2017 was a great year for boxing with classic bouts such as Anthony Joshua vs Wladimir Klitschko and Gennady ‘GGG’ Golovkin vs Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and 2018 appears to be just as exciting. There are several excellent fights already signed and sealed including a rematch between Triple G and Canelo set for May 5th. This list features the 15 best bouts which have already been scheduled between now and June 9 and are listed in order of date.
Many of them feature undefeated boxers and knockout artists and as a bonus several fights are also world unification tilts between two champions. The winners of some of these clashes will likely meet down the road with many more big matches being scheduled for the latter half of the year. Once these 12 contests are over we’ll see who’s still standing and return with another list of anticipated fights for the second half of 2018.
15. George Groves vs Chris Eubank Jr.
These two Englishmen will be battling it out on Feb. 17th at the Manchester Arena. Not only is it a huge domestic clash, but it’s also a semifinal bout for the World Boxing Super Series. And that’s not all, Groves (27-3, 20 Kos) will be putting his WBA Super Middleweight Title on the line while Eubank’s (26-1, 20 Kos) fringe IBO Belt is also up for grabs. Therefore, the winner will leave the ring with a pair of titles and will also advance to the Super Series final as well as gain British bragging rights. There’s been a lot of media coverage and trash talking surrounding this fight back in the UK and it has the potential to be an exciting and grueling affair. The winner may end up meeting WBO Middleweight Champ Billy Joe Saunders (26-0-12 Kos) in another all-English super fight if they can agree on a weight. Saunders is the only man to defeat Eubank so far.
14. Srisaket Sor Rungvisai vs Juan Francisco Estrada
The Forum in Inglewood, California is the site of a tremendous super flyweight tilt as WBC Champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (44-4-1, 40 Kos) of Thailand will be taking on tough challenger Juan Francisco Estrada (36-2, 25 Kos) of Mexico. The southpaw Rungvisai made boxing headlines last year by upsetting former champion and previously undefeated Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez for the title by majority decision in March. He then proved it was no fluke as he stopped Gonzalez in the fourth round of their rematch just six months later. He’ll have his hands full against Estrada, who’s a former WBA and WBO Flyweight Champion. This bout features the top two boxers in the 115 lb. division and two of its heaviest hitters. The winner may then be able to unify his belt with the other fine super fly champs Khalid Yafai (WBA), Jerwin Ancajas (IBF) and Naoya Inoue (WBO).
13. Deontay Wilder vs Luis Ortiz
WBC Heavyweight Champ Deontay Wilder’s next opponent is the aging Luis Ortiz of Cuba in Brooklyn on March 3rd. Nobody really knows how old Ortiz is although he’s listed as being 38. These guys were scheduled to fight last December, but the bout fell through after Ortiz failed yet another drug test. Between them, this pair sports a combined record of 67-0 with 62 Kos as Wilder’s 39-0 with 38 Kos and Ortiz is 28-0 with 24 stoppages. Conventional wisdom suggests this fight won’t go the distance and it’s likely the champion’s chin will be seriously tested for the first time in his career. How it stands up will be a key factor here with the winner hoping to unify the titles with the victor of the Anthony Joshua vs Joseph Parker tilt on March 31st.
12. Sergey Lipinets vs Mikey Garcia
Now that former Featherweight, Super Featherweight and Lightweight Champion Mikey Garcia is moving up in weight he’s got another title shot lined up as he’s set to meet Sergey Lipinets of Russia for his IBF Junior Welterweight Title. Like Wilder vs Ortiz, these boxers are also unbeaten and are known for their heavy fists. Garcia’s 37-0 with 30 Kos while Lipinets is 13-0 along with 10 Kos. Lipinets beat Akihiro Kondo by unanimous decision in November to take the vacant crown, but he’s definitely stepping up in class against Garcia as he’s fought only Grade B opponents up to now. This bout was also postponed as it was originally set for Feb. 10th, but Lipinets suffered a hand injury in training. It’ll now go on March 10th in San Antonio, Texas.
