Sunday, February 18, 2024

Michigan's Next Boxing Wave

Michigan has produced several fighters who rank among the best in the sport's history, including Joe Louis, Tommy Hearns, James Toney, and Floyd Mayweather Jr. And while the cupboard has never fully emptied, with recent notables such as the Dirrell brothers, Tony Harrison, Claressa Shields and Ra'eese Aleem proudly carrying on the state's boxing tradition, Michigan right now doesn't have the number of elite boxing talents that it once did. 

Dmitriy Salita is placing much of his promotional company's future in the hands of Michigan's next crop of fighters. Salita, who resides in Michigan and has promoted several cards in the Detroit area, has become a believer in this next wave. With his new boxing series, Big Time Boxing USA, set to debut on DAZN on Tuesday, Salita intends to showcase Michigan's boxing talent to a global audience. His first event in the series will take place at the Wayne State Fieldhouse in Detroit.

Salita will have six of his fighters appearing on the broadcast (although one of them has his fight still up in the air at publication time). I spoke with Salita about each fighter and what his expectations are for them on Tuesday and the next 12-18 months. His excitement level about his crop was palpable.  

Photo courtesy of Salita Promotions

Ardreal Holmes (14-0, 5 KOs) vs. Marlon Harrington (10-1, 9 KOs): Junior Middleweights

Tuesday's main event features an all-Michigan matchup between Holmes (Flint) and Harrington (Detroit). It's a sink-or-swim fight for both in that Salita promotes Harrington and co-promotes Holmes with DiBella Entertainment. These two fighters are intimately familiar with each other, having sparred against each other throughout their careers, and there's also bad blood between them. 

Harrington is the puncher in the matchup while Holmes is a fighter who relies much more on timing and movement. Harrington's one loss was to the trickster Marquis Taylor, who we've subsequently found out to be is an excellent fighter. Holmes had a troubling performance in his last fight against Wendy Toussaint, where he was fortunate to win by a split decision in a fight that was stopped early because of a cut. In that fight, Holmes had issues handling Toussaint's aggression and physicality. 

Salita has liked how Harrington responded from his loss, stopping the undefeated Gheith Karim in the first round. Salita knows that Holmes can be tricky, but he can also be hit. Salita is very satisfied that both agreed to take the fight; they both could have gone in different directions. This fight will very much be for pride and bragging rights. 

Ali Izmailov (11-0, 7 KOs): Light Heavyweight

Izmailov is a Russian light heavyweight based in Detroit who has already established himself on the national scene with an impressive win over Charles Foster on ShoBox last year. Trained by John David Jackson, Izmailov is physically imposing, hits hard, but also has a solid boxing foundation. 

He fights Britton Norwood (13-4-1) on Tuesday and the bout is expected to be of the showcase variety. Izmailov is already 30 so his future is now. Salita has had difficulty finding opponents who will fight him. He's hoping that Izmailov's performance on Tuesday can lead to bigger opportunities in the light heavyweight division, but he understands that Izmailov might need to go the sanctioning body route to get a notable name to face him. 

Joseph Hicks (9-0, 6 KOs): Junior Middleweight

Hicks qualified for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team, but like a few others didn't wind up representing the country in 2021 due to the pandemic-related politics associated with the 2021 Games. Despite Hicks' amateur pedigree, he didn't start his professional career until early 2022. Hicks is already 30 and Salita is trying to move him quickly; he fought five times in 2023. 

Although he lives in Lansing (and is originally from Grand Rapids), Hicks trains with Kay Koroma out of Las Vegas. Interestingly, although middleweight is a relatively barren division in terms of top-flight prospects in the U.S., Hicks and his team have made the decision to drop down to junior middleweight for Tuesday's fight. He faces Argentina's Ricardo Ruben Villalba (20-10-1), who isn't supposed to win, but this fight will be an opportunity to determine how Hicks does at the new weight class. 

Salita likes Hicks' strong work ethic and amateur pedigree. He regards Hicks as a high-character person (Hicks was due to captain the 2020 U.S. Olympic team). Salita believes that Hicks' desire and willingness to do whatever it takes will help separate him from other fellow prospects as he moves up the ranks. 

