Boxing fans will be in for a festive feast when the heavyweights fight. Deontay Wilder against Joseph Parker and Anthony Joshua against Otto Wallin headline a rare quality card on December 23. Named as “Judgment Day”. The main event will feature eight fights between world champions, former world champions and contenders at heavyweight, cruiserweight and light heavyweight. which will take place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Few boxing cards in recent history can match the depth and quality that will be on display in the desert. Let’s take a look at the fights and explain why each one is so important.
Deontay Wilder vs. Joseph Parker
What’s it all about? It’s difficult to choose the best matchup among such a strong selection, but if necessary, perhaps Wilder-Parker is the one. The two former world heavyweight champions are fighting to remain relevant and face Anthony Joshua in 2024. Parker reigned as WBO champion from 2016 to 2018; Wilder was WBC champion from 2015 to 2020.
How does it develop? Wilder (43-2-1, 42 KOs), who was negotiating to face Joshua on December 23 earlier this year, is risking more than Parker (33-3, 23 KOs), who has his fourth fight in almost one year. Wilder has had just one round of action since October 2022, when he stopped Robert Helenius in his first fight since back-to-back KO losses to Tyson Fury. Parker’s best chance is to keep the fight at range, establish a fast pace and get away from Wilder’s destructive right hand. But the American will always be dangerous with a one-punch KO.
What’s at stake? A fight against Joshua in 2024. Parker lost to Joshua on points in 2018, but a rematch becomes a possibility if he can beat Wilder like Fury, with whom the New Zealander trains. However, Wilder vs. Joshua is the biggest fight, and the biggest in the division outside of WBA, IBF and WBO champion Oleksandr Usyk against WBC champion Tyson Fury. who will meet in Saudi Arabia on February 17.
Why should you watch? This is probably the best heavyweight matchup this year. We’ll find out if Wilder, at 38, still has his neutralizing punch… and if we’re finally going to get AJ vs. Wilder.
Anthony Joshua vs. Otto Wallin
What’s it all about? Joshua takes a risk by facing Wallin. He has just six weeks to prepare for a southpaw after weeks, or months, of speculation that he would face the destructive right-handed knockout machine Wilder on December 23. If Joshua (26-3, 23 KOs) loses to Wallin (26-1, 14 KOs) he has little chance of facing the likes of Wilder or Fury next year. Wallin has been asking to fight Joshua for years, believing he can beat him.
How does it develop? Joshua, 34, has limited experience against southpaws and it will be interesting to find out how he fares against Wallin. The last portman Joshua faced was Usyk, who beat him on points in successive fights (2022 and 2021). Wallin, 32, from Sweden but based in the United States, gave Fury a scare in 2019, taking him to points after Fury suffered an early cut that later required nearly 50 stitches.. Since then, Wallin has notched six wins, some against limited opponents, and defeated former world cruiserweight champion Murat Gassiev by split points decision in September. Fury and Gassiev failed to stop Wallin, and perhaps that was the motivation for Joshua to take on this risky task. But expect AJ to box like he did against Robert Helenius in August, at range and cautiously in the early rounds before opening up his offense in the later rounds.
What’s at stake? A possible fight against Deontay Wilder for Joshua, or a lucrative rematch for Wallin.
Why should you watch? Let’s see if Joshua can answer questions about how well he does against lefties and find out if we will finally get Joshua vs Wilder.
Dmitrii Bivol vs. Lyndon Arthur
What’s it all about? Bivol (21-0, 11 KOs) is the highest-ranked fighter with a better win on his record (against an excellent Canelo Alvarez) than anyone else on the card. Arthur (23-1, 16 KOs), who has won four in a row since he was knocked out by Anthony Yarde in 2021, would need to pull off a major upset to win. He was surprised to get this fight.
How does it develop? Expect Arthur to be ready, but not in the same league as Bivol, who is coming off brilliant points wins over Gilberto Ramirez and Alvarez.
What’s at stake? Bivol’s WBA world light heavyweight title.
