Boxing's been back for months now. It started in June with Top Rank's Las Vegas bubble that was largely a success—we got real fights, including a few title bouts, and the action was welcomed relief from a deserted sports scene. But boxing's biggest names and heaviest hitters have been waiting on the sidelines for the right time to return to the ring and that time has arrived as the boxing schedule this fall is full of consequential fights featuring notable names that should excite casual and hardcore fans alike.
While we'll take whatever we can get in this weird world of sports trying to operate safely during a pandemic, it should be noted that several fighters on our top 10 pound-for-pound list disappointingly do not appear to be returning to action immediately—we're talking about Terence Crawford, Manny Pacquiao, Canelo Alvarez, and Gennadiy Golovkin. Golovkin and Crawford could return in November, but their next bouts haven't been finalized. We might not see Alvarez and Pacquiao until 2021. Mostly that's because the business of boxing remains polluted and the uncertainty about when fans can fill seats again makes finalizing a third installment of Canelo-GGG or another Crawford title defense, for example, complicated for economic reasons.
In the meantime, we've got enough to look forward. As usual, you'll have to shell out big bucks for many of the fights we highlighted since they'll be pay-per-view affairs. But rejoice knowing the most interesting fight in 2020 will be on cable and it's a can't miss showdown in the lightweight division that's poppin' these days in ways normally reserved for the perennially-stocked welterweight division. So (Michael Buffer voice) let's get ready to rumble. For real.
5. Mike Tyson vs. Roy Jones Jr.
Date: Nov. 28
Odds: Tyson -160/Jones +120
At Stake: Pride
This one’s an exhibition match between two retired legends and will feel weird for a million reasons, most notably because they’ll likely don headgear and oversized gloves. But no other fight on the calendar is going to earn the attention of the casual sports fan since Mike Tyson’s involved. A return to the ring for Iron Mike was rumored earlier this spring when social media clips of the 54-year-old looking spry in the gym made waves. We outlined the good and the bad behind a potential Tyson comeback in May so we won’t rehash that here. Hardcore boxing fans will likely yawn, if not moan and groan about this one. Jones is 51 years old and hasn’t fought in two years, plus it’s been a decade and a half since his reign over the light heavyweight division ended. Tyson’s last professional bout also happened 15 years ago. So pardon those of us who aren’t giddy to see two olds slug it out over eight rounds. That being said, we also realize the hype for this pay-per-view (that’s supposed to benefit charity) will be considerable just because it features Tyson.
4. Gervonta Davis vs. Leo Santa Cruz
Date: Oct. 24
Odds: Davis -350/Santa Cruz +275
At Stake: WBA lightweight & WBA “super” world super featherweight titles
They’re fighting at 130 pounds—not at Gervonta Davis’s preferred 135—and oddly putting two belts from different divisions on the line. But in 2020 what’s normal? Tank Davis (23-0, 22 KOs) continues to confound boxing fans who are familiar with his spectacular power and potential to be a star. Yet he continues to run into trouble outside the ring and has too many times failed to make weight. Everyone that follows the sport knows the 25-year-old’s future isn’t at 130 pounds and the fights he can co-headline at 135 in the very near future are among the best boxing can hypothetically make. So this could easily be the Floyd Mayweather protégé’s final bout at 130 and it’ll be a good test against the steady volume puncher Leo Santa Cruz (37-1-1, 19 KOs). It’s a pay-per-view that’s only going to attract buys from the hardcore fans since the 32-year-old Santa Cruz, a four-division champ, doesn’t move the needle. But it’s a fight between two guys with contrasting styles, sizes, backgrounds, and futures. All eyes will be on Davis to see if he can set up a big showdown with a lightweight title holder to be named later in 2021 with a win here.
