A lot can change in four years. Presidencies, Brexit, three Chelsea managers, my understanding of the role of bats in causing a global pandemic — the list goes on. But a big change has also been seen regarding Britain’s stake in boxing world champions.
In July 2016, the United Kingdom could boast 13 men’s world champions. From Tony Bellew to James DeGale, Kell Brook and Ricky Burns, in a majority of the recognized weight classes you’d see the red, white, and blue of a Union Jack.
Following Josh Warrington’s decision to vacate his title at featherweight only four remain; the women, however, are keeping up their end of the bargain. What does 2021 have in store for the seven belt-holders?
The only way is up, for Tyson Fury. Having spent the second segment of his career in tune-ups (including a surprise banana skin in Otto Wallin) or fighting Deontay Wilder, the “Gypsy King” will be looking to cement his legacy in 2021.
It’s not hard to conclude how he does that: fighting Anthony Joshua.
Reports this week have suggested that the two teams are close to agreeing on TV splits, and with the purses provisionally agreed on in the summer, this super-fight is seemingly closer than ever.
With a rematch clause par for the course in a fight of this magnitude, the best case scenario would be seeing these two champions lock horns twice in 2021. Venues abroad are being considered favourably due to Britain’s disastrous handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, with Saudi Arabia the odds-on favourite to host the opener.
If this all falls apart, you’d assume Wilder — and his legal team — will be waiting for the trilogy.
While Joshua’s situation is very similar to Fury’s, it comes with the slight caveat of Oleksandr Usyk.
Now, Joshua either A) fights Usyk first and then, assuming he wins, can fight Fury for all the marbles, B) vacates the WBO belt and walks straight into the Fury bout, or C) Usyk and Joe Joyce fight for the interim WBO belt, allowing Fury-Joshua to happen first.
Either which way, Joshua’s 2021 will presumably revolve around Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk – order to be confirmed.
Billy Joe Saunders
Saunders’ 2021 is centred around one name: Canelo Alvarez.
No more tune-ups, no more mandatories; the WBO champion at 168 is adamant in landing the Canelo fight this year, with Matchroom’s two-fight deal with the Mexican superstar all but rubber-stamping this opportunity in May.
This fight was all but signed for Cinco de Mayo last year until COVID-19 put a pin in that particular balloon, so it’s hard to imagine anything but a few crossed Ts and dotted Is stands in the way of this unification bout at super-middleweight.
Oh, well unless you are to consider Avni Yildirim a hurdle. Canelo first fights his Turkish challenger on Feb. 27 until the path is truly clear for Saunders.
Saunders isn’t known for his activity so it’s unlikely we will see him take to the ring before landing boxing’s Golden Ticket. Besides Canelo, Demetrius Andrade and Chris Eubank Jr. will forever have their names linked with the WBO titlist and would be first in line if anything fell through.
Again, like his fellow British male world champions, it’s unification or bust for Taylor in 2021. WBO and WBC champion Jose Ramirez awaits the “Tartan Tornado” this year, with an undisputed champion due out of the junior welterweight division.
Bob Arum handles both men and speaking to TalkSport at the weekend the Top Rank promotor made his case clearly. “I advised Josh that the fight with Ramirez would be in the United States and would take place in early May,” he explained. “I had to get him busy getting his visa and all that sort of stuff because they told me Josh wants to arrive in the United States at least a month before that fight.”
Following this fight, Taylor has hinted heavily of a move up to welterweight where some of the sport’s most lucrative fights await. Taylor is a big 140-pounder and would be well equipped to dance up a division.
Savannah Marshall put on one of the domestic performances of the year in stopping Hannah Rankin for the vacant WBO middleweight title last October. Marshall was heavy-handed, accurate and relentless in her ninth pro fight, putting down a marker for a huge 2021.
For Marshall, all eyes are on Claressa Shields. “T-Rex” holds five belts across two divisions and both have displayed an interest in making this fight happen. The pair first met in the amateur ranks back in 2012, with Marshall handing Shields her only defeat to date.
First, Shields is unifying the junior middleweight division on Mar. 5, taking on Marie-Eve Dicaire in an attempt to add the IBF and Ring Magazine titles to her collection. Then a potential dip into MMA waters could cloud this vision.
Marshall will be keen to stay active under the tutelage of Peter Fury and has been promised a return to action on the Benn-Vargas card on Apr. 10. COVID-19 dependent, of course, seeing as shows are limited in the UK at present.
Chantelle Cameron has a fight set in stone in late March, taking on Puerto Rico’s Melissa Hernandez defending her WBC junior welterweight title.
Cameron won the vacant title last October via a shutout against Adriana Araujo and jumps straight into her mandatory on the Lawrence Okolie vs Krzysztof Glowacki undercard.
If it isn’t unification noises — Kali Reis, Mary McGee, and Christina Linardatou also hold titles — that Cameron makes following this fight, if victorious, then fire may be directed at the undisputed lightweight champion Katie Taylor.
Taylor holds all the marbles in the lightweight division and holds a W over Cameron from way back in their 2011 amateur days.
Matchroom Boxing are pushing hard with Terri Harper, with the WBC junior lightweight champion front and centre on theirs and Sky Sports branding ahead of 2021.
Hyun Mi Choi looks the most likely to mix it with “Belter” in the early stages of the new year. The South Korean holds the WBA strap at the weight, with Matchroom recently adding her to their books at the end of last year.
This is a simple unification to make and it sets the tone for an undisputed fight later in the year with WBC champion Maiva Hamadouche and WBO titlist Mikaela Mayer in talks to complete their side of the draw.
All seems pretty straight forward, doesn’t it? Harper and Mayer haven’t been backwards in coming forward on social media hitting out at each other, so a Matchroom/Top Rank show featuring an undisputed contest at 130 is something to look forward to by the end of the summer. Things tend to move significantly quicker in the women’s game.