Nothing is guaranteed in boxing but that doesn’t stop fight fans dreaming of potential classics being signed and sealed in the months ahead.
And with the new year upon us, it’s the perfect time to do just that. So below is our wish list for 2016 in each of the weight divisions.
Heavyweight: Anthony Joshua v David Haye
It’s not a title fight but this all-British affair promises much.
Former WBA champion Haye is back and whatever his reasons – right, wrong or purely financial – he remains a big name. He fights Aussie Mark de Mori this month and if he can look the fast, explosive Haye of old then a bout with ‘AJ’ would become all the more likely.
Haye, inactive for almost three years, would want another outing before facing Joshua, who looks likely to take on Dereck Chisora in April. If they both keep winning, and in Haye’s case looking the part, it could be a major event for the back end of 2016 with the winner surely destined for a title shot.
Joshua’s youth, size, athleticism, brute force and momentum versus Haye’s speed, power and experience. Yes please.
Cruiserweight: Krzysztof Glowacki v Oleksandr Usyk
Poland’s Glowacki climbed off the canvas to blow away Marco Huck in the 11th round last August and claim the WBO title in one of 2015’s biggest upsets. Usyk, who won gold at London 2012 as a heavyweight, is highly regarded and already rated No1 by the WBO. He’s only had nine pro fights, winning all by stoppage, and it would be interesting to see how he handles the step up to face the big-punching Glowacki.
Light-heavyweight: Sergey Kovalev v Adonis Stevenson/Andre Ward
A year ago, Kovalev vs Stevenson was one of our wishes for 2015 and the fact it hasn’t happened does boxing no favours.
Kovalev has three major belts, Stevenson the other. It’s time we found out definitively who the best 175-pounder is, regardless of their respective contractual ties.
The perennially frustrating Ward looks set for a run at light-heavyweight with an HBO-backed clash with Kovalev mooted for late 2016. That would present an intriguing mesh of styles with Kovalev’s ruthless power up against Ward’s cunning and defensive acumen.
Super Middleweight: James DeGale v Badou Jack
IBF champion DeGale is starting to look like a man at the top of his game. He is full of confidence right now and a unification with WBC champ Jack makes sense to all. Few expected Jack to beat Anthony Dirrell last April and he was also expected to lose his title in his first defence against George Groves. Also look out for another Brit, Calum Smith, making more waves.
Middleweight: Saul Alvarez v Gennady Golovkin
Financially it’s the biggest fight which can be made in boxing right now. Golovkin stands at the threshold of celebrity, while Canelo is already a superstar in the hispanic world and big in the US. It could be a huge event and a showdown between two aggressive, high-class boxer-punchers could only deliver a thrilling spectacle. Triple G would take it tomorrow, while Alvarez seems to want to bide his time. Both will fight at least once more, so let’s hope it isn’t on this list again in a year’s time.
Light Middleweight: Liam Smith v Demetrius Andrade
The 154-pound division perhaps isn’t the strongest right now and it would be nice to see the gifted Andrade get his career back on track.
He was stripped of his WBO belt for inactivity after a promotional dispute saw him spend 16 months out of the ring. Liverpool’s Smith now holds that title and Andrade would love the chance to reclaim it.
Welterweight: Kell Brook v Amir Khan
The 147-pound division is stacked with talent but this all-British affair is up there with the best it can offer. Bad blood, a seemingly favourable marriage of styles and no clear favourite – it has all the ingredients. Khan has skill, speed and pedigree but his vulnerable chin and Brook’s edge in power would keep it in the balance right up to the final bell. June 4 is a possible date.
Light welterweight: Terence Crawford v Adrien Broner
Crawford has let performances do his talking in a way Broner has failed miserably to do so since moving up from lightweight. Promotional ties make this tantalising all-American clash a slim hope, but substitute either man for Lucas Matthysse or Ruslan Provodnikov and you’d have great match-ups.
Lightweight: Jorge Linares v Felix Verdejo
It’s a big year for Verdejo, 22, and if he keeps winning then he should be in title contention by the end of 2016. Venezuelan Linares is widely considered the division’s No1 and a clash with Verdejo would guarantee fireworks. Whether the Puerto Rican can make that sort of progress inside 12 months remains to be seen, but this is a wish list…
Super-featherweight: Takashi Uchiyama v Nicholas Walters
Japan’s Uchiyama has long been regarded the top man at 130lbs and, according to Walters’ promoter Bob Arum, an agreement is in place for this fight to happen. Uchiyama, who took out Oliver Flores in three rounds on New Year’s Eve, would travel to the US to take on the Axe Man, who dominated Jason Sosa last month despite the judges inexplicably seeing it as a draw.
Featherweight: Leo Santa Cruz v Lee Selby
Santa Cruz, the WBA champion, and Selby, the IBF belt holder, fight under Al Haymon’s PBC brand so there’s no reason this unification shouldn’t happen. Santa Cruz, who looked great against Abner Mares in August, would be a big step up for Selby, but the flamboyant Welshman has bags of talent.
Super bantamweight: Scott Quigg v Carl Frampton
— Matchroom Boxing (@MatchroomBoxing) January 3, 2016
This one is a done deal for February 27. Recent form suggests a scrap too close to call and both come to fight. If it delivers on its promise then expect a rematch.
The best of the rest: Roman Gonzalez v Juan Estrada II
The inredible ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez (44-0, 38ko) sits at the top of many people’s pound-for pound lists. Yet one of his hardest fights, and the only time he has been taken the distance in the past five years, was against Estrada.
The Mexican has won seven straight since that thrilling 2012 bout and there’s every chance we will see them do it again in 2016.
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