When the season ends in other sports, there’s nothing left except to wait several months until the players take the field again.
That’s not the case in boxing. There are no seasons. There are always fights on the schedule and on the horizon. And there is almost always another chapter coming for both the winner and loser of each fight — a necessary next step that could or should be taken.
These are 10 fights we would love to see made in the near future — fights that will help us know whom the best is in a weight class, fights that have an interesting storyline, and/or fights that are certain to entertain.
Let’s start with the heavyweight division and then move on down the scale from there.
Heavyweight: Deontay Wilder vs. Anthony Joshua
Deontay Wilder’s nickname, “The Bronze Bomber,” reflects the medal that he won as a heavyweight in the 2008 Olympics. Joshua, meanwhile, won gold in the super heavyweight division four years later, in the 2012 Games.
That was the pinnacle of their amateur success. Both have now gone from medals around their necks to world title belts around their waists. Wilder, 6-foot-7, is 37-0 with 36 knockouts and has made four successful defenses since winning his title in early 2015. Joshua, 6-foot-6, is 17-0 with 17 KOs, has defended once since winning his belt this past April, and is expected to return again this fall.
They are thought to be on a collision course. Unfortunately for Wilder, he suffered hand and arm injuries during his technical knockout win over Chris Arreola in July. He’ll be out for the remainder of 2016 but hopes to be back toward the start of next year.
When they do meet, it will put two quick and powerful big men against each other in a unification bout. The winner will leave with two of the four world titles and a mandate to take on the person holding the other two. Right now, that’s Tyson Fury, who defeated longtime champion Wladimir Klitschko in 2015. Fury and Klitschko are supposed to have a rematch.
Fury vs. Joshua would be huge in their native United Kingdom. Fury vs. Wilder would also be big, given the trash talk that would be exchanged before punches are. Klitschko against Joshua or Wilder would pit the old guard against the new, with a potential passing of the torch that would be all the more fitting given that all three won medals in past Olympics.
All of which make the implications of Wilder vs. Joshua even bigger.
Light Heavyweight: Adonis Stevenson vs. the Sergey Kovalev-Andre Ward Winner
Stevenson is the true light heavyweight champion. He knocked out Chad Dawson, who beat Bernard Hopkins, who beat Jean Pascal. But he’s had someone else challenging his claim to the throne for some time: Sergey Kovalev, who has done more and done so against much better opposition at 175 pounds.
Stevenson and Kovalev have failed to reach a deal on more than one occasion. The politics of this business threaten to keep them apart. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t get together.
But Kovalev has another big challenge awaiting him first: Andre Ward, the longtime super middleweight champion, who moved up to this division and will test his incredible boxing skills and savvy against one of the heaviest hitters in the entire sport.
Stevenson is the true champion, but the Kovalev-Ward winner has a strong argument to being the best in the division. Stevenson facing the winner would settle that score for good.
Light Heavyweight: Thomas Williams Jr. vs. Joe Smith
Almost all of the other fights on this list involve at least one of the best boxers in their respective divisions. That’s not the case with this fight.
But this light heavyweight fight would be can’t-miss for another reason.
Williams is in wars. He went bombs away with Edwin Rodriguez in April, taking Rodriguez out in two rounds. And then he came off the canvas to give Adonis Stevenson some tough moments before succumbing to Stevenson’s power in July. He’ll either put you down or go down himself. Sometimes both happen in the same fight.
Smith was an unheralded 175-pounder who raised eyebrows when he took Andrzej Fonfara out in one round this past June. He, too, likes to bang away at — and with — his opponents.
They are two combustible elements. Put them together and you’ll get explosive action.
Super Middleweight: Gilberto Ramirez vs. the Badou Jack-James DeGale Winner
Andre Ward has left the super middleweight division. Carl Froch has retired. Arthur Abraham no longer has a world title. There are new faces in power at 168.
Badou Jack is one of them. He beat Anthony Dirrell to win a title last year, then defeated George Groves, and was held to a draw in a fight he otherwise deserved to win against Lucian Bute earlier this year.
James DeGale won his title against Andre Dirrell in 2015, beat Bute later that year and overcame Rogelio Medina this past April.
Gilberto Ramirez shut out and dethroned Abraham in April. He’s been named as a potential foe for Gennady Golovkin should GGG want to dip his toes in the waters at super middleweight.
Jack and DeGale are expected to face each other by the end of 2016. The winner will have two world titles and will owe a fight to contender Callum Smith. But the winner of Jack vs. DeGale should also aim to face Ramirez. The victor will be, without dispute, the best 168-pound fighter in the world.
Middleweight: Canelo Alvarez vs. David Lemieux
Don’t let this entry on the list fool you. We still want Canelo to face Gennady Golovkin. We want Canelo to face Golovkin much sooner than he otherwise will — if he will. If that fight happens, it won’t happen until the second half of 2017.
Until then, Alvarez has other fights coming up. Although he’s the true middleweight champion — he beat Miguel Cotto, who beat Sergio Martinez, who beat Kelly Pavlik, who beat Jermain Taylor, who beat Bernard Hopkins — he’s never actually beaten a true middleweight. That won’t change on Sept. 17, when Alvarez faces 154-pound titleholder Liam Smith on a pay-per-view taking place in the huge Dallas Cowboys football arena.
Canelo is expected to move up closer to middleweight and its 160-pound limit afterward. There is talk that his first fight there could be against titleholder Billy Joe Saunders, which would be a fair test of whether Alvarez can compete in the division. Saunders’ skilled boxing helped him defeat Andy Lee for his belt in late 2015.
