World Boxing Super Series
So it's time to turn the calendar, and with a couple of notable bouts (Gennady Golovkin-Ryoto Murata and Kazuto Ioka-Jerwin Ancajas) being post-poned due to covid, boxing is essentially over for 2021. Now we look ahead to the new year.
There are already a good number of fights that are set for the first quarter of 2022, but what are the bouts that this scribe would like to see?
The only real ground rules here are that none of them are currently scheduled. Also, I've tried to come up with fresh new match-ups that haven't been mentioned for a few years (i.e., Errol Spence-Terence Crawford), and not be inhibited by the promotional rivalries that exist in the sport.
So here are ten (in no particular order) that come to mind....
- Naoyo Inoue vs Nonito Donaire II: This here is a rematch of their classic confrontation in November of 2019 that saw Inoue capture the World Boxing Super Series bantamweight championship in Saitama, Japan. Going into the late rounds, 'the Filipino Flash' was neck-and-neck with Inoue before a late knockdown from a left hook to the body sent Donaire down late, and keyed a late rally by Inoue that allowed him to take home the Muhammad Ali Trophy.
World Boxing Super Series
From that point, Inoue has had three outings under the Top Rank banner, but no signature fight of note. While Donaire this past year stopped two undefeated foes (Nordine Oubaali and Reymart Gaballo) in four rounds. Both aren't just elite bantamweights ( Inoue is the Ring Magazine champion, while Donaire is ranked first), but still among the games overall elite.
- Tyson Fury vs Oleksandr Usyk: OK, admittedly this bout has been talked about a lot. But as of now, unless Anthony Joshua agrees to a step-aside deal, this one wont happen till at least the second half of 2022. The reason I chose this one is very simple: it's between the two best big men in the world. Not much more needs to be said.
Fury, the WBC champion, is the universally recognized heavyweight champion of the world, and he reaffirmed his status with his memorable 11th round TKO of Deontay Wilder in October. While Usyk captured the other three belts by conclusively defeating Joshua on his home turf. Yeah, Fury would have the decided size advantage versus Usyk, but how he would counter his movement, mobility and boxing IQ?
- Dmitry Bivol vs Gilberto Ramirez: Here's a fight between two undefeated boxers that truly need a defining victory as they try and get into the Canelo Alvarez sweepstakes. Bivol, the reigning WBA light heavyweight belt-holder is a sound and solid boxer, but his recent bouts have been rather methodical (many others would say flat out boring), while Ramirez in his most recent performances has been more entertaining.
You get the sense in this one that 'Zurdo' would be the aggressor, and it would be interesting to see how Bivol handles that pressure.
- Josh Taylor vs Jose Zepeda: Taylor is the undisputed junior welterweight champion. He consolidated all four belts after handing Jose Ramirez his first professional defeat. 'the Tartan Tornado' in his last four bouts has faced undefeated boxers (and the fifth was Viktor Postol, who had just a lone loss on his ledger). He is one of the most accomplished and battle tested boxers in recent memory.
Mike Williams/Top Rank
Zepeda is a dangerous foe, especially when he is motivated and focused. Josue Vargas can attest to that as his pre-fight antics got his attention, and he got sparked out in one round. Like Taylor, Vargas is a southpaw, and one that can really bang. He is currently ranked number two by the Ring. This pairing would be relatively easy to consummate but you wonder if Taylor has designs on moving up to welterweight after facing Jack Catterall.
Jermall Charlo vs. Jaime Munguia: Here's a bout that could easily be mandated by the WBC as Charlo is their belt-holder at 160, and Munguia their top rated contender. While on the surface Charlo should be the favorite in this contest, he had some struggles against Juan Macias Montiel in June. While he won handily on points, he hit some rough patches in that fight. How would he fare versus the volume of Munguia
Speaking of Munguia, under the guidance of Erik Morales, he seems to be making progress as a more complete fighter. There is more nuance to his attack now, which has always been about activity and pressure. While he was just really a prospect who happened to have a belt at 154, he is now turning into a legitimate middleweight contender.
Kevin Estrada/Golden Boy Promotions
Mikaela Mayer vs Alycia Baumgardner: Yeah, a womans bout, you read that correctly. The last two outings of these two ladies has gotten me interested in them squaring off. Mayer battled tooth-and-nail over 10 round versus the tough Maiva Hamadouche to capture the IBF junior lightweight belt in November. This was one of the best fights of 2021.
Baumgardner, scored one of the best knockouts against Terri Harper, who was basically out on her feet after taking a right hand 'baum', to win the WBC belt on the road.
Mayer is the Ring champion at 130, while Baumgardner is rated second. Both ladies have been barking at one another over social media. It's clear that they both want this assignment
Amanda Serrano vs Katie Taylor: If there is a female boxer who is a true draw, it's Katie Taylor, the undisputed lightweight champion. Taylor has been featured on prime slots of numerous Matchroom Sports cards the past several years.
The highly regarded Serrano has gotten a recent push from Jake Paul (appearing as the semi-main on his cards) and is a multi-faceted boxer. There has been a lot of chatter about this fight in the past but it's never come to fruition. The time seems to be now to make this become a reality. In the Ring Magazine pound-for-pound ratings, Taylor is ranked at the top, with Serrano coming in at third.
Saul Alvarez vs Artur Beterbiev: It's not clear what Canelo will do in the upcoming year. There has been talk of a foray at cruiserweight but a match-up against the unified light heavyweight champion is the one that is really intriguing. Yeah, Alvarez stopped Sergey Kovalev a few years ago, but that was a faded version of 'the Krusher'. How would he deal with the bruising Beterbiev who sports a 100-percent knockout rate.
Conventional wisdom states that Beterbiev is simply too big and strong. But there is an argument to be made that Alvarez has decided advantages in speed and skill. Keep this in mind, not only is Alvarez the younger fighter in his physical prime, he's also been much more active than Beterbiev.
Regis Prograis vs Teofimo Lopez: Prograis is still a junior welterweight according to him and his handlers. Since dropping a close decision to Taylor in the World Boxing Super Series 140-pound finals in the fall of 2019, he has fought two rather nondescript bouts. Regardless, he's a well-rounded boxer-puncher, but it's long past due for a significant bout.
After getting upset by George Kambosos for his lightweight titles, Lopez will be making the move up to 140. It was no secret the strain of making the 135-pound limit was having on him. You get the sense that at age 23 he can recover physically from his loss, you just wonder about the lingering psychological effects.
Prograis-Lopez would be a fight that would tell us a lot about both men and their current standing.
Shakur Stevenson vs Emanuel Navarrete: Stevenson is one of the most sound technicians in the sport. At 24 years old he has a command and presence inside the ring that is rare. Defensively he is air tight, and he's a sharp enough puncher to always get your attention. He recently dethroned Jamel Herring for the WBO junior lightweight strap, scoring a 10th round stoppage. Stevenson is a precocious sort, who believes he's destined for great things in his career.
Mikey Williams/Top Rank
Meanwhile, Navarrete doesn't have the boxing acumen of Stevenson but he's one of the most crowd-pleasing fighters in all of boxing with his relentless two-fisted attack that comes from all angles. This Mexican just overwhelms his foe with a constant barrage of leather.
This would be an interesting contrast of styles. Would 'el Vaquero' be able to corral Stevenson, and how would Stevenson deal with the pressure of Navarrete?
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