With a disappointing 2016 now in the books, we only hope 2017 will deliver more meaningful fights for boxing fans than the last 12 months could muster. And the early signs are promising, with several mouthwatering matchups already on the horizon, including Gennady Golovkin and Daniel Jacobs meeting in March to unify middleweight titles, heavyweight hope Anthony Joshua defending his belt against Wladimir Klitschko in April, and Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia locking horns in New York to decide who is the world’s best welterweight.
Ignoring ongoing promotional disputes, network and sanctioning body politics, and fighters’ unwillingness to step up and face the best, Knockoutpunch delivers its wishlist for the year ahead.
Gennady Golovkin vs Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez (Middleweight)
While this matchup is unlikely to win any prizes for originality, we are desperate to see middleweight king Golovkin (assuming he takes care of business against secondary titlist Daniel Jacobs in March) square off against Mexican icon Alvarez. There is simply no need to let this fight ‘marinade’ any longer. Canelo’s camp can no longer use weight as a valid excuse, given that their fighter has jumped up to a 164.5-pound catchweight to take on countryman Julio Cesar Chavez Jr (50-2-1, 32 KOs) on 6 May. Should Alvarez, as expected, get the better of his compatriot on Cinco De Mayo weekend, then the path would be clear for an autumn showdown with Golovkin – a man he has seemingly avoided at all costs since picking up the WBC middleweight title against Miguel Cotto (40-5, 33 KOs) in November 2015. ‘GGG’ is desperate for the fight and the chance to unify the division, so it’s time for Alvarez and Golden Boy to put up or shut up.
Manny Pacquiao vs Terence Crawford (Welterweight)
Pacquiao’s decision to travel to Australia to take on the obscure Jeff Horn (16-0-1, 11 KOs) later this year has left boxing fans the world over both bewildered and disappointed. After all, the Philippines senator is coming off a stellar 2016, during which he posted impressive wins over Timothy Bradley Jr and the previously unbeaten Jesse Vargas. Why, at 38, then is the Filipino legend wasting his time fighting such an overmatched – and undeserving – opponent? His best years may be behind him, but he has proven beyond doubt that he can still mix it with the elite of the welterweight division. So why not go out with a bang in 2017 and meet Top Rank stablemate Terence Crawford (30-0, 21 KOs) in a mega-fight that would cement his legacy in the sport? A win over ‘Crawdaddy’ – who’d have to move up from junior welterweight for the opportunity – would surely put Pacquiao back in the discussion for the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet. But he would have his hands full against the younger and more powerful Omaha native, who appears to be close to reaching his peak in the ring. Like the best matchups, it’s a real pick ’em fight.
Deontay Wilder vs Joseph Parker (Heavyweight)
With fellow heavyweight titlist Anthony Joshua (18-0, 18 KOs) having agreed to face longtime heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko (64-4, 53 KOs) at Wembley in April, a meeting between American Wilder (37-0, 36 KOs) and New Zealand’s Parker should be made to help restore some order to the sport’s glamour division. Parker picked up his vacant WBO strap with an unconvincing points win over undeserving challenger Andy Ruiz Jr in Auckland last December, while ‘the Bronze Bomber’ has made a series of underwhelming defences of his WBC belt since an impressive points victory over Bermane Stiverne in January 2015. Both big men have fights lined up before a potential unification clash, with Wilder slated to face lanky Pole Andrzej Wawrzyk (33-1, 19 KOs) in February and Parker looking likely to defend his lightly-regarded title against Britain’s Hughie Fury (20-0, 10 KOs). Should they both come through those bouts unscathed, then it’s time they put their unbeaten records on the line in a mouthwatering unification clash later in the year. The winner would then be in position to become the undisputed heavyweight champion by meeting the Joshua-Klitschko winner. Simple, isn’t it?
Carl Frampton vs Lee Selby (Featherweight)
There is a healthy respect between Northern Ireland’s Frampton and Welshman Selby, with both fighters acknowledging each other’s impressive achievements in the ring. That’s not to say the pair aren’t keen to face each other in the square circle in the near future, though they must likely get past Leo Santa Cruz (32-1-1, 18 KOs) and Jonathan Victor Barros (41-4-1, 22 KOs) first to clear the way for a featherweight clash on British soil. It would be an intriguing matchup, with Frampton’s power and work rate up against Selby’s slickness and pure boxing ability that has earned him the moniker of the ‘Welsh Mayweather’. The Barry man has set his sights on a spring unification clash to find out who is top dog at 126 pounds, while Frampton has also welcomed the prospect of a domestic dustup in a stadium setting this summer. Here’s hoping they get their wish and we see Britain’s best featherweights do battle later this year.
Adonis Stevenson vs Andre Ward (Light-heavyweight)
Given that neither man seems willing to face hard-hitting Russian Sergey Kovalev (30-1-1, 26 KOs) any time soon (Ward, in fairness, did man up and fight him in December and was gifted a dubious unanimous points decision), why don’t they fight each other this year? It’s fair to say Canada’s Stevenson has had an underwhelming reign as the WBC’s champion since his spectacular KO of Chad Dawson in June 2013, earning himself the nickname ‘Chickenson’ from Kovalev for avoiding a showdown with the former WBF, WBO and IBF beltholder to take on a slew of less than stellar foes. However, his unwillingness to rematch Kovalev aside, no such criticism can be levelled at Ward (31-0, 15 KOs), who has faced the best throughout his career at super-middleweight and since moving up to the 175-pound division. It’s high time, then, that Stevenson stepped up to the mark and took on a worthy opponent to find out if he is indeed the best light-heavyweight in the world. Make no mistake, ‘Superman’ has the power to end a fight with one punch, and though he would be the underdog against the more skillful Ward, it would not be an easy night for the unbeaten American, who has shown he is vulnerable against big punchers.