Following on from yesterday’s look at the lower weight classes, it’s time to make a dent in the bigger weights as we look to solve the never-ending puzzle of unifications and lineal statuses.
Looking past Mikey Garcia’s next fight in part one, allows us to look past Errol Spence’s next fight. Of course, they both meet on March 16, however, Spence’s truest test should fall later in the calendar year. Terence Crawford (34-0) has made a successful transition up to welterweight - currently holding the WBO strap — and is a prime candidate for a unification bout with the 28-year-old with both of their 0s on the line.
Spence has bulldozed his way through a who’s who of the 147-pounds division, however, with Kell Brook still the standout name on his record, a win against a top three pound-for-pound fighter in Crawford would cement his place as the man to beat at welter.
This one may prove to be one of the hardest fights to make on the list; it shouldn’t lessen the appetite for us as fans to crave it.
Canelo’s next move is one of the hardest to predict. Golden Boy’s strategy is yet to be unveiled by Oscar de la Hoya, with a myriad of options still on the table for May 4. Despite denying that this fight will be next, Canelo vs. Daniel Jacobs takes a deserving place on 2019’s wishlist.
Jacobs’ split decision win over Sergiy Derevyanchenko in October may have slightly slipped under the radar on a world stage. The win secured the ‘Miracle Man’ with the vacant IBF title, laying to rest his controversial loss to Gennady Golovkin in March of last year.
Jacobs’ performance in that loss has angled him into contention for the biggest fights at 160-pounds; now he has one of the four titles the carrot is there for Canelo to bite if the Mexican is to continue building his legacy.
There are plenty of other options available for Canelo next year. Jermall Charlo, Demetrius Andrade, Billy Joe Saunders and, of course, Gennady Golovkin will all continue to sniff around the Canelo work, however, Jacobs provides the biggest test at this stage of their careers. Whether the Mexican looks to stay at 168-pounds in his next fight is unknown - the super-middle division doesn’t offer Alvarez that stand out fight in 2019, despite an admiration of Callum Smith.
The light-heavys offer a multitude of opportunities in 2019. If the World Boxing Super Series are struggling for attention, the 175-pounds division is surely one to look at in the next season to bring the same sort of unmissable action the cruisers provided in season one.
Dmitry Bivol, Oleksandr Gvozdyk, Artur Beterbiev and Eleider Álvarez hold the straps, with Sergey Kovalev rematching Álvarez for a shot at regaining the WBO version; five real contenders for the right to rule the division.
Bivol vs. Gvozdyk looks to be the pick of the bunch. Gvozdyk’s rise to join Lomachenko and Usyk as a Ukrainian world champion has opened doors for the 31-year-old who has flown under the radar. His victory over Stevenson at the start of this month signalled a change in the landscape amongst the light-heavys, with his superior ring IQ looking likely to prove his biggest asset over the other four champions.
Bivol sprung onto the scene two years ago and has built his reputation on a cold, calculated puncher. The Russian sets his shots up beautifully and would be an interesting test for the differing intelligence of the Ukrainian. If styles make fights, this is the fight to make at 175-pounds with the pair looking hard to split.
Onto Oleksandr Usyk. The undisputed cruiserweight king - and, surely, undisputed Fight of the Year - has had an incredible 2018. Wins over Briedis, Gassiev and Bellew in their own backyards as well as scooping the WBSS Muhammad Ali trophy has seen the Ukrainian look for pastures new. Pastures new, at heavyweight.
It hasn’t been confirmed yet, however, Usyk looks set to take a leap into the land of the giants in 2019 as he looks to test his ring generalship against the biggest hitters in the sport.
He’ll need to grow into this weight. At 6ft 3in and a career at the 200-pounds limit, ‘The Cat’ will give up size and strength to the bigger, more established heavyweights; it’s unlikely he will gain a world title shot in 2019, however, that doesn’t mean there aren’t options out there for him.
Joseph Parker seems a prime candidate. The Kiwi has two losses on his record now after coming up short against Dillian Whyte and Anthony Joshua; stylistically the former WBO world heavyweight champion could be made for Usyk. Both have experience of fighting in the UK, with Matchroom working well with both parties — it’s hardly a “wishlist” fight, but Usyk being tested at heavyweight is high on the list for 2019.
Finally, the real heavyweight puzzle. Anthony Joshua vs. Tyson Fury vs. Deontay Wilder. Any one of these three combinations has to take place in 2019 for the division to keep moving and growing.
Unifying the division with a Joshua vs. Wilder bout would make the most sense for the April 13 Wembley Stadium date, with Fury’s “lineal” status challenging the eventual winner of the two belt holders.
There is a healthy pool of contenders ready to slug it out for a potential break into this top three. Luis Ortiz still has plenty to give; Dillian Whyte has improved significantly over the past two years; Jarrell Miller is completely untested but could prove to be a fun addition to the mix.
The heavyweights will continue to attract worldwide attention sitting at the top of our sport; let’s just hope we are not looking at “what could have been” five years from now.
Boxing wishlist for 2019
- Anthony Joshua vs. Deontay Wilder vs. Tyson Fury
- Oleksandr Usyk at heavyweight
- Dmitry Bivol vs. Oleksandr Gvozdyk
- Canelo Alvarez vs. Daniel Jacobs
- Terence Crawford vs. Errol Spence Jr.
- Vasiliy Lomachenko vs. Mikey Garcia
- Naoya Inoue vs. Luis Nery
- Srisaket Sor Rungvisai vs. Jerwin Ancajas