Pretend for a moment Santa could bring boxing fans anything they wished for in 2020. Maybe Santa could even name one commissioner for a day. With a new year, new decade, dawning, the possibilities are endless.
No two fans would likely wish for all the same things, as it should be. Some are the type who only get excited for the heavyweights. Others have a sort of invisible line of interest by weight classes. Still others were up at 3AM earlier this week to watch a card from Japan.
It takes all kinds. In a global sport, spread across multiple belts and nations, there really is something for everyone.
Goodwill for all humankind if you will.
From this corner, after a thrilling second half of the year, and plenty to enjoy in the first six months of 2019 as well, the wish list is abundant. In the spirit of holiday cheer, it seemed a good time to share what would be at the top of one wish list as the 21st century teens draw to a close.
Wish 1: Heavyweight Consolidation
It’s too much to wish that any division will ever again have a long reigning champion who holds all the belts. Politics, ‘franchising,’ and geography are just some of the obstacles. It doesn’t mean divisions can’t consolidate around a key figure. Nowhere does that matter more than heavyweight.
After some ups and downs, we head into the new year with the same three-headed monster atop boxing’s premiere class. Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury will face off for the second time in early 2020, hopefully producing a victor this time. That may or may not lead to a third fight. Regardless, somewhere along the way, for everyone to get as rich as possible and fans to have truly seen the era fulfilled, we’re going to need to see those two and the now vulnerable Anthony Joshua. Let’s hope at least one fresh match of the big three happens in the year ahead.
Wish 2: A Full Return for Errol Spence
Aside from any legal troubles stemming from the car accident welterweight Errol Spence survived following his unification victory over Shawn Porter, the question of how the accident affects Spence physically will remain until answered in the ring. Here’s hoping we see a Spence who comes all the way back. He is a fighter who in the ring appeared to be hitting his peak. Finding out how high the peak could get for any fighter, particularly in a division as rich in history as welterweight, is part of the joy of following the sport. It doesn’t supplant the joy, and relief, of knowing Spence survived what could have been one of the sport’s worst tragedies since the death of Salvador Sanchez.
Wish 3: Lightweight Fulfillment
135 lbs. has gotten hot in the ring. In the first half of 2020, we’ll see Vasyl Lomachenko face off with threatening Teofimo Lopez in a unification bout. After Lopez’s title win over Richard Commey, Lomachenko was crystal clear: if he gets by Lopez, he wants to see Gervonta Davis across the ring. Davis has been built into a genuine attraction and by the time he would square off with Lomachenko, it’s likely we have a serious pay-per-view encounter on tap. That’s all still an if as Lopez will have a big say…and Devin Haney will be waiting in the wings for everyone.
Wish 4: The Survival of the WBSS
While the execution has had issues, few things have delivered in the ring like the World Boxing Super Series tournaments. Fans have been treated to classics at cruiserweight, Jr. welterweight, and bantamweight while seeing in real time the drama structure can provide. Fans often ask what boxing would look like if it worked like other sports. Tournaments in general give us a hint and the WBSS fields have mostly been stacked with large chunks of the genuine top tens of their class. Let’s be real: this model wouldn’t work in divisions where the riches flow under normal boxing law; too many fingers in the pie would spoil. However, weight divisions in search of stars and deep in bench can use the format as a catapult. If the WBSS continues in 2020, here’s a vote for trying to snag the cream of the Jr. flyweight class. It’s a deep, talented pool that would promise some serious action for fans.
Wish 5: One More Thrill for Roman Gonzalez
As was the case with Michael Carbajal in the 90s and Vic Darchinyan in the 00s, it takes the right guy under, let’s say, Jr. featherweight to carve a place in the US market for the lighter weight classes. In Gonzalez, it was the first time the talent of a non-English speaking flyweight was so big it forced its way into the bigger conversations in the US marketplace. Gonzalez’s rise made room for Naoya Inoue, Juan Francisco Estrada, Carlos Cuadras, Kazuto Ioka, and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai among others to make appearances on major US outlets. After years as a hardcore darling, US fans saw the end of his prime. Will they see an encore? Gonzalez is back from a knee injury and, at 32, has a short window for one more big night. Win or lose, it would be nice to see if the man who gave fans classics against Estrada, Cuadras, and Sor Rungvisai has one more monumental effort left before his body truly runs out.
Final Wish: Mayweather-Pacquiao II
There will be cynics who hate the idea. Bah humbug to them. Floyd has announced he will come out of retirement in 2020. If that means in a boxing ring, there is no bigger event than a rematch with Pacquiao. Coming off his win over Keith Thurman, Pacquiao’s stock is as high as it’s been since his 2015 loss to Mayweather. If Mayweather could come off the bench, in his 40s, and win one more time it would put an exclamation point on the key pound-for-pound rivalry of the 21st century. Even if he didn’t, they’d deliver a bigger event than anyone else could in 2020. It’s never too late to see the two greatest fighters of this century to date lock horns one more time.
Those are just a few wishes. Feel free to add your own in the comments and to all the readers at BoxingScene, one more wish for the Happiest of Holiday seasons for all.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]