Ranking best upcoming fights: From Prograis-Haney to Wilder’s return

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This year has been good to boxing fans. A lot of big fights took place, including Terence Crawford’s epic performance against Errol Spence Jr., Naoya Inoue’s domination of Stephen Fulton, Devin Haney vs. Vasiliy Lomachenko and the two incredible bouts between Katie Taylor and Chantelle Cameron, to name a few.

And before we get to February 2024, when the gigantic undisputed world heavyweight title clash between Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk will take pace, there is still plenty of big fights over the next two months to look forward to.

Whether it is knockout specialists, fleet-footed flyweights, pound-for-pound king contenders or those fighting to keep their careers alive, December and January have something to get you excited in a stacked schedule of boxing.

Let’s look at the best there is on the boxing calendar.


1. Dec. 23: Deontay Wilder vs. Joseph Parker, heavyweights

Wilder in the boxing ring has been a rare sight recently, so don’t miss a chance to see the knockout specialist attempt to revive his career against another former heavyweight world champion.

If Wilder (43-2-1, 42 KOs) can beat Parker in his first fight since October 2022, he sets up what would be one of the biggest fights of 2024 against fellow former champ Anthony Joshua. But Parker (33-3, 23 KOs), the WBO titleholder from 2016 to 2018, has been more active and if he can avoid Wilder’s pulverizing right hand punch, he could score an upset decision win.

Wilder’s last opponent, Robert Helenius, lasted 2:57 minutes and boxing fans will tune in intrigued to see if the Alabama native, who reigned as WBC champion for five years is still a force at age 38.


2. Jan. 13: Artur Beterbiev vs. Callum Smith, 12 rounds, for Beterbiev’s WBC, WBO and IBF light heavyweight titles

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Artur Beterbiev stops Anthony Yarde for 19th finish in 19 fights

Artur Beterbiev continues his dominant streak, finishing every one of his fights thus far.

If you want a knockout, tuning in to watch Beterbiev in action is the closest thing to a guarantee as he has dispatched all of his opponents within the distance. Smith (29-1, 21 KOs), a former super middleweight champion, is also heavy handed and has proved a threat since stepping up a division.

Beterbiev (19-0, 19 KOs), the WBC, WBO and IBF light heavyweight champion produced a clinical eighth round win in his last defense against Anthony Yarde last January and was scheduled to face Smith in August, but the fight was postponed due to a bone infection on his jaw. He is perhaps the most exciting fighter to watch because of his KO power.

For years, there has been talk about Beterbiev facing fellow Russian and rival light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol (21-0, 11 KOs), to decide an undisputed champion in 2024, which increases the stakes of this fight against Smith. Bivol is expected to come through a defense of his WBA belt when he faces Lyndon Arthur on Dec. 23.


3. Dec. 16: Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez vs. Sunny Edwards, 12 rounds, for Rodriguez’s WBO flyweight title and Edwards’ IBF flyweight title

This high-caliber contest will decide the best in the flyweight division as both fighters put their unbeaten records and world titles on the line. Neither were at their best in their last outings, but they have an abundance of skills which, if they can both deliver on the night, will produce one of the best pure boxing spectacles of 2023.

It is hard to predict a winner between Edwards (20-0, 4 KOs) and Rodriguez (18-0, 11 KOs), who suffered a broken jaw in his last fight, a against Cristian Gonzalez. But if either can distinguish themselves as a clear winner, then they become the superstar of the lighter weight classes. This fight is one for the boxing purists.


4. Dec. 26: Naoya Inoue vs. Marlon Tapales, 12 rounds, for Inoue’s WBC and WBO junior featherweight titles and Tapales’ IBF and WBA junior featherweight titles

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Naoya Inoue remains undefeated with TKO win over Stephen Fulton

Naoya Inoue defeats Stephen Fulton by technical knockout to claim the WBO and WBC junior featherweight titles.

Inoue, arguably one of the world’s best punchers in any weight class, will fight for greatness when he tries to become a two-division undisputed champion against Tapales. After becoming undisputed at bantamweight last year, “The Monster” is attempting to hold all four titles at the weight division above.

Inoue (25-0, 22 KOs), already a champion in four different divisions, has not slowed down in his quest to achieve his goals. In his junior featherweight debut he stopped Stephen Fulton and looks a safe bet to do the same to Tapales (37-3, 19 KOs). Can Inoue produce a performance worthy of knocking welterweight Terence Crawford off the No. 1 spot in ESPN’s pound-for-pound rankings? If you want to see what the best boxing can offer, take a look at Inoue.


