Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Boxing predictions for 2023: Errol Spence Jr., Terence Crawford move on; Jarron Ennis explodes onto the scene

Last year saw some what boxing can look like at its best. The sport welcomed in new champions on all fronts, from singular titleholders to unified and undisputed crowns. Plus, the women’s side continued its massive growth with arugably the biggest battle of all time between Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano. 

However, the sport also showed toward the end of the year that it’s still boxing as many major showdowns were discussed and hoped for only to fall apart at the final stages. There is still some hope that we can see major clashes in the lightweight, welterweight and heavyweight divisions in 2023, but skepticism remains high in a sport that struggles to deliver on expectations at times. 

With that in mind, our experts took a shot at some predictions for what we could see happen in the new year.

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Most ‘big fights’ actually happen, but not Crawford vs. Spence

Too many things have lined up in boxing to finally get some of the long-awaited fights in the sport. It’s easy to imagine the coming 12 months finally delivering fights such as Tyson Fury vs. Oleksandr Usyk and Gervonta Davis vs. Ryan Garcia — assuming Davis can keep himself out of jail — but hopes are fading of seeing Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr. facing off. By all reports, the fight was so close to happening in 2022 before it fell apart at the negotiating table. Everyone involved seems to have the exact wrong personality to work out a deal with the other side and Crawford is really embracing his independence from a promoter controlling his decisions. He said his fight with David Avanesyan on BLK Prime was a one-off, but if he did make a career-best payday taking on a second-tier contender on an unknown platform, he may not be interested in giving an inch at the table if negotiations for a fight with Spence fire up again.

As for Spence, he’s already planning to fight in April, with the WBC ordering a fight with Keith Thurman, the IBF ordering a fight with Jaron “Boots” Ennis and the winner of the WBA “regular” title fight between Vergil Ortiz and Eimantas Stanionis also being in line as a mandatory opponent. A run of fights against those three opponents would be incredible for Spence without having to fight Crawford and while winning the battle over “quality of opponent” while Crawford would largely be left to fight scraps.

Even if it is the fight to make, it just feels like there are more reasons why Crawford vs. Spence won’t happen in 2023 than there are reasons the two finally face off in the ring. — Brent Brookhouse

Jaron Ennis earns fighter of the year honors 

For the 24-year-old phenom from Philadelphia, known simply as “Boots,” the opportunity to finally match his skills against an elite welterweight could not come any sooner. Should Ennis defeat Karen Chukhadzhian on Jan. 7 to capture the interim IBF title, making him the mandatory challenger in two sanctioning bodies for Errol Spence Jr.’s unified 147-pound crown, 2023 could very much be his year. There isn’t a big-name welterweight currently going out of his way to seek a fight against Ennis, whose dynamic skill frighteningly teases there may not be a visible ceiling as to how good he really is. None of that will matter if he keeps winning as his mandatory status, sooner than later, will force Spence to fight him or give up the belt. Either way, Ennis could be in line for three fights this year, which just might be the perfect amount to land him both his first full title shot and an opportunity to prove he’s already on par with the pound-for-pound best in the game. — Brian Campbell

Jake Paul earns a ranking from a sanctioning body

Boxing purists will seethe over this one. There were murmurs in late 2022 that Jake Paul could receive a ranking at the 60th annual WBC Convention. It would have been highly unusual for someone with Paul’s professional record to be ranked. After all, Paul had never beaten anyone with a boxing win on their record prior to defeating Anderson Silva in September. Paul’s name was not brought up at the panel, but the wheels appear to be in motion to further integrate the social media star. He is a significant revenue-generator who has exceeded expectations among athletic celebrity boxers. Hall of Famer Bernard Hopkins recently presented Paul with a ceremonial WBA championship belt. Paul is still a long, long way from fighting anyone near the top 10 of a given weightclass, but a growing appetite to see him compete against other boxers, financial incentives and clever matchmaking could lead to Paul to a number by his name in 2023. — Shakiel Mahjouri

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