But the most fun fight for Alvarez would be against David Lemieux, who previously held a world title until Golovkin beat him last year. What you see is what you get with Lemieux. He’s there to trade shots. That’s what Canelo likes to do as well.
If we’re going to get an appetizer before our main course, then Canelo vs. Lemieux would whet our appetites. It would also be another test for Canelo to pass. It’s one thing for him to beat a boxer. But he’s also going to need to show how he fares against a puncher.
Welterweight: Keith Thurman vs. Errol Spence
Boxing is a sport where some will doubt you until you give them reasons not to. And even then, they may still be skeptical.
Keith Thurman’s doubters had to at least acknowledge his talent after his decision over Porter in their enjoyable June battle. He will never be a Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao, but that’s also an unfair standard to hold anyone against. In this current era of welterweights, Thurman is one of the best 147-pound fighters in the world.
But the best, some predict, will be Errol Spence.
Spence hasn’t faced anyone on Thurman’s or Porter’s levels. That time has come. The 2012 Olympian blasted through lower-level opponents during his transition from a prospect into a contender, and in 2016 he has made brutally quick work of Chris Algieri and Leonard Bundu. He has the kind of power and speed that could trouble Thurman. To be fair, he has the kind of power and speed that could trouble anyone.
Thurman, however, has an equalizer in his own heavy hands. He’ll want to test Spence’s chin.
Thurman called out fellow titleholder Danny Garcia after the Porter win. Spence is in line to challenge for Kell Brook’s title, though Brook may no longer have the belt if he decides against returning to welterweight after facing Gennady Golovkin at middleweight this September.
In lieu of a fight with Brook, the next best bout for Spence is with Thurman. That’s not a bad consolation prize at all.
Welterweight: Terence Crawford vs. Adrien Broner
This is a fight that could’ve taken place at junior welterweight, but Adrien Broner dropped his title on the scales for his fight with Ashley Theophane in April, saying he was unable to make 140 anymore.
That doesn’t mean Broner vs. Terence Crawford can’t still happen at 147 instead.
Crawford is riding high off his wide decision victory over Viktor Postol, a win that cemented Crawford’s status as the best in his division. There’s not much else of note available at 140. A fight with Manny Pacquiao didn’t come his way; Pacquiao didn’t want to come down to junior welterweight, nor did his team even offer Crawford a fight at welterweight.
A bout with Broner would give Crawford the marquee opponent he deserves.
Broner, meanwhile, would have an opportunity to finally pick up a signature victory. Despite the fact that Broner has won world titles in four divisions, his best win to date remains his decision over Paulie Malignaggi. He lost to Marcos Maidana. He lost to Shawn Porter.
Broner was once marketed as the future of boxing. He’s been too inconsistent so far for that to be the case. This would be his chance at redemption.
Junior Lightweight: Vasyl Lomachenko vs. Orlando Salido II
Vasyl Lomachenko, one of the greatest amateurs of all time and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was just 1-0 as a pro when he fought Orlando Salido for a world title at featherweight. Salido came in heavy on the scales, got away with countless low blows during the fight, and still only was able to beat Lomachenko by split decision.
Lomachenko went on to win a title at 126 and now has one at 130. Salido is also at junior lightweight now, continues to be in entertaining battle after entertaining battle, and remains a tough out for most opponents despite all the years and wear and tear on his body.
It’s time for a rematch. Lomachenko has even more seasoning now as a pro. They have a score that needs to be settled — Lomachenko to avenge a defeat, Salido to prove that he can win without controversy.
Featherweight: Gary Russell Jr. vs. the Carl Frampton-Leo Santa Cruz II Winner
Carl Frampton’s first fight at featherweight was against one of the best in his division, Leo Santa Cruz. Frampton’s superior strategy, boxing, positioning, footwork and speed propelled him to a close decision win.
There will likely be a rematch, as there should be given how competitive and enjoyable the first fight was.
And then there needs to be a fight with Gary Russell Jr.
Russell has two of the fastest hands in all of boxing, speed that amplifies his power when he lands. Jhonny Gonzalez was felled three times in four rounds in 2015, earning Russell a world title. Russell’s only fought once since then, taking out an overmatched opponent in just two rounds.
It’s time to see how he fares against the other top 126-pounders. And while there are other names like Jesus Cuellar and Lee Selby, the person Russell should aim for is whomever comes out on top in the second Frampton-Santa Cruz fight.
Similarly, the Frampton-Santa Cruz II winner will have bragging rights in their rivalry. But a win over Russell is required in order to have bragging rights in the weight class.
Junior Bantamweight: Naoya Inoue vs. the Carlos Cuadras-Roman Gonzalez Winner
The best boxer in the world is Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez. He is a little guy deserving of big attention — a former 105- and 108-pound titleholder and the current champion of the 112-pound division. On Sept. 10, he will vie for a title in his fourth division, facing the unbeaten Carlos Cuadras.
There’s another big fight awaiting the winner.
Naoya Inoue is just 10-0, but what he’s done and what he’s shown in five of those 10 fights is nothing short of sensational. He was 5-0 in 2014 when he took out Adrian Hernandez, at the time one of the top names at 108 pounds, in just six rounds. Just eight months later, Inoue jumped all the way up to 115 to face Omar Narvaez, a longtime titleholder.
Inoue knocked him out in two rounds.
The lighter divisions don’t often get as much attention. That’s unfortunate. There are some talented and entertaining fighters in those divisions. Cuadras, Gonzalez and Inoue are three of the best of them.