Boxing: 2018 Year in Review & 2019 Predictions
What a year it was for boxing in 2018! There was so much that happened both in the ring and out, that it’s hard to wrap up such a great year in a single blog. But hey, let’s give it a try. Boxing is booming these days and 2018 could one day be the year that launched the sport back into public domain, especially in the United States. The idea that boxing was ever dying was a little extreme, although it did go through some rough patches for several years. With the advancement of technology, great storylines and the real life human drama that is boxing, the sport is having a renaissance that should make 2019 unbelievable and well positioned for years to come.
Let’s start with the combatants themselves as they are the stars of the show. And in boxing, there is no one bigger than Canelo Alvarez. Plain and simple. It doesn’t mean he is unbeatable, it just means he is the biggest name that everyone is chasing. He beat his nemesis GGG in a rematch in September to claim the middleweight title and then went up to super middleweight to win the WBA title from relatively unknown Rocky Fielding. In the middle of this, he signed the most lucrative contract in all of sports, a 11 fight, 5-year deal for 365M with the streaming service, DAZN. Canelo has always fought the best so expect 2019 to be no different, especially with another potential mega fight with GGG looming.
The welterweight division must be the most interesting of them all. There are so many good fighters in this division and so many fights still to be made. Although he fought only twice in 2018, Errol Spence Jr. is still considered the most feared of the pack because of his devastating knockout power. He will be challenged by multi-weight champ Mikey Garcia in March. Garcia, one of the most technically sound fighters in the game today, will be moving up in weight to take on Spence Jr., already considered big for the division. Most experts believe Spence Jr. will just be too strong for the smaller, shorter Garcia, but their star power alone makes for a great matchup at AT&T Stadium where the Dallas Cowboys call home no less. If Spence Jr., gets by Garcia, we should hopefully see some showdowns with fellow PBC stablemates like Danny Garcia, Shawn Porter and even Keith Thurman down the road, now that he is back from injury. This weight division screams tournament, so we shall see what shakes out in 2019.
Terrence Crawford, universally recognized as the #1 or #2 best fighter on the planet pound for pound has bullied his way into the welterweight conversation as well after cleaning up the 140-pound division and whipping WBO belt holder Jeff Horn who controversially took it away from the iconic Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao. Crawford, promoted by Top Rank, knows the bulk of the division sits under Al Haymon and the PBC, including Danny Garcia, Shawn Porter, Keith Thurman and of course Spence Jr. Crawford came face to face with Spence Jr. at the Maurice Hooker vs. Alex Saucedo fight recently in Oklahoma and in a video recorded by ESNews Elie Seckbach, provided a glimpse of what would be a huge promotion, even Bob Arum who was present at this impromptu encounter chimed in during the Crawford, Spence exchange, which made for great footage. This is a fight fan’s dream and could be the biggest fight in boxing outside a potential Deontay Wilder vs. Anthony Joshua showdown. Unfortunately, Spence Jr. and Crawford, will likely not take place until 2020 at the earliest.
Speaking of heavyweights, they're back and in a big way. There’s nothing better than two giants getting in the squared circle trying to knock each other’s block off. And when Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder went to battle earlier this month in Los Angeles, a fight that Fury seemed well ahead, changed in an instance late from a couple of powerful bombs from the “Bomb Squad” himself, Wilder. Somehow Fury got up from the last one and the fight ended in a split draw. Now with a possible rematch in the works or a fight with Joshua for Fury or Wilder, heavyweight boxing is back and that is great for the sport.
And then there is Oleksandr Usyk, the Ukrainian cruiserweight who burst on the scene in a big way in 2018. Not only did he win the World Boxing Super Series title, he also unified the division. He has been named Sports Illustrated, ESPN and The Ring fighter of the year. The question for Usyk will be can he do what Evander Holyfield did and capture heavyweight glory. At 6’3”, he is not small and although the trio of Joshua, Wilder and Fury would still have the height on him, those guys could be next on the horizon for Usyk. Those would certainly be big money fights for the skilled southpaw.
The most skilled fighter in the world and usually regarded as the pound for pound king, though, is Vasyl Lomachenko. He beat the formidable Jorge Linares with an impressive body shot TKO back in May and controlled Jose Pedraza a few weeks ago to earn an unanimous decision. The only thing that could hold Lomachenko back is the competition. The big fight would be with Mikey Garcia, but Garcia is focused on Spence Jr., so that pushes it back at least for some time. And then there is the ultra-talented Gervonta “Tank” Davis as a potential mega matchup down the road. Of course, Davis has a fight coming up with Abner Mares first, but no doubt a fight with Lomachenko would be huge for both. Let’s hope the roads meet there in 2019 or 2020 at the latest.
There are so many other great fighters in boxing today and so many matchups to make and with the shift in the business of boxing, 2019 should be another stellar year. The biggest change going into 2019, however, is the departure of HBO after 45 years where it was the gold standard for big time boxing. Although the landscape has shifted to streaming services like DAZN, ESPN +, there will still be boxing on Showtime plus the new deal from Fox Sports and the PBC. And just announced, was the UFC and Roy Jones Jr with his partner Keith Veltre are teaming up to launch boxing on UFC Fight Pass over the next 3 years. And just as the competition is deep inside the ring, it is just as deep amongst the promoters such as Top Rank, Golden Boy, Matchroom and now with Dana White and Roy Jones Jr. joining forces, you can’t sleep on them. It seems the money is flowing more than ever, which should be good for the fighters, but based on how the subscription models pan out, will certainly determine how boxing is watched and positioned well into the future.
As we wrap up 2018 and look forward to an amazing 2019, let’s continue to pray for Adonis “Superman” Stevenson and all others that have suffered great tragedy in the ring for our enjoyment. Boxing is a beautiful sport that takes great skill, determination and perseverance and it is not without great risk. Boxing is a great metaphor for life, you get knocked down, but somehow find a way to get back up. There’s a new book, Boxing = Life: Champion Your Existence, just launched by serial entrepreneur Adrian “AC” Clark with the forward written by world champ Errol Spence Jr., that captures the essence of this parallel. If you have read Clark’s other books, then you know, this one is a must read.
So the sport itself may have been knocked down for a while, but it has gotten back to its feet and is well positioned for a knockout in 2019 and beyond. And as long as Sylvester Stallone can keep making blockbuster Rocky movies like the recent Creed 2, boxing is not going anywhere anytime soon.
Written By Jeff Zimmerman - TITLE Board of Advisors
Bio: Jeff has been in the fight game, both boxing and mixed martial arts, for well over a decade. He has learned the ropes from Hall-of-Fame Referee Richard Steele promoting shows in Nevada and Texas where he has covered all aspects of an event from PR, sponsorships, site coordination to negotiations with venues and appearances with stars such as UFC legend Chuck Liddell. Jeff has also been a writer for several years for one of boxing's most popular sites, Fightnews.com, where he continues to cover the Texas fight scene. Jeff has interviewed and covered fights for some of the biggest names in the sport including Manny Pacquiao, Canelo Alvarez and Terence Crawford. He also has covered and interviewed rising superstar Errol Spence Jr. on multiple occasions. Jeff gives many hours of his time to support two outstanding non-profits, Richard Steele Foundation & Boxing Club and Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame, serving as a special advisor and leading their social media efforts.
TITLE Board of Advisors: A running series of blog posts collected by TITLE Boxing through our relationships with individuals inside the sport. Fighters, trainers, managers, dietitians, referees and more have offered their words, and we bring them to you here.
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