The world of heavyweight boxing is set to land in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on December 23, as former champions Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder headline a thrilling night of action.

This high-stakes yet controversial event promises fireworks, with multiple intriguing matchups on the card. As the boxing world turns its attention to Riyadh, here are five key bouts that demand close scrutiny, boasting the dynamism and unpredictability that makes the sport a global spectacle.

The backdrop to the event

Boxing fans heading to Riyadh from the United States or Europe may be in for a culture shock. Drinking is banned in the Middle Eastern country, as is betting on any event. There’ll be no way of placing an internet bet either with everything from sports bettors to online casinos prohibited.

Instead, attendees will have just the fighting to focus on and with eight big fights lined up, it’s unlikely they’ll get bored.

Some of the most high-profile figures in the boxing world will be on display and this article will cover some of the most notable matchups.

Anthony Joshua vs Otto Wallin

Anthony Joshua is probably the biggest name on the bill in Riyadh. The British boxer aims to reclaim his position in the heavyweight division’s title race by facing Sweden’s Otto Wallin.

Joshua, victorious in his recent bout against Robert Helenius, is confident in his ability to defeat Wallin and envisions a triumphant return to the pinnacle of the heavyweight division.

Promoter Eddie Hearn acknowledges the challenge posed by Wallin and anticipates a significant chapter in Joshua’s career, setting the stage for potential future bouts, including a massive showdown with Deontay Wilder in 2024.

Deontay Wilder vs Joseph Parker

Another big heavyweight showdown will take place on the undercard with Joseph Parker set to face Deontay Wilder.

Eddie Hearn anticipates a challenging night for Parker, predicting a potentially painful outcome when he crosses gloves with the formidable Wilder.

The clash between these former world champions carries vital implications, as a victory for Wilder could pave the way for a highly anticipated bout against Anthony Joshua in the coming year, provided Joshua triumphs over Otto Wallin on the same fight card.

Despite Wilder’s 14-month period of inactivity, Hearn, who will be ringside for the event, expresses confidence in Wilder’s punching prowess, believing he will secure a victory within the first six rounds.

But what of Joseph Parker? The Kiwi certainly packs a punch and boasts a proud career record, but Wilder is likely to be a step too far for the 31-year-old veteran.

Dmitry Bivol vs Lyndon Arthur

WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol (21-0, 11KOs) is set to defend his title against Lyndon Arthur (23-1, 16KOs) at the event.

Bivol, known for his Soviet-style approach, boasts a flawless record and aims for his 11th title defense. Having triumphed over formidable opponents, including a dominant victory over Gilberto ‘Zurdo’ Ramirez, Bivol is considered among the top pound-for-pound fighters globally.

Lyndon Arthur, with one defeat to his record, faces a daunting challenge against Bivol’s precision punching and lightning-quick footwork. Despite Arthur’s explosive power and renowned jab, Bivol is the clear favorite.

If Bivol secures the expected victory, a potential showdown with fellow world champion Artur Beterbiev awaits, offering the prospect of becoming the first undisputed 175-pound champion in the four-belt era.

While rumors circulate about a 2024 showdown, both champions must successfully negotiate their upcoming challenges for the much-anticipated clash to materialize.

The prediction leans towards a one-sided contest, with Bivol showcasing masterful boxing and securing a knockout between rounds 7-12.

Ellis Zorro vs Jai Opetaia

Australian cruiserweight champion Jai Opetaia is set to defend his titles against England’s Ellis Zorro on December 23.

Opetaia, undefeated and coming off a successful title defense against Jordan Thompson, is considered a significant favorite in the match. Despite Zorro’s undefeated record, Opetaia’s experience and knockout victories make him the clear frontrunner.

Opetaia views the bout as an opportunity to make a statement and prepares for a potential rematch against former champion Mairis Briedis.

The one that got away

Despite these successful billings, the “Day Of Reckoning” event did have to overcome a huge problem to get here.

It originally had WBC champion Tyson Fury scheduled to face Oleksander Usyk but Fury’s tough recent contest against Francis Ngannou means the champ has decided to rest until the new year.

It does mean, though, that the Fury/Usyk fight is still on the cards for Saudi Arabia, and will likely form the main attraction when the world’s brightest stars next descend on Riyadh in 2024.

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