11. Anthony Joshua vs Joseph Parker
The other two heavyweight champions will be unifying their belts in front of over 70,000 fans in Cardiff, Wales on March 31st. Anthony Joshua of England currently owns the WBA’s Super World Title along with the IBF and IBO versions while New Zealand’s Joseph Parker is the WBO Champ. And again, we have a pair of unbeaten boxers who are known for their ability of putting opponents to sleep. Joshua enters the ring with a mark of 20-0 with 20 Kos for a 100 per cent record while Parker is 24-0 with 18 stoppages to his name for a 75 per cent knockout ratio. Joshua has the size advantage and better all-round boxing ability, but does he have the chin to withstand Parker’s heaviest shots? Look for the winner to take on the survivor of the Deontay Wilder vs Luis Ortiz fight on March 3rd to unify the heavyweight division.
10. Jarrett Hurd vs. Erislandy Lara
Boxing fans want to see just one champion in each weight division so every unification bout is a step in the right direction. There’s another one scheduled for April 7th when unbeaten Jarrett Hurd (21-0, 15 Kos) puts his IBF Junior Middleweight Title on the line against WBA Super World Champion and IBO Titlist Erislandy Lara (25-2-2, 14 Kos) of Cuba. The experienced Lara will be favored here over the American due to his slick boxing skills. Hurd won the vacant title in February, 2017 against Tony Harrison and then stopped Austin Trout in his first defense. Lara has taken on several top boxers over the years such as Trout, Canelo Alvarez and Paul Williams, but dropped controversial decisions to Alvarez and Williams due to his defense-first mentality. Lara finally understands he needs to let his hands go to win so is now a more fan-friendly fighter.
9. Billy Joe Saunders vs Martin Murray
Since Gennady Golovkin is generally recognized as the World Middleweight Champion, some fans forget the WBO Title is held by undefeated Billy Joe Saunders (26-0, 12 Kos), the only man to beat Chris Eubank Jr. up to now. The southpaw Saunders defends his belt against fellow Englishman Martin Murray (36-4-1, 17 kos) in London on April 14th. Three of Murray’s losses and his draw came in world title fights, including an 11th-round stoppage at the hands of Golovkin. Murray is durable though and been stopped just once. Saunders basically shut out David Lemieux over 12 rounds in December, but let’s not forget Lemieux’s more or less a one-dimensional slugger. Saunders usually boxes to the level of his opponent and does enough to win. If he retains his belt against Murray we could see him unify the division against the winner of the Triple G vs Canelo rematch.
8. Terence Crawford vs Jeff Horn
Unbeaten Australian welterweight Jeff Horn (18-0-1, 12 Kos) shook up the division last summer when he was awarded a highly-controversial decision over Manny Pacquiao down under for the WBO Title. He defended it against Gary Corcoran in December and struggled in doing so by getting hit way too often. He’s going to defend his belt against unbeaten American Terence Crawford in Las Vegas on April 14th and will be a huge underdog. Crawford’s mark stands at 32-0 with 23 Kos and he’s a former Undisputed Junior Welterweight Champ who defended his WBO Crown nine times. Crawford’s also on most experts’ top-five pound for pound list and could go on to meet WBA/WBC Welterweight Champ Keith Thurman or IBF Boss Errol Spence in a huge-money fight down the road. That’s as long as he gets past the hard-working, but limited Horn.
7. Adrien Broner vs Omar Figueroa
Former four-division world champion Adrien Broner (33-3, 24 Kos) of Cincinnati will be trying to get his career and life back on track when he meets unbeaten Omar Figueroa (27-0-1, 19 Kos) of Texas in a WBC junior welterweight eliminator on April 21st. This fight is supposed to take place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, but both guys will have to stay out of jail for it to come off. As usual, Broner’s in trouble with the law again and was recently arrested on sex charges. That’s not surprising, but to complicate matters Figueroa has his own legal problems as he was busted on a drunk-driving charge back in January. This has the potential to be a heck of a fight and Broner’s seemingly wasted career could be over for all intents and purposes if he loses.
6. Carl Frampton vs Nonito Donaire
The Carl Frampton (24-1, 14 Kos) vs Nonito Donaire (38-4, 24 Kos) showdown would have been a massive fight a few years ago when Donaire was in his prime. It’s still a very attractive fight though. Frampton will be fighting in his hometown of Belfast, Northern Ireland when he takes on the Filipino Flash on April 21st. Frampton is a former Super Bantamweight and Featherweight Champion who lost the WBA Featherweight Crown to Leo Santa Cruz in their rematch in January, 2017. They’re 1-1 and Frampton’s hoping a win over Donaire will lead to a rubber match with Santa Cruz. It won’t be easy though as the hard-hitting Donaire is a former Flyweight, Bantamweight, Super Bantamweight and Featherweight World Champion. Frampton needs a win to force a trilogy with Santa Cruz while the 35-year-old Donaire is hoping to remain a contender in the sport.
