Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Previewing Boxing's Day Of Reckoning

As 2023 winds down and most of the world is preparing for the end of year holidays as this column has been composed by this observer in advance, the Boxing world is truly a sport that never stops even for the holidays. This year, Boxing is preparing for a truly unique event known as the “Day Of Reckoning," which will take place in the unique location of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, forty eight hours before Christmas that can be seen globally on DAZN Pay-Per-View

What makes this event unique is not only the location in which it will take place, but the fact that it is truly a stacked card that has a little something for every Boxing fan. Co-headlining the event is two Heavyweight bouts featuring former world champions in separate bouts. First, it will be an encounter between two former world champions as former WBC Heavyweight world champion Deontay Wilder who will return to the ring for the first time in over a year to meet former WBO Heavyweight world champion Joseph Parker in a fight scheduled for twelve rounds.

The story of this fight centers on Wilder and his return to the ring. In his last bout in December of last year, Wilder scored a one punch first round knockout of Robert Helenius. While there was simply not much to say about that fight other than the description of a one punch knockout, what came from that was a well publicized split between Wilder and the Premier Boxing Champions group of promoters, which seems to be a more frequent occurrence with several fighters looking to part ways with the PBC due to its uncertain future, despite signing a new broadcast agreement with Amazon Prime Video in a move to seemingly move upcoming PBC events to streaming exclusively. As has been the case with other fighters that have been aligned with the PBC, the question that will face Wilder will be whether inactivity will impact him going into this fight. Although at least in theory Wilder will now be able to be more active going forward, inactivity is nonetheless a detriment to any fighter and even for one with the type of one punch power that Wilder has, the older a fighter becomes and the less active they are as time moves on could become an increasing issue.

I'm Joseph Parker, Wilder faces a man, who like himself, is a former world champion and has faced many of the top Heavyweights of his era. The story for Parker however, differs in that there are some who feel that he now might be on the decline of what has been a fine career. It is an opinion that might be largely based on Parker's last loss, which coincidentally was the first knockout loss of his career at the hands of Joe Joyce in September 2022. One aspect that might work in Parker's favor is, despite that loss, he has remained active in winning his last three fights and scoring knockouts in two of those three victories.

At his best, Parker has a well-balanced style with a good mix of hand speed, punching power, in addition to being able to approach his opponents at varying angles. The question here for Parker is whether he will be able to use that technique and be able to do so for however long this fight lasts. Deontay Wilder has never been known as the most technically skilled boxer, but he can be losing a fight by being out boxed over several rounds and turn things around in an instant because of his punching power. While Parker himself has punching power of his own, conventional wisdom would suggest that this is a scenario where he might have to be close to perfect especially from a defensive standpoint for the entire fight if he is to have a realistic chance in this fight.

Also on this card, undefeated WBA Light-Heavyweight world champion Dmitry Bivol will defend his title against top contenderLyndon Arthur. While this card is heavily focused on the Heavyweight division, this fight could have ramifications for the Light-Heavyweight division in terms of possible unification in 2024.

 To date, Dmitry Bivol has proven to be a difficult puzzle for opponents to solve, most notably, Saul “Canelo" Alvarez, whom Bivol scored a dominant twelve round unanimous decision over in May of last year. Despite a convincing victory over arguably the top draw in the sport from a fan recognition standpoint, Bivol has not been able to take advantage of that victory in part because of on again, off again negotiations with Alvarez for a rematch that Alvarez insists he wants. As has been the case for some fighters who are dominant in their respective division, but do not get the recognition or respect that are due, even after defeating one of the biggest stars in the sport, Bivol is in a position where he seemingly won the lottery, but has yet to cash the ticket.

Although as it has been for other fighters that have been in a similar position in that it has to be a source of frustration for Bivol, the task at hand is to try and maintain his position while waiting for another lucrative opportunity. In Lyndon Arthur, Bivol will face a twenty-four fight veteran, who is on a four fight winning streak with all four of those wins coming by knockout. What this will come down to in my eyes is whether Arthur will be able to deal with the highly technical Boxing style of Bivol, which has an emphasis on technique in addition to other attributes that Bivol has in his arsenal like punching power. While all the boxes seem to favor Bivol in comparison to Arthur, the one thing that could work against him is the fact that he may have some lucrative fights ahead for him if he should defeat Arthur. Not only the potential rematch with Alvarez, which would likely be another career-high payday for him, but also a potential encounter with the winner of the upcoming championship fight between undefeated WBC/IBF/WBO world champion Artur Beterbiev and former WBO Super-Middleweight world champion Callum Smith in January 2024. 