Joshua James Pagan (9-0, 4 KOs): Lightweight

Although Pagan's power isn't a major facet of his game, he possesses a strong amateur pedigree, where he won the 2021 USA Nationals. Salita has become more of a believer in Pagan in every fight. Pagan has already beaten three undefeated fighters. Trained by his father, Pagan has a very strong boxing foundation. He has recently spent time in Miami working with Herman Caicedo, trainer of Luis Ortiz, Michel Rivera, and others, and earned rave reviews. 

Pagan, from Grand Rapids, was supposed to face undefeated Detroiter Dwane Taylor (7-0, 7 KOs) on Tuesday. However, Taylor had a late sparring injury. As of publication, Salita is still looking for a replacement opponent. Pagan may or may not appear on the card. Either way, Pagan will be a featured fighter on Salita's shows. 

Da'Velle Smith (7-0, 6 KOs): Middleweight

Dearborn's Smith has quickly established himself as one of the hardest hitters in the Detroit area. And Salita doesn't mince words regarding Smith's power potential, proudly relaying that several old-timers on the Detroit boxing scene told him that Smith might be the biggest puncher from the city since Tommy Hearns. 

Smith, 23, didn't have a notable amateur background and still possesses a rawness in the ring. In addition to his power, he's a surprisingly good athlete. He still rushes his work a little bit. 

Salita calls Smith his "blue-chipper," and thinks that he could rise fast in the middleweight division. He fights Argentina's Rolando Mansilla (19-13-1, 9 KOs). Smith is expected to win without too much trouble, but the hope is that he creates a highlight-reel type of statement. Like Pagan, Smith also went to Miami recently to work with Caicedo. Smith trains out of the Kronk gym and Salita believes that he could beat several top middleweight prospects right now.  

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of saturdaynightboxing.com
He's a contributing writer for Ring Magazine, a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.

Friday, January 19, 2024

Ring Magazine -- Fight and Trainer of the Year

I wrote two articles for Ring Magazine's 2023 awards edition. For the Fight of the Year article, which featured Luis Nery against Azat Hovhannisyan, click here. To ready my article on Brian McIntyre, the Trainer of the Year, click here.

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of saturdaynightboxing.com
He's a contributing writer for Ring Magazine, a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.

Sunday, January 14, 2024

On Beterbiev

A boxing friend of mine, Arran McLachlan, reached out in early 2014 to tell me how excited he was about this emerging Montreal-based Russian prospect, Artur Beterbiev. I think at that point Beterbiev was 4-0 and fighting six-rounders. Arran insisted that Beterbiev, who was an Olympian, had a style that would play spectacularly in the pros and expected him to become a world champion at light heavyweight. Now all of this sounded a little outlandish or fanciful to me, but Arran, like myself, wasn't someone who often fell in love with boxing prospects. He saw something special in Beterbiev and I noted that. So, I studied up on Beterbiev. 

And then I made a classic mistake in fighter evaluation: focusing too much on what a fighter couldn't do, instead of what could make him special. I immediately noticed Beterbiev's slow hands, ponderous footwork and lack of athleticism. Those were big red flags to me, as they would be if I had been evaluating any prospect. Although I observed his heavy hands, his ability to fire off damaging punches at close range and how ordinary-looking blows wound up brutalizing an opponent, those factors weren't enough to sway me regarding Beterbiev's future. 

I relayed my scouting report to Arran, the good and the bad, and although Arran is significantly younger than me, he treated ME with kid gloves. He was essentially saying to me, just you wait...I understand all your concerns and he will address them in due time. Arran again reminded me that Beterbiev was an excellent amateur in the punch-counting system, where a person’s power didn't carry any additional favor from the judges. Ultimately, he believed that Beterbiev had significant craft to go along with his substantial power. I remained unmoved. 

Later in 2014, Beterbiev was dropped in a flash knockdown by Jeff Page, a club fighter from Kansas. In truth, it was more of a slip/foot entanglement issue than a legit punch, but I used that opportunity to mock Arran. I can still remember the glee in those messages that I had sent to him. I questioned Arran's judgment. I was convinced by my own eyes. That Beterbiev stopped Page in two rounds was immaterial to me. 

