Boxing is only ever really as strong as its future.
Based on what’s coming this weekend, it’s as good a time as any to give thanks for likely tomorrows.
The present has its own rewards.
Showtime has the fight of the week on paper at Jr. featherweight (Saturday, 10 PM EST). 27-year old WBO titlist Stephen Fulton (19-0, 8 KO) faces 24-year old WBC titlist Brandon Figueroa (22-0-1, 17 KO). The winner will whittle the beltholder count in their class down to two. The IBF and WBA belts are held by 27-year old Murodjon Akhmadaliev (10-0, 7 KO).
In a perfect world, the Fulton-Figueroa winner would be on a collision course with Akhmadaliev. One can be thankful for the good without resenting the imperfect too much just yet. It might be more the case that the Fulton-Figueroa winner is going to see 31-year old Raeese Aleem (18-0, 12 KO). The ‘sides’ align for it, Aleem is on the Showtime undercard this weekend, and Aleem opted against a WBA eliminator to stay on the road to that strap.
Aleem just has to win this weekend.
For fans it means something to look forward to now, and something to build toward immediately afterwards. The tradition of the Jr. featherweight division, one of boxing’s premiere war classes in the last four decades, is hard to ignore. It doesn’t always deliver great fights in big moments.
It just has a better track record than most.
Fulton-Figueroa has a lot of the ingredients. Figueroa is a slow starter who throws a ton and gets better as fights wear on. Fulton is a capable boxer who likes to battle in the trenches. Fulton stood his ground and outfought Angelo Leo earlier this year. At some point, he will do the same with Figueroa. It’s where something special can happen.
DAZN also has a notable fight this Saturday (8 PM EST). 24-year old lightweight champion Teofimo Lopez (16-0, 12 KO) will defend against 28-year old George Kambosos (19-0, 10 KO).
No, for real this time.
After multiple cancellations, postponements, and a change of promoter, the fight remains what it has been all along. Lopez is a strong favorite in this one but that fact could obscure it’s still a solid first defense. Kambosos is ranked in the top ten by both TBRB and Ring. It is Lopez’s third such opponent in a row.
It’s obviously not what many fans really want to see. The cluster of young talent that includes Lopez, Gervonta Davis, Devin Haney, Ryan Garcia, Chris Colbert, and Shakur Stevenson from 130-145 pounds had the same number of fights against each other in 2021 that they did in 2020.
It doesn’t mean time stood still. Veteran Vasyl Lomachenko came back this year and could position himself for a Lopez rematch next year. Davis faces consensus top ten lightweight Issac Cruz next month and Haney is set for veteran Joseph Diaz as well. We’re seeing some solid matches in the meantime and it’s inevitable; the dam will break.
Or Lopez will go up to Jr. welterweight and challenge Josh Taylor.
“Or” is the realm of possibility and there is plenty of it in a sport that has youth in some key spots right now. Those spots are on display this weekend. On the eve of thanksgiving, it’s something to be thankful for.
Youth isn’t the only thing to be thankful for. A Jr. bantamweight unification between Kazuto Ioka and Jerwin Ancajas is on for New Year’s Eve. It’s a chance for a breakthrough win for Ancajas and a chance for Ioka to unify in his second weight class. The run at Jr. bantamweight over the last seven or eight years is boxing done right, a genuine golden age for a weight class. Be thankful to have seen it...Be thankful for the Detroit-Chicago NFL game Thursday. Unless one is a die-hard fan of either team, it’s more quality time with family...Be thankful for what appears to be Terence Crawford’s free agency. There is no getting the last three years back, but the next two years could be a hell of a lot more interesting...Be thankful for the end of the epic Tyson Fury-Deontay Wilder feud. It opens the door for new stories to tell at heavyweight...And from this corner, a warm thank you for anyone who takes a moment to read this space or any other at BoxingScene every day. May you have a great holiday.
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.