By Francisco Salazar
The winter break is over.
No more hangovers. No more rotten holiday cake. No more visits from weird in-laws.
If 2018 is anywhere near or better than 2017, boxing fans will rejoice match-ups between the best in boxing.
That will remain to be seen, though. There are some promoters that will not work with other promoters or advisors (You can fill in the obvious blanks), unless they are mandated by sanctioning bodies for a world title fight.
Let us not forget about networks, as some fighters are tied in to fighting on HBO or Showtime.
So here are 10 fights that, in my opinion, could take place in 2018. Again, I factored in alliances with promoters, managers, and networks.
Here is wishful thinking certain people listen to me and boxing fans.
The following fights are in no particular order, in terms of urgency or most likely to happen.
1. Anthony Joshua vs. Deontay Wilder:
This fight is too big and in such high demand for it not to happen. They both hold at least one world title belt, are unbeaten and are at the top of their game. Both have fought on Showtime, so the the network issue should not be a big deal. The question is will Wilder be willing to go to England to fight in Joshua's backyard? Fighting before 80-90,000 at Wembley Stadium is a no-brainer, but could Las Vegas make a push to host the fight? If Joshua's fight against Wladimir Klitschko on Apr. 29 is any indication, and should Wilder defeat Luis Ortiz and Joshua beat Joseph Parker, this fight should take at Wembley late this year.
2. Eleider Alvarez vs. Oleksandr Gvozdyk:
The WBC allowed Adonis Stevenson (for what seems like the millionth time) to get what he wants and not fight longtime mandatory Eleider Alvarez. Instead, it looks like Stevenson will face Badou Jack. Truth be told, for the last year or so, I have wondered loudly about a fight between Alvarez and Gvozdyk. Styles make fights and this fight does make for television as both are boxer-punchers. Top Rank promotes Gvozdyk, while Stevenson is advised by Al Haymon, so it took a sanctioning body to get these two to fight, if a fight does end up happening between the two. The winner of this fight is in line to fight the winner of the Stevenson-Jack fight.
3. Vasyl Lomachenko vs. Miguel Berchelt:
These are the two best fighters at 130 pounds and they each have a world title belt. Who knows how many more fights Lomachenko at this weight before he moves up to the lightweight division. It only makes sense for Lomachenko and Berchelt, who is promoted by Zanfer, to square off before the end of 2017. Berchelt is scheduled to defend his WBC title against Cristian Mijares on Feb. 10 while word is Lomachenko will return to the ring in April or May. The one sticking point would be the network situation. Top Rank has moved on to a lucrative deal with ESPN, while Berchelt has appeared twice on HBO.
4. Jarrett Hurd vs. Jermell Charlo:
These are two of the best junior middleweights in boxing and both fight under the Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) banner. There is no reason why these two unbeaten fighters should square off against each other. This is a competitive bout and could determine who the top fighter is at 154 pounds. They each have fought on Showtime, so fight fans know who these fighters are. Again, I hope this fight becomes a reality in 2018.
5. Mikey Garcia vs. Jorge Linares:
Garcia is challenging Sergey Lipinets for the IBF junior welterweight title on Feb. 10, while Linares defends his WBA lightweight title on Jan. 27. Garcia has stated he will drop down to 135 pounds and face Linares in a unification bout. Will Garcia do that or will be stay at 140 pounds? Will Linares drop his 135-pound title and move up to 140 pounds? Will Golden Boy Promotions, which promotes Linares, and Al Haymon, which advises Garcia, hatch out a deal? Who knows, but if both fighters want the fight, and there is a demand from boxing fans, this fight should be made for this year. That is, if both win their respective upcoming bouts.
6. Kenichi Ogawa vs. Tevin Farmer:
If there is a rematch that deserves to take place in 2018, that took place in 2017, it is Ogawa-Farmer. The first fight occurred on Dec. 9 in Las Vegas. From ringside, I scored the fight 116-112 for Farmer and the consensus from press row was Farmer won 116-112 or 115-113, with a few boxing scribes scoring the fight even. Farmer, who was shot in the hand in April, is a fun fighter to watch. Promoter Lou DiBella has stated he will to petition the IBF to have an immediate rematch with Ogawa. Whether that happens or not remains to be seen. The first fight was entertaining to watch, so a rematch could also be entertaining, if does occur.
7. Jose Ramirez vs. Alex Saucedo:
Assuming Ramirez defeats Amir Imam on Mar. 17 in New York City, Top Rank should push this fight between two hard-hitting Mexican-Americans, especially if the opportunity for the fight to be aired on ESPN is there. Saucedo has improved under the guidance on trainer Abel Sanchez to where he is more a contender rather than a prospect. This fight could take place in Fresno, Ramirez's hometown, or at The Forum or Stubhub Center in Southern California. This is another fight where styles make fights and it could be a classic if this fight comes off.
8. Oscar Valdez vs. Joseph Diaz, Jr.
So many storylines for this fight. Both were Olympians in 2012, are unbeaten, are Mexican-Americans with a growing fan base. On top of that, each trains in Southern California. Diaz is in line to face Gary Russell, Jr. this year, but he is also Valdez's mandatory for the WBO featherweight title. Valdez has impressed since winning the title, whether winning fights by decision or stoppage. It is too bad Top Rank, which promotes Valdez, and Golden Boy, which promotes Diaz, could not work together to make this fight happen. Stylistically, this is a great match-up for either fighter and could be a classic between two Mexican-Americans. If fight fans want this fight, maybe it is something that could take place in late 2018. All I know is it would sell out venues like Stubhub Center in Carson or draw 12-14,000 fans to The Forum in Inglewood.
9. Luis Nery vs. Naoya Inoue
Nery is scheduled to defend his WBC bantamweight title on Mar. 1 against Shinsuke Yamanaka in a rematch from their Aug. 15 bout, a fight Nery won by stoppage in four rounds.. Inoue just defended his WBO junior bantamweight title on Dec. 30, stopping Yoann Boyeaux in three rounds. Inoue has hinted a move to 118 pounds, but if he does follow through, this is the fight to make. Both hit hard and come forward, a recipe for a potential fight of the year. It will be interesting to see if Inoue does move up from 115 pounds. Stay tuned.
10. Jessie Magdaleno vs. Isaac Dogboe
This past Saturday night, Dogboe stopped WBO mandatory challenger Cesar Juarez in round five in Ghana. Dogboe became the interim WBO titleholder, as Jessie Magdaleno is on the shelf with a hand injury. Magdaleno-Dogboe will be an action and competitive bout. Sign me up for this one, which will likely take place in the summer.
10(a). Demetrius Andrade vs. Jermall Charlo
Both have talked smack to one another. Both do not like each other. Why not make this fight? Each has nothing lined up and it would make for a fun fight. However, whether each really wants to make the fight remains to be seen.
Francisco A. Salazar has written for Boxingscene.com since September of 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (Calif.) Star newspaper, RingTV.com, and FightNights.com. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing