In boxing, we always look forward to the next fight. Even before an upcoming fight is over, the focus is often on what lies ahead, especially when it comes to the biggest stars in the sport.
While the pressures come from many avenues — fans, social media posts, or even beat writers — it’s the matchmakers who hold the power to decide who takes on whom, when, and how.
We understand they are acting on their own, but that hasn’t stopped us from booking the sport the way we’d like it to go. We gave our team of boxing experts two different opponents for a particular top fighter and let them decide where they would go from here.
Deontay Wilder vs. Andy Ruiz Jr. or Wilder vs. Dillian Whyte?
Tyson Fury is knocked down twice in round four but manages to come back and finish Deontay Wilder in round 11 to defend his title.
Mike Coppinger: Whatever Wilder fights next, it’s possible the opponent will be soft to the touch after being brutally beaten by Tyson Fury in ESPN’s 2021 Fight of the Year.
But when “The Bronze Bomber” fights another boxer in ESPN’s top 10, Ruiz seems like the best option outside of Anthony Joshua (regardless of the outcome of the Aug. 20 fight with Oleksandr Usyk). First, Ruiz meets Luis Ortiz on September 4 and if the former heavyweight champion wins, a Wilder vs. Ruiz matchup is one of the best fights boxing has to offer.
Ruiz, who shocked Joshua to win the titles in June 2019, also boasts lightning-fast hands and plenty of power. He’s also a pressure fighter who would bring the fight to Wilder. Stylistically, it’s a can’t-miss action fight. Wilder often looks for counter-punching opportunities, but in the third fight with Fury he applied a lot more pressure than usual.
Wilder-Ruiz should also be fairly easy to do. Both boxers are with PBC and are top names who can combine for a marquee PPV event.
However, Wilder-Whyte is also a compelling match. The pair of punchers have traded insults in the past, and stylistically, it’s another explosive matchup. Whyte wasn’t remotely competitive with Fury before he was knocked out, but against Wilder he should find more openings for his big right hand.
Devin Haney vs. George Kambosos Jr. 2 or Haney vs. Vasiliy Lomachenko?
Devin Haney wins the undisputed lightweight boxing championship against George Kambosos Jr. in front of thousands of Australian fans.
Michael Rothstein: Without a doubt, the best game here would be Haney-Lomachenko.
Lomachenko, even with the loss to Teofimo Lopez Jr. in 2020, is one of the best fighters in the sport, regardless of division. Lomachenko has looked good in his last two fights, dominant wins over Masayoshi Nakatani and Richard Commey, and could easily claim to be the best lightweight in the world even though he doesn’t hold either of the belts. He’s still just as good.
For Haney, that would give the 23-year-old an even better test than Kambosos. And, if Haney beat Lomachenko, it would cement his status not only as the undisputed champion, but also someone who could be an all-time great. That’s what a win over Lomachenko would do.
Haney-Kambosos 2, based on what their first game looked like, wouldn’t do much to sway opinions. Haney was also dominant against Kambosos the first time around – enough to make the rematch look nowhere near a 50-50 fight or even a 65-35 fight (for Haney).
I get why Kambosos would want the fight — the boxers are confident, and it’s his chance to stay on the world stage after his upset win over Lopez — but it just doesn’t seem like the best possible fight to have right now. If that happens, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Haney win a second time and then face Lomachenko or Ryan Garcia or Gervonta Davis or whoever is next at that time.
Whereas a fight against Lomachenko would be much more intriguing both in terms of storyline and competitiveness inside the ring.
Terence Crawford versus Jermell Charlo or Crawford versus Jermall Charlo?
Mike Coppinger joins Max on Boxing to reveal that Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr. will likely fight later this year in Las Vegas.
Copper : Crawford has called for a future fight with undisputed junior middleweight champion Jermell Charlo after what he hopes will be a victory over Errol Spence Jr. for all the belts at 147 pounds.
But there is another Charlo who has expressed interest in a fight with Crawford, even though it seems long. Jermall Charlo, who holds a world middleweight title, claimed he would drop to 154 pounds for a meeting with Crawford. Jermall, Jermell’s twin brother, previously held a junior middleweight title, but he hasn’t competed at 154 pounds since 2016.
While Crawford against one of the Charlo brothers at 154 pounds is intriguing, a fight with Jermell for the undisputed junior middleweight championship easily carries the highest stakes.
Jermell established himself as one of the best fighters in the world with a stoppage of Brian Castano in a rematch last month. Crawford, ESPN’s No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter who won his first world title at 135 pounds, could he face an elite boxer at 154 pounds? First, he has to close the deal with Spence and go undisputed at 147 pounds.
Juan Francisco Estrada vs. Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez 3 or Estrada vs. Naoya Inoue at 118lbs?
Naoya Inoue knocks out Nonito Donaire in the second round to unify the WBA, WBC and IBF world bantamweight titles.
Nick Parkinson: There’s nothing not to like about Estrada meeting Gonzalez for the third time, but Estrada stepping up a weight class to take on “monster” Inoue has more significance and intrigue.
Estrada-“Chocolatito” 3 would come with a guarantee of thrilling excitement and settle all arguments over who the real ruler of the junior bantamweights is. When they last met in March 2021, Estrada won the WBC and WBA junior bantamweight titles by a disputed split decision in a bout in which the two threw a combined 2,529 punches. This followed another classic 10 years ago, which Gonzalez (51-3, 41 KOs) won by unanimous decision for Estrada’s 108-pound title.
But Estrada (42-3, 28 KOs) stepping up a split to face Inoue at bantamweight is a more enticing fight with the potential to attract interest from beyond die-hard boxing fans.
WBC, WBA, IBF bantamweight world champion Inoue (23-0, 0), as his nickname suggests, is a knockout monster. He is currently one of the most exciting, improving and in-demand boxers in the sport after his two-round destruction of Nonito Donaire in a rematch earlier this month. The 29-year-old boxer needs a challenge for us to gauge how good he is and to sustain current interest.
And, if Inoue is going to stay at 118 pounds, his biggest challenge is against Estrada. Like Inoue, Estrada is a three-weight world champion and his relentless aggression could potentially make for a close fight.
Estrada is a better opponent than the other 118-pound contenders for Inoue, and the 32-year-old Mexican boxer has enough experience — victories over Gonzalez and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, among other top fighters — to ask questions of Inoue, much like Donaire did when they first met in 2019 (ESPN’s Fight of the Year). Donaire dragged Inoue into an entertaining brawl, which Inoue won by overly generous margins after Donaire cut him in the left eye with an early hook. Donaire then came down from the canvas to hurt Inoue in the 11th round. Donaire, the first time around, showed how the monster can be tamed to some degree, and Estrada might consider it worth the effort.
For Estrada, fighting Inoue is a life-changing opportunity to catapult himself into the pound-for-pound lists. And for Inoue, a win over another division No.
Establishing himself as one of the best boxers in the world, which might not be possible by fighting Gonzalez again, might be enough to tempt Estrada to take the riskier option against Inoue. Let’s hope he rolls the dice.
Gervonta Davis vs. Ryan Garcia or Davis vs. Teofimo Lopez Jr.?
Well baby: I’ll take option #3 – none of the answers above.
Back when boxing had the “Four Princes” in the lightweight division, any combination of “Tank” Davis, Haney, Lopez and Garcia made sense. This is no longer the case as some are more ready to be crowned than others.
Davis, although not a legitimate champion as he holds a secondary WBA belt, is the biggest star in the group and can sell a pay-per-view. And even against inferior competition built on soft matchmaking, it’s clear his skill set has improved over the past two years.
Haney also has exceptional qualities. He recently became the true undisputed champion after easily edging out Kambosos, who held three of the four belts after his upset win over Lopez in 2021. Haney, who isn’t the hottest fighter in the ring and doesn’t possess significant power , is the man to beat.
Lopez, who hasn’t fought since the loss at Kambosos, needs to prove he still belongs as a lightweight contender. The same goes for Garcia, who will face Javier Fortuna on July 16. A Lopez-Garcia matchup could be a real elimination fight for the right to face Haney or Davis. — Well baby