As a boxing fan, I think we have been let down a bit in 2016 in terms of the lack of big fights that capture the imagination. We got Frampton vs Quigg, Brook vs GGG, Thurman vs Porter, Lomachenko vs Walters (which was a bit of a let-down), Frampton vs Santa Cruz and a few more. However, the amount of fights that failed to materialise was disappointing. No Brook vs Khan. No Fury vs Klitschko. No Joshua vs Klitschko. No Canelo vs GGG. No Saunders vs GGG.
I could rabble on all day about fights that we didn’t get and fights that we got which were forced up on us but why not consider what the future hold in terms of big fights? 2017 is looking very promising as a year for big fights in most divisions. Within the first month of the year we already have 2 big fights in the US scheduled. On the 14th January, James Degale and Badou Jack lock horns in an attempt to unify their very competitive super middleweight division. 2 weeks after this huge fight, we get a rematch of a FOTY contender which saw Carl ‘The Jackal’ Frampton beat Leo Santa Cruz to become a two-weight world champion. If the first fight is anything to go by, it will be an absolute cracker.
We then move to March 4th where the fiery David Haye will face his bitter rival, the out spoken, Tony Bellew in a heavyweight dust up at the o2 Arena in London, UK. I must admit that before the press conference I thought that both fighters and Eddie Hearn were creating fake hype in order to sell the fight but after watching the first official meeting between the two fighters, I’m now convinced that this is a real grudge match between two big guys who genuinely don’t like each other. The build-up to this fight will be something you won’t want to miss. Although no titles are on the line, the fight still has all the ingredients for an exciting, edge of your seat fight. They can both punch. They have both been knocked out at a lower weight. They both have a strong dislike for each other. They both have huge personalities and are not afraid of confrontation.
We then continue to the 29th April where Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko put it all on the line at the 90,000 seater Wembley Stadium (This is where Carl Froch knocked out George Groves in front of 80,000 people in case you were wondering). The fight will be for Joshua’s IBF title as well as the vacant WBA super title and will most likely do over 1 million PPV buys and probably a lot more due to the amount of attention each fighter brings from their home countries as well as the US. It’s impossible to say that this isn’t a big fight to look forward to.
Staying in the Heavyweight division, the winner of Joshua-Klitschko will most likely face the WBC champion, Deontay Wilder, in a huge summer showdown either in the US or in the UK. This, yet again, is another mega fight in the heavyweight division that I believe will happen in 2017 as long as all fighters stay fit and healthy and most importantly, actually want the big fights. If we don’t see this fight in 2017 I will consider it a huge disappointment of the fighter’s/manager’s behalf.
These fights that I’ve mentioned are big fights, there is no doubt about it, but the fight that we all want to see in 2017 is GGG vs Canelo. This fight has been spoken about a lot over the past year with Canelo getting most of the blame for it not happening due to weight and money issues. Canelo’s last offer to GGG was $10 million which has increased from his past offers to team GGG but the Kazak star still denied this offer as he thinks that he is entitled to more than that. There are two ways to look at this situation. The first is to look at in a glass half empty manner. In other words, writing the fight off because Canelo still isn’t offering GGG the right money. The other way to look at it, is to view it as a glass half full. Every time Team Canelo makes an offer to Golovkin the purse is getting higher as the demand for the fight builds. This can only mean one thing. The demand will increase even more in 2017 and Canelo will increase his offer, GGG will finally accept and the mega fight that we have all been craving will be made. You may feel that this is naïve of me to think like this but we have seen it happen in the past with Frampton vs Quigg. The demand for the fight grew so Team Quigg offered Frampton a fairer split of PPV revenue which they then accepted. This fight being made alone will make 2017 a great year for big time boxing in my opinion.
Mandatory defences are known for not being the best of fights and are not normally highly anticipated fights. However, this does not apply to the mandatory defence that Kell Brook must make in the spring of 2017. The IBF has ordered the Sheffield star to face the young, unbeaten #1 ranked contender, Errol Spence. This fight has been talked about a lot throughout the whole of the 2016, but it came to our attention that this is a very close fight when Spence stopped Chris Algieri which Provodnikov and Manny Pacquiao both failed to do. Spence offers speed, power, explosiveness as well as Olympic experience where he reached the quarter finals in the London 2012 Games. When I last spoke to Brook’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, he explained that this fight will most likely be a PPV bill topper in the UK which is evidence of the magnitude of this fight. This fight will be confirmed in the January at the latest I think or else Brook must vacate his 147lb title.
Another fight that the US fans can look forward to is the 147lb unification fight between Danny ‘Swift’ Garcia and Keith ‘One Time’ Thurman for the WBC and WBA titles. This fight will take place on March 4th as part of the PBC. Garcia has gained a lot of critics due to the low calibre of opposition he has faced in his past 3 or 4 fights. He hasn’t impressed the fans in these fights which has left the boxing public questioning his world champion status. They will finally get to see ‘Swift’ in a fight that they deem as a tough challenge against a current world champion. Thurman, on the other hand, is thought highly of in the US and the UK due to his boxing skills and power. Last time out he beat Shawn Porter who is a top operator in the 147lb division which has increased Thurman’s credibility. For this reason, as well as the high KO ratio, I feel that Thurman will beat Garcia comfortably but only if he stays away from the wild left hook that Garcia is known for.
