By Keith Idec
Promoters for Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin sure are taking their time in finalizing an agreement for their middleweight championship rematch.
The slow-moving negotiations have sparked speculation that Alvarez might fight someone else before embracing a second battle against Golovkin later this year. Nevertheless, the common expectation within the boxing industry is that the Mexican superstar and Kazakh knockout artist will fight again May 5.
It is the most profitable boxing match that can be made this year, and Alvarez (49-1-2, 34 KOs) and Golovkin (37-0-1, 33 KOs) both want second shots at proving they’re better than they performed during their 12-round draw September 16 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
As we move through January, Oscar De La Hoya and Golden Boy Promotions president Eric Gomez and Tom Loeffler, Golovkin’s promoter, are likely to make the requisite concessions that’ll afford them the preferred three months they’ll need to properly promote this HBO Pay-Per-View rematch.
The same probably cannot be said for five of the most compelling matchups boxing fans want to see. Below are five fights we all want to take place in 2018, yet probably will be pushed back to 2019 or won’t happen at all for various reasons.
Those five fights are listed in descending order, from the heavyweight division all the way down to super flyweight.
Anthony Joshua vs. Deontay Wilder
After Alvarez-Golovkin, this heavyweight showdown seemingly is the most lucrative event that can be made in the sport.
If Wilder would agree to travel to the United Kingdom for this guaranteed slugfest, England’s Joshua (20-0, 20 KOs) and Alabama’s Wilder (39-0, 38 KOs) could draw another 90,000 fans to London’s Wembley Stadium. If Eddie Hearn, Joshua’s promoter, is willing to pay Wilder enough, Wilder would make that transatlantic trip.
The problem, unfortunately for Wilder, is that Joshua has emerged as such a huge star in the United Kingdom, the IBF/IBO/WBA champion can make massive sums of money for far less dangerous fights.
The Sun, a London tabloid, reported recently that Joshua’s guarantee for facing WBO champion Joseph Parker (24-0, 18 KOs) late in March or early in April will be £13 million (roughly $17.95 million). If the heavily favored Joshua beats Parker, his following fight more than likely would be a mandatory defense of his WBA title against former champion Alexander Povetkin (33-1, 23 KOs).
Topping Povetkin would take Joshua into the fall, and that’s only if he fights three times in 2018. He’s making so much money, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist might opt to box just twice this year.
Wilder will be left to make his next defense of the WBC title against Luis Ortiz (28-0, 24 KOs, 2 NC) on March 3 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. If he overcomes Ortiz, his subsequent opponent probably would be England’s Dillian Whyte (22-1, 16 KOs), the No. 1 challenger for his title, or American Dominic Breazeale (19-1, 17 KOs).
Errol Spence Jr. vs. Keith Thurman
This isn’t a surprising inclusion, considering Thurman admitted in November that Spence probably wouldn’t fit into his schedule until sometime in 2019.
Spence (22-0, 19 KOs), the IBF welterweight champion, wants a shot at Thurman’s WBA and WBC titles much sooner than that. He’ll have to look for another challenge, however, if he defeats former two-division champion Lamont Peterson (35-3-1, 17 KOs) on January 20 at Barclays Center.
Thurman’s return from elbow surgery eight months ago has been pushed back until sometime in April. The Clearwater, Florida, native isn’t expected to face a top opponent in that bout and isn’t likely to fight more than twice during this calendar year.
Former IBF welterweight champ Shawn Porter (28-2-1, 17 KOs) is in line for a rematch against Thurman because he has fought his way to becoming the WBC’s mandatory challenger at 147 pounds. Spence, who fought just once in 2017, wants to fight three times this year and won’t want to wait around for Thurman too long.
The potential silver lining in Spence-Thurman not taking place this year is that it could lead a frustrated Spence to instead push for a fight against Terence Crawford (32-0, 23 KOs). That’ll be a complicated match to make because Crawford (ESPN) and Spence (Showtime) are affiliated with different networks, but Bob Arum, Crawford’s promoter, and Showtime executive Stephen Espinoza have at least expressed interest in discussing it.
Terence Crawford vs. Mikey Garcia
As intriguing as this showdown would be, there are entirely too many obstacles in the way to expect it to happen.
Crawford and Garcia at least were in the same weight class as recently as late last summer. Crawford moved up to welterweight, though, and Robert Garcia, Mikey’s older brother and trainer, told BoxingScene.com last month that he doesn’t want the WBC lightweight champion to move up any higher than 140 pounds in the foreseeable future.
Mikey Garcia could be tempted to chase Crawford to 147 pounds if Garcia becomes a four-division champion by beating IBF junior welterweight champion Sergey Lipinets (13-0, 10 KOs) on February 10 in San Antonio and wants to win a world title in a fifth division. That’s assuming, of course, that Crawford conquers Australia’s Jeff Horn (18-0-1, 11 KOs) to win the WBO welterweight title this spring.
None of this accounts, however, for the most obvious obstruction blocking Crawford-Garcia from becoming a reality – Garcia’s contentious relationship with former promoter Top Rank Inc., Crawford’s promoter. Crawford could push Arum to make this fight, though the possibility of opposing Spence gives Crawford an attractive alternative.
Gervonta Davis vs. Vasyl Lomachenko
If Lomachenko remains at 130 pounds, this looks like the fight for him within the super featherweight division.
Experts question Davis’ readiness for this fight because the 23-year-old former champion hasn’t fought anyone anywhere nearly as skilled as Lomachenko. Then again, neither have most boxers.
Regardless, we’re no closer to this fight happening than we were nearly a year ago, when Davis impressively dismantled Jose Pedraza to win the IBF 130-pound championship. Floyd Mayweather Jr., Davis’ promoter, made it clear then that Davis (19-0, 18 KOs) wouldn’t go anywhere near Lomachenko (10-1, 8 KOs), who’s generally regarded as one of the top three boxers, pound-for-pound, in the world.
That still seems to be the case, particularly now that Davis’ difficulty making weight has cost him the IBF super featherweight title. Lomachenko attempted last month to engage Mayweather in Davis discussions through social media, but Mayweather dismissed the Ukrainian’s taunts.
Naoya Inoue vs. Srisaket Sor Rungvisai
What better way for this “Monster” to prove he is more than an overhyped media creation than to take on the fighter that obliterated boxing’s onetime pound-for-pound king?
It seemed as though this fight was in the works following HBO’s “Super Fly” tripleheader September 9. If Thailand’s Sor Rungvisai (44-4-1, 40 KOs) overcomes mandatory challenger Juan Francisco Estrada (36-2, 25 KOs) in their February 24 fight in Inglewood, California, the hard-hitting southpaw could’ve defended his WBC super flyweight championship in his following fight against Inoue.
HBO’s Peter Nelson wanted Inoue (15-0, 13 KOs) to be part of that undercard, but Inoue announced before his fourth-round destruction of overmatched Frenchman Yoann Boyeaux (41-5, 26 KOs) on Saturday night that he would give up his WBO 115-pound championship to move up to the bantamweight limit of 118. Inoue says he is having too much trouble making 115 pounds, but the 24-year-old Japanese champion has drawn criticism because some claim he left the division to avoid real challenges.
His precision, speed and power have enabled Inoue to make his way onto many pound-for-pound lists, but his low level of opposition is undeniable. Fighting Sor Rungvisai, who beat previously undefeated Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez twice last year, at least would’ve given Inoue the opportunity to change that narrative.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.