No matter how focused a fighter might be or might claim to be, the knowledge of what might be ahead at minimum has to be on their mind. Whether or not Lyndon Arthur, who is in the position of having nothing to lose, and everything to gain will be able to take advantage of that, if Bivol is off his game, is something that remains to be seen.

Although this observer would like to go through each fight on this card to provide detailed analysis, as it is truly one of the more stacked cards in recent memory, due to the constraints of one column, the focus will return to the Heavyweight division for the second task of the two main events as former two-time Heavyweight world champion Anthony Joshua will attempt to finish 2023 by going 3-0 when he faces top contender Otto Wallin in a fight scheduled for twelve rounds. Joshua, who has spent his last two fights under the guidance of Derrick James has scored two victories including a one punch knockout of Robert Helenius over the summer. Now with a relatively quick turnaround between fights for a top-level fighter and in particular, one of Joshua’s star power by facing a dangerous opponent in Otto Wallin.

Some may recall Wallin for his twelve round battle with Tyson Fury during the period when Fury was between his two reigns as a World Heavyweight champion in September 2019. To date, the unanimous decision loss to Fury is Wallin’s only loss, but he did succeed in opening a deep gash over Fury’s right eye, which required forty-seven stitches after the bout. Wallin also succeeded in giving Fury a tougher than expected fight where he did not get full credit in terms of the scoring from the official judges. Since that fight, Wallin has been unbeaten winning six straight fights including a split decision over Murat Gassiev in his last fight in September. 

Wallin is a southpaw and has shown he can be a crafty boxer throughout his career. What makes this noteworthy is two of Joshua’s three losses came against Oleksandr Usyk, a master southpaw boxer, who ended Joshua’s second reign as a world champion and defeated him in a rematch. Joshua’s last two fights have been what can be described as a work in progress as he has shown a more technical approach and patience. While he showed against Robert Helenius in August that he still has one punch power. The question going into this fight will be whether or not Joshua has learned how to combat a skilled southpaw or if facing fighters that box out of a southpaw stance is something that would amount to a flaw in his skillset. Wallin does have fourteen knockouts in his twenty-six wins and though logic would suggest that he will try to out box Joshua, he does have deceptive power and Joshua has been caught before, most notably in his first fight against Andy Ruiz in June 2019. 

Although the spotlight of this card is firmly on both Joshua and Deontay Wilder, with the aim of a potential showdown between the two in 2024, likely also in Saudi Arabia, three other Heavyweight bouts on the card featuring recent world title challenger Daniel Dubois facing undefeated former top contender Jarrell Miller, current undefeated top contender Fillip Hrgovic facing Mark De Mori, and finally undefeated contender Frank Sanchez facing Junior Fa, puts the spotlight firmly on the Heavyweight division as a whole and obviously every one of these fighters including Joseph Parker and Otto Wallin, are viewing this as an opportunity to upset any potential plans for Joshua and Wilder, either through facing them directly or by producing a performance in their respective bouts that makes it very difficult to ignore them as potential opponents in 2024 and beyond.

While the decision of the various promoters and digital subscription sports streaming network DAZN to make this card, as well matched as it is, a pay-per-view offering so close to Christmas, especially in light of the recent event headlined by the WBC Jr. Welterweight world championship fight between Regis Prograis and Devin Haney, also a DAZN Pay-Per-VIew offering on December 9th only generating 50,000 buys, will be a subject of criticism, this card is indeed stacked and in addition to all the Heavyweight bouts not only has Dmitry Bivol defending his Light-Heavyweight championship, but also features undefeated former IBF Cruiserweight world champion Jai Opetaia squaring off against undefeated contender Ellis Zorro, one can at least say that everyone involved have made the best effort they can to put forth a full card of action, which should produce a full day of Boxing here in the United States with a late morning start. Whether it ultimately proves successful in terms of buys however, is something that remains to be seen.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

“Day Of Reckoning” takes place on Saturday, December 23rd at the Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The card can be seen globally on DAZN Pay-Per-View for $39.99 beginning at 11AM ET/8AM PT. (*U.S. times and North American Price Only.*) For more information on how to order this pay-per-view event and to subscribe to DAZN as well as additional information such as schedules, local start times in your area and prices in your region of the world, please visit:

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