When I said that there are a lot of great fights to come in 2017 I wasn’t saying it for the sake of it. There is huge talk of the rematch happening between Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev which was one of the biggest fights to take place in 2016. The decision went in Ward’s favour to the annoyance of a lot of fans who had scored it for Kovalev by a few rounds but it was by no means a robbery. After the fight, there has been some words exchanged over social media between the pair that has only added to the anticipation of the rematch where the WBA, WBO and IBF Light Heavyweight titles will be on the line again. I’m sure the fight will get made due to both the fighters speaking of a rematch and the demand for it is huge.
If the WBA, WBO and IBF Light Heavyweight king doesn’t fight Kovalev for the second time then I expect him to try and complete his collection of the belts by facing the WBC champion Adonis ‘Superman’ Stevenson. Ward has made it clear that he wants to win all the belts and ‘Superman’ has also made it clear that he would like to face Ward which could turn out to be a great fight, however things are never that easy in boxing. The money must be right for both boxers and the country of the fight must suit both fighters because Stevenson likes to box in Canada and Ward likes to box in the US which is an obstacle that I hope they can overcome to provide yet another huge fight for the fans in 2017.
I’ve previously mentioned Carl Frampton will be kicking the year off with a huge fight by re-matching Leo Santa Cruz but if he beats LSC again I would love to see him face the IBF champion Lee Selby which would be a British unification mega fight that would sell out in Wales, Northern Ireland or even England. Selby has had a few average performances since winning the world title which has seen his popularity drop but I still think he is one of the most skilful and flashy boxers in the world. However, In my opinion Carl Frampton is one of, if not the best, fighters to perform this year. After beating Quigg and unifying the super-bantamweight division he then stepped up and faced a highly rated Leo Santa Cruz to beat him in a FOTY contender. The fight is intriguing, marketable and a true 50/50 in my eyes which is why I feel that it is a huge fight that could and should happen in 2017.
Now this next fight has been talked about since 2012 when Amir Khan and Kell Brook clashed in the Sky Sports studios on Ringside. Each year we have been teased by this fight after both boxers have expressed their want for the fight but for one reason or another, the negotiations have never taken off. Even before Brook won the world title, the talk for this fight was huge and it only intensified after that magical night in California. Since then the fight has seemed more relevant than ever until both Khan and Brook were victims of stoppage victories in 2016. The demand for this fight is still huge but I feel bother boxers need a solid win at the start of 2017 before the hype hits its peak. I’m quite confident that both fighters will meet in 2017 as long as the money is fair and the public demand it, which is a given. Surely we can’t go for the 5th year running without this huge rivalry being settled, can we?
Hall of Fame promoter, Frank Warren has been teasing the fans with an announcement of a ‘huge fight’ in 2017 for the WBO middleweight champion of the world, Billy Joe Saunders. However, after the Olympian’s last performance in Scotland it’s hard to see him securing a big fight that will captivate the boxing public in 2017. By his own admission he was ‘awful’ and he feels like he should forget about fighting the top man of his division, Golovkin. However, there is another fighter around his weight that I would like to see BJS box. Saul ‘Canelo’ Alverez is coming off the back of a KO victory over another Frank Warren British fighter in Liam ‘Beefy’ Smith at 154lbs but has been talking about moving up to middleweight to face the unbeaten, but relatively world level untested, Billy Joe Saunders. This all sounds like it’s a fight that is nailed on for 2017 but Canelo’s promoter Oscar De La Hoya recently stated that the offer that he was going to make BJS before his disappointing performance has now been halved due to the drop in the demand for the fight. This is a huge problem because Saunders makes it no secret that money is one of the main factors when he signs a contract, and so it should be. Therefore, I believe that if Golden Boy offer BJS enough money to satisfy his needs then we will see Canelo vs Billy Joe Saunders in America for the WBO middleweight crown at a catch weight between 155lbs and 158lbs. This fight would be more for the purists who know how good Billy can box when he’s fully prepared and his mind is on the job. I think Saunders would cause the Mexican star problems with his awkwardness but Canelo’s combination punching could be the main difference.
Now on to my favourite possible fight of 2017. Vasyl Lomachenko vs Terence Crawford is every hard-core boxing fan’s dream fight. The two fighters have unreal footwork, ridiculous flair, outstanding punch variety as well as huge power but most importantly, they both are World Champions in their weight divisions. This fight, for me, is the most 50/50 fight that could possibly be made in 2017. Crawford, the WBO and WBC 140lb champion, is undefeated in 30 fights and has 21 stoppages which is a testament to his raw power. Lomachenko, the WBO 130lb champion, has only had 9 fights but is one of the best boxers in the world today. Although they are 2 weight divisions apart, Bob Arum has expressed his interest to get this fight made at a catch weight to enable the boxing fans to witness a real ‘pick ‘em’ fight. The fight would probably be between 136lbs and 138lbs which makes you ask a lot of questions. Would Lomachenko still have his foot and hand speed after moving up nearly two weight divisions? Would he be able to take the power of Crawford? Would Crawford be drained at the weight and therefore lack snap in his punches? This is why the fans are so captivated by this potential fight! There are so many questions to be asked of both boxers, they are both supreme technical boxers. If this fight gets signed, I will be a very happy fan.
As you will probably agree, 2017 is shaping up to be a year of huge fights across all the different weight divisions and in my opinion I feel like most of these which I have stated, will get made due to the increasing demand for the best to fight the best.