And yet here we are, ten years later. Beterbiev is now among the best fighters in the sport, with three title belts at 175 lbs. and eight championship defenses. Arran and I were still exchanging messages about Beterbiev on Saturday as Artur was on his way to knocking out Callum Smith. But this time there was no pushback from me. I was reveling in the quality of Beterbiev's performance, just like Arran was. 

Beterbiev's jab was a key weapon against Smith
Photo courtesy of Mikey Williams

Now, it must be said that much has changed with Beterbiev in the previous ten years. He has continued to add to his game. He out-jabbed Smith on Saturday, which was quite an accomplishment considering that he was shorter and had a significant reach disadvantage. However, he was the one controlling the action with the stick, pumping it to the head and body, and using it as a clever counter. 

The first knockdown of the fight started with a vicious counter right hand by Beterbiev, where he slipped the jab and came over the top with the short right to the side of Smith's head. It was a similar maneuver to how he had initially hurt Joe Smith. And it's now obvious watching Beterbiev that he has become far more than just a brute slugger with heavy hands.

Beterbiev's lead trainer, Marc Ramsay, has played a huge role in Beterbiev's technical development. Having interviewed Ramsay twice over the years about Beterbiev, the trainer has always praised Beterbiev's boxing skills. Here's Ramsay in 2022: 

"You know what’s fun about being the trainer of Artur is that he’s a very good boxer and he can do a little bit of everything. He can box. He can put pressure. He can slug. We’ve done all of that already." (For the complete article with Ramsay, click here.) 

Ultimately what has made Beterbiev into an elite fighter, as opposed to just a guy with heavy hands, is a combination of winning intangibles: 

1.     Physical and Intellectual Aptitude

2.     Coachability

3.     Humility

Ramsay has been working with Beterbiev on various techniques to improve his boxing ability. But all of that would be meaningless unless Beterbiev agreed that he needed to further refine himself in the ring. And this is quite extraordinary. Ramsay is training perhaps the biggest puncher in the sport and says to him: you know what, it's not enough. And Beterbiev agrees! And more than that, Beterbiev has incorporated these teachings into the ring. 

Whether it's changing the eye level with power punches, controlling opponents with the jab, or how and when to throw the proper counter, Beterbiev now utilizes these facets as if they were second nature. 

Unlike so many fighters with high knockout percentages, Beterbiev didn't fall in love with his power. He realized that there was still work to do. This speaks highly of his intellect, as well as his relentless desire to improve. 

At 38 Beterbiev is now a complete fighter. He has delivered on the promise that Arran saw a decade ago. But he has also steadily improved. He wasn't utilizing foot feints and cute lateral movement in 2014. I can assure you of that!

Beterbiev after Saturday's victory
Photo courtesy of Mikey Williams

I have picked against Beterbiev in the past and been wrong. I've watched him twice live and have marveled at aspects of his performances. I saw him stop an excellent version of Gvozdyk and destroy a fellow champion in Joe Smith. I still don't know what happens if he ever fights Dmitry Bivol, but I do understand one thing: Beterbiev is one of the best fighters in the entire sport. But I was a little late to the party on him.  

In one sense I was correct about Beterbiev; the fighter of 2014 was incomplete, but what I didn't know and what Arran and Ramsay did, is that he had much more to offer than what he had displayed on his fight nights. It pays to do your homework, to ask around, and not be so settled in a first evaluation. There are fighters who have a tremendous aptitude for improvement. They may have significant skills or intangibles that won't manifest against lesser opponents in short fights.   

We all like to remember the occasions where we got it right, a spectacular fight pick, an identification of a special talent well before the general public latches on. But it's important to remember when and how we get things wrong too. As someone who has immersed himself in boxing over the last three decades, I whiffed here. Even before getting into questions about aptitude, I should have recognized that his combination of uncommon power and success in the point-counting amateur system was a winning formula in the professional ranks.  

But Beterbiev has become even so much more than that 2014 version. He has put in the work. He has ignored his own headlines. His only goal is to become the best. He is now 20-0 with 20 knockouts, but his resume somehow still undersells him: he's the complete package. And I hope that we all know that now, even if it took some of us longer than needed. 

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of saturdaynightboxing.com
He's a contributing writer for Ring Magazine, a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.  

