It's that time of year
again, to hand out the annual boxing hardware. Although I don't believe that
2022 will be remembered as a particularly strong year for the sport, the
winners deserve to be honored and commemorated. So, let's get right to
Here are the 2022 Saturday
Night Boxing Awards (the 12th annual edition), with accolades given for
Fighter, Fight, Knockout, Round, Upset, Trainer, Promoter, Network and
Fighter of the Year:
Dmitrii Bivol entered 2022
having lost much of his career momentum. Once upon a time he was an HBO Boxing
darling, with dominant victories over solid light heavyweights such as Sullivan
Barrera, Isaac Chilemba and Jean Pascal. But he was hurt badly in a fight
against Joe Smith in 2019 and after a lengthy time off during the pandemic,
looked listless in scraping by with a win over unheralded Craig Richards.
Bivol's first fight of 2022
was to be against Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, the two-time Saturday Night
Boxing Fighter of the Year (2019, 2021), who had just completed a tremendous
run at super middleweight to become undisputed champ. In addition, Alvarez had
already knocked out a light heavyweight champion (Sergey Kovalev) in 2019. So,
did Bivol represent another instance of brilliant matchmaking from Canelo and
his team, picking off a champion removed from his best, or would this be an
example of Canelo biting off more than he could chew?
|Photo courtesy of Mark Robinson|
The answer to this question
became obvious within the first few rounds of their fight, where Bivol
dominated with his speed and control of range. Bivol beat Alvarez during
every phase of the fight. With his superior hand speed and pinpoint counters,
he won almost all of the battles in the center of the ring. When Alvarez went
to the ropes in the middle rounds, Bivol again demonstrated his superiority, by
picking his shots beautifully and not getting sucked into a war.
And it wasn't just a
backfoot demonstration by Bivol. When he decided to go forward, he bested Canelo
with quick combinations and avoided damage. Bivol did get hit with a handful of
big shots throughout the match, but he took them well, and was never really
troubled during the fight. Although the judges had the fight close (115-113),
it really wasn't. Bivol defanged one of the top talents in the sport, and made
it look easy.
Later in the year Bivol
dominated undefeated Gilberto Ramirez, a former super middleweight champ who
had become a contender at 175 lbs. In the ring, the gulf in class between Bivol
and Ramirez was vast. Bivol could do whatever he wanted. His speed and accuracy
flummoxed Ramirez, who didn't feel comfortable letting his hands go. It was a
masterful display of boxing and ring generalship.
2022 was Bivol's year. He
elevated himself from a champion, of which there are many in the sport, to the highest
level in boxing: the elite of the elite.
Previous SNB Fighters of
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: Leigh
What I'll remember most
about boxing from 2022 is Leigh Wood (and pardon my French here) getting his
shit kicked in for more than half his fight, close to being stopped on multiple
occasions, and then somehow finding the internal fortitude to not just fight
his way back into the match, but to knock Michael Conlan clear out of the ring
in the last round. It was the stuff dreams are made of, fairy tale land.
From the opening round,
things started poorly for Wood (who was defending his secondary featherweight
title). Conlan, a crafty switch hitter not necessarily known for his power,
dropped Wood with an overhand left out of the southpaw stance. And it wasn't a
flash knockdown; Wood was badly hurt. And Conlan kept going back to that same
shot in the subsequent rounds, landing it at will.
|Wood (left) and Conlan in an epic battle of attrition|
Photo courtesy of Mark Robinson
But it was a strange
performance from Conlan in that although he was hurting Wood, he didn't have
the temperament to go for the finish. He was content to land a couple of big
bombs a round instead of stepping on the gas to try to end the fight.
By the middle rounds it
became clear that Conlan only wanted to work in spurts. Perhaps he had spent a
lot of energy unloading his big power shots; maybe the enormity of the moment,
being the away fighter in the biggest opportunity of his career, got to him;
but let's also give Wood credit for his body attack. Although Wood lost most of
the rounds in the first half of the fight, whenever he could he would go to
Conlan's body with his best power shots.
As the fight progressed,
Conlan wasn't landing with the same sting and Wood felt more comfortable
imposing himself physically. Toward the end of the 11th, Wood scored a
knockdown during a brief tussle in the middle of the ring. It was a flash
knockdown and not the cleanest contact, but it was a 10-8 round for Wood. Could
the fight still be on the table for him?
