Monday, June 27, 2022

Boxing in 2022: Four burning questions surrounding the sport’s biggest stars with six months left in the year

The sport of boxing has had a tremendous start to the year. The first six months saw champions achieve undisputed status, mammoth upsets and incredibly brutal knockouts. But now, the sport is in a bit of a lull as it ramps up for even more wildness in the late summer and early fall. 

With many of the stars of the sport ready to get back in the ring, the writers at CBS Sports took it upon themselves to answer some of the biggest questions at the forefront as the final six months of fighting kick off. 

Let’s dive right in now to the questions and predictions from “Morning Kombat” host Brian Campbell as well as staff writer Brent Brookhouse.

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Is it finally time for a pair of super fights?

Terence Crawford vs. Errol Spence Jr. and Tyson Fury vs. the winner of Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua

Campbell: To be fair, it has been past time for both fights, yet the good news for boxing fans is that the wait appears nearly over. Both Spence and Crawford appear headed toward an undisputed fight at 147 pounds as early as this fall. The heavyweights, meanwhile, are getting closer as unified champion Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua have set the terms for their August rematch. Unbeaten WBC titleholder Tyson Fury, when not using the threat of retirement as negotiating leverage, also appears ready to fight the winner. The recent trend of undisputed fights across all weight divisions has been a pleasant surprise. But none quite have the ring of royalty like the sport’s two money weight classes in welterweight and heavyweight.  

Brookhouse: It’s been refreshing to see more and more big fights come together in the boxing ring. All barriers to Crawford vs. Spence are gone as Crawford has moved away from Top Rank, the fight must now happen. Luckily, it seems it is going to happen. And, not only is it going to happen, it’s going to happen with both fighters in their primes and as world champions in their ideal weight classes. Heavyweight is a bit more complicated. Fury should face the Joshua vs. Usyk winner, of course. But Fury says he’s retired and won’t end that retirement for less than $500 million. We’re talking about a legacy-defining fight, however, and Fury is guaranteed a boatload of money, even if not half a billion. I don’t believe the heavyweight unification comes together before the end of the year, but I hold out hope to see it in 2023.

Who should be next for Devin Haney?

Campbell: Vasiliy Lomachenko

Full credit must go out to former unified lightweight king George Kambosos Jr. for negotiating in a mandatory rematch clause. But with that said, no one appears all that interested in seeing him get a second chance at trying to figure out the technical puzzle that is Haney. In a perfect world, and one that wouldn’t see Haney be forced to vacate titles in order to skip the Kambosos rematch, the 23-year-old phenom would be headed toward much bigger challenges. The best of which, and one that’s also easy to make promotionally, would be a challenge opposite former unified titleholder and pound-for-pound king Vasiliy Lomachenko. While Haney could possibly do bigger numbers chasing fellow breakout stars in Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia, there’s little question that Lomachenko offers the biggest upside critically for Haney in a fight featuring two of boxing’s most sublime chess players in the ultimate crossroads fights.  

Brookhouse: George Kambosos

Not because it’s the “right” or “best” fight for Haney but because it’s his contractual obligation. Kambosos did a fantastic job of using his power as undisputed champion to not only guarantee an immediate rematch if he lost, but that the rematch would happen in Australia. Nothing from the first fight between the two men suggests a rematch plays out any different than the first time around, but there’s no way for Haney to fight anyone else unless he wants to spend time in the courtroom. Kambosos is not going to step aside when he already set himself up in the best possible situation.

Which division is next to crown an undisputed champion? 

Campbell: Super bantamweight

The easy answer is welterweight, especially considering Spence and Crawford appear close to finally signing the dotted line for a fall showdown. But don’t overlook what’s happening at 122 pounds as Stephen Fulton Jr. continues to make noise in his pursuit of all four belts and P4P supremacy. “Cool Boy Steph” has openly coveted an undisputed showdown against fellow unified champion Murodjan Akhmadaliev, who returns this weekend against Ronny Rios. Although a four-belt title bout would be somewhat difficult to make given that Fulton and Akhmadaliev fight on different networks, it’s something all parties appear to have interest in pursuing.  

Brookhouse: Bantamweight

While a welterweight unification seems as though it will happen with both Crawford and Spence wanting the fight and the political hurdles removed, the easiest fight to crown an undisputed champion is at bantamweight. Naoya Inoue holds three belts after absolutely obliterating Nonito Donaire, while Paul Butler holds the WBO belt. Butler has explained that he’s game to make the fight, game to go to Japan to make it happen and that his team is already in talks to get the fight done before the end of the year. Inoue, meanwhile, made it clear after the Donaire win that he wants to gain undisputed status. It’s just too simple to put this fight together and doesn’t feel quite as cursed to face odd difficulties as Crawford vs. Spence.

Can Canelo bounce back against an aging Golovkin? 

Campbell: The answer here is most likely yes. That doesn’t mean that GGG won’t be willing to go out on his sword by leaning on his legendary chin. No one looks at a trilogy bout against Golovkin as an “easy” fight for Alvarez, especially not after the two modern classics both fighters authored against one another in recent years. Yet, at the same time, Golovkin appears clearly past his prime at age 40, which comes at a bad time considering the 31-year-old Alvarez is more dangerous today than ever before. The sentiment across boxing is that Alvarez could stop Golovkin in a dominant performance that would double as an interesting “get well” fight following Alvarez’s recent loss to WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol.  

Brookhouse: Alvarez is likely going to stop Golovkin this time around. Golovkin is still a solid fighter, but he’s not the fighter he once was. Golovkin is also having to go up in weight for the fight and has been troubled by opponents working to his body in recent fights. Alvarez is a vicious body puncher and he is well aware that Golovkin’s body is the place to focus. Alvarez didn’t take a beating against Bivol, he was just outboxed. That’s not the kind of fight that is going to completely derail everything Alvarez is as a boxer. Golovkin being somewhat less than he was when he established himself as Alvarez’s equal — if not his better — is enough that it’s going to allow Alvarez to make a big statement.

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