Can you see it off in the distance? If you squint your eyes and look towards the horizon, it’s right there; the spike in the frequency of major televised prizefights! Replete with pound for pounders, title unifications and meaningful bouts aplenty. Even with Errol Spence’s scintillating jumpstart to the 2018 Boxing calendar, our sport is amid the annual lull that occurs around this time of year, relatively speaking. Luckily, the leading broadcasters of Pugilism released schedules for the early portion of the New Year and we seem to be on track to match or even surpass the sum of memorable clashes 2017 produced.
As Pugilism Co. elaborates, be sure to save these dates.
February 17th – Danny Garcia (33-1, 19 KO’s) vs. Brandon Rios (34-3-1, 25 KO’s) – Garcia’s angling for a rematch with WBA/WBC Welterweight champion, Keith Thurman. In the interim, he’ll look to stay busy against Rios. Say what you will about “Bam Bam” Rios, he’s never boring and he always comes to fight. Garcia has a propensity to perform to the level of his opposition, which could make Rios a tougher opponent than he’s projected to be on paper.
On the undercard, David Benavidez (19-0, 17 KO’s) makes the first defense of the vacant WBC Super Middleweight title he won by split decision over Ronald Gavril (18-2, 14 KO’s). That bout was closely contested, and an immediate rematch was ordered. On the same night, George Groves (27-3, 20 KO’s) defends his off brand Super Middleweight strap against Chris Eubank, Jr. (26-1, 20 KO’s).
February 24th – Srisaket Sor Rungvisai/Wisaksik Wangek (44-4-1, 40 KO’s) vs. Juan Francisco Estrada (36-2, 25 KO’s) – The main event of “Super Fly 2” should be a barn burning, high octane collision. After violently removing Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez from his lower weight pedestal, Sor Rungvisai looks to continue riding that wave of momentum and retain his WBC 115-pound laurels against the tough “El Gallo” Estrada. The co-main event features perennial contenders, Carlos Cuadras (36-2-1, 27 KO’s) vs. McWilliams Arroyo (16-3, 14 KO’s).
March 3rd – Deontay Wilder (39-0, 38 KO’s) vs. Luis Ortiz (28-0, 24 KO’s) - On a huge night of Boxing, Showtime’s Wilder-Ortiz is the most prominent pairing of the evening. Fingers crossed Ortiz makes it to fight night, PED free. The undercard pits Jermall Charlo (26-0, 20 KO’s) against Hugo Centeno, Jr. (26-1, 14 KO’s) for the interim WBC Middleweight belt.
On the same night, HBO offers up a Light Heavyweight doubleheader; Dmitry Bivol (12-0, 10 KO’s) meeting his toughest opponent to date, Sullivan Barrera (21-1, 14 KO’s), and Sergey Kovalev (31-2-1, 27 KO’s) facing Igor Mikhalkin (21-1, 9 KO’s). The WBA and WBO championships will be at stake in separate bouts. Completing the Pugilistic buffet on March 3rd, former IBF Welterweight champion, Kell Brook (36-2, 25 KO’s), returns to the ring in his hometown of Sheffield, England.
March 10th – Mikey Garcia (37-0, 30 KO’s) vs. Sergey Lipinets (13-0, 10 KO’s) – Garcia vies for a fourth world title in as many weight classes, challenging the unheralded Lipinets for his newly acquired IBF Jr. Welterweight designation. In the co-main, Rances Barthelemy (26-0, 13 KO’s) squares off with Kiryl Relikh (21-2, 19 KO’s) for the vacant WBA throne within the same division.
March 31st – Anthony Joshua (20-0, 20 KO’s) vs. Joseph Parker (24-0, 18 KO’s) – There’s no downside when two young, undefeated, top 5 heavyweights risk it all. On top of that, it’s a unification bout, getting us one step closer to an undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. Over 70,000 tickets have already been sold and there’s no end in sight for Great Britain’s love affair with “A.J.”.
April 7th – Erislandy Lara (25-2-2, 14 KO’s) vs. Jarrett Hurd (21-0, 15 KO’s) – Speaking of unification, the Jr. Middleweight division will also get closer to having one supreme ruler as Lara puts his WBA business on the line as Hurd’s IBF belt is up for grabs, simultaneously.
April 14th – Terence Crawford (32-0, 23 KO’s) vs. Jeff Horn (18-0-1, 12 KO’s) – Already among the pound for pound elite, Crawford seeks a world title in his third weight class, as he steps to WBO strap holder, Jeff Horn. Horn is looking to upset Crawford’s applecart just as he did Manny Pacquiao’s, in the Summer of 2017. Unlike Pacquiao, Crawford won’t be venturing to Australia.
April 21st – Adrien Broner (33-3, 24 KO’s) vs. Omar Figueroa (27-0-1, 19 KO’s) – It’s now or never for Broner. Lose here and his days of main events are probably over. The winner is promised a shot at the WBC 140-pound title. Gervonta “Tank” Davis (19-0, 18 KO’s) returns to the ring on the undercard.
May 5th – Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (49-1-2, 34 KO’s) vs. Gennady “Triple G” Golovkin (37-0-1, 33 KO’s) - Many assumed Canelo would put the rematch off until September, giving Father Time a bit longer to catch up to “Triple G”, who will be 36 this year. So much for that, as the most anticipated rematch of the year is going down on May 5th. A Mexican icon duking it out with a fighter, who openly speaks of having a “Mexican style”, on Cinco de Mayo? Wow!
May 19th – Keith Thurman (28-0, 22 KO’s) vs. T.B.A. – Jesse Vargas was rumored to be Thurman’s comeback opponent, but that appears to be too daunting a task coming off elbow surgery. Thurman may eventually face Shawn Porter or Danny Garcia before the end of the year, but he’s repeatedly made it known unification with Errol Spence is not on his radar for 2018. Bummer. Thurman’s reacclimating himself to Boxing this year, and fans will just have to be patient.
On the same night, same network (different venue), Adonis Stevenson (29-1, 24 KO’s) defends the WBC 175-pound championship against Badou Jack (22-1-2, 13 KO’s).
June 9th – Leo Santa Cruz (34-1-1, 19 KO’s) vs. Abner Mares (31-2-1, 15 KO’s) II – In terms of bouts with “Fight of the Year” potential, Santa Cruz-Mares II is on the shortlist. If Mares were to avenge his loss from the first outing, we’d almost assuredly see a trilogy.
WBC 154-pound belt holder, Jermell Charlo (30-0, 15 KO’s), will be in action underneath the main event.
June 16th – Errol Spence (23-0, 20 KO’s) vs. T.B.A. – Spence desperately wants to make a title defense in front of his hometown fans in Dallas. Meanwhile, the IBF has let it be known he needs to face mandatory challenger, Carlos Ocampo (22-0, 13 KO’s) next. The Peterson bout didn’t make since for Dallas, but Ocampos sure does. Nothing’s been signed or even negotiated, but Spence-Ocampo is the front-runner for Errol’s next affair in 2018.
With all those mouth-watering options already on the fistic menu, Vasyl Lomachenko (10-1, 8 KO’s) and Naoya Inoue (15-0, 13 KO’s) aren’t signed to fight anyone, as of yet. Undoubtedly, they’ll all be penciled in, sooner rather than later. Lomachenko could look to unify at 130 or move up to ’35 for a third world title. Inoue was the shining star of the original “Super Fly” card, but he’s speaking of a possible move to 118 pounds.
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