Opinion | Jan 01 2019

19 fighters to watch in 2019

Looking at star names and rising prospects, John Dennen makes his picks for fighters who will have a big say in how 2019 unfolds, and highlights what they need to do in the year ahead
Tyson Fury
Deontay Wilder vs Tyson Fury  |  Esther Lin/Showtime
  1. Deontay Wilder

Deontay Wilder is not the best heavyweight in the world – Anthony Joshua has a better track record and for many observers Tyson Fury deserved the decision in their controversial draw. But he is in a position to dictate the direction of his division, will he go for the undisputed unification with Joshua or try to resolve his unfinished business with Fury? What he needs to do is not waste time fighting uninspiring mandatory Dominc Breazeale.

  1. Callum Smith

Beating George Groves in such style to win the WBA super-middleweight world title, and the World Boxing Super Series, was a star-making performance for the Liverpudlian. To capitalise on that he’ll want to take on a big name, like Gennady Golovkin, at Anfield in his hometown.

  1. Oleksandr Usyk

The brilliant Ukrainian unified the cruiserweight division and beat Tony Bellew in England. Now he needs to move up to the heavyweight division and see if he can have an impact on the giants of the sport.

Oleksandr Usyk

  1. Canelo Alvarez

You cannot ignore Canelo Alvarez. The Mexican has come through the controversies of a failed drug test and another close fight with Golovkin to move up to super-middleweight to beat Rocky Fielding at Madison Square Garden. Whether he continues to campaign at 168lbs or returns to 160, where he still holds the WBA and WBC titles, Alvarez will be in the most high profile fights of 2019.

  1. Mikey Garcia

Garcia is the unified IBF and WBC lightweight champion. He’s taken the bizarre decision to fight excellent welterweight Errol Spence in March in Texas. But he should take on Vasyl Lomachenko for all the lightweight titles. The great Lomachenko, a three weight champion already, is fast running out of challenges in the pro sport.

  1. Josh Taylor

The Scot looked sensational in 2018. If he wins the latest instalment of the World Boxing Super Series against tough opposition he will be one of the brightest stars in British boxing.

  1. Tyson Fury

Tyson Fury made a welcome return to the sport last year and against Deontay Wilder proved he was still one of the best heavyweights in the world. He will cause a stir no doubt, whatever he does next but Fury needs to stay active.

  1. Joshua Buatsi

Some of the UK’s biggest names have either retired, like Tony Bellew, or are nearing the end of their careers, like Amir Khan. New stars needs to emerge and Buatsi is one of Britain’s brightest prospects. He does however need a good rival, like Anthony Yarde, and a big fight to help him emerge.

  1. Michael Conlan

The Belfast man finished 2018 with a good win over Jason Cunningham. In the year to come he’ll return to box in New York again and could well secure a clash with bitter Russian rival Vladimir Niktin to make a signature fight early on in his career.

  1. Gennady Golovkin

The fearsome middleweight has no world titles and a grudge with Canelo Alvarez. He needs that trilogy fight with the Mexican but even a rematch with Danny Jacobs would be highly intriguing. But at 36 years old, Golovkin has little time to waste if he is going to try to reclaim the belts he used to hold.

  1. Jaime Munguia

A new, exciting Mexican world champion defends his WBO super-welter title on January 26. He needs to add experience and hone his skills to go with his strength and size.

  1. Keith Thurman

The WBA welterweight champion didn’t box at all in 2018. He needs to prove that he can still compete with the talents at the top of the 147lbs division.

  1. Manny Pacquiao

This could well be the great Pacman’s final year. Against Adrien Broner he could be working his way towards the end of his ever watchable career.

  1. Josh Warrington

An exceptional run has seen Warrington beat Lee Selby and Carl Frampton. Can he sustain that form against top opposition from overseas? Like Oscar Valdez, speaking of whom…

  1. Oscar Valdez

The Mexican has a fan friendly style and the WBO featherweight title. He has to demonstrate that he has recovered from the broken jaw he suffered against Scott Quigg but linking up with new trainer Eddy Reynoso could well benefit him.

  1. Josh Kelly

Another talented British prospect, the flashy boxing of Josh Kelly has already caught the eye. In 2019 he needs to show that those skills can carry him on to the next level.

  1. Katie Taylor

A unified lightweight champion, Ireland’s Taylor and American middleweight Claressa Sheilds will be vying to be acknowledged as the best pound-for-pound female fighter in the world today.

  1. Anthony Joshua

He needs the fight for the undisputed heavyweight champion with WBC titlist Wilder, or the monumental all British clash with Fury. But even defending his three world titles against old foe Dillian Whyte would sell out Wembley stadium. Expect heavyweight to be the must-watch division of 2019.

  1. Naoya Inoue

The Japanese fighter made the perfect entrance to the World Boxing Super Series, blitzing Juan Carlos Payno inside a round. That tournament format will offer him some intriguing match-ups and Inoue could well triumph despite the hugely demanding competition at bantamweight.

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