Why should you watch? Bivol brings quality and is the highest ranked fighter on this incredible card. Bivol is number 5 in ESPN’s latest pound-for-pound ranking and was ESPN Fighter of the Year in 2022. Victory would open the prospect of a long-awaited clash against fellow Russian Artur Beterbiev to decide an undisputed world light heavyweight champion next year. Beterbiev defends his belts against Callum Smith on January 13.
Daniel Dubois vs. Jarrell Miller
What’s it all about? Miller (26-0-1, 22 KOs) talks about a good game, but recently the previously suspended The boxer has not been fighting at the same level as the young Dubois (19-2, 18 KOs), who gave a good account of himself. against Usyk in August.
How does it develop? Miller will need some changes, but Dubois will eventually get the job done in the second half of the fight. Usyk stopped Dubois in the ninth round, but Dubois can be confident in how he performed that night.
What’s at stake? Victor will compete for bigger fights in 2024.
Why should you watch? Both Miller and Dubois have power and this is a chance for one of them to look good in front of a large television audience. This could be one of the most entertaining fights of the night.
Jai Opetaia vs. Ellis Zorro
What’s it all about? Opetaia (23-0, 18 KOs), 28, like Bivol, is No. 1 in his respective division in ESPN’s latest divisional rankings and is expected to retain that status in Riyadh.
How does it develop? For Zorro, this is a big jump in class, but he will approach the fight with confidence after good wins this year against Luca D’Ortenzi and Hosea Burton. Zorro (17-0, 7 KOs) has no experience or KO power on his side. Opetaia made quick work of a similarly experienced opponent in Jordan Thompson two months ago. The Australian stopped Thompson in four rounds and Zorro will do well to prevent the champion from getting another knockout victory in his second defense.
What’s at stake? Opetaia’s IBF Cruiserweight World Title. The Australian can move on to a title unification fight in 2024.
Why should you watch? Opetaia is currently the best there is at cruiserweight and one day hopes to make the jump to heavyweight.
Filip Hrgovic vs. Mark De Mori
What’s it all about? Hrgovic was involved in a snooze last time out against Demsey McKean and really needs to make a statement against his Australian opponent if he is to be considered for bigger name opponents next year.
The Croatian is in a good position (the IBF number one contender), so he needs to win to stay at the front of the line for one of the belts that Usyk holds.
How does it develop? Hrgovic finally stopped McKean in the last round in August, but against De Mori, 41, he needs to get the job done as soon as possible. De Mori has been operating far from the elite level since David Haye knocked him out in a round in 2016 and this matchup is nowhere near the quality of others on the card.
What’s at stake? Hrgovic needs to win to keep his spot at the front of the line for Usyk.
Why should you watch? This could end quickly and is an opportunity to evaluate how much of a danger Hrgovic poses to players like Usyk, even if it ends up being a mismatch.
Arslanbek Makhmudov vs. Agit Kabayel
What’s it all about? These two might be some of the lesser-known fighters on the card, but don’t let that discourage you. Both are among the chasing group hoping for a shot at the world heavyweight title in the next two years.
How does it develop? Makhmudov (18-0, 17 KOs) is one of the rising stars of the heavyweight division and the Canada-based Russian potentially faces his toughest test yet against the European champion. Germany’s Kabayel (23-0, 15 KOs) can be expected to at least last longer than Makhmudov’s last opponent (70 seconds).
What’s at stake? The winner takes one step closer to a mandatory position and maintains their undefeated record.
Why should you watch? Makhmudov fights as if he had to respect a curfew. The KO seems inevitable.
Frank Sánchez vs. Junior Fa
What’s it all about? Miami-based Cuban Sanchez (23-0, 16 KOs) is another heavyweight hoping to make an impression on the big stage in Riyadh and his recent form suggests he could do just that.
How does it develop? Fa (20-2, 11 KOs) is rebuilding his career since losses to Lucas Browne and Parker, but has not fought since October 2022. He will have to produce a shocking result to change the course of his career.
What’s at stake? Greater opportunities for the winner.
Why should you watch? Sanchez has won three fights inside the distance and looks good for another stoppage victory.