In the final round, Wood
kept marching forward behind his vociferous hometown support. In the concluding
sequence of the fight, Conlan retreated to the ropes and Wood blasted through
Conlan's defenses, knocking him out of the ring (more on this later).
Wood-Conlan is an
advertisement for boxing at its elemental best, an epic battle of attrition.
It's fights like this one that build and bind fans' allegiance to the sport.
Wood-Conlan captured the spirit and magic of prizefighting at its best.
Previous SNB Fights of the Year:
2021: Fury-Wilder III
2012: Pacquiao-Marquez IV
Knockout of the Year: Leigh
Wood TKO 12 Michael Conlan
As referenced above, Wood
was down early in his fight against Conlan and badly hurt multiple times, but
he was able to crawl his way back into the match. Picking away at Conlan with
body shots and lead hooks, Wood started to impose himself late in the fight. He
scored a knockdown at the end of the 11th round and heading into the 12th,
somehow, after all he had endured, he was the fresher
With two minutes left in
the 12th, both fighters exchanged power shots with Wood getting the better of
the action. Wood's final right hook in this sequence forced Conlan back to the
ropes. Wood pressed forward, trapping Conlan.
|Photo courtesy of Mark Robinson|
Wood threw out four quick,
pawing jabs that Conlan evaded, but Conlan only moved his head not his hands –
one glove remained by his side while the other was below his waist. Wood’s jab
flurry forced Conlan to lose his defensive posture, creating the perfect
opening. Wood then landed a hard, short right hand on the right side of
Conlan's face that turned out his lights and sent him crashing through the ropes. The
action was so quick and sudden that multiple replays were needed to confirm how
Wood was able to accomplish this stunning feat.
There were better one-punch
knockouts in 2022, but you aren't going to find a stoppage as dramatic as this
one. Wood was just about done and dusted earlier in the fight and somehow had
the perseverance, the will and, most importantly, the execution to send Michael
Conlan through the ropes. It was an incredible turn of events. Wood's stoppage
was 2022's signature boxing moment.
Previous SNB Knockouts of
2021: Gabe Rosado KO 3
2020: (tie) Alexander Povetkin KO 5 Dillian Whyte and Gervonta Davis KO 6 Leo
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: Mauricio Lara-Emilio Sanchez Round 3
Emilio Sanchez had been
dropped by Mauricio Lara in the first round of their fight and hurt badly in
the second. Instead of trying to outbox Lara, which Sanchez's trainer Manny
Robles said was their game plan, Sanchez was determined to go toe-to-toe. In the
third round, Sanchez changed the dynamic of the fight by landing a hard
straight right hand in an exchange with just over two minutes left in the
round. That punch tempered Lara's aggression. Sanchez then jumped on this
opportunity, connecting with pulverizing uppercuts with both hands, landing
four in quick succession. These shots took the wind out of Lara's sails and he
spent most of the next minute trying to recuperate.
Sanchez continued to apply
pressure with his forward movement and lead jabs. When Lara finally was able to recover, he started winging power shots. But Sanchez then connected with a counter left hook that
forced Lara back to the ropes. With Lara weakening, Sanchez flurried and Lara was unable to stop
the onslaught. Desperate, Lara alternated between holding on and throwing whatever he could to keep
Sanchez away. But Sanchez kept attacking Lara's body with wicked left hooks, causing further damage.
|Lara (left) and Sanchez in an unforgettable 3rd round|
Photo courtesy of Ed Mulholland
with 40 seconds left in the round hurt Lara so badly that he held onto Sanchez
and walked him completely across the ring, eventually falling down when his
balance gave out. It wasn't ruled a knockdown, which was the correct ruling,
but Lara looked spent. When he got to his feet, referee Ray Corona warned him
for holding and threatened to take away a point.
With under ten seconds left
in the round, Lara walked over to Sanchez, unconvincingly, but then uncorked a
powerful left hook that stung Sanchez. He followed up with a right hand that
forced Sanchez to take a backward step. Sanchez then retreated to the corner
where Lara connected with a vicious double left hook combo to the body and head.
