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10 fights we need in boxing in 2020

Forget the political situations, the TV situations, and everything else. Let’s talk about what SHOULD happen in the sport next year.

Tom Pennington/Al Bello/Getty Images
Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

Boxing is a challenging sport to follow. There are fights that seem to make all the sense in the world and would make everyone involved a lot of money — which is supposed to be the name of the game, we’re arrogantly told whenever something doesn’t happen.

And yet, they don’t happen as often as they should. Political rivalries between promoters dominate the reasons why, and everyone has to fill a lot of dates with their content partners these days, so there is pressure to put on X amount of cards, meaning your own guys become even more valuable, makes it tough to agree to send a star to another platform for a big fight.

In the normal news cycle and all that, we make sure to point this out, because it matters. But today, as we’re wishlisting fights we want to see in 2020, screw all that. Let’s just talk about what SHOULD happen.

So here are 10 fights for 2020 that absolutely should be made, and everyone should just put on their big boy pants and cash the fat checks that would come from making them.

This list is in not in order of demand, we’ll just go by weight, from the big boys on down.

Tyson Fury OR Deontay Wilder vs Anthony Joshua

British boxer Anthony Joshua wins back his world heavyweight titles in Saudi Arabia Photo by Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images

Since we already know we’re getting Wilder-Fury 2 on Feb. 22, we can do an “or” for this one. The winner of that rematch should fight Anthony Joshua; even if one of the belts somebody holds had to go vacant, the world and the public would know that we’d officially crowned The Man in the heavyweight division, and in no other division is this more important for engaging casual sports fans and turning them into people who might start caring about boxing regularly again.

As much as the Mayweather/Pacquiao era carried the sport at welterweight for years, and as big a star as Oscar De La Hoya was in the 1990s into the 2000s, the heavyweights will always be the glamour division for the casual audience. It’s the division of Louis and Marciano and Ali and Tyson. If the heavyweight division isn’t cracking, it can be tough to sustain interest in the sport.

The more likely way this happens is if Fury (29-0-1, 20 KO) beats Wilder (42-0-1, 41 KO), probably, as Fury, while promoted by Top Rank and a featured star for ESPN’s boxing brand, marches to the beat of his own drummer more than just about anyone else in the sport today. If he feels the time is right to fight AJ in 2020, he’ll probably make it happen. Wilder and Joshua (23-1, 21 KO) have negotiated, and there’s bad blood between the teams. It could happen, of course, but the better bet would seem to be Fury-Joshua over Wilder-Joshua.

Artur Beterbiev vs Dmitry Bivol

Light heavyweight world title unification boxing bout Beterbiev vs Gvozdyk in Philadelphia, US Photo by Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images

Artur Beterbiev remained doubted going into his Oct. 18 unification bout with Oleksandr Gvozdyk. Many felt Gvozdyk’s better, slicker boxing skills would be able to neutralize the mauling, outrageously physical style of Beterbiev.

But it didn’t happen. Beterbiev (15-0, 15 KO) beat Gvozdyk into submission, more or less, unifying the IBF and WBC titles, and now the 34-year-old Russian terminator is seen largely as the top guy in the division.

With Gvozdyk conquered and the other top names like Sergey Kovalev and Jean Pascal, with due respect to them, past their best days, the best opponent now for Beterbiev would be WBA titleholder Bivol (17-0, 11 KO), a 29-year-old who had a somewhat quiet year with defenses against Joe Smith Jr and Lenin Castillo.

Bivol was once being sold by HBO as a sort of light heavyweight Gennadiy Golovkin, but he’s not that; if anyone at 175 has the energy of prime destroyer GGG, it’s Beterbiev. But Bivol might be the Canelo who can really strongly test the limits of Beterbiev’s attack, too. A sharp, confident boxer who hasn’t thrilled recently but effectively gets the job done and doesn’t make many mistakes, Bivol might well get bullied by Beterbiev, too, or he might have the right skill set and game plan to give the bruiser fits.

Callum Smith vs Canelo Alvarez

Canelo Alvarez v Sergey Kovalev Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images

No, a third fight between Canelo Alvarez (53-1-2, 36 KO) and Gennadiy Golovkin is not on my list. I won’t argue with it if it happens, mind you, but my suspicion is that the 29-year-old Alvarez really might now be beyond Golovkin, who will turn 38 in April. I’m just not sure it’s the best fight for either of them at this point, but it’d make money and certainly have some intrigue, so again, not gonna be mad if we get it.

Instead, though, I’d like to see the Mexican superstar fight WBA super middleweight titleholder Callum Smith (27-0, 19 KO), for a couple of reasons.