Sunday, December 31, 2023

The 2023 Saturday Night Boxing Awards

As an eventful year comes to an end, boxing delivered big-time in 2023 with mega-fights, undisputed champions and dozens of great matchups. To commemorate the year, it's time to honor those who helped make 2023 so special. Here are the 2023 Saturday Night Boxing Awards, with honors bestowed for the Fighter, Fight, Knockout, Round, Upset, Trainer, Promoter, Network and Referee of the Year.

Fighter of the Year: (tie) Terence Crawford and Naoya Inoue

Crawford and Inoue, sublime talents who should be considered the top-two fighters in the sport, both had tremendous years in 2023. Inoue started the year as lineal at bantamweight, moved up to 122, stopped unified titlist Stephen Fulton and knocked out another unified titlist in Marlon Tapales to become undisputed at a second weight class in a calendar year. What an impressive achievement! 

Inoue after defeating Fulton
Photo courtesy Naoki Fukuda

After years of waiting for the opportunity, Crawford destroyed Errol Spence, his prime rival at welterweight, in an era-defining fight. Spence entered the ring as one of the top handful of fighters in the sport, but Crawford demonstrated that he was on another level, knocking him down multiple times before the fight was stopped in the ninth. With the win, Crawford became an undisputed champion in a second division. 

Crawford had the best singular win in 2023 while Inoue had the best series of achievements. To me it's splitting hairs to choose one or the other. They were the most impressive fighters to me and both are worthy award winners.  

Previous SNB Fighters of the Year:

2022: Dmitry Bivol
2021: Saul Alvarez
2020: Teofimo Lopez
2019: Saul Alvarez
2018: Oleksandr Usyk
2017: Srisaket Sor Rungvisai
2016: Carl Frampton
2015: Floyd Mayweather
2014: Naoya Inoue
2013: Adonis Stevenson
2012: Nonito Donaire
2011: Andre Ward

Fight of the Year: Luis Nery-Azat Hovhannisyan

This fight reminded me of those classic HBO Boxing After Dark fights, where two lower-weight boxers fought tooth-and-nail, putting everything on the line for greater glory. This junior featherweight matchup wasn't for a world title, but it featured a perfect matchup between a slugger and a brawler. 

Nery entered the ring with the greater pedigree, formerly a world titlist at 118 and 122 lbs. But he had also been a mercurial and highly controversial fighter, failing drug tests, blowing weight and rummaging through trainers like they were pieces of loose candy. Hovhannisyan (who goes by the nickname "Crazy A") was well known in boxing circles as a rugged club fighter in Southern California. 

Nery and Crazy A waging an unforgettable war
Photo courtesy of Cris Esqueda

Nery's straight punching got the best of the action in the early rounds. He scored a knockdown in the third and his straight left out of the southpaw stance gave Crazy A a lot of problems. But Hovhannisyan was prepared to take a lot of shots to land his. As the fight continued Crazy A's relentless pressure, body punching and grappling in close quarters was starting to have its effect. Nery, who had moved a lot earlier in the fight, was now right where Crazy A wanted him. The fight transformed into an all-out war with Crazy A unloading on Nery against the ropes while Nery would pick out a handful of striking power punches to stem the tide. 

By the tenth, Nery was in bad shape. He was getting beaten up and looked exhausted. It seemed as if Crazy A's plan had worked to perfection: weather the early storm, apply constant pressure and break Nery down late. But somehow, Nery regathered himself in the corner after the 10th. At the beginning of the 11th round, he uncorked a violent left hand that dropped Crazy A for the second time in the fight. The shot damaged Crazy A. He beat the count but wasn't fully there. Nery jumped on him and forced the ref to stop the fight. 

Nery-Hovhannisyan was boxing at its best: warriors summoning all their inner reserves to defeat a determined opponent. Nery looked like a world-class boxer-puncher in the early rounds, but Crazy A kept coming. And Crazy A fought like he wouldn't be denied; this was his chance for the breakthrough win of his career, but Nery found one last gear to get the victory. What a thrilling fight and what a performance from both fighters!

