Boxing is back
What to expect this calendar year
By Hayden Koch, Contributor
At long last, the sport of professional boxing seems to be entering another renaissance.
After years of relative dormancy, the sport has finally clawed its way back into a state where there is much competition, with numerous popular names scattered along each division.
This is due in large part to the gradual decline of the careers of superstars like Floyd Mayweather Jr., Manny Pacquiao and the legendary Klitschko brothers, Wladimir and Vitali, who for the longest time were the undisputed kings of their respective weight classes — and save for a select few examples, did not allow any other fighters to reach mainstream prominence.
However, their absence created a sort of power vacuum for a moment and it seems like that void has been filled.
The Big Boys
Boxing’s most prestigious division — the heavyweight class, had been utterly dominated by the Klitschko brothers since the retirement of former decorated champion Lennox Lewis, in the early 2000’s.
The brothers were known for their incredibly high knockout percentages and overall dominance in the ring, but some argue that the quality of the fighters they faced was not up to par with that of the era’s of previous superstar champions like Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson.
Both Klitschko’s vowed to never face each other in the ring, which further complicated things, as it became impossible for the heavyweight championships to be unified.
With both fighters far beyond their heyday and both officially retired, the spotlight has been cast on the new generation of champs, who are set to all clash by the time 2018 is over.
Enter 28-year-old Anthony Joshua.
He is an Olympic gold medallist who hails from Great Britain. With his intimidating appearance, standing at 6’6” and weighs 250 lbs, his impressive record (20-0, 20 KO) and charismatic public persona, many see him as the exact fighter the heavyweight division has been needing for a very long time — a more marketable and less volatile version of Tyson.
He won the IBF world title in 2016 and additionally scooped the WBA and IBO world titles after knocking out Wladimir himself just under a year ago. It seems that Joshua fully intends to be the undisputed champion by the end of 2018 — but he has some work to do, needing two more belts.
The remaining portions of the world heavyweight championship are held by two other undefeated fighters; Joseph Parker and Deontay Wilder.
Parker (24-0), is the WBO champ from New Zealand. Wilder (39-0), is the arguably more frightening WBC champ from the USA.
Joshua vs. Parker is slated for Mar. 31. Unless Parker is able to pull an upset victory, Joshua and Wilder will then square off by the end of 2018, in what would certainly be the biggest heavyweight battle since Tyson fought Lewis.
Regardless of what happens, it seems likely that this year will see the coronation of a figure we haven’t seen for a very long time — an undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.
New Blood in the Lighter Divisions
After Mayweather vs. McGregor this past summer, Gennady “GGG” Golovkin vs. Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez was perhaps the most anticipated boxing match of the year.
Golovkin (38-0) is a fearsome middleweight from Kazakhstan, known for his almost eight year streak of only knocking out the fighters he faced. Canelo (49-1-2) is a young and popular mexican fighter, whose only lost came from Mayweather in 2013.
The two clashed last September in what was a very competitive and electric display of boxing skill.
Although many observers felt that GGG was the more dominant fighter and had won more rounds, the fight was controversially scored as a draw after going the distance.
Golovkin won the fight on points.
Negotiations for the rematch began almost immediately and GGG vs. Canelo ll was recently announced. The fight is set to occur on May 5 and is likely to be an even bigger event than the first fight, which had the third highest gate revenue in boxing history.
In order to avoid another round of faulty scorecards from the judges, both fighters will certainly be trying to score the knockout.
The two heavy hitting middleweights aren’t the only ones keeping the lighter divisions warm in the absence of Mayweather and Pacquiao.
The skill of Vasyl Lomachenko, a Ukrainian featherweight, has been hailed by boxing critics as something that’s almost never been seen before.
His amateur career consisted of 397 fights, of which he won 396. His footwork and head movement is almost mystical in its fluidity and elegance.
His most recent professional bout was with undefeated cuban boxer Guillermo Rigondeaux, a widely respected fighter with an almost equally astonishing record before going pro. Over the course of six rounds, Lomachenko made Rigondeaux look like the amateur he never was, landing punches on him at will and refusing to be touched almost the whole time.
Lomachenko has only won titles in some of the lightest divisions thus far.
Seeing how this is so early in his career and the fact that he is two inches taller than eight-division fighter Pacquiao, wouldn’t be surprising if Lomachenko ends up bringing his obscene level of skill to a wide variety of fighters in different weight classes, perhaps starting this year.