6 Boxing Matchups We'd Love to See in 2022

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistJanuary 7, 2022

6 Boxing Matchups We'd Love to See in 2022

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    Chase Stevens/Associated Press

    Though 2021 included the final appearance of one of boxing's most-recognizable stars—Filipino weight-class climber Manny Pacquiao—there's still a palpable buzz about the sport as 2022 begins.

    But no, it's not quite as traditional as it used to be.

    While stars like Canelo Alvarez are still preeminent in the ways they've been for several years, much of the chatter around the sport these days is generated by the prospect of fighters from other combative strains making a crossover to the ring, or in the case of Jake Paul, from the world of social media.

    Love him or loathe him, Paul provided one of the past year's most memorable highlights when he rendered ex-UFC champion Tyron Woodley unconscious with a single shot in a December rematch that came five months after a first encounter that generated around a half-million pay-per-view buys.

    And let's not forget big brother Logan, whose June "bout" with Floyd Mayweather Jr. hit seven figures.

    So, whether it's active fighters in their primes, old-timers in nostalgic exhibitions or novices battling for the undisputed championship of YouTube, the forecast is favorable as the new year gets going.

    That being the case, it seemed an appropriate time for the B/R combat sports team to gather to discuss the bouts we'd most like to see by the time the ball drops to welcome 2023.

    Some are logical. Some are novel. But all, in our opinion, are needle-movers.

    Take a look at our list and drop a line with a comment, and maybe an idea or two of your own as well.

Jake Paul vs. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    OK, we warned you.

    While it's true that boxing purists hear Paul's name and immediately turn up their noses, it's no less true that he brought a lot of eyes, clicks and dollars with him across three fights in 2021.

    The crowd for the Woodley rematch at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida, was jam-packed with millennial-aged fans drawn by his social media street cred, not to mention a handful of players from the venue's full-time occupant—the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning—and potential UFC rivals Jorge Masvidal and Nate Diaz.

    In fact, though they may cringe while doing so, a host of would-be 2022 foes are already lining up for their turn to share a marquee with the sport's reigning and defending lightning rod.

    And in our opinion, none are more intriguing than Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.

    The son of Mexican legend and Hall of Fame inductee Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., Chavez Jr. has been a lightning rod in his own right thanks to years of uninspiring performances, blown weigh-ins and failed drug tests.

    He was beaten by ring novice Anderson Silva in June but would still represent the first full-fledged boxer Paul has met while building his brand, something the unbeaten personality's detractors have been demanding.

    Chavez said in December that he'd been contacted by Paul's team and had expressed an interest in the idea, not to mention the millions it could generate.

    Though he's not held a title in 10 years and not beaten a widely recognized name in more than half that time, he'd still presumably represent a significant step up from what Paul's been matched with skills-wise and would be a relevant enough foil to generate competitive interest and the cash that comes with it.

    Good enough for us.

Tyson Fury vs. Francis Ngannou

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    Chase Stevens/Associated Press

    No, we'll concede, this one's not Ali-Frazier either.

    And yes, many will rail that it's simply a circus and thus doesn't belong in the conversation.

    But we'd suggest that if there isn't at least a little part of you that would be interested in watching this battle, perhaps you should check for a pulse.

    Boxing's reigning heavyweight kingpin, Fury, is 6'9", typically weighs in the neighborhood of 270 pounds and has rarely shied away from an opportunity to command headlines. Meanwhile, the champion of the UFC's big-man division, Ngannou, is 6'4", weighs just north of 260 pounds and has earned 12 of his 16 career wins by knockout.

    So, if you're looking for a perfect combat sports monster movie, Fury-Ngannou fits the bill. 

    And not surprisingly, the brash English boxer is into it.

    He tweeted a photo of the two of them on Thursday with the message "Who would like to see me fight this beast boxing rules @UFC gloves?" and tagged both Ngannou and UFC czar Dana White.

    Ngannou, meanwhile, responded that he'd prefer boxing gloves and UFC rules, but had expressed interest in the past about facing Fury and/or ex-champ Deontay Wilder in a traditional boxing venue.

    "Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder. I would like to test myself to that level," he told TMZ Sports.

    "It's not the same sport, although I'm the champion, I'm in the top in this division. At the end of the day, it's just about like trained hands, trained punches, having a good delivery system to produce bombs, and I'm sure that if I deliver my own punch, it's pretty good, I can make some damage."

    Even if there's no guarantee he'll deliver on his claim, we're dying to see him try.

Katie Taylor vs. Amanda Serrano

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    It's been years in the making.

    A marquee bout between two elite women at the tops of their respective games.

    And it appears the wait is nearly over.

    When Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano won bouts on consecutive December weekends in venues more than 4,000 miles apart, it seemed the final hurdles were cleared to them getting together in the first half of 2022 in a venue befitting their combined ring prowess—which amounts to a 62-1-1 record with 36 KOs.

    What's even better?

    Both the 35-year-old from Ireland and her 33-year-old rival from Puerto Rico actually want the fight to happen.

    No, really.

    "When I turned pro five years ago I think we were making pennies in comparison to our male counterparts, and now here we are, having a conversation about a seven-figure purse for the next fight," Taylor told ESPN. "That in itself is incredible. And I don't think anybody in women's boxing would have even dreamt that we could possibly be making this kind of money. I think this is huge for the sport."

