2023 was a year action-packed with Kickboxing fights. RISE WS, K-1 World GP, ONE Championship, and GLORY Kickboxing, all showed their best this year. These are the top ten best Kickboxing fights of 2023. The third fight between Akihiro Kaneko against Masashi Kumura was once again an unforgettable war that was voted the best fight of the year and took the top spot.
TOP 10 FIGHTS OF 2023
10. YA-MAN VS. HIROTO YAMAGUCHI
Japan's YA-MAN had an impressive 2023 calendar year. He was able to defeat Mikuru Asakura, a fellow Tokyo street fighter, by way of first-round knockout in the FIGHT CLUB main event. But before that fight could take place, YA-MAN had to survive a slugfest against Hiroto Yamaguchi. With the Kickboxing Open-Finger World Title on the line, the two heavy-handed strikers went to war. After exchanging flurries in the opening round, Yamaguchi was knocked down but got up and egged on his opponent for more. The fight officially ended in the second round via knockout with YA-MAN getting his hand raised.
9. DARRYL VERDONK VS. ILIAS ZOUGGARY
Ilias Zouggary challenged Darryl Verdonk for the ECE Lightweight Championship in the co-main event at Enfusion 118. The challenger came out swinging in the high-pace five-round bout. Zouggary looked the more powerful and dominant but Verdonk had his moments making this a exciting affair. After multiple knockdowns the Dutch-Moroccan fighter closed the deal in the final round.
8. CHAN HYUNG LEE VS HYUMA HITACHI
RISE WS kicked off 2023 with an absolute war, as 'The Korean Devil' Chanhyeong Lee looked to defend his RISE Super Featherweight throne against Japan's Hyuma Hitachi. After five rounds of action, which saw Lee land his overhand and Hitachi swing for the fences, one more round was added. This championship matchup became a six-round slugfest with both men landing heavy leather.
7. CHINGIZ ALLAZOV VS MARAT GRIGORIAN
With the ONE Featherweight Kickboxing World Title on the line, Chingiz Allazov and Marat Grigorian had a long-awaited rematch and left it all in the ring. The challenger, former GLORY and K-1 world champion, Grigorian was able to corner Allazov and pour on a heavy flurry of punches. The Azerbaijan-Belarussian reigning titleholder controlled much of the fight with teep kicks, and heavy right crosses through the guard. It was a memorable clash of styles.
6. TOKI TAMARU VS KAZUKI OSAKI
The 21-year-old Toki Tamaru had a significant challenge ahead of him in the second round of the RISE 54 KG Tournament. He would need to avenge a loss against top pound-for-pound kickboxer Kazuki Osaki. Tamaru looked sharp out of the gate and fought a incredibly measured fight. With tight punching combinations and pressure, he was able to get a close decision win against Osaki and move to the finals of the tournament.
5. KOKI OSAKI VS MASAHIKO SUZUKI
It became an unforgettable battle as Koki Osaki and Masahiko Suzuki threw down with the RISE Bantamweight World Title on the line. Masahiko Suzuki was throwing in combating, mixing heavy punches and kicks, and Koki Osaki returned fire, pivoted on the ropes, and landed a flurry of his own. With a series of punches, knees, and kicks, these two left it all in the ring. The 24-year-old Osaki was able to earn the world title in this barnburner of a match.
4. HASAN TOY VS. SHINTARO MATSUKURA
Hasan Toy attempted his first K-1 Middleweight (75 KG) title defense against Shintaro Matsukura in December of 2023. The two met six month earlier in the K-1 World Grand Prix finals, after having fought twice that night. Unceremoniously, Toy took out the Japanese fighter with the first big hook landed, making the decision to call for a rematch a head-scratcher for many fans. What ensued was a battle of great momentum swings. The two fighters took turns landing clean shots to the body and head and after four close rounds, Shintaro claimed the belt — a controversial decision in the eyes of many fans. A fact aknowledged by the champion right after the fight, "I know I have to fight you again. I owe you one more fight. Let's do the third time and see what will happen".
3. DONOVAN WISSE VS. MICHAEL BOAPEAH
In the biggest fight of the year for GLORY, Donovan Wisse and Michael Boapeah put on the best fight at COLLISION 6. With the Middleweight world title up for grabs, "Time Bomb" Boapeah was determined to walk down and knock out the reigning division king. The Ghanaian-Dutch marched forward and threw bombs in combination to try to put down Wisse. The defending middleweight champion returned with tight punches and wore down the contender. Over five rounds, the Surinamese-Dutch Wisse was able to defend his title for the third time this year.
2. AHMAD CHIKH MOUSA VS. BERJAN PEPOSHI
Featherweights Ahmad Chikh Mousa and Berjan Peposhi put on a classic at GLORY 83. With a shot at the world title hanging in the balance, these two kickboxers threw everything they had at one another. It was a slugfest in a telephone booth kind of fight, with two power punches being answered with three power punches. The judges had the scorecards mixed until a knockdown in the third secured the victory for Chikh Mousa. Overall, the match saw over 500 strikes thrown in just three rounds.
1. AKIHIRO KANEKO VS. MASASHI KUMURA 3
Akihiro Kaneko and Masashi Kumura met in their trilogy match with the K-1 Super Bantamweight Title on the line, and held a striking dream over four rounds. 'Big Frog' Kaneko mixed punching combinations to the body and head, while Kumura found success splitting the guard with jabs and lead hooks. The two strikers stole rounds off of each other with tight and smart strikes but never slowed down or stopped throwing. This was such a well-matched fight that some parts looked like a mirror match with both men throwing the same combination at the same time. It was scored a draw after three so the strikers went to a fourth in which both men threw and landed thunderous punches. Ultimately, Akihiro Kaneko was scored the winner in the series and was able to keep his K-1 world title in this unforgettable match.