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Quite possibly one of the most anticipated nights of boxing of 2023 is coming on Saturday night, affectionately coined as ‘Day of Reckoning’, where we will see an array of Heavyweight match ups and world title fights in the Light Heavyweight & Cruiserweight Divisions. It really is a night of the big boys on Saturday night, with the outcomes of two Heavyweights in particular paving the way for an interesting 2024 (to coincide with Tyson Fury Vs Oleksandr Usyk in their Undisputed Heavyweight Clash in February 2024). This night of boxing will determine the next steps for a lot of Heavyweight fighters, and it is crucial that the favourites win their respective fights to book their spots in 2024 (I think we all know who we are talking about).

Let’s start at the top, with Anthony Joshua Vs Otto Wallin down as the main event of the night. It has been quite a turbulent and whirlwind 2023 for Anthony Joshua, which will see his fight with Otto Wallin on Saturday being the third fight of this year (something which Joshua hasn’t done since 2016 where he fought three times against Charles Martin, Dominic Brezeale & Eric Molina). With regards to being turbulent, it hasn’t been plain sailing for AJ this year. With a flat performance against Jermain Franklin back in April where Joshua obtained a points victory, along with a ‘longer than planned’ performance against Robert Helenius in August where he managed to get the stoppage in the 7th Round, Anthony Joshua will be going into this fight with the hope of putting on an emphatic performance to cement a Blockbuster 2024 fight against a certain Deontay Wilder to determine who will face the winner of the Undisputed Title Fight, Tyson Fury vs Oleksandr Usyk in February 2024.

There have been situations which have been in Anthony Joshuas control, but also out of his control as well. His reaction to his defeat to Oleksandr Usyk in their rematch back in August 2022 was very much in his control, which was seen as unsavoury and unsportsmanlike (with the World Title belts being thrown out of the ring in anger and animosity thrown towards Oleksandr Usyk and his team). Oleksandr Usyk and his team were praised for their calm reaction and demeanour towards Joshua. In the post-fight interview, Joshua did however use the time to explain that he was upset regarding his performance and the second defeat, ultimately leading to tears in the press conference.

London, UK: Anthony Joshua v Jermaine Franklin, Heavyweight Contest 1 April 2023 Picture By Mark Robinson Matchroom Boxing Anthony Joshua after his points victory

What hasn’t been in his control is the actions of other Heavyweights. The disappointment of the “adverse finding” in the Anti-Doping Test from Dillian Whyte was felt across boxing, with Joshua & Whyte set to rekindle their fierce rivalry back in August until the adverse finding was made. This led to Anthony Joshua facing the Nordic Nightmare, Robert Helenius, in Whyte’s place. The last-minute change and continuous ups and downs for Joshua haven’t been ideal. However, Joshua knows who he is fighting and who is up against come December 23rd. He thrives on a roadmap. A journey to a final destination. And this is what is in store for him. If he can defeat Otto Wallin Saturday night, it’s full steam ahead for one of the most anticipated Heavyweight match ups in recent times – Anthony Joshua vs Deontay Wilder.

However, he needs to come through Otto Wallin on Saturday night which certainly won’t be a walk in the park. Otto Wallin has only one defeat on his record (28 Fights/26 Wins/1 Defeat), which came against the generational talent of Tyson Fury. However, many eagle-eyed boxing fans felt Otto Wallin was harshly treated in that defeat, where Wallin badly busted up Tyson Fury’s right eye, with two deep cuts which left Fury bruised and bloodied come the end of their fight. This has given Otto Wallin a bit of a cult following, with a no-nonsense approach to his work. However, since this performance back in 2019 against Fury, Otto Wallin has gone the distance with Heavyweights including Dominic Brezeale, Kamil Sokołowski, Rydell Booker, Helaman Olguin & most recently Murat Gassiev (who is a Cruiserweight in all seriousness). This asks the question, does Wallin possess the Knockout Power to end fights inside the distance? Or is he reliant on going the distance? And will this play into Anthony Joshuas hands?

Otto Wallin Vs Kamil Sokołowski, May 02nd, 2022 (Boxxer & Sky Sports)

I personally feel now that Anthony Joshua has the experience of going the distance in his fights, which won’t be something which will derail him come Saturday night. He seems much more cautious now to reach the end goal of the fights with Deontay Wilder & Tyson Fury, so a calm and composed display should be on the cards come Saturday night.

Verdict; Anthony Joshua Points Victory in a calm, composed and dominant display.  

Next up on the list is another fantastic Heavyweight Fight, which was one I was rooting for back in 2017 when both men were World Champions (it’s hard to believe it’s six years since both were World Champions at the same time). This fight of course is Deontay Wilder vs Joseph Parker and could quite possibly be a sleeper on this stacked night of boxing.

Although this fight doesn’t really mean anything at this stage in the Heavyweight Division for 2023, there is something quite nostalgic about it. Back in 2017, Deontay Wilder held the WBC Heavyweight World Title (since 2015 after beating Bermane Stiverne for the Vacant Title), and Joseph Parker was the holder of the WBO World Title (since December 2016 after defeating a certain Andy Ruiz Jr.). There was talk in 2017 that these two would face off to unify the WBC & WBO Heavyweight World Titles (whilst Anthony Joshua faced off against Wladimir Klitschko in 2017, unifying the WBA Super & IBF Heavyweight World Titles). It was only a short-term fantasy fight, where both men would go on their separate journeys (Joseph Parker would face Anthony Joshua in 2018 in Unification Bout, and Deontay Wilder would face off against Luis Ortiz and  in 2018).

Deontay Wilder ahead of his first bout with Bermane Stiverne, 2015

This is probably the main reason I am fairly excited about this fight. The nostalgia of it. Two men who wants served such a big purpose in the Heavyweight Division throwing leather to see who still has it. And in my own humble opinion, there really is only one man in the equation in this instance; Deontay Wilder. Wilder still has the punch power, still has the fan appeal and still has the allure of the blockbuster fight with Anthony Joshua.

Don’t get me wrong, Joseph Parker still has appeal, but nothing on the level of Deontay Wilder. Joseph Parker has had his big occasions; the World Title Victory, the World Title Defences, the Unification against Anthony Joshua, the Big Fight against Dillian Whyte, the Double Header with Derek Chisora and the stoppage defeat to Joe Joyce. It feels as though Joseph Parker has gone full circle to this match up with Deontay Wilder. And I have that feeling that after Saturday Night, this may be Parkers farewell.

Verdict; Deontay Wilder KO (Rounds 4-6), after a sluggish start from both men.

Making our way down the list of the Heavyweight Attractions on offer, the third fight on the list falls to Filip Hrgović vs Mark de Mori in a somewhat bizarre affair, with not much reason behind it happening at all. I think it is fair to say right now that Filip Hrgović is the heavy favourite heading into Saturday Night as the Mandatory Challenger for the IBF World Title, coming up against Mark de Mori who, well, hasn’t fought anyone of real note since 2016 (is the name ringing a bell yet?).

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia: Filip Hrgovic vs Zhilei Zhang, Final Eliminator for the IBF Heavyweight World Title. 20 August 2022 Picture By Mark Robinson Matchroom Boxing Filip Hrgovic wins

If the name is ringing a bell, you would be right to think so. Mark de Mori was David Hayes comeback fight back in 2016, where he lasted 1 Round. Since then, he has fought an array of unknown quantities in the Heavyweight Division, which has landed him a shot at the IBF Mandatory Challenger, Filip Hrgović. It’s incredible really, isn’t it?

Let’s not beat around the bush, Hrgović needs to get the job done, doesn’t he? ASAP. Regardless of his last performance against Demsey McKean (which was below par to say the least).

Verdict; Filip Hrgović KO (Rounds 1-3 – go Round 2 if you’re feeling lucky).

Moving down the weight classes now, and we land on Dmitry Bivol Vs Lyndon Arthur for the WBA Light-Heavyweight World Title, which has been well received on this undercard as a World Title Fight. Dmitry Bivol is arguably the best Light-Heavyweight on the planet right now (along with Artur Beterbiev), which is something the Boxing Fraternity are looking forward to in the form of a World Title Fight.

Dmitry Bivol is an outstanding Light-Heavyweight World Champion, and this defence against Lyndon Arthur will be his 11th successive World Title Fight (which all have been successfully defended). From winning the Interim World Title against Felix Valera back in 2016 in only his 7th Professional Fight, winning the outright World Title against Trent Broadhurst in Monte Carlo in 2017 and then defending his World Title against the likes of Sullivan Barrera, Isaac Chilemba, Jean Pascal, Joe Smith Jr., Gilberto Ramírez and most notably Canelo Álvarez back in May 2022 to name a few, Dmitry Bivol has cemented himself as one of, if the not the best Light-Heavyweight on the planet alongside Artur Beterbiev (a fellow Russian who is also unbeaten, and holds the remaining World Titles including IBF, WBC & WBO). This is why Dmitry Bivol will be heading into Saturday Night as a heavy favourite.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: Dmitry Bivol vs Gilberto Zurdo Ramirez, WBA Light Heavyweight World Title. 5 November 2022 Picture By Mark Robinson Matchroom Boxing

Lyndon Arthur will be relishing the challenge on Saturday night, with only one defeat on his record coming in the form of Anthony Yarde back in December 2021 who has also gone on to have his own pathway formed for World Title honours. After obtaining the IBO Light-Heavyweight Title back in September, fortune has landed on Arthur to fight for the outright WBA Light-Heavyweight World Title on Saturday night. Lyndon Arthur has upset the applecart before in his defeat to Anthony Yarde, so although he will be going in as the underdog, he will be expecting to put on a strong performance on Saturday night. And with Dmitry Bivols last 8 fights going the distance, surely Lyndon Arthur will feel confident that won’t possibly get stopped?

