As with most other years in boxing, 2022 saw history made, huge upsets, and fan frustration. Of all the success stories, the WBA have given this year’s honour to a man who impressed on two occasions.
At their annual convention, the sanctioning body named their FOTY as light heavyweight champion, Dmitry Bivol.
The Russian fighter, who is undefeated in 21 professional contests, started and ended the year as champion with two successful defences of his belt in between.
The first came as Mexican superstar, Saul ‘Canelo’ Álvarez, looked for another career defining moment by jumping up in weight and challenging for the 175lb belt. Bivol was the chosen one – a decision Canelo would later regret.
The champion controlled the action and boxed the smaller man over 12 rounds to unanimous decision. It’s not what should have happened in the Hollywood script that is Canelo’s career, which made it all the more impressive.
Fast forward to May and Bivol would face the undefeated Gilberto Ramirez. His 44 fight win streak and height advantage again pushed the odds closer than Bivol ultimately made it look.
It was another unanimous decision – one in which Bivol would later say that he felt comfortable enough to take some rounds off to re-energise before going back to beating ‘Zurdo.’
As well as the victories, the fashion in which the Russian does it likely also played a part in the WBA’s decision. His performances showed a startlingly complete fighter with an almost motorised ability to avoid mistakes or danger.
Whilst perhaps not a one punch knockout artist, Bivol has the power and the shot selection to keep his opponents honest, and seems to take on all comers on his quest to be undisputed.
Speaking of that, 2023 could be a marquee year for the fighter, too.
Whilst his ultimate goal is to meet Artur Beterbiev in the ring for all of the light heavyweight straps, his countryman is currently tied up in mandatories. In the mean time, there’s talk of a rematch with Álvarez.
Although some dispute has arisen about what weight it would be contested at, there has been talk of Bivol fighting for the Mexican’s super middleweight belts this time.
Should that be the case – and it’s important to note that Canelo isn’t keen – the 2022 fighter of the year could potentially challenge for undisputed in two weight classes over the next 12 months.