The Biggest Boxing Fights to Look Forward to in 2017
There has not been a January in recent memory as packed with great boxing action as January 2017. And the calendar looks promising for the coming months.
Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia will clash in a battle of undefeated welterweight champions. Gennady Golovkin will defend his middleweight crown against the division's true No. 1 contender. Heavyweight phenom Anthony Joshua will face an aging legend.
Beyond that, there is a string of important contender bouts.
10. Marcus Browne vs. Thomas Williams Jr.: February 18
A decade from now, we might look back on this era and remember it as one of the best in the history of the light heavyweight division. The biggest bout in the sport last year took place between Sergey Kovalev and Andre Ward.
The division is stacked with talent. This February 18 tilt between Marcus Browne and Thomas Williams Jr. speaks to the depth of the division. Neither one is in the top 10, but it is a relevant fight.
Williams is coming back after losing to WBC champion Adonis Stevenson by Round 4 stoppage last July. He is a free swinger with good power.
He is in the gatekeeper role against Browne. The 2012 Olympian is 18-0 with 13 KOs. An impressive performance against Williams puts him in the mix for some of the bigger light heavyweight fights.
9. Lucian Bute vs. Eleider Alvarez: February 24
Lucian Bute has gone 2-3-1 in his last six fights, losing consistently to top stars at 168 and 175 pounds, while still showing enough grit and fire to entertain crowds and earn him another payday. He is a former belt holder but, at this point, he is a gatekeeper with a fanbase.
Eleider Alvarez will be looking to crash that gate on February 24 in Quebec City. The Colombian native, who now lives and fights out of Montreal, is 21-0 with 10 KOs and holds a majority decision victory over Isaac Chilemba.
He is a legitimate contender. If he can beat Bute in decisive fashion, he will position himself for a crack at WBC champion Adonis Stevenson, yet another top light heavyweight who calls Quebec home.
8. Jorge Linares vs. Anthony Crolla: March 25
Last September, Jorge Linares went to Manchester, England, and took away Anthony Crolla's WBA lightweight title via hard-fought unanimous decision. Crolla will get his rematch in March, when Linares returns to the Manchester Arena.
Mikey Garcia's Round 3 knockout of Dejan Zlaticanin on January 28 gave him a claim to top-10, pound-for-pound status. It also earned him the WBC lightweight title and put the 135-pound division in the spotlight, where it has seldom been of late.
The winner of Linares vs. Crolla will have a strong claim to being the best fighter in the weight class not named Garcia. That could lead the way to a high-profile unification fight.
7. Adrien Broner vs. Adrian Granados: February 18
Adrien Broner has not developed into the superstar he was hyped to be a few years ago, but he remains one of the sport's more well-known names.
He is also very talented and capable of handling the majority of 140-pound fighters in the world. But talent might not be enough against Adrian Granados on February 18.
Granados has lost four times in his career, and every one of them was a split or majority decision that could easily have gone in his favor.
In November 2015, he was matched with Amir Imam, a highly touted, undefeated contender. Granados dismantled him and won via Round 8 TKO.
Broner should have the talent to win this fight, but he will be in for a hard night if he expects to cruise.
6. Ricky Burns vs. Julius Indongo: April 15
Julius Indongo exploded onto the international scene last year when he blitzed Eduard Troyanovsky in Round 1, to capture the IBF belt at 140 pounds.
Now let's be clear: The IBF super lightweight belt is one of boxing's least legitimate world titles. Troyanovsky was very much untested at the championship level.
But Indongo's next opponent, Ricky Burns, is one of the most experienced fighters in the division, even if his WBA strap is no more authentic than Indongo's IBF version.
Both fighters have plenty to gain here. Indongo can show he is a true contender, and Burns can prove that he remains one.
5. David Lemieux vs. Curtis Stevens: March 11
Do I believe either David Lemieux or Curtis Stevens is likely to reign at the top of the middleweight division at any point in the future? Of course not.
That doesn't mean I am not looking forward to their fight. Both men are exciting, offensive fighters with dangerous power. This could be an early Fight of the Year candidate.
Stevens and Lemieux both come in on two-fight win streaks. Exciting performances for both men will ensure that they continue to receive meaningful fights.
4. Saul Alvarez vs. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.: May 6
Let me acknowledge up front what the cynics would want me to admit anyway: Canelo Alvarez has been unwilling to defend the lineal middleweight title at 160 pounds, yet he is willing to go to a 165-pound catchweight for Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, a punching bag on legs.
I still like this fight. The two biggest current names in Mexican boxing will face off on Cinco de Mayo weekend. That will be an exciting event.
Note I did not say the two best current Mexican boxers. Alvarez might deserve that designation. Chavez is not even close.
When he fought middleweights, Chavez was able to have great success by imposing his 6'1" frame on naturally smaller men. Alvarez, by contrast, will be fighting 10 pounds above the heaviest he has ever been.
This fight won't really prove anything important, but it could be very fun to watch.
3. Gennady Golovkin vs. Daniel Jacobs: March 18
Undefeated middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin has become one of boxing's biggest stars by virtue of his 23-fight KO streak. He has marched through the division, collecting titles.
He hasn't exactly been mowing down stars, though. He has knocked out contenders and former belt holders, but he has never faced one of the division's other true stars.
Daniel Jacobs will be the best opponent he has ever seen. Jacobs is a big, athletic middleweight with dangerous power. His Round 1 KO of Peter Quillin in December 2015 is more impressive than any of Golovkin's victories.
Golovkin has to be viewed as the favorite for this fight, but he will not be the kind of prohibitive favorite he has been in the past.
2. Keith Thurman vs. Danny Garcia: March 4
When Floyd Mayweather retired, he was the lineal champion at 147 and 154 pounds. Neither of those vacancies has been filled to date.
We will take a big step in the right direction this March, though, when undefeated WBA welterweight champion Keith Thurman battles Danny Garcia, the undefeated WBC belt holder.
Thurman and Garcia are two of the biggest young stars in the sport, and they are both in their prime. The winner of this bout will still have other challengers left to defeat, but his status as a star will be established.
1. Anthony Joshua vs. Wladimir Klitschko: April 29
I do not consider Anthony Joshua's IBF heavyweight belt a true world title. It has less legitimacy than any other alphabet-soup trinket in the sport.
But I do think Joshua is the man who will return the heavyweight division to glory. On April 29, he has the opportunity to launch his era when he battles Wladimir Klitschko, who has been the top big man of this century.
Klitschko has never looked comfortable when denied the opportunity to sit back at a comfortable distance and jab downhill at an opponent. He will be unable to do this against Joshua, who is Klitschko's equal in size, while being younger and more athletic.