AS we enter the new year, it’s time to look at the biggest and best fights that 2020 can offer us. Some of these remain pipe dreams, others are very likely to be confirmed at some point, but none are yet officially in the diary. For instance Deontay Wilder’s rematch with Tyson Fury isn’t included because both sides have confirmed it’s happening on February 22.
1. Anthony Joshua vs Deontay Wilder
Quite simply the biggest fight in the sport. Joshua holds three world heavyweight titles to Wilder’s one – the winner would be the undisputed champion of the world, and we would once again have a definitive division leader. Stylistically, it’s a dream fight. In Wilder, we have the sport’s most dangerous puncher and in Joshua, arguably the sport’s best finisher. Both have shown plenty of vulnerabilities, and a clash between them would undoubtedly result in blood and thunder. It’s a fight that would easily transcend the sport’s usual boundaries and launch itself into the wider public consciousness; that rare sort of fight that can have a real, long-lasting impact on the sport as a whole.
These two have been circling each other for years – ever since Joshua picked up the IBF title in 2016 – and while there have been talks between both sides, nothing has come to fruition. Significant broadcasting and political issues would need to be resolved – based off past negotiations, this won’t happen anytime soon, particularly as Wilder looks set for another two fights with Tyson Fury. Stranger things have happened, though. We’re in the midst of an excellent heavyweight era, but for it to truly go down in history as one of the best, Joshua has to get involved with Wilder and Fury.
Likelihood of it happening in 2020: 2/10
2. Anthony Joshua vs Tyson Fury
Such is the nature of the heavyweight division as things stand, any fight involving the top three facing each other would be one of the biggest in the sport. While Fury doesn’t hold an official world title, he has a strong claim to being the best heavyweight in the world and, like a Joshua-Wilder fight, this bout would produce a consensus number one.
The two Brits have, naturally, been on each other’s radar for some time. As far as we know, serious talks between their respective teams are yet to take place, but were they to meet next year it would be the biggest fight in British boxing history. Contrasting styles, personalities and stories, these two seem almost destined to collide at some point. With Fury firmly tied to ESPN in the States and Joshua to streaming service DAZN, this is another dream fight currently being blocked by broadcasting issues.
3. Canelo Alvarez vs Gennady Golovkin III
In America, this might well be the number one fight to make in 2020. Their first two meetings will go down as modern classics, and Golovkin has been alarmingly unfortunate not to have come out of them with a win (the first was a very controversial draw, with Canelo just nicking the return). There is serious unfinished business here.
Canelo – the biggest draw in the sport – has jumped in weight since their second fight, but having recently vacated his super-middleweight trinket, might well be heading back to 160lbs, where Golovkin holds world honours once again. In a perfect world, this trilogy fight would have already happened – it’s undeniable that “GGG” has slowed down somewhat since he last fought Canelo. With both fighters signed to DAZN, and neither having anything concrete lined up yet, the chances look good for this one.
4. Errol Spence Jnr vs Terence Crawford
For boxing purists, this might well be the best fight that can be made on paper right now. The two unbeaten welterweight titlists are regarded by many as top five pound-for-pound, and it would be deliciously difficult to pick a winner. Spence – a monstrous 147-pounder with exceptional skill – has unified titles and scalped some big names on his side of the political divide. Crawford has moved through the weights (becoming undisputed super-lightweight king in the process) and could well be the best fighter in the world. This fight would sit alongside history’s great welterweight scraps.
Of course, with Crawford at Top Rank and Spence with PBC, it would take a gargantuan effort to get this made. Spence is also recovering from injuries he sustained in a car accident – he reportedly escaped with no serious injuries, but there have been no further updates on his future, so things remain unclear. Plus, while it is an outstanding fight, neither man is a proven superstar and it’s unlikely a fight between them in 2020 would be a crossover hit. But, for once, maybe boxing could get out of its own way and make the fights that need to happen – particularly for Crawford who, at 32, is running out of opportunities to cement his legacy.
5. Naoya Inoue vs Juan Francisco Estrada
Speaking of dream fights for purists, how about this clash of little giants? Inoue – a three-weight world champion – became a star in 2019 by prevailing in the bantamweight World Boxing Super Series tournament and is on the hunt for more career-defining fights after his colossal tussle with Nonito Donaire in the final. In Estrada, a two-weight king and current super-flyweight champion, Inoue would perhaps be looking at his perfect foil. An excellent boxer-puncher, Estrada fights at a relentless pace and has mixed with – and beaten – some of the best in the world.
While very successful up at bantamweight, Inoue’s punishing win over Donaire suggests that, for longevity, he should perhaps return to weight classes more suited to his smaller frame, so why not drop back to super-fly and face the current division leader? No, it would not move the needle with casual fans, but stylistically it guarantees excitement and pits two of the standout fighters from the smaller weight classes against each other. As far as we’re aware, there’s been no move to get this fight made, particularly as Inoue may have no intention of moving down, but we can hope.
