Canelo Alvarez is looking for an opponent to fight later this year later this year, but the rest of the 2021 boxing calendar is quickly filling up with title fights. Shakur Stevenson will face a test at WBO Junior Lightweight Champion Jamel Herring, Andrew Moloney and Joshua Franco will complete their trilogy, Josh Taylor will make his first defense of the undisputed World Junior Welterweight Championship and Anthony Joshua will make his three heavyweight championships Defending title against former undisputed world cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk.
Much of the boxing world has focused on Tokyo in recent weeks, where the U.S. men’s Olympic team barely broke its 16-year gold medal drought and settled for three silver medals. Two of the medalists – Keyshawn Davis and Duke Ragan – are already professionals, and team captain Richard Torrez Jr. also made the podium. With the 2020 Olympics, will they find the gold they are looking for on a professional level in the rearview mirror?
Mike Coppinger, Timothy Bradley, Michael Rothstein, and Ben Baby address these and other issues while distinguishing between what is real and what is not.
Shakur Stevenson will dethrone Jamel Herring as WBO junior lightweight champion
Rothstein: Really. Hering deserves great respect for what he has achieved both as a fighter and as a person, as he has helped people in various areas of life by sharing his story. He’s inspiring. But Stevenson just seems like a different fighter than those Herring has faced in the past.
Yes, Herring beat Carl Frampton, a household name, but Frampton was in his final career fight when Herring knocked him out in April.
The herring will be Stevenson’s toughest fight, however, and this won’t be a piece of cake for Shakur. Herring can fight and cause some problems for Stevenson, especially if he finds the right range early on. But Stevenson’s defense will be problematic for Herring, and will likely be too much for Herring to manage as the fight progresses. I wouldn’t expect a knockout here and would expect a close fight. While Herring could find a way to pull it off, it’s a fight Stevenson should win.
Joshua Franco vs. Andrew Moloney 3 will be as good as their first fight
Bradley: Not really. They have already met. They will make small adjustments, but they have felt each other’s power and know what they are up against. They didn’t know each other much in their first fight, and each did some things that were successful and made for a fun fight. It was a great action fight. When they saw the movie after the fight, they saw things they hadn’t done or seen the first time, and I think they’ll both be more measured and strategic.
At the second meeting, Franco was exhausted. I remember him at the scales and remember his trainer picking him up from his chair and helping him weigh in to the scales, and then Franco went back to the chair. You could see how lethargic he was for the first two rounds before the bout was abandoned and ended with this controversial uncompetitive decision. I think you will see a more efficient Franco in this trilogy fight, more calculated, more like the first fight.
Both will incorporate the things they learned from the first two fights into the third. I think Moloney understands what to do and how to be more precise against Master Franco. I think Moloney knows where to be in the ring, what to do, and how to beat Franco, but he has to do it for 12 rounds and that’s going to be difficult.
Moloney has all the tools, but he has to assemble them. In their second fight the momentum was definitely in his favor and he was doing everything right. He was inside, dictating the fight from the outside with the jab. He has to do all of that and more to prevent Franco from getting in the third time.
Jack Catterall is an uphill battle for Josh Taylor
Josh Taylor talks about defending his title against Jack Catterall in Glasgow, Scotland, in December.
Coppinger: Really. Catterall is unbeaten in 26 fights, but all but one of those fights took place on home soil in the UK, against fighters nowhere near Taylor’s level. Caterall’s two best wins came in 2018: a decision over Ohara Davies in a highly competitive 12-round bout that immediately followed a 10-round win over Tyrone McKenna, which was even closer on the judges’ scorecards.
Catterall will now level up several levels Great in the fight against one of the best boxers in the world. Josh Taylor is # 7 on ESPN’s pound-for-pound list, and he could be even better. His resume is one of the best in the sport, with victories over former champions Regis Prograis, Jose Ramirez, Ivan Baranchyk and Viktor Postol. With this constant competition and Taylor’s ambitions to fight Terence Crawford for the welterweight championship in the future, the Catterall fight is a busy one.
It’s just too bad the fight takes place seven months after Taylor Ramirez won. Ideally, Taylor would have done his business with the mandatory challenger sooner so he could slide in another marquee fight before the end of 2021.
Certainly Taylor will land such a fight in 2022, especially if he actually moves up to 147 pounds. Even if he doesn’t, Teofimo Lopez and Gervonta Davis have challenged him as both are looking to climb up to 140 to meet him in a super fight.
While Catterall doesn’t pose too much of a threat, he will certainly face tougher competition than Taylor’s final duty. Taylor scored a KO in the first round of Apinun Khongsong in September.
Each of the three Olympic silver medalists in US men’s boxing wins a professional title
Copper: We’ll get to Keyshawn Davis and Duke Ragan in a moment, both of whom have already become professionals. But it’s far too early to know how Richard Torrez Jr. will project as a professional, and as a heavyweight he will compete in a stacked weight class led by Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder.
Of course, when the 22 year old is ready to fight in 12 kings, this trio will be at the end of their careers. To win a heavyweight championship, Torrez must prove he has a heavyweight chin. He showed a clear improvement after he was brutally knocked out by Bakhodir Jalolov in the amateurs. In the rematch with Jalolov for the super heavyweight gold medal, Torrez won the first round with three out of five judge scorecards, but Jalolov took over in the final two rounds. Torrez is too small, but what he has is great strength and enormous courage.
However, given his impact resistance and frame, it’s hard to predict that he will win the heavyweight championship. For that alone, I’m not saying real.
Ragan surprised some with a silver medal, and maybe the confidence he won in the Olympics will be carried over to the professionals. In featherweight he is 4-0 with a knockout.
Of the three, Davis is certainly the most likely future champion. The southpaw has quick hands, great footwork and most importantly, an impressive ring IQ. These qualities served him well in a very close fight for the gold medal against Andy Cruz, whom Davis eventually lost by split decision.
Davis has shown power among the pros with two KOs in his first three bouts, and of the Olympians who competed in Tokyo, he has the best future of all.
Joshua-Usyk will be a more competitive match than Fury-Wilder 3
Baby: A thousand percent real. Anyone who paid the slightest attention to Fury-Wilder II remembers how one-sided it was. Wilder isn’t tech savvy enough to stop Fury from holding him back in this third fight, a position from which Fury can do the damage necessary to cause a stop. Aside from Wilder landing a big right hand to take out Fury – a punch he famously landed in the first fight and which Fury is still recovering from – there’s little drama in a third fight.
However, Joshua’s fight against Usyk is a lot more fascinating than people might think. Sure, Usyk may not have the strength to be an intimidating heavyweight. But the former undisputed cruiserweight champion has a ton of ring chops. And as we know from Joshua’s 2019 defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr., a smaller fighter who works well in compact spaces can cause a lot of problems for the British champions.
Don’t get me wrong, Joshua is great. But because his defense is sometimes lacking and Usyk is a strong boxer, Joshua-Usyk becomes a fascinating fight.