Tyson Fury’s destruction of Derek Chisora in front of 59,000 fans at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London on Saturday brought to a close a thrilling year of heavyweight action.
Exciting knockouts, two world title contests in the UK and the retirement and subsequent return of one of the sport’s greats has made 2022 an unforgettable year.
But 2023 could be even better with a host of contenders emerging and potentially the first undisputed heavyweight contest in 23 years on the horizon.
What is next for Fury?
After the 24th stoppage victory of his 34-fight career, Fury firmly staked his claim as the world’s best heavyweight.
There are, however, two active heavyweights the 34-year-old has not yet faced – Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua.
There are positive signs a fight with fellow undefeated world champion and IBF, WBO and WBA belt holder Usyk can be made early next year. Both sides have repeatedly said an agreement is “close”.
But there is also the prospect of resurrecting talks with Joshua. Negotiations in September led to nothing. After several failed attempts to reach a deal, Fury-AJ may never happen.
But perhaps the timing was off and the fight could still be made, if both sides are willing. Patience as a virtue is often the bane of any boxing fan’s life, but the opposing sides had never been so close to an agreement and may be able to take the required step forward in 2023.
There is also the prospect Fury could fight undefeated domestic rival Joe Joyce. Fury’s co-promoter Frank Warren certainly expects Fury and Joyce to face off one day, 2023 could be the year – especially if talks with Usyk drag on.
Fury’s options: Usyk, Joshua, Joyce
Anthony Joshua v Dillian Whyte II
Joshua, 33, is still licking his wounds from successive defeats by Usyk but his comeback fight has been pencilled in for February or March.
Dillian Whyte is an obvious contender. Joshua shares a long history with Whyte. Their dislike for one other is well documented. Whyte has now waited seven years for a rematch of a fight that was as bad-tempered as it was thrilling.
Joshua and his team may feel Whyte is too much of a risk to fight immediately after the soul-destroying loss to Usyk in August. Whyte, however, was far from impressive in his own comeback fight against Jermaine Franklin, labouring to a majority points win.
Joshua was sitting ringside but there was no face-off in the ring or any real efforts from either man to hype up a rematch, which hints at the fact an agreement is some way off.
Who are Usyk’s potential opponents?
Should Usyk v Fury hit a few stumbling blocks, fans would be hoping to see the 35-year-old Ukrainian step in the ring with American knockout artist Deontay Wilder.
That fight seems a possibility in 2023 and would be a fascinating affair. Usyk’s team are notoriously easy to deal with, while Wilder has proven in his three wild encounters with Fury he has no issue backing himself against the best.
It is somewhat still a fantasy fight, a lot has to happen to ensure it takes place. Usyk would have to fight Fury, potentially twice, for Wilder to come into the picture.
There is also the issue of Usyk’s mandatories, which could throw up one particularly eye-catching encounter. Usyk’s team say WBA regular champion Daniel Dubois is next in line and that would be a huge test for the 25-year-old Londoner.
Usyk’s options: Fury, Dubois, Filip Hrgovic, Wilder
Deontay Wilder v Anthony Joshua
Fury is not the only fighter Joshua has struggled to reach a deal with in the past. In 2018 talks with Wilder began over an undisputed fight. A fight never materialised and four years later both men are in very different positions.
Beltless and suffering career-defining defeats in the last two years, Wilder-Joshua is a very different prospect in 2023 but it is a still a fight that excites fans considering the punching power both men possess. The fight is possible, with both men searching for a route back into the world title picture.
It all depends on whether either heavyweight would be willing to accept such a risky fight with no world title on the line. Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn has said he has cleared the air with Wilder’s team over previous failed talks. Wilder turns 38 in October, Joshua’s career hangs in the balance.
A loss might spell the end of either man’s fighting days.
Joe Joyce v Daniel Dubois II
Away from the world title picture, Joyce could have a rematch with Dubois. The first fight garnered huge attention despite being held behind closed doors.
Dubois has since bounced back with three wins on the trot, while Joyce announced himself as a serious contender in September by stopping former world champion Joseph Parker.
George Warren of Queensberry Promotions thinks the rematch deserves to have a world title on the line and both Britons are on the verge of world title fights.
But a rematch between the pair would be fascinating and a real ace up the sleeve of their promoter, Frank Warren, who might have to manage their expectations of a world title shot for perhaps another 12 months.