As mentioned before, this list is very short as it is. And Haney made his argument for P4P rankings in the strongest fashion facing George twice and receiving little to no competition from the extremely dangerous fighter.

 

With that, our year ends and we approach an exciting new year of stunning events ahead. Stay tuned with us at RDX Sports as we guide you through the world of combat sports. For many more years and even more bouts. In the cage, the pit, the ring, or the circle.

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