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
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.  

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