Previous SNB Fights of the Year: 

2022: Wood-Conlan
2021: Fury-Wilder III
2020: Zepeda-Baranchyk
2019: Inoue-Donaire
2018: Chisora-Takam
2017: Joshua-Klitschko
2016: Vargas-Salido
2015: Miura-Vargas
2014: Coyle-Brizuela
2013: Bradley-Provodnikov
2012: Pacquiao-Marquez IV
2011: Rios-Acosta

Knockout of the Year: Junto Nakatani KO 12 Andrew Moloney

Junto Nakatani was on his way to winning his second world title as he entered the 12th round against Andrew Moloney. In a complete performance, Nakatani dropped Moloney in the 2nd and 11th rounds and dazzled with his combinations, punch variety and sharp counters. Moloney had put forth a spirited effort, but was comprehensively outclassed. However, that was just a prelude to what happened in the 12th round. 

Nakatani (right) after landing the KO punch
Photo courtesy of Mikey Williams/Top Rank

As the fight got closer to the final bell, Moloney still marched forward. Moving toward Nakatani he momentarily paused before throwing a jab. At that moment, Nakatani crouched to his left side, took his head off the line and unfurled a pulverizing overhead left that detonated on Moloney's face. Moloney, immediately dropped to the canvas, supine, blood flowing from his right eye; he could barely move. Nakatani's punch was a perfect one-shot knockout executed with expert precision. In year full of memorable knockouts, this was the one that stuck with me throughout 2023.

Previous SNB Knockouts of the Year:

2022: Leigh Wood TKO 12 Michael Conlan
2021: Gabe Rosado KO 3 Bektemir Melikuziev
2020: (tie) Alexander Povetkin KO 5 Dillian Whyte and Gervonta Davis KO 6 Leo Santa Cruz
2019: Nonito Donaire KO 6 Stephon Young
2018: Naoya Inoue KO 1 Juan Carlos Payano
2017: Zolani Tete KO 1 Siboniso Gonya
2016: Hassan N'Dam KO 1 Alfonso Blanco
2015: Yenifel Vincente KO 3 Juan Dominguez
2014: Andy Lee KO 5 John Jackson
2013: Stephen Smith KO 5 Gary Buckland
2012: Juan Manuel Marquez KO 6 Manny Pacquiao
2011: Takashi Uchiyama TKO 11 Jorge Solis

Round of the Year: O'Shaquie Foster-Eduardo Hernandez Round 11

With open scoring in effect, O'Shaquie Foster, the titleholder at 130 lbs., knew that he was down on the cards against Eduardo "Rocky" Hernandez after eight rounds. However, this was just another one in a series of challenges he had to overcome in the match. He was the away fighter in a small ring that favored Hernandez, who was supposed to be the puncher in the matchup. But Foster was determined to defend his title. 

Foster started the 11th round firing power shots and landed a short right hook with 2:15 left in the round that buckled Hernandez's legs, almost sending him to the canvas. Hernandez was badly hurt. Foster seized the moment and drove Hernandez back to the ropes with power shots. Hernandez was buzzed, didn't have his full faculties and looked over to his corner. Foster wailed away with the left hooks to the body and straight lefts with Hernandez not throwing back. Hernandez went to full retreat mode, moving directly to the other side of the ring as Foster continued to meet him with power shots. Hernandez was so stunned that he momentarily turned his back to Foster. 

Foster (left) and Hernandez before the fight
Photo courtesy of Ed Mulholland

At 1:30 left in the round, Hernandez regained some of his bearing and started to trade and counter off the ropes. Getting through with straight rights and left hooks, he stung Foster. And now Foster was the one on retreat. Hernandez, with the roar of the crowd behind him, unloaded furious power shots, with Foster trying to block and place counters between them. Foster snapped Hernandez's head back with a beautiful right uppercut while against the ropes, but Hernandez kept coming. 

Hernandez landed two huge right hooks to the head and body and Foster was badly hurt. Both finished the round throwing nasty power punches, hoping to survive, recover and somehow end the fight. 

Foster would be the fresher fighter in the final round and ultimately dropped Hernandez twice to win by stoppage and retain his title. Foster came from way behind for victory. It was a tremendous fight and the 11th was the best round that I saw all year. 

