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2023 in Boxing: The Fight of the Year of the Week of the Year

Main events and title fights are fine for some... But, what stands out as the best Fight of the Year of the Week of 2023?

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Which Fight of the Year of the Week will be anointed the Best of 2023?
Which Fight of the Year of the Week will be anointed the Best of 2023?
Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images
John Hansen joined Bad Left Hook as a staff writer in 2021 and co-hosts the "Prophets of Goom" podcast.

Just under the wire to qualify as a 2023 Year in Review award here in the USA and some parts of Western Europe... It’s time to honor the annual Fight of the Year of the Week of the Year!

If you’re a regular Bad Left Hook reader or podcast listener, you’re well acquainted with the concept of a Fight of the Year of the Week, and you’ve no doubt been frantically refreshing the home page all week, waiting for this prestigious award to drop.

But, for the benefit of the unfamiliar? A Fight of the Year of the Week is one that delivers fun and excitement, minus one or two of the usual elements found in an actual Fight of the Year contender.

If nobody got up from a knockdown, if the action was hot but the swings in momentum were limited, or if the distance was a little too short for the drama to fully blossom? That’s a Fight of the Year of the Week. All the in-the-moment heat of a Fight of the Year, but without all the final ingredients to qualify for the ultimate honor. Some weeks may have more than one, and months can pass without a single Fight of the Year of the Week.

In the spirit of the award, main events from major promoters are not eligible. Neither are undercard fights for top level belts. Either can be a Fight of the Year of the Week, but neither can win Fight of the Year of the Week of the Year.

Last year’s winner was a tremendous eight-rounder between Lindolfo Delgado and Omar Aguilar. What claims the honor this year? Read on and find out!

This is actually Mbilli celebrating a win over Vaughn Alexander. Not a lot of photos for most of the FotYotWotY finalists this year!
This is actually Mbilli celebrating a win over Vaughn Alexander. Not a lot of photos for most of the FotYotWotY finalists this year!
Photo by SEBASTIEN SALOM-GOMIS/AFP via Getty Images

HONORABLE MENTION: Christian Mbilli vs Carlos Gongora

Main Event: Mbilli vs Gongora, March 24

Where can I (legally) watch it right now?: ESPN+ (referee instructions end around 4:13:30)

What did Bad Left Hook have to say about it?

A tough fight… Another standout 2023 fight

In a weaker year, this one could have been an outside contender for full Fight of the Year just based on the thrilling 8th round alone. Instead, it’s been lost in the shuffle of a bumper harvest of exciting fights.

This was a main event, so you can make the case that it shouldn’t be in consideration for this particular end-of-year prize. But, it was an Eye of the Tiger main event, on a Friday night from French Canada, which isn’t exactly the brightest of spotlights on the biggest of stages. After extensive deliberation with myself, it was determined that this was a fight so good, but so low profile, that it needed to be included as an honorable mention.

That also gives me good cause to spotlight another weekday main event, Richard Vansiclen vs Manuel Gallegos, an electric ProBox main event that we described at the time as “a textbook Fight of the Year of the Week.”

If you missed either or both? Get your 2024 started well and catch up at your earliest opportunity.

Kenneth Sims Jr and Batyr Akhmedov slug it out on the undercard of Romero vs Barroso
Kenneth Sims Jr and Batyr Akhmedov slug it out on the undercard of Romero vs Barroso
Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images

HONORABLE MENTION: Kenneth Sims Jr. vs Batyr Akhmedov

Main Event: Rolly Romero vs Ismael Barroso, May 14

Where can I (legally) watch it right now?: HAHA ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ LOL

What did Bad Left Hook have to say about it?

If you missed this one, watch it. Terrific fight, rugged and hard-hitting — just a hell of a fight.

Fond memories of this one had it on my list of contenders… But, good f—ing luck finding it anywhere legally right now. Not available among PBC’s YouTube offerings, and not among the three 2023 fights you can see via Showtime on Paramount+.

Demetrius Andrade vs Demond “Demon” Nicholson is one of the three available Showtime on Paramount+ fights, though. So, feel free to check that one out if you need something to really make you appreciate the rest of the fights on this list. And, if you happen to find a legal access point for Sims vs Akhmedov? Please let me know!

