A mega fight between lightweight contender Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia is still in the works for April 15, but that doesn't prevent us from making a prediction. Can Garcia not only win, but stop Davis?
How about Shakur Stevenson, who's also moved up to the 135-pound division in search of bigger challengers? Can he be undisputed by the end of the year? But before that can happen, undisputed champion Devin Haney has a potential meeting with Vasiliy Lomachenko in May. Could that fight happen in Las Vegas or the Middle East?
Last May, light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol dominated Canelo Alvarez to defend his title. Can the rematch be contested at super middleweight, where Alvarez reigns as undisputed champion?
And can Naoya "The Monster" Inoue continue his domination of the small division in a move to bantamweight?
Mike Coppinger, Nick Parkinson, Ben Baby and Michael Rothstein share their thoughts on these topics.
Don't be surprised if... Ryan Garcia knocks out Gervonta Davis
Garcia will be counted as a decided underdog if he meets Davis on April 15 in Las Vegas. Davis is considered an elite fighter, while Garcia is less proven.
But Garcia holds obvious advantages over Davis. Garcia is 5-foot-11 and has a six-inch height advantage over Davis, an undersized 135-pounder. Garcia is also the faster fighter, possessing the quickest hands in boxing. His check left hook is a dangerous weapon.
Davis will have to work his way inside against his larger foe, which should present opportunities for Garcia to counter Davis' southpaw jab.
"Tank" Davis has shown that he gets hit, and so does Garcia. However, Davis is the superior boxer, a fighter with a high ring IQ, and able to set traps for his opponents. Davis also downloads information on opponents while conceding the early rounds before finding the fight-ending blow. But he's never faced someone like Garcia, with his blend of size, speed and power.
Davis' best win remains a 2017 victory over Jose Pedraza to capture a title at 130 pounds. How will Davis react to being hit flush by a genuinely big puncher? Can Garcia keep Davis on the outside and at the end of his punches? Or will Davis be able to waltz his way into Garcia's chest, where he can unleash his patented uppercuts and precise straight lefts?
Garcia has already been on the canvas against Luke Campbell, but he rallied to score a KO victory, proving he can handle adversity in the ring. Can Davis?
It's a fascinating matchup and one of the biggest fights the sport can offer right now. And I believe it ends in a KO. -- Coppinger
Don't be surprised if... Shakur Stevenson fights for the undisputed lightweight championship this year
Stevenson had a dominant run at junior featherweight and has the skills to be a problem in the 135-pound division. When he missed weight in his September 2022 defense against Robson Conceicao, it was clear he needed to move up a division.
Stevenson (19-0, 9 KOs) has the proper alignment required to have a shot at the undisputed title held by Devin Haney. Haney, Vasiliy Lomachenko and Stevenson are all promoted by Top Rank. According to ESPN's Mike Coppinger, Haney and Lomachenko have the framework of a deal in place for a potential bout in May. It makes sense for Stevenson to get the winner of that bout, after he tests the waters in the new division.
Granted, boxing's matchmakers have clearly shown an inability to come to logical decisions. But given all the factors, matching Stevenson against the Haney-Lomachenko winner will be a no-brainer and a top candidate for fight of the year. -- Baby
Don't be surprised if... Devin Haney and Vasiliy Lomachenko fight in the Middle East
This is tricky. The most important thing is Haney and Lomachenko are fighting. In an era of boxing where big fights are often talked about but not realized, that's step one. So, the fact that the fight is happening is the biggest win. That said, no, there's no reason for this fight to happen in the Middle East -- even if the money is better there. Boxing in America has a problem right now. From way-too-late starting times for main events on the East Coast to fighters barely being able to garner a foothold in the sporting culture in the states, this is a fight that feels like it needs to happen in Las Vegas.
Haney is the undisputed lightweight champion. He's from the United States. Going to fight in Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Jeddah would not be groundbreaking -- we saw a bunch of that the last few years. But the U.S. needs as many mega events in the sport as possible to maintain interest in it beyond the hardcore fans. There are not enough big fights in men's boxing. And the ones that are happening, need to be in the U.S.. Lomachenko is one of the few names that people beyond the hardcore fans know. While Lomachenko is from Ukraine, he has also fought most of his professional fights in the United States.
There's no reason to ship this fight overseas besides the obvious money grab. Sure, there's an argument for that. But at some point, promoters have to keep big fights in the United States and find a way to sell them significantly if they want the men's side of boxing to regrow in this country. -- Rothstein
Don't be surprised if... Canelo Alvarez and Dmitry Bivol fight their rematch at super middleweight
Alvarez has been steadfast since his upset loss to Bivol at light heavyweight: He wants a rematch. Canelo yearns for the return bout despite the lopsided nature of the first fight and the plentiful options available to him as boxing's top star.
Bivol, the WBA light heavyweight champion, expressed that he would have little interest in an encore counter at 175 pounds but would be piqued by the possibility of the matchup at 168 pounds, where Alvarez remains the undisputed champion.
Alvarez also felt most comfortable at super middleweight, and the fact that Bivol would have to drop seven pounds in weight makes a rematch far more compelling.
Bivol, rated No. 1 by ESPN at light heavyweight, insists that he has no issue fighting at 168 and even said he would explore super middleweight before he ever met Alvarez in a ring.
Bivol said he's long dreamed of becoming an undisputed champion, and another fight with Alvarez offers him far more money than he can make anywhere else. He could also pursue an undisputed light heavyweight title fight with fellow Russian Artur Beterbiev, who defends his three 175-pound titles against Anthony Yarde on Jan. 28.
Alvarez, meanwhile, could return from wrist surgery for a May fight with John Ryder before a September showdown with Bivol. That's the plan at the moment, and Alvarez insists he'll be better the next time around against ESPN's 2022 fighter of the year. Not just because he's already shared the ring with Bivol for 12 rounds but also because he entered that bout at less than full strength as he dealt with the wrist injury. -- Coppinger
Don't be surprised if... Naoya Inoue fights Murodjon Akhmadaliev for the 122-pound unified championship
With just two champions at junior featherweight (Akhmadaliev and Stephen Fulton), Inoue is taking the fast lane towards a potential unification clash with Akhmadaliev in the second half of 2023.
Inoue, who recently gave up all four world bantamweight titles, has declined the opportunity for a warm-up to acclimatize to the new division. Inoue (24-0, 21 KO), 29, a three-division world champion and ESPN's No. 2 pound-for-pound fighter, has agreed terms along with WBC and WBO champion Fulton to fight this May in Japan, according to ESPN's Mike Coppinger.
The WBO recently declared Inoue as its 'bantamweight super champion,' which gave him priority to face Fulton if he moved up. WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman said the WBC will "have the doors open at super bantamweight" following Inoue's move up.
But it will not be as simple as walking through an open door for the Japanese fighter. Fulton (21-0, 8 KO), 28, from Philadelphia, is ESPN's No. 1 boxer at 122 pounds -- a seasoned campaigner at junior featherweight who throws a prodigious amount of punches. He is a bold choice of opponent for Inoue's first fight at the new weight limit.
It's a big fight and a tough one for Inoue, but victory would set up the real likelihood of a unification fight against WBA and IBF champion Akhmadaliev (11-0, 8 KO) for later this year. Akhmadaliev fights Marlon Tapales first in the spring. -- Parkinson