Previous SNB Rounds of the Year:

2022: Mauricio Lara-Emilio Sanchez Round 3
2021: Kenshiro Teraji-Masamichi Yabuki Round 9
2020: Jose Zepeda-Ivan Baranchyk Round 5
2019: Anthony Joshua-Andy Ruiz Round 3
2018: Deontay Wilder-Tyson Fury Round 12
2017: Anthony Joshua-Wladimir Klitschko Round 5
2016: Edwin Rodriguez-Thomas Williams Jr. Round 2
2015: Edwin Rodriguez-Michael Seals Round 1
2014: Thomas Williams Jr.-Cornelius White Round 1
2013: Tim Bradley-Ruslan Provodnikov Round 12
2012: Sergio Martinez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Round 12
2011: Hernan Marquez-Luis Concepcion I Round 1

Upset of the Year: Brian Mendoza KO 7 Sebastian Fundora

Sebastian Fundora entered 2023 as one of the ascendent young stars in boxing. Having defeated contenders Sergio Garcia, Erickson Lubin, and Carlos Ocampo, Fundora earned an interim title at 154 lbs., but more importantly, he had established himself as one of the nightmare matchups for anyone in the junior middleweight division, a 6'7" southpaw who had power and could beat opponents at any range. 

Brian Mendoza was supposed to be a marking-time opponent, a fighter who had gone rounds with top prospect Jesus Ramos, but never threatened to win. Mendoza did enter the Fundora fight with an impressive upset win over former champion Jeison Rosario, but that result could in part be explained by the damage that Rosario had taken in previous fights with Lubin and Jermell Charlo. 

Mendoza (right) celebrates after stopping Fundora
Photo courtesy of Esther Lin/Showtime

Through the first six rounds of Fundora-Mendoza, Fundora dominated the action, pasting Mendoza with straight lefts and left uppercuts. Mendoza had taken several big shots and had failed to impose himself on the action. It was one-way traffic. 

But in the seventh, Mendoza seized an opportunity. Fundora tried to throw an uppercut from too far away and Mendoza cracked Fundora with a counter left hook. Fundora froze. Mendoza than followed up with one of the biggest right hands of his career and capped it off with a picture-perfect left hook. Fundora hit the deck. He sat up as the ref counted, but had none of his faculties. He would be counted out without making a concentrated effort to continue. In an instant, the Big Bad Wolf would be defanged. Mendoza had shocked the boxing world. From six rounds of accomplishing very little to destroying one of the most intimidating young fighters in the sport, Mendoza authored one of the most shocking results of the year. 

Previous SNB Upsets of the Year:

2022: Hector Luis Garcia UD Chris Colbert
2021: George Kambosos SD Teofimo Lopez
2020: Robert Helenius TKO 4 Adam Kownacki
2019: Andy Ruiz TKO 7 Anthony Joshua
2018: Rob Brant UD Ryota Murata
2017: Caleb Truax MD James DeGale
2016: Joe Smith Jr. KO 1 Andrzej Fonfara
2015: Tyson Fury UD Wladimir Klitschko
2014: (tie) James de la Rosa UD Alfredo Angulo and Tommy Karpency SD Chad Dawson
2013: Jhonny Gonzalez KO 1 Abner Mares
2012: Sonny Boy Jaro TKO 6 Pongsaklek Wongjongkam

Trainer of the Year: Brian McIntyre et al. 

Brian McIntyre's work as Terence Crawford's lead trainer has been exemplary. McIntyre has helped shape Crawford into one of the truly best fighters in the sport. But the "et al." above acknowledges that McIntyre has worked with a team to get Crawford to this level, specifically Esau Dieguez and Red Spikes. Together, the three of them have been instrumental in refining the abilities of Crawford (and their other major fighters) in the ring. 

Crawford, McIntyre's elite pupil, after stopping Spence
Photo courtesy of Esther Lin/Showtime

Immediately after Crawford's knockout victory over Errol Spence, Crawford was asked about the preparation for the fight. Crawford specifically noted that his counter right jab in the southpaw stance was paramount to beating Spence. He explained that McIntyre had worked with him to make the shot more of a power punch against Spence. It wasn't intended just to score; the point was to pulverize with the punch. 

McIntyre and the team had done their homework. They noticed that Spence would often lunge with shots and that for a brief instant he wasn't in a defensively responsible position. And it would be the counter jab, perhaps the shortest and quickest shot in Crawford's arsenal, that would be the punch to punish Spence. It was game planning at its finest. Although Crawford would go on to score additional knockdowns with his right hook and right uppercut, it was the counter jab that continually hurt Spence and made him pay for his mistakes. 