Lara then cuffed Sanchez with a wild right hand and Sanchez moved back to the
next available corner. With Sanchez's legs gone and Lara in hot pursuit, Lara
connected with a hard right hand to the head, a left hook to the head, a right
hook/uppercut to the head that began to send Sanchez down and a final left
hook to the head that dropped Sanchez flat on his back below the bottom rope. Sanchez was done and Corona immediately stopped the fight.
Within 30 seconds both
fighters were in danger of being stopped. Lara ultimately had more firepower
and better recuperative powers. It was an insane round of boxing where in an instant Sanchez went from springing the upset of his career to being a
footnote in Lara's continued rise in the featherweight division. Thrilling
Previous SNB Rounds of the
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: Hector Luis Garcia UD Chris Colbert
Chris Colbert was supposed
to be a star. Hailing from New York, he was flashy in the ring and brash out of
it. He had already starred in a documentary, "CounterPunch,"
and more than a few in the sport regarded him as a phenom. He could switch hit
in the ring effortlessly, his punch placement was pinpoint, and the timing on his
counters was special. 2022 was supposed to be his year. He was set to face
Roger Gutierrez for a 130-lb. belt before Gutierrez had to withdraw on late
notice. In stepped Hector Luis Garcia, who was a relatively unknown fighter
from the Dominican Republic (just 2 of his 14
previous fights had been outside of the D.R.).
But no one told Garcia that
he was there to be the "opponent." From the opening bell Garcia attacked Colbert relentlessly, yet he displayed significant craft. His
onslaught wasn't crude, just merciless in its effectiveness. Garcia's success
made the lightning-handed Colbert reluctant to throw. And as the fight progressed, Garcia demonstrated that his fast start wasn't a fluke.
He kept hammering away at Colbert, bludgeoning him with big body shots and
combinations to the head. In the seventh Garcia scored a knockdown and Colbert
|Late sub Garcia (left) dominated the highly touted Colbert|
Photo courtesy of Ryan Hafey
Garcia's beating of Colbert
was so comprehensive that Colbert spent the championship rounds of the fight in
pure survival mode, literally running away from contact, happy to make it
to the final bell; he had been thoroughly dominated.
To put an exclamation point
on an incredible win, Garcia defeated Gutierrez later in the year to win a
world title, but it was the Colbert performance that put him on the map.
Garcia, a southpaw and an Olympian, displayed an intoxicating package of aggression
and refinement. I'm not sure if Colbert, who hasn't fought since the
defeat, has yet to figure out what happened to him that night. He got run over by a
2021: George Kambosos SD
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:
James, a previous SNB
Trainer of the Year for 2017, had a sublime 2022. It's not just that his major
fighters (Jermell Charlo, Errol Spence and Frank Martin) won their
matchups this year, it's that they dominated excellent competition. With Charlo
and Martin in particular, you could see them improve before our eyes, with
Charlo finally becoming a finished product and Martin demonstrating that he's a serious contender in the lightweight division.
I think James' greatest
success this year was how he was able to raise Charlo's performance level in
the rematch against Brian Castano. I think that Castano was unfortunate to get
a draw when they fought in 2021. In the corner during that fight, James
beseeched Charlo to stop looking for the knockout and box Castano more, yet
Charlo often ignored those instructions, and it was to his detriment.
|Photo courtesy of Amanda Westcott|
But in the rematch, Charlo
implemented a number of adjustments. Most importantly, he stayed off the ropes,
where Castano had his best periods of success in their first fight.
Furthermore, Charlo demonstrated his full range of offensive gifts: leading and
countering, using his jab to set things up, going to the body, utilizing all of
his power shots. He wasn't left-hook happy or selling out for the knockout. He
stayed within himself. He tried to win rounds. Ultimately, he dismantled
Castano with a steady dose of debilitating power punches, especially body
shots, and he stopped Castano in the tenth round. The knockout did come, but it
was through Charlo displaying his manifold gifts, realizing that when employing
his full arsenal, he could fight at a higher level than Castano, and James
deserves credit for Charlo buying into this.