First of all, I want to see just how real Smith truly is. He got talked up big-time once he knocked out George Groves in 2018, but that was a competitive fight beforehand and Groves kinda had a foot out the door already. It’s not like he totally blew away guys like Erik Skoglund or Nieky Holzken, and last we saw him on Nov. 23, he struggled mightily against John Ryder.

I scored that fight for Ryder, but the judges gave it to Smith. Ryder is no Canelo Alvarez, but like Alvarez he’s also not a natural super middleweight, certainly not a big one. I’ve argued a few times this year that I don’t think Smith is all that he’s cracked up to be; I’ve said, and I will say again, that I think he’s about exactly as talented as his older brother Liam, he just happens to be a massive, 6’3” super middleweight with a 78-inch reach. Liam is a fine fighter who’s had a good career, mind you, but nobody has ever argued him as elite.

The other reason: I’ve taken Alvarez’ wins over Rocky Fielding at 168 and Sergey Kovalev at 175 seriously enough, I believe, but Fielding was gruesomely overmatched and Kovalev was old, faded, and cherry-picked. It is what it is. If Alvarez wants to count 168 as a division where he’s won a title, let’s see him take Smith’s, not the paper version of Smith’s that Fielding held.

Gennadiy Golovkin vs Ryota Murata

Gennady Golovkin v Steve Rolls Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

I still have GGG on my list, and the matchup I’d most like to see isn’t the IBF titleholder from Kazakhstan unifying with Demetrius Andrade (WBO) or Jermall Charlo (WBC), although those would be fine ideas.

I’d like to see him head over to Japan and take on Ryota Murata, something that was seriously discussed late in 2018 before Murata was upset by Rob Brant in Las Vegas. Earlier this year, Murata (16-2, 13 KO) thrashed Brant in a rematch, and dominated Steven Butler a week ago, both fights in Japan, where Murata is a legitimate star.

Japan is a great boxing country, but it’s rare to see true top-tier money names in the sport go over there for a fight. An aging Golovkin (40-1-1, 35 KO) against a not-exactly-young Murata could be a great chance to do that, and it’s still a plenty relevant fight in the 160-pound division; not only that, but it could be a tremendous fight. Murata at his best is aggressive and a strong puncher, same for Gennadiy. But that doesn’t mean either guy is an unskilled brawler, either. This could be a terrific stylistic matchup and a chance for the Japanese fans to see a top worldwide attraction on their turf. Prior talk had this going to the Tokyo Dome, which would be great. The biggest roadblock here might be less promoters or fighters or sanctioning bodies, but DAZN (who would no doubt insist on being the US platform for this fight) potentially balking at putting one of its top-paid stars, Golovkin, in a fight that would air live in the early morning hours US time.

Errol Spence Jr vs Terence Crawford

Terence Crawford v Egidijus Kavaliauskas Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

There are lots of good fighters at 147, and good fights to make with them, pretty much all contained within the PBC family. And while the reported possible fight between Top Rank’s Crawford and PBC’s Shawn Porter is a good one, and while Manny Pacquiao remains the biggest attraction at the weight, it’s no secret that Spence-Crawford is The Fight at 147. It has been for some time now.

Admittedly, this is probably a fight for late in 2020 given the current situation. Spence (26-0, 21 KO) is coming off of nearly dying in a single-car accident this past fall, and he’ll want to tune up, understandably, as he comes back from his injuries and whatever mental toll it’s all taken on him. Crawford (36-0, 27 KO) says he wants the big fights with any of the PBC guys, but he’s also shown patience, at least publicly, so waiting until later in the year wouldn’t be the worst thing.

This is a fight that really has to get done if things hold and they stay 1-2 by the time Spence would really be ready to even possibly do it. Spence is turning 30 in a couple weeks, Crawford will be 33 next year. Let’s do it while they’re both in top form, or as close as we can get from here on.

Josh Taylor vs Jose Ramirez

Regis Prograis v Josh Taylor - World Boxing Super Series Super-Lightweight Ali Trophy Final Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images

If Taylor (16-0, 12 KO) and Ramirez (25-0, 17 KO) can manage to not be forced into vacating one of their belts, this could be a full-on undisputed championship fight at 140 pounds. These guys established themselves as 1-2 at the weight in 2019, with Taylor beating Regis Prograis in October to unify the IBA and WBA titles, while Ramirez has the WBC and WBO belts after his July win over Maurice Hooker.

Ramirez is currently slated to make a mandatory WBC defense in China on Feb. 1 against Viktor Postol, which should be a fight he wins, as solid as Postol still is. Taylor likely will fight someone by the spring, and if they both come out victorious, this is a no-brainer fight to make.