On another note, McIntyre helped Chris Eubank win his rematch against Liam Smith. Taking over for Roy Jones, McIntyre got rid of Eubank's desire to be a cute counterpuncher. Instead, he had Eubank working as the aggressor, to stay away from the ropes, and to be first in exchanges. He imparted belief in Eubank that he was the puncher and that Smith couldn't withstand the onslaught if Eubank was consistent with his offense. Eubank would stop Smith in the 10th round. 

It was a tremendous year for Team McIntyre and they showed a sublime ability to prepare their fighters for the task at hand and to focus on specific weapons and strategies to get the job done. They have now established themselves as one of the elite training teams in the sport. 

Previous SNB Trainers of the Year: 

2022: Derrick James
2021: Eddy Reynoso
2020: Teofimo Lopez Sr.
2019: Eddy Reynoso
2018: Anatoly Lomachenko
2017: Derrick James
2016: Shane McGuigan
2015: Peter Fury
2014: Freddie Roach
2013: Kenny Porter
2012: Robert McCracken
2011: Robert Garcia

Promoter of the Year: TGB Promotions in conjunction with PBC

Tom Brown has been the lead promoter for most of the big PBC fights in 2023. Working together, they had a tremendous year in delivering big and meaningful bouts. With Gervonta Davis-Ryan Garcia, they broke 1 million pay per view buys in the United States. In putting together Spence-Crawford, they finally were able to give boxing fans the era-defining welterweight fight that they had been clamoring for. And there was a lot more great stuff in addition to those two mega-fights: Benavidez-Plant, Matias-Ponce, Sims-Akhmedov, Canelo-Charlo and Benavidez-Andrade. 

Gervonta Davis knocking down Ryan Garcia
Photo courtesy of Ryan Hafey

Brown has been one of the lead matchmakers for PBC and his role in helping to present their events is far more than ceremonial. He's had a hand in developing and matching many of the key PBC talents. In 2023, Brown and PBC provided boxing fans with big events and memorable outcomes. It was a job well done. 

Previous SNB Promoters of the Year: 

2022: No Award Given
2021: Premier Boxing Champions
2020: Top Rank
2019: Matchroom Boxing
2018: Premier Boxing Champions
2017: K2 Promotions
2016: Matchroom Boxing
2015: Golden Boy Promotions
2014: Matchroom Boxing
2013: (tie) Golden Boy Promotions and Top Rank
2012: Golden Boy Promotions
2011: Top Rank

Network of the Year: Showtime

In one of the grand ironies of recent boxing history, Showtime delivered one of the best slate of fights in memory and yet the network decided to discontinue its boxing program at the end of the year. Well, it was quite the swan song! With Davis-Garcia, Spence-Crawford and Canelo-Charlo, Showtime was the place to be for big fights in 2023. But the network also had several fantastic fights on their regular Showtime Championship Boxing cards, such as Matias-Ponce, Sims-Akhmedov and Fundora-Mendoza. 

Matias-Ponce, one of the best fights of 2023
Photo courtesy of Esther Lin/Showtime

Showtime had a 37-year run in broadcasting boxing to its American subscribers. Over time they had evolved from the scrappy little brother in HBO's shadow to one of the leaders in the sport before disbanding their boxing program. It was an odd way for them to go out. They didn't limp along like HBO did at the end. They finished with a bang and I would expect that many of Showtime Boxing's key players will resurface with other broadcasters in 2024. Showtime left the sport on a high note. 

Previous SNB Networks of the Year: 

2022: ESPN
2021: Showtime
2020: ESPN
2019: DAZN
2018: Showtime
2017: Showtime
2016: Sky Sports
2015: No award given
2014: ESPN
2013: Showtime
2012: BoxNation

Referee of the Year: No Award Given

Previous SNB Referees of the Year: 

2022: David Fields
2021: Mark Lyson
2020: Michiaki Someya
2019: No award given
2018: Jack Reiss
2017: David Fields
2016: Raul Caiz Sr.
2015: David Fields
2014: Steve Smoger
2013: Tony Weeks
2012: Eddie Claudio

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of saturdaynightboxing.com
He's a contributing writer for Ring Magazine, a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.