    You can count Paul, who co-promotes Serrano and had her on two of his 2021 shows, as a big fan, too.

    "That's its own main event," he said after Serrano's defeat of Miriam Gutierrez in Tampa.

    "For sure. And I'm so excited. I'm going to do everything in my power to make that fight the biggest female boxing fight in the history of the sport."

    Sign us up, too, Jake.

Gervonta Davis vs. Ryan Garcia

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    Buckle up, we're jumping into the way-back machine for this one.

    Though neither Gervonta Davis nor Ryan Garcia is within range of his 30th birthday, a fight between the two of them suddenly feels like it's been marinating for quite a while.

    Garcia, still just 23, crossed over from social media chatterbox to legitimate world-class fighter around this time last year, when he climbed off the floor and stopped former lightweight title challenger Luke Campbell with a body shot in the seventh round of their Jan. 2 bout.

    The win stoked the fires for a showdown with Davis, a multidivision titleholder with whom Garcia later engaged in a war of words, suggesting his 5'5" rival would need a StairMaster to reach him.

    Davis, now 27, seemed more than willing to accommodate, but things were put on hold when Garcia put himself on the shelf to focus on his mental health following a prolonged struggle with depression.

    He still hasn't fought since the defeat of Campbell, but he got himself back on the record about Davis with a social media salvo in which he suggested Mayweather Promotions was protecting its client with soft fights.

    "We all know Luke Campbell is better then all of tanks opposition, tank can't beat me he knows that and mayweather knows that," Garcia tweeted. "I'm too fast and i got to much accuracy, cmon may weather you can't protect him forever."

    It came a day after Davis went a hard 12 rounds with unheralded substitute Isaac Cruz in December.

    Davis, meanwhile, labeled Garcia an "Instagram fighter" and a "pretty girl," and implied Garcia never really wanted to fight, a claim predictably echoed by executives Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Leonard Ellerbe.

    Let's just say we hope they're wrong.

Canelo Alvarez vs. David Benavidez

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    Steve Marcus/Associated Press

    This one makes too much sense.

    Canelo Alvarez is the biggest name in the sport, having generated millions of pay-per-view buys, earned millions of dollars and captured legitimate title belts in weight classes from 154 to 175 pounds.

    He's mowed down boogeymen like Gennady Golovkin and Sergey Kovalev, handled stylists like Daniel Jacobs and Caleb Plant and dispatched pretenders like James Kirkland and Amir Khan.

    In fact, he's lost just once in 60 fights—to Floyd Mayweather Jr. when he was just 23.

    But when he'd seemingly settled down at 168 pounds, having won four fights and four championships there in the last 13 months, it brought another potential menace into range.

    David Benavidez is a phenom-turned-veteran super middleweight, having won a title in the division on two occasions while compiling a record of 25-0 with 22 KOs. In fact, he never lost the belts in the ring, surrendering one after missing weight and another following a failed drug test.

    But he returned to relevance in 2021, winning two fights inside the distance while banging the drum that he was the biggest challenge that Alvarez had yet to consider.

    "I feel like the people have been asking for it for a long time, for a while because there's nobody left at 168 anymore," he told Boxing Scene. "I think I'm the best potential candidate to fight for Canelo because I have good speed, good power and I'm a warrior. I go forward.

    "So I feel like that fight's going to happen soon. I have the longer reach, I have the longer arms, I'm bigger. Physically. And I'm a big puncher at 168, too. I feel like the guys he's fought recently; they haven't been big punchers at 168. I am, definitely."

    Alvarez, though, said at the WBC convention in November that he's considering a jump to cruiserweight to fight titleholder Ilunga Makabu and try for a belt in a fifth weight class.

    "Right now, I can do whatever I want," he said. "I faced all the 168-pound world champions.

    "I took the title from all of them. Now I do what I want."

    We're all for ladder-climbing ambition, but we're still hoping Benavidez gets what he wants first.

Errol Spence Jr. vs. Terence Crawford

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    Ringo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press

    Remember Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao?

    They were Nos. 1 and 2 on nearly every reputable pound-for-pound list and shared a weight class for several years but somehow never managed to get a fight done until 2015, when they were 38 and 36, respectively.

    And though it was still a worthwhile match between world-class foes, it occurred well past vintage.

    If we're not careful, it's going to happen again with Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr.

    The two unbeaten fighters, from Nebraska and Texas respectively, have shared championship status at welterweight every day for more than two-and-a-half years, but they seem no nearer a duel on day 1,311 of their dual reigns.

    Crawford turned 34 in September. Spence will be 32 in March. And though both still occupy high-profile slots on The Ring's pound-for-pound list—Crawford third, Spence sixth—the sell-by date will eventually arrive.

    Still, aside from the requisite social media jabs, neither seems too moved by the prospect.

    Spence is penciled in to fight WBA champ Yordenis Ugas in the spring, and he'd hold every significant belt in the division not already owned by Crawford if he wins.

    Crawford told The Ring in November 2020 that missing an opportunity with Spence wasn't a make-or-break for his career.

    "I’ve accomplished so much in the sport of boxing that I (don't) really need him," Crawford said. "If that fight don't happen, I don't feel like it (would hurt) my legacy. It just hurts the legacy of the welterweight division."

    Bottom line, it simply shouldn't come to that.