RUNNER UP - Omar Salcido vs Jose Nunez

Main Event: Pablo Cesar Cano vs Zachary Ochoa, October 4

Where can I (legally) watch it right now? Free on Youtube from ProBox TV, embedded below, or through the replay section of their website (or app) if you’re a subscriber

What did Bad Left Hook have to say about it?

Fantastic action… It’s Florida, man. Just check out the replay and enjoy the violence.

It wasn’t all roses for ProBox TV in 2023, with midyear staffing changes notably diminishing the broadcast product, and a revolving door in PR/media relations creating frustrating challenges for coverage of their events. But, the matchmaking for a midweek show is still phenomenal, and the commentary team bringing each show to life is the best in the business.

There’s never been a better value for your boxing dollar and 50 cents per month than an annual ProBox subscription. That may sound like a paid advertisement, but the fact is I haven’t even been able to get anyone working for ProBox to respond to my emails or phone calls for over six months now, and I gave up trying back in September. Covering ProBox events is a labor of love. And, strictly as a fan of the sport, it’s very easy to love a platform that delivers fast paced shows without a single dud event in the whole year, as far as I can recall. Every show had a fight I enjoyed watching, whether it was a main event like the Vansiclen show mentioned above, or the Orlando Gonzalez vs Ramiro Cesena battle in July, or even just a little six-rounder between Demontaze Duncan and Axl Melendez.

My pick for their non-main event standout of the year is Nunez vs Salcido, a rugged and tough 10 round matchup from October. The first serious punch of the fight earned an “Oh!,” from the color team, but the fight really kicks off about midway through the 2nd round. It’s a fight with big exchanges and alternating knockdowns, but a little too much wrestling keeps it out of the top spot this year. Even that point against it resulted in some illicit excitement, with a fireman’s carry in the 6th and a takedown tackle in the 7th.

It’s a damn fun fight with an outstanding 7th round in particular. If you missed out on ProBox in 2023? Their first show of the year is on January 17th, and we’ll be here with live coverage. Sign up, let them know we sent you, and maybe they’ll start sending your friends at Bad Left Hook the occasional update on who’s fighting, what they weighed in at, and possibly even a photo or two of what they looked like on the scales and during the fights.

THE 2023 FIGHT OF THE YEAR OF THE WEEK OF THE YEAR - Angel Ayala vs Felix Alvarado

Main Event: Miguel Berchelt vs Diego Ruiz, October 14

Where can I (legally) watch it right now? Golden Boy has it available free on YouTube, embedded below

What did Bad Left Hook have to say about it?

Nothing at the time, because this was head-to-head with Tim Tszyu vs Brian Mendoza and Janibek Alimkhanuly vs Vincenzo Gualtieri. We’ll cover three simultaneous cards on occasion, but the 3rd fight needs to be better than a disturbingly faded Berchelt against a journeyman on a two year streak of just one win in six fights.

Even though the main event didn’t demand our attention, Ayala vs Alvarado certainly earned it. Phenomenal action from the opening bell here, including a first round knockdown. Much like the runner up from ProBox, an exceptional fight is elevated by a fantastic broadcast team, with the always solid Beto Duran on play-by-play and Gabe Rosado providing analysis. Rosado was unfortunately saddled with a Fisher-Price quality microphone, but was invaluable anyway, spotting an Ayala hand injury halfway through the fight, and explaining multiple strategic adjustments by the young man throughout.

You knew this fight was serious business when Alvarado’s corner had to tape up his double-wide mohawk/mullet into a makeshift Davy Crockett coonskin cap between the 3rd and 4th rounds. This one was all cuts, blood, headbutts, mouthpieces flying, and high octane punching with little regard for covering up on defense. Relentless aggression from Alvarado, no hesitation return fire from Ayala, and tension through the final bell, even as the gas tanks started to empty.

If you haven’t seen this one already? You won’t be disappointed, in part because whoever you favor gets announced as the winner at some point. A brutal bit of torture for the losing man, and deja vu for color man Rosado, but yet another memorable moment from a fight full of excitement.

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