As we kick off a new year in the sport of boxing it’s time to look ahead with a dash of blind optimism that we’ll get to see some of the best match-ups the sport has to offer. We all know boxing isn’t quite other major professional sports leagues where the best inevitably face off against their counterparts, but when it happens, boy is it sweet. So while also taking into account the entertainment aspect of the sport, I’ve compiled a short list of what I currently consider to be the five fights I’d most like to see take place this year. Let’s quickly break it down!
5) Katie Taylor vs Amanda Serrano
We often talk about how shallow the talent pool is in women’s boxing, and that’s precisely why it’s important to make the best fights possible when there are actually compelling matches to be made. As of the past couple of years I’m not sure that there’s a better fight to be made in all of women’s boxing than Katie Taylor vs Amanda Serrano.
Both Taylor and Serrano appeared to be on a close to making a bout against one another a couple years ago, representing two of the premier boxers in their sport, but that fight ultimately fell apart on the business end. Recently the prospects of a Taylor-Serrano fight have reemerged, and really it seems to me to be a no-brainer fight that would draw more deserved attention to the two female champions. There’s no time like the present and no better fight out there for either woman — business be damned.
4) Gervonta Davis vs Ryan Garcia
If I’m being completely honest, I could’ve just as easily gone with Gervonta Davis vs Teofimo Lopez here because I think that style matchup actually has the potential to be a bit more explosive, but seeing that Lopez is coming off a loss and considering Davis already has a built-in backstory with Ryan Garcia, I’m all for it.
Ryan Garcia has been calling out ‘Tank’ on social media for God knows how long now, and despite Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe claiming that he tried to make that fight in the past, I’d still like to see both fighters engage in some good faith negotiations. Garcia had a bit of a rough 2021, no doubt, but there’s really no bigger way to regain the momentum he’s lost than by getting into a high-level lightweight fight that we already know the fans will be here for, with a high likelihood for a fun promotional build-up too. There’s been way too much talk about all the great talent at 135 and now’s the time to start mixing them in together.
3) Naoya Inoue vs Nonito Donaire 2
This one’s an easy pick. In late 2019 Naoya Inoue and Nonito Donaire met in the WBSS finals in what was anticipated to be a good fight which turned out to be Fight of the Year. Inoue was expected to be too much for the faded veteran and would go on to win that fight, but in what turned out to be an extremely high-level war over 12 rounds that forced Inoue to pull out all the stops in order to secure the victory.
Even in defeat that night Donaire proved that he still had not only the burning desire to compete at the very highest level of the sport, but that he still had the physical capabilities of doing so when most thought he was a fighter on his last legs. Donaire may not necessarily be in his physical prime any longer, but he credits himself as being a much smarter fighter now, knowing how to use his gifts — and boy is that left hook of his a gift.
With Donaire pulling out to straight KO wins since that loss to Inoue he’s put himself back in position for a deserved rematch, and the only reason this isn’t higher on my list is because I half-expect that Donaire won’t fare as well this time around against Inoue. That said, if anyone deserves the benefit of the doubt, it’s Donaire.
2) Canelo Alvarez vs David Benavidez
I’m really not going to give Canelo a hard time about whatever he wants to do next after the year he had in 2021, becoming the first ever undisputed super middleweight champion in relatively short order. Canelo moves around weight classes as is his preference, and fair enough as it’s not like the man isn’t supremely accomplished.
I mean, I obviously wasn’t super pumped when it became known that Canelo was originally seeking out a cruiserweight bout against Ilunga Makabu, but with that fight seemingly off the board for now I’d be remiss not to bring up the opponent most boxing insiders have mentioned as a real threat — David Benavidez. Now I’m not saying Benavidez is a sure thing to give Canelo hell in the ring, but he does present a unique style with his physical dimensions that make it at least appear to be an intriguing fight, and one that would definitely drive more fanfare than someone like Makabu. So while I’m not holding my breath on this one, I think it’s easily the best fight left for Canelo at the 168lb division.
1) Terence Crawford vs Jaron Ennis
I bet many of you may be surprised by this one, but don’t be. My analytical boxing brain tells me that a welterweight fight between Terence Crawford and Jaron Ennis is the highest level fight in terms of both skill and ferocity that can be made in the entire sport. I suspect many will scoff at the notion as Ennis isn’t a household name and doesn’t hold a world title, but make no mistake, I rate Ennis right up there with the best pound-for-pound talents in the world — he just doesn’t have the names on the resume to prove it yet.
Part of that is because top welterweight fighters have no real inclination to willingly take on a fight against Ennis as he represents that big risk, low reward scenario, but if we’re strictly talking about between the ropes, Crawford-Ennis is where it’s at. They’re two highly athletic, highly intelligent switch-hitters who also have a real mean streak about them in between the ropes. There’s absolutely no question a fight between the two would be both high speed and high action, and I think it has the ingredients to be one of those fights we’ll continually go back to re-watch years from now.
For those who might wonder why I didn’t mention Errol Spence here, I’ll just say that I believe his current form is a serious question mark after all he’s been through in the past couple years. Maybe Spence is still physically capable of performing at his peak, but even then I still think Crawford-Ennis presents the better style match-up. If I could have it my way and put together one fight in 2022, Crawford-Ennis it is.