From Tim Tszyu’s belts, Liam Wilson’s controversy and Sam Goodman’s rise up the ranks: An Aussie boxing review for 2023
It has been another big year for Australian men’s boxing in 2023 both here and overseas, including two new world champions, and one who retained his world title belt before vacating it in favour of a lucrative payday.
Here is a review of our boxers who made a splash in the world rankings over the past year. Keep an eye on them in 2024, as more Aussie world title fights are on the way.
Everyone thought unbeaten super welterweight Tim Tszyu would get his chance to fight American Jermell Charlo for his four world title belts in 2023.
But Charlo decided to step up two weight divisions and take on Mexican superstar Saul “Canelo” Alvarez for his four super middleweight belts and a big payday instead. Alvarez won the bout easily on points.
Charlo was stripped of his WBO world title belt due to not fighting Tszyu, but he controversially retained the WBA, WBC and IBF belts (though he later vacated the IBF belt).
The WBO subsequently mandated a world title bout between Tszyu and tough American Brian Mendoza for their vacant title. After a fairly even first six rounds, Tszyu’s power shots began to take their toll on Mendoza and he eventually claimed the title with a comfortable points win.
Tszyu (24–0) remains keen on a 2024 fight with Charlo -but only time will tell if it happens.
After winning the IBF world cruiserweight title in July of 2022 in a bruising encounter with Ukrainian Mairis Briedis where he had his jaw broken, southpaw Jai Opetaia had to recover and wait nearly 15 months for his first title defence.
The delay did not seem to affect him at all as he impressively stopped previously unbeaten British challenger Jordan Thompson in the fourth round at Wembley Arena in London.
Opetaia was due to face the IBF’s number one challenger Briedis in a rematch as his next title defence, but he opted instead to take a lucrative pay day fighting unbeaten Englishman Ellis Zorro in Saudi Arabia just before Christmas.
He won that bout via a first-round KO after landing a big left hook. It took his unbeaten record to 24-0, but he vacated his IBF world title belt in the process.
Bantamweight Jason “Mayhem” Moloney (26–2) won his first world title belt on his third attempt in 2023 with a majority decision over Filipino Vincent Astrolabio in the US in May.
The win earned him the WBO strap, and it was his classy boxing that got him the nod. He will be defending his title on January 13 against American Saul Sanchez (20–2) in Canada.
George Kambosos Jnr
After losing his lightweight world titles to slick American Devin Haney in mid-2022 and then losing the rematch later that year, George Kambosos (21–2) took some time to regroup in 2023, just having one bout in the US in July where he won a majority decision against the UK’s Maxi Hughes.
With Haney now having moved up a division, Kambosos is likely to take on Ukrainian superstar Vasyl Lomachenko for the vacant IBF world title belt in April in Australia.
Super featherweight Liam Wilson (13–2) went agonisingly close to winning the WBO world title in February in the US against Mexican champ Emanual Navarrete.
Called up as a late replacement when Navarette’s original opponent was injured in training, Wilson dropped the champion in round four.
A delay in restarting the bout when the champ spat his mouthguard out after eventually getting to his feet arguably robbed Wilson of the chance to finish the job then and there.
Navarette recovered and showed his fighting qualities to drop Wilson twice in the ninth round of an entertaining fight before the referee stepped in to end the contest.
Wilson had two more fights in Australia against international opposition in Australia in 2023, winning both on points and is prepared to step up a division to face George Kambosos in 2024.
Unbeaten super lightweight southpaw Liam Paro (24–0) only had one fight in 2023, but it was a very impressive sixth-round KO of American Montana Love in San Francisco.
The win keeps his name in the mix for potential world title shots.
Super flyweight Andrew Moloney (26–3, the twin brother of Jason) had an unsuccessful world title shot in Las Vegas in May when he was knocked out in the 12th round against tough Japanese opponent Junto Nakatani for the vacant WBO belt.
Super bantamweight Sam Goodman (17–0) continued his busy rise up the world rankings with 4 fights and 4 wins in Australia in 2023, all against international opposition.
He is now the number one contender for both the IBF and WBO belts, so a world title shot is a real possibility in 2024.
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Other Aussie fighters on the rise
There are plenty of other young local fighters to keep an eye on in 2024, including super welterweight Nikita Tszyu (Tim’s younger brother), heavyweight Justis Huni and light heavyweight Paulo Aokuso.
All kept their unbeaten records intact in 2023.