Alan Hubbard

It wasn’t quite as the late Queen Elizabeth II once memorably said, an annus horribilis, but 2022 saw little reason to be joyful. 

The world in post pandemic recession, a war in Ukraine, climate change bringing devastation to a number of countries and here in Britain a political pantomime played out in Downing Street.

Thank goodness for sport, which at least shone some light through the doom and gloom.

There was plenty to keep us entertained not least on the football field where England's Lionesses roared their way to unprecedented glory, putting their talented feet through another glass ceiling.

A few weeks later male counterparts did as well as most of us expected to reach the quarter-finals of a World Cup in Qatar which actually exceeded expectations despite the ever present shroud of controversy.

Leaving aside the still pertinent question of whether it should have been played in a Middle Eastern outpost the size of the Isle of Wight, with a dubious history of human rights, the tournament was well staged and provided us with some absorbing, often scintillating, football.

Helpfully refreshing too not to be witnessing ugly scenes of drunken fans causing mayhem. No doubt they got the message that Qatar would have no truck with that.

Similarly we must hope that Qatar has got the message the world wished to impart and that their society becomes more tolerant and so to 2023 and the hope that sport again will be an uplifting spirit.

There is plenty to choose from - can the Lionesses repeat their Euros triumph in the FIFA Women’s World Cup? Then there is the Rugby World Cup 2023, the final of which will be held in the Stade de France, venue for the Paris 2024 Olympics a year later.

Our columnist predicts that Tyson Fury's heavyweight World Boxing Championship fight against Oleksandr Usyk will be one of the sporting highlights of 2023 ©Getty Images
Our columnist predicts that Tyson Fury's heavyweight World Boxing Championship fight against Oleksandr Usyk will be one of the sporting highlights of 2023 ©Getty Images

Plus the inaugural Cycling World Championships in Glasgow, the 2023 Aquatics World Championships in Japan, and of course the Cricket World Cup 2023 in India, where England’s aspirations are on a high following the installation of an inspired new captain in Ben Stokes.

And if none of these is your bag, then there’s always the Gay Games, featuring some 30 sports in Hong Kong.

You don’t have to be gay to compete - just happy!

In all probability the highlight of the 2023 sporting calendar will be the unification of the world heavyweight boxing championship between Britain’s Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk of Ukraine.

The last unified champion was Lennox Lewis, who retired in 2003. The contest between Fury and Usyk has been long-awaited and is now in the final stages of negotiation.

It is likely to be held in Saudi Arabia in early spring but according to Fury’s British promoter Frank Warren, Wembley is not out of the running.

The clash of two unbeaten champions is set to be one of the biggest fights of all time and the pair are set to share around $250 million (£207 million/€235 million), or possibly more depending on pay-per-view figures.

Fury will start as a slight favourite but I like Usyk, who may be much smaller and lighter, to fight back from the deft manner in which he unbuckled Anthony Joshua's three belts.

He clearly has the know-how to to outbox the giant World Boxing Council champion.

However my hunch is that this will be the first of yet another Tyson trilogy, following those against Deontay Wilder and more recently Derek Chisora.

So here’s hoping for an even happier sporting New Year.