The sport of boxing struggled a bit to get off the ground in 2020. Despite starting the year with a bang in Tyson Fury’s destruction of Deontay Wilder in their heavyweight title rematch, the rest of the sport failed to deliver on the big-time events that needed to take place without the prospects of a live gate or fans in attendance. Yes, Teofimo Lopez’s stunning upset of Vasiliy Lomachenko was great, but it marked the only significant title fight during the pandemic until December rolled around.
As we move toward 2021, there’s much talk again of making superfights that fans have been dying to see. With that in mind — along with the prospects of some fresh faces entering the pound-for-pound discussion — our experts took a shot at some predictions for what we could see happen in the new year.
No Anthony Joshua vs. Tyson Fury this year
No matter what they or promoter Eddie Hearn says, these two aren’t fighting next year. They might eventually come to an agreement, but it won’t be soon. Joshua clearly doesn’t want it that much and also doesn’t like being pressured. Fury seems to want the fight badly, but if Joshua continues to balk, Deontay Wilder is there for a trilogy fight as a backup plan. There are legitimate roadblocks to this fight happening, including mandatories both have to work through. Joshua’s is particularly interesting considering his mandatory — Oleksandr Usyk — could create a really competitive bout. But I don’t buy any of the talk that “now is the time” or “if the parties involved don’t do it they’ll regret it the rest of their lives” or anything else they might say publicly. Boxing’s architecture makes putting these fights together harder than it needs to be, Joshua’s interest is lukewarm and there actually is no cost to not doing it other than affirming everyone’s suspicions about what they already knew about boxing’s ability to deliver on fan expectations in a timely way. — Luke Thomas
No undisputed champions in 2021
Boxing struggles to get out of its own way too regularly to see any of these scenarios play out. Tyson Fury vs. Anthony Joshua seems so obvious and so easy, but there are still a lot of political details to iron out, and it just feels too good to be true. Similarly, lightweight could easily see an undisputed champion with Teofimo Lopez facing Devin Haney — sorry to rain on everyone’s parade, but Lopez is not undisputed yet given Haney holds the WBC belt. The WBC has already said the winner of Ryan Garcia vs. Luke Campbell will be Haney’s mandatory and that Javier Fortuna is Haney’s “second mandatory.” That might be for the best for Haney, who is talented, but doesn’t look on Lopez’s level quite yet. Even “good for boxing” situations like a potential Errol Spence vs. Terence Crawford fight wouldn’t be for “all the belts.” There’s a lot to like about boxing right now, but the sport is what it is and will continue shooting itself in the foot. — Brent Brookhouse
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Shakur Stevenson takes over the P4P discussion
Anyone who questions whether the 23-year-old former featherweight champion is ready for things like making a run at fighter of the year in 2021 while inserting himself into the overall pound-for-pound debate needs to look back at the fighter he’s most often compared to. Floyd Mayweather was just 21 when he did both in 1999 and Stevenson repeating such a feat in the same calendar year isn’t out of play given the 2016 Olympic silver medalist’s sublime skills. Stevenson could open the year facing the Jamel Herring-Carl Frampton winner for a 130-pound title and has his sights set on former P4P king Vasiliy Lomachenko after that. — Brian Campbell
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