3. Tyson Fury vs. Deontay Wilder III
Odds: Fury -300/Wilder +200
At Stake: WBC heavyweight title
Technically, this one was supposed to go down December 19 in Vegas. But no firm date has been set and it’s almost assuredly going to happen in 2021 when stadiums are allowed to welcome back fans under non-socially distanced circumstaces. That’s because a title fight of this magnitude needs all the fans it can jam into an arena in order to pay the massive purses Tyson Fury, the WBC and lineal heavyweight champion of the world, and Deontay Wilder, the dethroned heavyweight champ, will command. The second installment of their series this past February was the last big sporting event before the world shut down. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to the hype as the biggest heavyweight fight in 20 years. Some fans don’t want to see a third throwdown after Fury pummeled Wilder in Las Vegas and the Gypsy King nearly won their first bout in 2018 in Los Angeles despite hitting the canvas twice. But I’ll argue this one still has juice because it’s two of the top heavyweights slugging it out for the third and likely final time. Plus, the consequences of a loss for each are massive—for Wilder, his relevance is at stake while a win by Fury should set up a gigantic unification showdown with fellow Brit Anthony Joshua (should AJ win his next title defense) in 2021.
2. Errol Spence vs. Danny Garcia
Date: Nov. 21
Odds: Spence -340/Garcia +275
At Stake: WBC & IBF welterweight titles
It feels like forever since Errol Spence, one of our pound-for-pound 10 best boxers, last fought. Fresh off picking up a second welterweight title belt against Shawn Porter last September, Spence (26-0, 21 KOs) somehow survived a horrific car crash a few weeks later and we've been waiting on his return ever since. Taking on the ultra-dangerous and accomplished Danny Garcia (36-2, 21 KOs) isn’t what many expected he’d do, but fight fans absolutely can’t complain. Garcia’s a rugged and grizzled former champion in the sport’s deepest division and the Philadelphia native will bring it against the southpaw Spence. Out of the three PPV telecasts the Premier Boxing Champions promotions team is putting on this fall—Jermall Charlo vs. Sergiy Derevyanchenko Sept. 26th then Davis-Santa Cruz the following month—this one’s worthy of purchasing simply because of how fascinating it’ll be to see if the 30-year-old Spence, the WBC and IBF welterweight champ who has only fought twice in two years, has lost anything off his fastball. And most importantly, to see if he can continue winning in order to (fingers crossed) set up a massive showdown with WBO welterweight champ and fellow top 10 pound-for-pounder Terence Crawford down the road. But getting past Garcia—owner of a legit resume that includes narrow losses to former welterweight champs Porter and Keith Thurman plus wins over brand names at 140 and 147 pounds—won’t be easy for Spence who is headlining his third PPV, just the way he likes it.
1. Vasiliy Lomachenko vs. Teofimo Lopez
Date: Oct. 17
Odds: Lomachenko -360/Lopez +270
At Stake: WBA, WBO, & IBF lightweight titles
This one should be electric. Vasiliy Lomachenko is No. 2 on our pound-for-pound list and arguably the most technically skilled boxer in the world. The 32-year-old Ukrainian just might own the most impressive amateur resume in the sport’s history and he’s looked practically invincible since his only professional loss in his second bout after turning pro. Lomachenko (14-1, 10 KOs) is gifted athletically in ways many boxers aren’t since he grew up taking dance classes and practiced gymnastics. But he’ll have his hands full with the rapidly rising and fast-talking Teofimo Lopez (15-0, 12 KOs) who packs an incredibly heavy punch and has a bright future. Lomachenko is a significant favorite in this one for good reason—he’s a machine who surgically annihilates his opponents—but Lopez, a Brooklyn, New York native who is as charismatic as it gets, is a live underdog who earned the IBF championship belt in his last match with a mesmerizing domination of Richard Commey. Only 23, Lopez dethroning the living legend Lomachenko would be a surprise, but should he win he’s on his way to superstar status quicker than expected. The best part about this fight? It’s absolutely worthy of being a pay-per-view since it pits two of the top lightweights against each other, but it airs on regular-old ESPN. Enjoy the blessing, boxing fans.