Verdict; Dmitry Bivol, Points (possibly late stoppage, Rounds 10-12).

Moving back up the weight classes, along with another World Title Fight (albeit only for the Ring Magazine Cruiserweight World Title, after the IBF World Title was relinquished), Jai Opetaia vs Ellis Zorro takes place in the Cruiserweight division. And some fight this will be, and for a variety of reasons.

Jai Opetaia is arguably the best Cruiserweight on the planet right now. A hard-hitting Southpaw from Australia, Opetaia shook up the Cruiserweight Division back in July 2022 after comfortably beating Mairis Briedis over 12 Rounds and taking the IBF World Title and Ring Magazine Belt along with him. From there, Jai Opetaia has been highly regarded. After a stunning stoppage victory over Jordan Thompson back in September, Jai Opetaia has landed on this card for his hard hitting and no-nonsense approach. However, with the IBF World Title being vacated due to not fighting the Mandatory Challenger, Opetaia may feel as though something is missing off the line, and the importance of the fight may have gone?

Wembley, UK – September 28: Jai Opetaia and Jordan Thompson Final Press Conference ahead of their IBF and Ring Magazine Cruiserweight World Title fight on saturday Night. 28 September 2023 Picture By Mark Robinson Matchroom Boxing Jai Opetaia

Ellis Zorro can bang. And this was seen in his dominant performance against Hosea Burton back in May, where he landed arguably the Knockout of the Year. However, Jai Opetaia is arguably the best Cruiserweight on the planet, and there are levels to this game. With The Ring Magazine on the line, it will be interesting to see who turns up (and who doesn’t).

Verdict; Jai Opetaia, Points (in a very close and cagey fight, where Zorro will have success)

Arguably the most intriguing fight of the night, Daniel Dubois vs Jarrell Miller comes in as welcomed surprise back in the Heavyweight Division. With Daniel Dubois coming off the back of a defeat to Oleksandr Usyk in August and Jarrell Miller looking to rebuild his career after a lengthy spell out of the ring due to adverse analytical findings before his supposed bout with Anthony Joshua back in June 2019, this fight comes as a bit of ‘must-win’ for both men, going off where they both are in their careers.

Although ‘Big Baby’ Jarrell Miller looks like he can bang, his most notable stoppage victories have come against Fred Kassi, Gerald Washington, Mariusz Wach, Tomasz Adamek & Bogdan Dinu (all before the Failed Drugs Test), along with a drawn-out points decision victory over Johann Duhaupas back in April 2018 (which was a terrible fight and saw Miller knackered by the end of the fight). Since his return in June 2022, Miller has gone the distance with Ariel Esteban Bracamonte (who Dave Allen eventually managed to stop – no disrespect Dave), and stoppage victories over Derek Cardenas and Lucas Browne. What is the recurring theme here in these fights? None of them are World Level operators. So it’s easy for Miller to look good here.

Jarrell Miller squaring off against Anthony Joshua back in June 2019 before his Failed Drugs Test

Daniel Dubois has mixed it with top level and elite heavyweights in his 21 Professional Fights, including world level against Joe Joyce and elite level against Oleksandr Usyk back in August. Although nearly 10 years younger than Miller, it feels as though Dubois has already managed to gain much more experience than Miller already.

Verdict; Daniel Dubois KO (Rounds 7-9)

To round everything off, two Heavyweight fights kick the night off from 16:30 on Saturday, including;

Arslanbek Makhmudov vs. Agit Kabayel – this could arguably be fight of the night! Both men are coming in undefeated and both with points to prove in their pursuits of World Title ambitions, we could either see a huge knockout or a shutout points decision on display. I think Makhmudov is a real up and coming contender, who may win via stoppage on Saturday night.

Frank Sanchez vs. Junior Fa – to kick the evening off, I think the Riyadh Crowd will want to see something emphatic. This is why I believe the unbeaten Frank Sanchez will stop Junior Fa in the first half of their fight.

It really is set to be a box office event on Saturday night, with the cream of the heavyweight crop going at it to create the pathway for 2024. It really is a fantastic way to end the year, and something which will lead us nicely into 2024. Hats off to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Riyadh Season!

Catch the action live on Saturday night on TNT Boxing/DAZN in the UK for £19.99 and DAZN throughout the rest of the world. Card kicks off on Saturday at 16:30, UK.

On a final note, it has been an absolute pleasure as ever writing for BBTV in 2023, and a personal goal was to write an article as month as a minimum, which I have managed. Thanks Aky and Chris for the platform, and to the whole of BBTV! Here’s to 2024.

Greg Cooke X BBTV – @greg-cooke / @GC___123

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