James also had high-profile
fights with Errol Spence against fellow welterweight titlist Yordenis Ugas and
Frank Martin facing the undefeated Michel Rivera. In both matchups, James'
fighter dominated proceedings and took away the opponent's best weapon. Ugas'
counter right hand was rarely successful while Rivera never was able to
establish his jab. James' fighters exhibited technical and tactical mastery
over their opponents in the ring. He has become one of the best trainers in the
Previous SNB Trainers of
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: No
Allow me to get on my
soapbox for a moment. If we really want to memorialize boxing in 2022 then we
have to remember that the year featured several big fights that didn't get
made, such as Spence-Crawford, Joshua-Fury and Davis-Garcia. You will notice
that all of the sport's major promoters in the U.S. and the U.K. had at least
one boxer who was involved in these failed mega-fights.
Certainly there were
memorable fights in 2022, with great performances and thrilling action.
However, the health of boxing is predicated on big events.
They are crucial in elevating boxing beyond its hardcore base; they can capture
the imagination of a larger sporting public. Mega-fights are vital in expanding
the economic footprint of the sport, with fighters making career-high paydays
and promoters, managers and networks taking their cut, ensuring that they
remain engaged in maximizing boxing's economic potential.
So, in this regard, the major
promoters failed the sport in 2022. Boxing squandered several significant
opportunities to expand its base this year and I hope that the powers that be
in 2023 realize that cutting up a pool of imaginary money isn't the same thing
as cutting up a pool of actual money. Boxing needs its promoters to be good
stewards for the sport and to realize that "winning" a negotiation
only matters if a big fight takes place. It was often frustrating to be a fan
of boxing in 2022 and the promoters were a big reason why. There will be no
award given for Promoter of the Year this year and none of the big promoters
should feel particularly content with their overall contribution to the sport: They let their
Previous SNB Promoters of
2021: Premier Boxing
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: ESPN
2022 was the year where ESPN
and its companion streaming format, ESPN+, demonstrated the power and breadth of
their overall boxing offerings. In addition to ESPN's regular American-based
Top Rank offerings (which were solid, but not spectacular), ESPN presented
several meaningful fights and fight cards from around the globe. Whether it was
Inoue-Donaire 2 or Teraji-Kyoguchi in Japan, Fury-Whyte or Joyce-Parker in
England, or Yoka-Bakole in France, the overall quality of matchups presented by
ESPN's platforms was excellent.
Now, let's not be naive
here. Understand that nothing gets put on ESPN without Top Rank's blessing and
for that, the promoter deserves a lot of credit. I'm not going to pretend that
promoters didn't do anything good in 2022. In this instance I think that ESPN (with Top Rank as its content provider and conduit to other major fights) delivered a lot of value for boxing fans.
Previous SNB Networks of
2016: Sky Sports
2015: No award given
Referee of the Year: David Fields
Perhaps it's time to rename
this award after Fields, for this is the third time that he has taken
home the honors in this category. In one night in November with two different
fights, Fields once again showed why he is among the elite of his
In the main event, Fields
made the unpopular but correct choice of disqualifying the hometown fighter,
Montana Love, for throwing his opponent Steve Spark out of the ring. Now,
there were a lot of political factors that could have mucked up a lesser
referee's decision making. Love was in the highest-profile fight of his career,
just after signing with Matchroom Boxing. In addition, Spark wasn't necessarily
hurt by the infraction.
|Fields (right) gives Love a count after a knockdown|
Photo courtesy of Boxingscene
But Fields wisely
disregarded the outcome instead of the intention of the action. What Love did
was inexcusable, far beyond the rules of professional boxing. His conduct could
have led to significant bodily harm, and it was 100% intentional. The
disqualification was the correct move. Fields demonstrated the professional judgment to make the correct call and the convictions not to backtrack on his initial
assessment. It was decision unpopular with the hometown crowd and the house promoter, but it was absolutely correct.
In an earlier fight on the
card, Fields refereed a war between Thomas Mattice and Christian Tapia. Mattice
knocked down Tapia in the second round and had him badly hurt at various points
in the first four rounds of the fight. A lesser referee would have stopped the
fight, but Tapia showed tremendous recuperative powers. Even after absorbing significant punishment, he kept coming and had moments of real success, winning
several rounds in the back half of the fight. Mattice needed to fight his heart
out to win the match, and he did just that. Because of Fields'
expert professional judgement, fans were treated to a memorable war. Fields
understood what he was looking at, that the fighter who was down, and badly
hurt, still had more to give. And he was proven correct. Overall, these two
fights showcased a referee at the absolute top of his game.
Previous SNB Referees of
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 member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.