By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Few would argue 2017 was a banner year for boxing.
We had a heavyweight changing of the guard in London, a middleweight summit meeting in Las Vegas and a circus to end all circuses between guys named "Money" and "Notorious."
But if you think Randy Gordon is satisfied to simply sit back and reminisce about blissful days gone by, think again.
Not only is the ex-top man at the New York State Athletic Commission not content with the year gone by, he expects even more now that the calendar has flipped to January.
"I believe 2018 will be even better," he said.
"The (World Boxing Super Series) is terrific. The upcoming semis each have Fight of the Year candidate all over them. This may be the best tournament boxing has ever seen. I can't wait for tomorrow. And the day after that. And the day after that."
Now a radio host at SiriusXM, Gordon was among a handful of boxing personalities -- fighters, public relations professionals and promotional company execs among them -- asked to chime in with hopes, expectations, and predictions for the 350 days until 2019.
Big fights are on the wish list across the board.
"Who knows, Wilder and Joshua might even get it on this year," Gordon said. "So will GGG (and) Canelo again. The welters are poised to excite us. So is Lomachenko, so is Beterbiev, so are the Charlo brothers. Can you say Rungvisai or Inoue? Regis Prograis is poised to become the best at 140. Mikey Garcia, Errol Spence and Terence Crawford are becoming household names. And who knows, "It's Coffie Time" just might become a very popular slogan if my heavyweight -- Mike Coffie -- keeps winning."
Many of the same names came up when Tim Smith, a former New York sportswriter who's now VP of Communications for Al Haymon's Premier Boxing Champions, chimed in.
Smith will be particularly busy for the next few weekends, with PBC cards featuring Errol Spence Jr., Mikey Garcia, Victor Ortiz and Danny Garcia scheduled through February 17.
"I’m expecting some great matchups that will pave the way toward some clarity in some key divisions in the sport -- featherweight, welterweight, super welterweight and heavyweight," he said. "Like most people, I’d like to see Errol Spence Jr. and Keith Thurman in a welterweight unification match, Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua fight for the undisputed heavyweight championship, a unified 154-pound champion, the Charlos against anyone, and Mikey Garcia (continuing to work) toward becoming one of the all-time greats."
And for Smith, it's not just about the current champions.
"I’d also like to see Adrien Broner turn a corner, realize he’s one of the most talented boxers in the sport and make the most of his gifts," Smith said. "Overall, I’d like to see the best versus the best and (see) the sport break out of its niche and join the mainstream."
Another former title-holder, welterweight Kermit Cintron, is still grinding away with an eye toward one last run to the top.
The 38-year-old held the IBF welterweight belt from 2006 to 2008 and made a pair of defenses before a sixth-round stoppage loss to Antonio Margarito. He drew with Sergio Martinez and defeated Alfredo Angulo in 2009, and lost to Paul Williams and Canelo Alvarez in 2010 and 2011, respectively.
He'd gone 6-0-2 with two KOs before a fifth-round KO by Tyrone Brunson in a five-knockdown Philadelphia classic on June 24 -- and is still hoping 2018 includes a place for him in a high-profile event announced last month in New York City.
The three-round, eight-man, single-elimination international tournament -- dubbed the "Jose Sulaiman World Invitational” --
was drawn up by Evander Holyfield's promotional company and would be open to all boxers ranked in the top 40 by the WBC.
"I’m looking at six more fights and calling it quits," Cintron said. "Would like to get the call and hear that I’m in. Like to finish my career with a bang. Would love to win the tournament and get a crack at a world title again."
Of course, it's boxing, so it's not all about the showdowns.
Make no mistake, veteran PR man Matt Yanofsky -- who founded Knockout Publicity in 2007 -- is hoping for the same steady stream of big fights as everyone else.
But he's also hoping a recent spate of creative scoring doesn't continue and end up superseding the fighters as the top story of the new year.
"Bad judging is probably just as frustrating as not seeing the fights people want to," he said. "That has not gotten much better over time unfortunately and yet these judges that have questionable scorecards somehow get jobs over and over again."
He's also aiming for a future where support is less about an athlete's birthplace and more about his performances.
"I think my biggest hope is that people support more fighters and boxing becomes less ethnic," he said. "Trust me I completely understand the ethnic marketing but there are some very good fighters that don't get enough press and come up short at the box office just because they are not from a specific country or a certain ethnic background. If this were ever to take place they would really be no such thing as high risk and low reward."
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Weekly title-fight schedule:
IBF welterweight title -- Brooklyn, New York
Errol Spence Jr. (champion/No. 5 IWBR) vs. Lamont Peterson (No. 5 IBF/No. 10 IWBR)
Spence (22-0, 19 KO): First title defense; Nine straight wins by KO/TKO (49 total rounds)
Peterson (35-3-1, 17 KO): Sixth title fight (4-1, 2 KO); Held IBF/WBA titles at 140 pounds (2011-14, three defenses)
Fitzbitz says: Peterson has a legit resume and is nothing if not a tough guy, but he's up against a special talent here and it probably won't end well. Spence in 10
IBF lightweight title -- Brooklyn, New York
Robert Easter Jr. (champion/No. 2 IWBR) vs. Javier Fortuna (No. 13 IBF/Unranked IWBR)
Easter (20-0, 14 KO): Third title defense; Zero KOs in fights scheduled for 12 rounds (3-0, 0 KO)
Fortuna (33-1-1, 23 KO): Fourth title fight (2-1); Held WBA title at 130 pounds (one defense)
Fitzbitz says: The unveiling of Easter has been gradual since he won the belt, but the caliber of foes haven't been enough to get it done. It edges closer here, too. Easter by decision
Vacant IBO super lightweight title -- Levallois-Perret, France
Emiliano Dominguez Rodriguez (No. 36 IBO/Unranked IWBR) vs. Mohamed Mimoune (Unranked IBO/Unranked IWBR)
Rodriguez (21-0, 7 KO): First title fight; First fight outside of Argentina
Mimoune (19-2, 2 KO): First title fight; Fifth fight scheduled for 12 rounds (4-0, 1 KO)
Fitzbitz says: Rodriguez has the resume. Mimoune has the edge of not traveling across an ocean. And precisely no one who's elite at 140 pounds is sweating the winner. Mimoune by decision
Last week's picks: None
2017 picks record: 99-30 (76.7 percent)
Overall picks record: 921-304 (75.1 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.