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Five fights boxing needs to keep the momentum building in 2018

03
Jan

Boxing enjoyed a resurgence in 2017.

There was the heavyweight classic between Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko which ushered in a new global star. Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin finally mixed it up, and the middleweight championship fight exceeded expectations.

The necessary rematch between Canelo and GGG is going to take place in May, and there’s a slew of other interesting fights already on the docket, like Joshua’s unification bout with Joseph Parker and Deontay Wilder’s fight with Luis Ortiz.

But to truly keep the momentum going in 2018, boxing needs some special fights — like Canelo-GGG 2. Here are five realistic fights we want to see in 2018, taking into account boxing politics to list bouts that can actually materialize.

Joshua vs. Wilder: This is the big one, a fight that could finally return the heavyweights to a marquee pay-per-view event stateside. You have two massive punchers, and two larger-than-life personalities. What better way to announce the heavyweights are back to the casual fan who only cares about watching the big guys fight?

They’re already started trading words, and there was even a sitdown between the sides toward the end of last year. If Joshua and Wilder can both prevail in March, it’s a natural to make this fight in the fall. And it’s a genuine attraction, whether it’s in the UK, where Joshua already is one of the biggest stars in sports, or America.

Joshua and promoter Eddie Hearn have repeatedly stated their intention to introduce Joshua to the American market at some point. Perhaps a fight in Las Vegas against Wilder with all four titles on the line would be the best way.

And given each man’s questionable chin and vaunted punching power, Joshua-Wilder promises to be an action fight for as long as it lasts.

Errol Spence Jr. vs. Keith Thurman: An even bigger matchup looms for Spence, one against Terence Crawford, but he needs to fight Thurman first to set up the super fight.

Both men are PBC fighters, so it should be easy to make, and it would also feature two men recognized by THE RING as top-10 pound-for-pound boxers. Thurman has competed just once since undergoing elbow surgery, but he’s expected to return in the spring to defend his 147-pound titles.

Spence has his first welterweight title defense lined up against Lamont Peterson, and with his plan to fight three times in 2018, he could schedule another bout before an eventual meeting with Thurman in the fall.

The last time we saw Thurman, he outboxed Danny Garcia in March. Spence was last seen beating down Kell Brook in England. And as the younger, stronger, fresher fighter, Spence would be favored to topple Thurman.

The Texan is considered a generational talent, with his super blend of power, strength speed and boxing skills. Thurman is the real deal, too, and it’s time we see we establish the best fighter in boxing’s best weight class in the wake of Floyd Mayweather’s retirement.

But the winner will hopefully one day face Crawford, who will make his welterweight debut in the spring, probably for Jeff Horn’s title.

Mikey Garcia vs. Jorge Linares: The fight we really want to see involving Garcia is one against Vasyl Lomachenko, but that’s unlikely to happen given the frosty relationship between Top Rank and Mikey.

We’ll settle for Linares, another fine matchup and one that will determine lightweight supremacy. The fighters were in talks for an early 2018 matchup, but Garcia went in another direction and will fight again at 140 pounds, this time against Sergey Lipinets.

If Garcia beats Lipinets as expected, he’ll become a four-division titleholder, and at that point, he said he’s willing to drop back down to 135 to meet Linares.

The style matchup is an interesting one: Linares’ superior speed and athleticism against Garcia’s boxing fundamentals and awesome power.

Mikey’s third-round, one-punch knockout of Dejan Zlaticanin was one of the most brutal of 2017. He would be a big favorite to upend Linares, who holds THE RING championship, but the fight figures to be a lot of fun.

Sergey Kovalev vs. Dmitry Bivol: This shapes up as a classic passing-of-the-torch battle. Kovalev will be 35 in April and was knocked out by Andre Ward last year. Bivol just might be the class of the loaded 175-pound division. They’ll share an HBO card on March 3, with Kovalev against Igor Mikhalkin and Bivol fighting Sullivan Barrera.

With Main Events working with each man, it looks like the Eastern Europeans will square off at some point in 2018. And Bivol appears to have it all after he vanquished Trent Broadhurst in only one round in his HBO debut. The stern jab. The way he effortlessly cuts off the ring. Each punch seemed to stun the Aussie.

Kovalev, of course, is still one of the best fighters in the world. His two-round shellacking of Vyacheslav Shabranskyy didn’t prove much, but it did certainly build some confidence for “Krusher.”

Does he have enough to turn back a fighter like Bivol? Let’s hope we find out.

Big fall fights involving Canelo and GGG: We know they’ll meet each other again on Cinco De Mayo, but what happens after that? We could possibly see a third fight, and given how good the first bout was, that would be great.

But the 160-pound division is stacked at the top, and there’s no better opponent for either man than Billy Joe Saunders. The Brit proved his class with a 12-round boxing lesson dispensed to David Lemieux last month. Saunders’ jab and boxing were smooth, and it’s the kind of style that could give Canelo or GGG fits.

And then there’s Daniel Jacobs, who narrowly dropped a decision to GGG in March, and now also competes exclusively for HBO.

In a perfect world, Jacobs and Saunders will meet in the first half of 2018, with the victor facing whoever comes out on top between Canelo and Golovkin.

Certainly, both Jacobs and Saunders are deserving the massive payday that a fight with either man would accompany. But if it’s going to be one of them, Saunders is the likely recipient. He holds the only middleweight title that Golovkin doesn’t hold, and if he beats Canelo, he’ll certainly want to get his hands on the other belt.

The middleweight division needs to shake out, and here’s hoping we find some clarity in 2018.

Mike Coppinger is the Senior Writer for RingTV.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger

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