Fights we want to see in 2021, including Teofimo Lopez-‘Tank’ Davis and, yes, Manny Pacquiao vs. Conor McGregor
8:58 AM ET
I cover sports for a living, but I’ve been a fan of sports — particularly boxing — much longer than I’ve been in the field as a journalist. On the weekends, especially growing up, fights were an event in my household.
My mom would cook the best food, we would have a packed house, and lots of trash talk would be yelled as the best fighters scrapped it out on TV. Some of those words aren’t suitable for this platform, but those were some of the best nights of my life.
Hold on… I just got lost for a second. Those were the good ol’ days.
Well, I’m 32 years old now and I want that feeling back. There is nothing as satisfying as watching the best face the best. So as I put on my Don King hat for the year and plot out the best possible scenarios for boxing in 2021, these would be some of my dream matchups.
Now admittedly, some of these might be a stretch, but a man can dream, can’t he?
Terence Crawford vs. Errol Spence Jr.play
Max Kellerman says Terence Crawford’s Twitter exchange with Errol Spence Jr. is giving the potential clash more public interest, which can generate a larger fight purse.
Call me selfish, but this is literally the only fight I want to see from Crawford or Spence at this point. Nothing else matters. This is about legacy. Pride. It’s the definition of a superfight. Fights like these are how legends are made, but I hope it’s able to happen while both guys remain undefeated. Also, they’re both in their 30s, so the window of opportunity to see them both at their prime is slowly slipping away. It has to happen. Seeing the footage of them trash-talking to each other face to face a few years back only made me want to see this more. Again, it’s the only fight I want to see from these world titlists. Business aside, they have to come together and give the fans this bout. It’ll be special.
Laila Ali vs. Claressa ShieldsClaressa Shields, left, has been calling out Laila Ali for a megafight in 2021. Edward Diller/Getty Images
The past vs. the present. Old school vs. new school. The GOAT’S daughter against the GWOAT. Who wouldn’t want to see that? The only problem is that Ali is 43 years old and Shields is 25. Shields has carried women’s boxing in a dominant fashion, but the sport still needs that crossover match to take it to the next level. Putting these two in the ring together could be the perfect way to draw in casual viewers. There’s been trash talk between the two in the past, but if a deal were to actually get made, something like that could be huge for the sport. Again, maybe I’m dreaming, but it could be fun.
Tyson Fury vs. Anthony Joshuaplay
Joe Tessitore, Timothy Bradley Jr. and Andre Ward react to Anthony Joshua’s dominant performance in his knockout of Kubrat Pulev in London.
Let’s not forget, before the pandemic hit in 2020, Fury put a whupping on Deontay Wilder in their rematch last February. I was in complete shock. In fact, it got so bad that I felt sorry for Wilder at one point and hoped he didn’t get hurt, which rarely ever happens when I’m watching a fight. I’m old enough to remember when heavyweights dominated the sport, and it’s good to see some relevant talent at the top of the division. Even after being upset by Andy Ruiz Jr., Joshua regained his titles and righted the ship with a couple of impressive wins over Ruiz, in the rematch, and Kubrat Pulev. Now Fury and Joshua have a chance to produce an undisputed heavyweight champion for the first time since Lennox Lewis held all the belts in 1999-2000. That means you’re the baddest of the baddest. This has to happen. It just feels right.
Gervonta “Tank” Davis vs. Teofimo Lopezplay
Gervonta Davis explains why he was not impressed with Teofimo Lopez’s upset victory over Vasiliy Lomachenko.
Tank Davis is must-see TV. He’s tough. He has one-punch knockout power and an aura around him that is marketable to a wider audience. The devastating KO win against Leo Santa Cruz in his most recent bout in October only made him a bigger star. Then there’s Lopez, who’s also on the rise after a phenomenal year. His victory over top pound-for-pound fighter Vasiliy Lomachenko to become a unified lightweight champion proved to the boxing world that he’s for real. During an exciting new era of lightweights, it seems as if the boxers in this new crop actually want to scrap it out. They don’t care about protecting their precious zero; they want to prove who is the best. A fight between these two could produce fireworks and possibly inspire others within their range, such as Devin Haney and Ryan Garcia to get in on the action, too. It’s an exciting time for the division.
