By Jeff Zimmerman - TITLE Board of Advisors
Boxing had a breakout year in 2017 by every indication and 2018 has the potential to be even bigger. There were great fights all around the globe from Vladimir Klitschko vs. Anthony Joshua in London, Sor Rungvisai vs. Roman “Chocalito” Gonzalez I in New York to the most anticipated fight of the year GGG vs. Canelo in Las Vegas. And what potentially comes from great fights are emerging stars and with so much young talent bursting on the scene, 2018 should be the year that boxing emerges from the large shadow of one Floyd “Money” Mayweather. Then again, as we found out with his money grab with Conor McGregor, don’t count him out to steal the spotlight once again if money talks. But with Mayweather no longer in the top 10 pound for pound list due to his “retired” status, there are plenty of fighters ready to shine as boxing’s next superstar.
Here’s a list of the 7 fighters that could potentially cement themselves as one of the Faces of Boxing in 2018 or at least become a household name. The list was based on boxing ability plus intangibles such as personality, marketability, willingness to fight all comers and in the prime of their career.
- Saul “Canelo” Alvarez – Canelo is already bigger than boxing in many regards, after all he is known by his singular nickname, dates A-list celebrities, paid a visit to the Pope and has the country of Mexico on his back. He’s the true one and only cross-over superstar in boxing today and he reminds everyone when he says this is “mi era”. Canelo finally fought GGG in one of the most anticipated fights in recent memory. Although many thought Canelo lost in a close fight, the fight was ruled a draw. They will fight a rematch Cinco de Mayo and if Canelo could win in dramatic fashion, by let’s say a knockout of GGG, Canelo will undoubtedly continue to be the face of boxing. And if Canelo does get by GGG, there will be a long line of guys itching to fight him as he is the cash cow in the sport today. Canelo is still young and has showed a willingness to fight anybody, so expect more big fights from him for years to come.
- Anthony Joshua – The heavyweight Joshua is already a superstar in Europe filling up 90,000 seat arenas and with his GQ looks and cut up physique he has the potential to rule the sport for years to come. Boxing has always thrived with great heavyweights and right now it is the best it has been in years. Joshua showed a championship heart when he outlasted and finally stopped future hall of famer and the ruler of heavyweights over the last decade in Vladimir Klitschko in the 11th round last year. A massive payday awaits him if he finally battles American heavyweight Deontay Wilder. And if somehow that fight comes to America and he stops Wilder, he would no doubt become a global icon. Let’s hope that fight can be made in 2018.
- Terence Crawford – Crawford has been one of boxing’s best for a while now becoming a world champion at 135 and then the undisputed champ at 140. His skills are undeniable as he can switch from orthodox to southpaw on the fly and take over fights in a flash. He is now jumping up to arguably boxing’s best weight class at 147 and will fight for the WBO title against Jeff Horn who won a controversial decision over Manny Pacquiao last year. If he can get by the unorthodox Horn and get a title, he will undoubtedly want money fights with the likes of Errol Spence Jr. and Keith Thurman who hold the other belts. That’s where things could get sticky as Crawford fights under the Top Rank banner and Spence Jr., Thurman and others like Danny Garcia, Shawn Porter are under Al Haymon’s guidance. But if the fight is big enough and the money is there, it will get done. If Crawford could successfully make the move to 147 and take over, he will be the pound for pound best in boxing.
- Errol Spence Jr. – Spence Jr. is already in the top 10 pound for pound after winning his first title last year against Kell Brook for the IBF crown in Brook’s hometown and in front of 30,000 people. Spence Jr. has had superstar written all over him since he came out of the 2012 Olympics but it took some time to get his title shot. Now that he has it, he has no plans of slowing down. He has repeatedly called out Keith “One Time” Thurman who holds the WBC and WBA titles, but Thurman, coming back from elbow surgery, seems in no hurry to make the fight. After Spence Jr. dominated former 2x world champion Lamont Peterson recently showing off his full arsenal of punches, it’s even more doubtful that others are lining up to fight the powerful southpaw from Dallas. Spence Jr. said recently he is still learning every day from his coach, who happens to be Ring Magazine & Yahoo Sports trainer of the year, Derrick James. Hopefully Spence Jr. will get the fight with Thurman at the end of 2018 or early 2019 and then a fight with Crawford for 147 lb supremacy.
- Vasyl Lomachenko – Arguably the best pound for pound fighter today, Lomachenko won a world title in his 3rd pro fight after winning 2 Olympic gold medals. He has already beaten the likes of Nicholas Walters, Gary Russell Jr. and most recently another 2-time Olympic gold medalist in Guillermo Rigondeaux. Although he is a tremendous fighter, he will likely continue to move up for marquee fights and to build his profile in the U.S. Lomachenko, like Crawford, is promoted by Top Rank and will have to go outside for big fights. After Jorge Linares won this past weekend, there are talks that Golden Boy and Top Rank could make this showdown happen.
- David Benavidez – Once known as the younger brother to Jose, David Benavidez has become one of the top young fighters in boxing. At 20 years old, Benavidez is the youngest super middleweight champion in history as holds the WBC title. Both brothers are trained by their dad Jose Benavidez Sr. who spent a long time learning under legendary trainer Freddie Roach. Benavidez survived the tough Ronald Gavril to claim the title and fights him in an immediate rematch on February 17th. If he wins impressively, Benavidez could have a breakout year in 2018 and continue his rise as one of the best young stars in boxing.
- Badou Jack – Jack has quietly become one of the best fighters in the sport. Jack is already a two weight world champion at super middleweight and light heavyweight. Although Jack is not one to talk trash, he has the best voice piece in the business in his promoter Floyd Mayweather and Mayweather Promotions. He will take on Adonis Stevenson for the WBC light heavyweight title this May. A big win over Stevenson should broaden Jack’s appeal and launch him to the next level of stardom in 2018.
Other fighters to watch:
Gennady Golovkin aka GGG – GGG became one of the most feared fighters in boxing with his devastating knockouts, but has seemed to slow down recently and although he appeared to beat Canelo last September in many people’s eyes, he is in his mid-thirties and it is likely his best boxing is behind him. A big win against Canelo could keep him going for some big paydays in the future or maybe he calls it a career. Time will tell.
Deontay Wilder – Wilder is a specimen at 6’7” with a chiseld frame, and as the WBC heavyweight champion of the world should be a definite superstar right now. But with many fights in his hometown of Alabama and subpar opponents it is still hard to know how great Wilder is. If and/or when the showdown with Joshua happens, the winner will certainly rule the sport.
Charlo Bros. – They just go together. Jermell and Jermall continue to prove all skeptics wrong as they continue to win and do so in dramatic fashion. Jermell, since hooking up with Spence’s trainer Derrick James, had two KO of the Year candidates with his knockout of Charles Hatley and Erickson Lubin. Jermall still trained by Ronnie Shields has moved up to 160 and is looking for a signature win. Known for their Lions Only moniker, if the Charlo Bros. continue to roar in 2018, many will no longer underestimate these charming twins who fight with an unmistakable chip on their shoulder.
Mikey Garcia – Garcia just turned 30 but has been fighting for 12 years. Garcia was well on his way to becoming the face of boxing when he didn’t fight for over two years due to contract issues with his promoter. After a devastating knockout of Dejan Zlaticanin and a dominant performance against Adrien Broner, Garcia is looking to fast track his way back to the top of the pound for pound list. He fights relatively unknown Sergey Lipinets in March and then hopefully will have a big-name opponent later in the year.
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:
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