5. Gennady Golovkin vs Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez
Unbeaten IBF/WBA/IBO and WBC Middleweight King Gennady Golovkin (37-0-1, 33 Kos) of Kazakhstan will be meeting Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez (49-1-1, 34 Kos) of Mexico in a rematch on May 5th. The two originally met in a classic last September and the general consensus was that Golovkin was robbed in the split-decision draw. Triple G was the aggressor in that fight and forced the action while Canelo basically back pedaled and countered. It’ll be interesting to see if Alvarez stands his ground and slugs it out this time and if Golovkin goes for an early knockout. Either way, if it’s half as good as the first fight then we’re in for a treat. The winner will likely unify the middleweight division against the winner of the Billy Joe Saunders vs Martin Murray battle, which is for Saunders’ WBO Title.
4. Tony Bellew vs David Haye
One of the most entertaining and vicious matches of 2017 was between English heavyweight rivals Tony Bellew of Liverpool and David Haye of London last March. It’s no secret these guys don’t like each other and the prefight antics and trash talking were almost as good as the bout itself. Bellew (29-2-1, 19 Kos) is a former World Cruiserweight Champion while Haye (28-3, 26 Kos) is a former Cruiserweight and Heavyweight Titleholder. The injury prone Hayemaker suffered a torn Achilles tendon against Bellew in the sixth round and was eventually stopped in the 11th while Bellew came out of the slugfest with a broken hand. The rematch was scheduled for December, but was pushed back to May 5th in London after Haye injured his bicep in training. It has the potential to be another ruthless bout.
3. Oleksandr Usyk vs Murat Gassiev
The World Boxing Super Series Cruiserweight Final takes place in Saudi Arabia on May 11th between Russia’s Murat Gassiev and Oleksandr Usyk of Ukraine. Both boxers are undefeated and known as knockout artists as Gassiev is 24-0 with 19 Kos while the southpaw Usyk is 14-0 with 11 stoppages. Gassiev knocked Krzysztof Wlodarczyk out in the third round in his first tournament bout and then stopped Yunier Dorticos in the 12th in his second outing. Usyk reached the final by stopping Marco Huck in the 10th round and then earning a majority decision against Mairis Briedis. This fight will also unify the cruiserweight division since Usyk is the WBC and WBO World Champ while Gassiev holds the IBF and WBA Belts. The 200 lb. division is often overlooked, but this is an excellent matchup between two elite pros.
2. Adonis Stevenson vs Badou Jack
Southpaw Adonis Stevenson (29-1, 24 Kos) of Haiti will be defending his WBC Light Heavyweight Title against Sweden’s Badou Jack (22-1-2, 13 Kos) on May 19th at the Bell Centre in Montreal Canada, where the champion now calls home. This will be Stevenson’s ninth title defense, but ‘Superman’ has been criticized for ducking the top fighters of the 175 lb. division. Jack, who fights out of Las Vegas, is a former World Super Middleweight Champion and won the WBA Light Heavyweight Title by stopping Nathan Cleverly last August. But for some reason he vacated the belt shortly after. Jack apparently didn’t want to meet hard-hitting WBA interim champ Dmitry Bivol, but he’s now facing another powerful puncher in Stevenson. This is a good matchup and Jack should be a stiff test for Stevenson as long as his chin holds out.
1. Leo Santa Cruz vs Abner Mares
We finish the list with another attractive rematch as Leo Santa Cruz of Mexico will be defending his WBA Super World Featherweight Championship against fellow countryman Abner Mares on June 9th at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. Santa Cruz is 34-1-1 with 19 Kos while Mares is 31-2-1 with 15 Kos. They’re both exciting boxers who like to throw punches in bunches and this should be another excellent spectacle. The two first met back in August of 2015 with Santa Cruz getting the nod via a majority decision. Mares is a former Bantamweight, Super Bantamweight and Featherweight Titleholder while Santa Cruz has also held Bantamweight and Super Bantamweight Titles in the past. Both boxers have speed and power and this should be just as good or better than their first fight. The winner will likely defend the title against the winner of the Carl Frampton vs Nonito Donaire fight on April 21st.