Ramirez, who’s a live draw at home in Fresno, Calif., showed a willingness to go to an opponent’s turf when he fought Hooker in Texas, so the fact that this fight is worth the most money in the UK probably shouldn’t be a problem. Platform and all that would have to be hammered out, but it’s just a great fight, and neither guy is worth SO much money that it should be impossible by any means.

Vasiliy Lomachenko vs Teofimo Lopez

Vasiliy Lomachenko v Luke Campbell - WBC, WBA, WBO and Ring Magazine Lightweight World Title Fight Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

This is one it looks like we’re getting in April, but it’s not official yet, so it has to be on this list. Lomachenko (14-1, 10 KO) holds the WBA and WBO lightweight titles, and is considered by many the pound-for-pound best in the game. Young Lopez (15-0, 12 KO) firmly made an unquestioned mark at 135 on Dec. 14, cracking out Richard Commey inside two rounds to take the IBF belt.

Lomachenko will turn 32 in February, and would have massive experience advantages against Lopez. There’s also no doubt that Loma is the superior technician. But Lomachenko is fighting over his best weight at 135; that’s not speculation, he’s openly admitted as much many times, he’s at 135 because he couldn’t get the sort of fights he wanted at 126 or 130. He’s a small lightweight.

Teofimo, on the other hand, wasn’t even sure he’d be able to make 135 by the end of 2019. He did so for Commey, and plans to for Lomachenko, but he’s a bigger guy than Vasiliy, and when you combine his size with his power, you’ve got legitimate danger for Lomachenko — and that’s why this is a great fight.

Gervonta Davis vs Devin Haney

Devin Haney v Zaur Abdullaev Photo by Anthony Geathers/Getty Images

Another lightweight fight I’d love to see. Davis (23-0, 22 KO) moved up to 135 just a couple days ago, and looked sluggishly dominant against Yuriorkis Gamboa, stopping the washed Cuban veteran in the 12th round.

It wasn’t the best start at 135 for “Tank,” despite a win where he was never in any trouble or anything. First of all, he had a terrible time making weight, even though it was him moving up five pounds. Then his gas tank was questioned during the lengthy battle with Gamboa’s resilience and toughness. During the fight, Haney (24-0, 15 KO) tweeted that Davis was a front runner, and said he wanted to do the bout in 2020.

It’d be a meeting between two bright young stars in the sport. Davis still has plenty to prove, but he’s legitimately become an attraction already. People are just plain interested in what he does. Haney, four years younger than Davis, has been impressive in the ring so far, but he’s also yet to face a true world class sort of opponent.

Both guys have a lot of confidence, a lot of swagger, maybe even a lot of arrogance. Both pass the eye test routinely. I’d love to see this one, but of every fight I have listed here it’s the one I’d be least confident will happen.

Any of the top four flyweights against one another

BOXING-JPN Photo by KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP via Getty Images

The top four in this division, at least by my rankings, are also the four titleholders: Kosei Tanaka (WBO), Moruti Mthalane (IBF), Julio Cesar Martinez (WBC), and Artem Dalakian (WBA).

This is cheating a bit, but I seriously don’t care what combination of these guys gets put together. In an ideal world, someone would throw these guys into a tournament with a blind first-round draw and we’d find a 112-pound king.

Tanaka is pretty widely considered No. 1 in the division, a young gun who’s already won world titles in three divisions. Then you have Mthalane, the veteran who’s been a top five, at least top 10 guy in this division for over a decade. Martinez is a furious, vicious puncher who had a huge breakout year in 2019. And Dalakian, who has the least exposure of the group, might quietly be the most fundamentally complete fighter of the lot.

(Also have to knock on wood a bit here, as Tanaka is facing Wulan Tuolehazi tomorrow morning in Japan, a fight he’s heavily favored to win but stranger things have happened.)

Kenshiro Teraji vs Hiroto Kyoguchi

Donnie Nietes v Kazuto Ioka - WBO Super Flyweight Title Bout Photo by Kevin Lee/Getty Images

Junior flyweight has a lot of good fighters and some other potentially strong fights to make, but THE fight to make at 108 is clearly Kenshiro Teraji (17-0, 10 KO) vs Hiroto Kyoguchi (14-0, 9 KO).

Both Japanese fighters are in their primes, unbeaten, talented guys who deserve to be considered the top two in the division. Kyoguchi has won belts at 105 and 108, so he might chase 112 sooner than later, but it’d be a shame if he did so without taking on Teraji. I don’t claim to have any real insight on the political situation of Japanese promoters or TV networks, these guys aren’t with the same outfits, so maybe this is plum not possible, but again, I don’t care about that right now. It should be made. Make it.

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