By Martin Rogers
Wishing for too much is a dangerous game that always has more than a puncher’s chance of ending in disappointment, but after a buoyant 2017 boxing deserves to dare to dream big.
Another year like the past one would set the fight game on a very sound footing and there are plenty of positive signs. However, as ever, there are a fair few hurdles to navigate in order for matters to proceed smoothly.
Here is a look at my list of 2018 boxing wishes, which, if most of them come off, will mean the boxing gods are smiling on the sweet science once more.
CANELO v. GGG HAPPENS AGAIN….
It was fight the sport wanted and needed and it was terrific. One veteran who had never been fully tested, and a young icon facing his biggest test. The bravery of both was laudable, the action was incessant and the outcome means that nothing other than a swift do-over will appease the fans.
…..WITHOUT ADALAIDE BYRD
One judging controversy, if we are honest, was just fine. A draw was an ideal outcome in terms of setting up a rematch and there are no excuses for failing to tee up a second match. Things need to be on the level next time though. A draw wasn’t a travesty by any means, by Byrd’s lopsided scorecard was a joke and would have made a mockery of the contest if it hadn’t been such a good scrap.
ANTHONY JOSHUA AND DEONTAY WILDER FIGHT EACH OTHER….
….instead of just talking to each other. There is a lot of to-and-fro banter and that’s great and all, but this fight has to happen, sooner rather than later. It makes all the sense in the world, but Eddie Hearn is cagey and protective of Joshua and Wilder’s explosive destruction of Bermane Stiverne has made him look even more dangerous. For cross-nation appeal and a fight that would elevate the victor to ultimate top billing, this would be hard to beat.
AL HAYMON AND BOB ARUM FIND MIDDLE GROUND
They don’t have to like each other or even really talk to each other very much. But if a peaceful truce can emerge from open warfare between Haymon and Top Rank then some good things can happen. Oscar Valdez could fight the winner of Leo Santa Cruz/Abner Mares, Terence Crawford could square off with either Errol Spence or Keith Thurman, while, maybe best of all, pound-for-pound aces Vasyl Lomachenko and Mikey Garcia may battle it out.
NO CONOR MCGREGOR
Not against Paulie Malignaggi, nor Manny Pacquiao, and definitely not Floyd Mayweather again. The Money Fight wasn’t as bad as it might have been, primarily because Mayweather carried his opponent through several rounds, but enough now. Please.
The ever-growing contingent of high quality Eastern European fighters have plenty to offer, but their exploits and abilities are not being appreciated by the American audience. It is harsh but true that it’s difficult to get the public pumped up about a boxer who can’t speak English and whose name they can’t pronounce. But Murat Gassiev is good value and a solid communicator while Oleksandr Gvozdyk hits hard enough to be heard in any language.
HBO TO EITHER SHOW BETTER FIGHTS, OR NO FIGHTS
HBO had some quality stuff in 2017, but its offerings were terribly erratic. High quality contests like Joshua-Klitschko, Canelo-GGG and Sor Rungvisai-Chocolatito II delivered everything promised and more. Let’s either improve the filler stuff in between, or scrap it.
DANA WHITE ENTERS BOXING….
…but he doesn’t try to micromanage it. White has done great things with the UFC and clearly knows to promote combat sports. Many of his ideas would be a breath of fresh air for boxing. His plans for Zuffa Boxing could be innovative and exciting but he also has the ability to put some noses out of joint. There are more moving pieces in boxing than in mixed martial arts and provided White can tread carefully and is prepared to gradually learn the business, he will be a welcome addition.
For Manny Pacquiao and, at long, long last, for Roy Jones. Throwing Pacquiao in as the sacrificial lamb to elevate Crawford to new heights would be a travesty that Arum must avoid. Jones should have had his feet up years ago but he keeps on chasing mediocre paydays. Hopefully he’s finally done. What’s that, you say? He’s got a fight booked for February? Let the year get better from there.