5. Dec. 9: Regis Prograis vs. Devin Haney, 12 rounds, for Prograis’ WBC junior welterweight title

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Why Devin Haney is moving up to 140 pounds

Devin Haney explains to Mark Kriegel why he’s fighting Regis Prograis in an unfamiliar weight class.

Haney (29-0, 15 KOs), the undisputed lightweight champion, is commendably stepping up a division in pursuit of great glory, but he faces a man desperate to show the world what he is capable of.

It has been four years since Prograis (29-1, 24 KOs) was outpointed by Josh Taylor in a unification title fight in the World Boxing Super Series final, and he is still battling to regain the top spot in the division. Prograis was disappointed with his performance in a split-decision win over Danielito Zorrilla in June, but his experience, size and power make him a real threat to Haney.

Haney outpointed the great Vasiliy Lomachenko, 35, in his last fight by narrow scores and the 25 year old will most likely be involved in another tight tussle with Prograis, who will be trying to make this night about him, not Haney.


6. Dec. 23: Anthony Joshua vs. Otto Wallin, 12 rounds, heavyweights

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Fury sustains massive cut above eye vs. Wallin

Tyson Fury gets caught with a left hand across his brow as he is backed into a corner by Otto Wallin. For more Top Rank Boxing action, sign up for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/.

Joshua, the former unified heavyweight world champion has an easier assignment — on paper — than Wilder on the same marathon card in Saudi Arabia. But Joshua has shown frailties in recent fights and Wallin has come close to producing a massive upset. For that reason, this one is not to be missed.

Joshua, a two-time WBA, IBF and WBO champion, was stopped by Andy Ruiz Jr. in June 2019 and had some rocky moments in two defeats to Oleksandr Usyk. Wallin (26-1, 14 KOs) took Fury to a decision in 2019, cutting him over the right eye in Round 3 and was close to stopping him. Fury needed 47 stitches to fix that cut. Joshua produced a commanding seventh round stoppage win over Robert Helenius in August and has the opportunity to make a statement against Wallin to set up a huge fight against Wilder in 2024.


7. Jan. 20: Natasha Jonas vs. Mikaela Mayer, 10 rounds, for Jonas’ IBF women’s welterweight title

One of the biggest fights in women’s boxing in 2024 takes place early in the year, when two former Olympians and top pound-for-pound boxers meet in Liverpool.

Jonas (14-2-1, 9 KOs), 39, will be more accustomed to the weight — she has won world titles at welterweight and junior middleweight — but former junior lightweight world champion Mayer (19-1, 5 KOs), 33, is lighter on her feet and sharper with her punches. This fight could end up as an early candidate for fight of the year if both fighters perform as they have done during their careers.


8. Dec. 23: Daniel Dubois vs. Jarrell Miller, 10 rounds, heavyweights

This non-title fight could be fun. Both have power, and Dubois has shown he can be put down in recent fights versus Usyk, Kevin Lerena and Joe Joyce. Miller is a controversial figure who was suspended for a PED violation in 2020 , but has put together three wins since his ban following a positive test for a metabolic performance enhancer which canceled a title shot against Joshua in 2019.

Miller weighed in a whopping 333 pounds for his last fight in March while Dubois produced a plucky performance to scare Usyk in a title shot loss in August. Big fights await the winner.


9. Dec. 9: Robeisy Ramirez vs. Rafael Espinoza, 12 rounds, for Ramirez’s WBO featherweight title

Ramirez (13-1, 8 KOs) has had a memorable year, dominating Isaac Dogboe to win the belt by decision in April and then traveling to Japan to impressively stop Satoshi Shimizu in five rounds in July. His final outing of 2023 is arguably the least daunting of the year for him as Espinoza has not fought in a world title fight yet.

But if Ramirez can look good, he increases his hopes of a unification title fight against fellow champion Luis Alberto Lopez in 2024.


10. Dec. 2: Ryan Garcia vs. Oscar Duarte, 12 rounds, junior welterweights

Garcia’s fast hands and vast social media following will ensure a lot of interest in this non-title bout, which gives the Californian an opportunity to re-establish himself after being knocked out by Gervonta Davis in April.

Garcia (23-1, 19 KOs) is only 25, still developing and his career (and ego) can recover from a setback against such a brilliant fighter as Davis, who stopped Garcia with a body shot.

This fight could be tense and nerve-jangling for Garcia as Duarte comes into the fight with an 11-fight KO winning streak. How Garcia chooses to box in this fight will be interesting. A solid victory could entice the top 140 pounders to face him.



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