Deontay Wilder vs. Oleksandr UsykAfter a devastating loss to Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder, above, should look for a big name like Oleksandr Usyk to start his comeback. Al Bello/Getty Images
Wilder needs his confidence back. That last loss to Fury seemed to hurt his soul. Of course, I’ve read interviews in which he has made a ton of excuses while trying to process what happened to him in the ring during their February rematch. I’m not a fighter, but I would have to imagine something like that would hurt your pride. Losing is never easy. However, that doesn’t take away the fact that he’s an exciting fighter with the kind of KO power to knock out pretty much anyone in the world if he lands a clean right hand. If I were Wilder, I wouldn’t jump right back in the ring with Fury. A good fight for him would be versus Usyk, who also has a name and is the former undisputed cruiserweight champion. Again, it won’t be easy, but mentally, it could get him back on track if he’s able to get the victory — and it could potentially set up Fury-Wilder III with Wilder having regained some of his momentum.
Canelo Alvarez vs. Jermall CharloA middleweight matchup between champion Canelo Alvarez, above, and titleholder Jermall Charlo could be one of the best fight in boxing for 2021. Ed Mulholland/Matchroom
Let me be clear on this: Charlo doesn’t get the respect he deserves. He’s been putting in work for years, but still needs that marquee name on his résumé to enter that elite category of current fighters. Win, lose or draw, a fight of this magnitude can take him to the next level. Sure, he’s an undefeated titleholder, but many of his victories have come against names who aren’t familiar to casual fans. Alvarez has been in the ring with giants and is considered to be the face of the sport by many. Promoters can sell this fight, too, and easily: The once-in-a-generation Mexican superstar going against the unbeaten Charlo, the Houston hard-hitter, both entering the prime of their careers.
Vasiliy Lomachenko vs. Shakur Stevensonplay
Unified lightweight champ Vasiliy Lomachenko’s boxing career has been filled with highlights. Check out his greatest moments as he prepares to put his title on the line vs. Teofimo Lopez.
In terms of pure boxing, Lomachenko versus Miguel Berchelt would be a marquee matchup. It makes sense. I get it. But this is my list, and I’m all about seeing a new wave of fighters on the come up. So, with that being said, I would love to see Lomachenko in the ring against rising star Stevenson in a junior lightweight bout. Some might think Stevenson isn’t ready, but I’m tired of waiting years and years for guys to make that leap. Just fight and see what happens. I’ve watched Stevenson over the years, notably in the Olympics, and I feel as if he’s the next major star in boxing. Look at Lopez and how his gamble paid off versus Lomachenko. If I’m Stevenson, why not do the same thing? Accepting challenges like Lomachenko or Berchelt, and possibly coming away with a win, is good for the sport.
Manny Pacquiao vs. Conor McGregorIf Conor McGregor, above, decides to get back in the ring, a fight against Manny Pacquiao could be an entertaining option. Christian Petersen/Getty Images
At 42, Pacquiao is still big-time box office material. He sells fights. At one point it seemed as if his career was fading, but then out of nowhere he put together a string of impressive wins versus Lucas Matthysse, Adrien Broner and Keith Thurman to show the world that he’s still got it. Taking a page out of the Floyd Mayweather book, Pacquiao could cash in a huge check by facing two-time UFC champion McGregor in a boxing match. It brings together boxing and MMA yet again, and we all know McGregor will bring the trash talk to make it an even bigger event.
Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield IIIplay
Boxing legends Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. fight to a draw as they go toe-to-toe in a highly anticipated exhibition match.
I’m not sure how others felt, but I actually enjoyed watching legendary world champions Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. go at it during their exhibition bout. Even at 54, Tyson looked phenomenal in terms of getting in shape at that age. I was also impressed with the musical acts between bouts and Snoop Dogg on commentary. Maybe boxing could incorporate some of that into current world championship fights for better entertainment. I wouldn’t mind seeing Tyson in the ring again, though. It sucks that we never got to see Tyson face Holyfield during his prime years in the ’80s. Yeah, he was still good when they faced each other in the ’90s, but let’s be clear — that wasn’t the best Mike Tyson. It wasn’t the real “Iron Mike.” Life had beaten him down at that point. He certainly isn’t the Iron Mike of old at this age, but it could be a fun storyline to see these ex-rivals face off for one final time while Tyson’s mind seems to be clear and focused. I like the concept of the Legends Only League when it’s the right fighters, and as long as nobody gets hurt. Why not Tyson-Holyfield III?