6. Vasyl Lomachenko vs Teofimo Lopez
This fight wouldn’t have made this list if not for Lopez’s blistering performance when he wrecked IBF lightweight champion Richard Commey inside two rounds in December. The unbeaten youngster has been pursuing Lomachenko for a while, and though clearly talented, it seemed a little too soon for him to be jumping in with someone like “Loma”. However, the way he dispatched Commey launched him onto the world stage and front of the queue for Lomachenko’s next fight – the Ukrainian even said, “See you in April,” after Lopez’s win. They’re both with Top Rank, and it seems Bob Arum had been plotting this fight for sometime soon anyway. Lopez’s brash personality and explosive style make him a fascinating opponent for Lomachenko, who is constantly on the hunt for worthy adversaries, particularly now that he’s cleaned out most of the division already.
Technically, Lomachenko no longer holds the WBC title since he became their ‘Franchise’ champion, but he never lost his belt in the ring, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to view a fight with Lopez as one for undisputed supremacy of the division. For now, Lopez is certainly one of the more exciting challenges for Lomachenko, though it could be argued that the 22-year-old needs more fights not just to hone his skills further before facing Lomachenko’s wizardry, but also to build his brand and become a more marketable name.
7. Oleksandr Usyk vs Dillian Whyte
Having completely unified the cruiserweight division, last year Usyk made his inevitable move up to heavyweight, dominating unheralded Chazz Witherspoon in his sole professional fight to date in the banner division. By virtue of the WBO’s rules when one of their champions moves up in weight, he is mandatory challenger to Joshua, who holds that heavyweight title. However, it looks as though the unbeaten Ukrainian might have to wait for his shot – no bad thing, as it allows him more time to settle into the weight.
Whyte has been waiting for his crack at the WBC strap for what seems like a decade, and it doesn’t sound like it’ll come in 2020 either. In terms of what he’s proven in the ring at heavyweight, he’s arguably the division’s standout top contender (if you’re not counting Tyson Fury, who sits comfortably in the top three). Now, it might be harsh to pitch Whyte in yet another final eliminator, especially against someone as good as Usyk, but it would be a fascinating examination of just how well Usyk could do amongst the giants, plus it would offer Whyte a route back into the light after a dark few months recently.
8. Canelo Alvarez vs Callum Smith
With Canelo making it clear he won’t return to light-heavyweight anytime soon by vacating the WBO title he won from Sergey Kovalev, the flame-haired Mexican looks set to return to either 168 or 160lbs. What seems more likely, at least for his first fight since beating Kovalev, is a fight at super-middleweight, and the best fight for Canelo there is with division leader and WBA champion Callum Smith. It’s been mooted for a little while – ever since Canelo briefly stopped at super-middle to blitz Rocky Fielding for the secondary WBA belt – and with no standout opportunities at middleweight (besides the Golovkin trilogy), Canelo will surely be looking at 168lbs, and “Mundo” is an obvious choice.
Since signing a record-breaking deal with DAZN, Canelo has faced decent enough opposition – and the Kovalev fight was particularly daring – but Smith would be a huge challenge, and one that the execs at DAZN would likely see as a worthwhile return on their investment. For all the criticism that Canelo has come under in the past for apparently avoiding certain fights, he has repeatedly sought out the toughest challenges, and having proven himself number one at super-welter and middleweight, will surely be looking at the next frontier to conquer and the one man he needs to beat to rule the super-middleweight division is Callum Smith.
9. Josh Taylor vs Mikey Garcia
Garcia recently signed a deal with DAZN and Matchroom Boxing to make his return after a one-sided defeat to Errol Spence up at welterweight. Having won world honours at feather, super-feather, lightweight and super-lightweight, Garcia stretched his body too far and was dominated by Spence over 12 rounds. Garcia recently announced he’ll return at 147lbs against Jessie Vargas – but there’s no denying Mikey is at his best around the 135-140lb mark. It might be too much of an ask at this stage for him to go right back down to lightweight, so an ideal weight would be 140, where Taylor reigns supreme.
The Scot holds two belts there, and while an undisputed fight with Jose Ramirez is very appealing, Garcia is a far bigger name and much more established. Both can box, both can punch, and both have proven themselves at the top level. Taylor’s promotional position means he can pretty much go where he likes in terms of broadcasters, and Garcia’s reported one-fight deal with DAZN leaves his options open as well. The problem lies in the rumours that Garcia is being manoeuvred into a position to fight Manny Pacquiao in late 2020, a hefty incentive for him to stick around at 147.
10. Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao II
First, take a breath. Resist the urge to tear up this issue and set it on fire. Clear your mind and consider this – Mayweather-Pacquiao II could be a lot of fun. Yes, Floyd is still retired, but he seemingly confirmed on social media that he’s returning in 2020. Pacquiao, as we know, is still fighting and seeing out the tail-end of his career as lucratively as possible – it’s also clear he won’t be going anywhere near the likes of Crawford and Spence, and why should he? He’s got nothing left to prove. It doesn’t take a genius to see where this is going.
Mayweather isn’t coming back to take on the best at welterweight – a Pacquiao rematch offers him the perfect risk/reward balance. But, while Manny has been beating the likes of Keith Thurman, Floyd hasn’t been fighting. Their first fight was dreadful, but Mayweather’s hiatus won’t have helped his reflexes or speed. And if Pacquiao was injured going into their first fight, who’s to say a fully-fit “Pac-Man” couldn’t do a lot better in the return? Beside all that, it still remains a huge fight that would command an impressive audience.