2023 was shaping up to be a massive year for boxing but two pieces of bad news popped up on my ESPN notifications these past twelve hours. WBC and WBO 122lb champion Stephen Fulton of Philadelphia was set to face Japanese boxing idol Naoya Inoue on May 7th. This was a highly anticipated showdown in Japan as the undisputed four belt champion of Japan was moving up for two more belts. Fulton would have left the comfort of home for the first time and taken his unified titles on the road. The injury, though undisclosed, was labelled not serious according to ESPN’s Mike Coppinger but there is still some uncertainty about the bout happening. No date has been assigned for the rescheduling and it is a rare occurrence of a Top Rank and PBC fighter crossing the picket line to fight and on a streaming service favorable to Top Rank in a location favorable to the challenger. Hopefully this bout can be rescheduled as it is an awesome match up and Fulton might be moving up soon as he struggles to make the weight and hinted at a move up to 126.
The heavyweight showdown for all the hardware continues to elude boxing fans. First in 2021 am Anthony Joshua vs Tyson Fury match was interrupted by Deontay Wilder’s rematch clause followed by Oleksandr Usyk’s victory over Joshua. Now it seems that a Fury vs Usyk fight is going away too. It appeared all but set last week as both sides appeared to agree to a match in the UK on ESPN PPV on April 29th. Now it is revealed that this was a ruse to get past a WBA deadline to avoid Usyk vs Daniel Dubois from being mandated. The two sides still have not signed and do not appear ready to sign and the WBA deadline strikes at the end of the month for Dubois to get his mandated shot. Fury’s camp wants to force Usyk to take a smaller cut of the pie at a 70-30 split whereas Usyk is fighting to get as close to 50-50 as possible. Neither side looks ready to budge and the insults and jabs over social media and in the press continue. Unfortunately, boxing fans were teased by the premature announcement only to be brought back down to reality.
2023 is still a rock solid year, these are the fights we are still scheduled to get:
March 25: Las Vegas (Showtime PPV): — David Benavidez vs. Caleb Plant, 12 rounds, super middleweights
April 8: Newark, New Jersey (ESPN/ESPN+) — Title fight: Shakur Stevenson vs. Shuichiro Yoshino, 12 rounds, WBC lightweight title eliminator
April 22: Las Vegas (DAZN): — Gervonta Davis vs. Ryan Garcia, 12 rounds, 136-pound catchweight
May 20: Las Vegas (ESPN+ PPV) — Title fight: Devin Haney vs. Vasiliy Lomachenko, 12 rounds, for Haney’s undisputed lightweight championship
June 10: New York (ESPN/ESPN+): — Title fight: Josh Taylor vs. Teofimo Lopez Jr., 12 rounds, for Taylor’s WBO junior welterweight title
Now if the two fights highlighted in the article get made or Terrence Crawford and Errol Spence find their courage this will be an amazing year. All this takes into account that there are no fights set in July or later leaving a huge open calendar down the stretch.