Boxing’s new season is already in full swing with a heavyweight pay-per-view card already in the bag. January 2022 will play out with multiple title fights but the bigger stuff is still over the horizon.
The two highest profile televised fights of the month in the states will be:
01/15: TBRB #2 Joe Smith Jr. (27-3, 21 KO, WBO) vs. #10 Callum Johnson (20-1, 14 KO)
01/22: Gary Russell Jr. (31-1, 18 KO, WBC) vs. #10 Mark Magsayo (23-0, 16 KO)
For Russell at featherweight, it will be his first fight in almost two years. While Russell’s infrequent appearances have been fodder for fans and social media, family tragedy played a role in his missing 2021 and Russell comes back largely where he’s been for years. The talent is clear, the definition is hazy. Magsayo is a legitimate opponent and for the most part, since defeating Jhonny Gonzalez for his belt, Russell has fought good foes.
Now 33, will Russell get a unification foe or big money fight to cap his run? Time will tell. Showtime has a good show with this one in the meantime.
At light heavyweight, Smith gets top billing on ESPN in his first defense of the vacant belt he won against Maxim Vlasov. Johnson has won three in a row since a knockout loss to Artur Beterbiev so there’s some natural comparison shopping here. Beterbiev has also been an ESPN staple and a showdown with Smith could make sense later in the year. Smith would be a prohibitive underdog but it doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be fun.
A Rematch at Strawweight
Even hardcore fans sometimes struggle to be interested in the happenings at 105 lbs. This month, we have a little intrigue. It’s a rematch featuring:
01/25: #1 Petchmanee CP Freshmart (37-1, 23 KO, WBC) vs. #3 Wanheng Menayothin (55-1, 19 KO)
This all Thai showdown resumes hostilities from their 2020 encounter. Menayothin, at the time, had the longest unbeaten run of active titlists in the sport and now gets a chance at redemption. Now 36, Menayothin gives up six years to the younger titlist with one win since their first contest. Can we hope to see the winner versus Thailand's WBA titlist Knockout CP Freshmart?
Probably not, but it would be something for a division that can be easily overlooked.
Additional Title Fights in January
01/29: 200 - #3 Ilunga Makabu (28-2, 25 KO, WBC) vs. #4 Thabiso Mchunu (23-5, 13 KO)
None Currently Scheduled
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.