With a pair of undisputed title fights in the next six weeks, and the calendar beyond March starting to fill up quickly, boxing is roaring back into action after a short lull. A pair of fights in the U.K. kick off an exciting stretch, as Amir Khan and Kell Brook square of in a grudge match on Feb. 19, followed by Josh Taylor’s first defense of his undisputed junior welterweight championship against Jack Catterall.
Jermell Charlo and Brian Castano are set for their rematch for the undisputed junior middleweight championship on March 19 in Los Angeles. And some of the biggest names at heavyweight are lined up as well, with Tyson Fury set to fight Dillian Whyte while Oleksandr Usyk gives Anthony Joshua his mandatory rematch.
But what comes next? After negotiations for a heavyweight championship unification fight between Fury and Usyk fell apart, recent boxing history points towards a troubling trend of superfights not coming together. But so long as Fury and Usyk win their respective fights, don’t be surprised if the two major titleholders at heavyweight can get a deal together.
Things look decidedly less hopeful for another long-awaited unification bout, though, despite certain factors improving for Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr.
In response to some of boxing’s most pressing questions, and the questions that are likely to pop up in the near future, Mike Coppinger and Nick Parkinson are here to prep you.
Don’t be surprised if Tyson Fury fights Oleksandr Usyk in 2022
Coppinger: Fury and Usyk were on a collision course for a June fight in Saudi Arabia until a step-aside package for the WBC mandatory challenger, Dillian Whyte, and Anthony Joshua, who has a contractual right to a rematch against Usyk, collapsed at the 11th hour. Fury will now fight Whyte on April 23 while Usyk heads into the rematch with Joshua, delaying any opportunity to have an undisputed heavyweight champion until at least later this year.
If Fury and Usyk, the favorites in those fights, emerge victorious as expected, there doesn’t figure to be a roadblock to a deal later in 2022. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was prepared to dole out $155 million to secure Fury-Joshua last year, so a financial package that will satisfy both boxers shouldn’t be an issue.
Assuming Fury-Usyk does materialize in 2022, it should be the biggest fight of the year. Fury is the second-biggest active star in boxing after Canelo Alvarez, and Usyk’s name has grown tremendously since he dominated Joshua in September.
The only fight that could surpass Fury-Usyk commercially is a potential third meeting between Canelo and GGG.
Don’t be surprised if there is no undisputed champion at welterweight in 2022
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.
Coppinger: Errol Spence Jr. and Yordenis Ugas will meet in April to unify three 147-pound belts. Whoever comes out on top will be mandated to take on the winner of a fight between Eimantas Stanionsis and Radzhab Butaev, which is on the Spence-Ugas undercard in April.
Stanionsis, the WBA mandatory challenger, stepped aside to allow Ugas to fight Spence. If the Spence-Ugas winner wants to unify all four belts against the other champion, Terence Crawford, either Stanionsis or Butaev will have to give their blessing again.
Even with a mandatory challenger in the way, the building blocks for a fight between Spence and Crawford are in place. Spence is now recovered from surgery to repair a detached retina and Crawford is no longer promoted by Top Rank. Al Haymon and Bob Arum rarely conduct business with one another, which had been a major impediment to Spence-Crawford efforts for years.
Still, it’s far more likely we don’t crown an undisputed welterweight champion in 2022, regardless of whoever wins the Spence-Ugas fight and whether or not the mandatory is amenable. If Spence comes out on top, don’t be surprised if he moves up to 154 pounds in the near future.
Don’t be surprised if Brian Castano defeats Jermell Charlo in their rematch
Coppinger: I was ringside in San Antonio in July for the first matchup between Charlo and Castano, a thrilling bout for the undisputed junior middleweight championship.
I scored the bout for Castano, 117-111, but the Argentine settled for a split draw on the official scorecards. Castano beat Charlo to the punch all night and befuddled Charlo with non-stop pressure. Luckily for Charlo, the pre-fight betting favorite fighting in front of a hometown crowd, he got a friendly result.
This time, Castano ensured the fight would be in neutral territory — March 19 in Los Angeles. I expect Charlo to fight better in the rematch, in part because he performed far better in his only other rematch to date — a 2019 11th-round KO of Tony Harrison to avenge the only defeat of his career.
But Castano is one of the most underrated boxers in the game, and his swarming style should be too much for Charlo again. Either way, hopefully we gain another undisputed champion in boxing when the fight is over this time around.
Don’t be surprised if Amir Khan vs. Kell Brook becomes a fight of the year candidate
Parkinson: Both 35-year-olds appear to be in the dying embers of their careers, but this fight will still catch fire. It’s undeniable that both are a little past their prime — the welterweight division’s No. 1 Terence Crawford has stopped both of them since 2019, and Khan was also knocked out by Saul “Canelo” Alvarez when he jumped up to middleweight in 2016. But those losses will not detract from the level of entertainment at Manchester Arena on Feb. 19.
British fight fans love a domestic grudge match, and this fight has the potential to rank alongside some of the biggest the United Kingdom has seen in the last decade. That list includes Tony Bellew-David Haye (2018, heavyweight), Carl Froch-George Groves (2013, 2014, super middleweight), Anthony Joshua-Dillian Whyte (2015, heavyweight), Carl Frampton-Scott Quigg (2016, junior featherweight) and Haye-Dereck Chisora (2012, heavyweight).
The rivalry and animosity between Khan and Brook is legitimate, and this is the last opportunity of their careers to make this long-awaited fight. After years of trash talk, there will be no holding back when they both make the trips from their homes in Bolton (Khan) and Sheffield (Brook) for this welterweight clash.
“Everyone says Brook-Khan should have happened three or four years ago, but people said that about Floyd Mayweather versus Manny Pacquiao and it still broke records,” said Ben Shalom, the head of BOXXER, which is promoting this bout. “Brook only fought for a world title in his last fight, and it’s still a huge fight. The UK needs this fight. The two of them hate each other and it’s been painful dealing with them.”
Khan’s hand speed is still a lethal weapon, but the former junior welterweight world champion has not boxed for nearly two and a half years. How will that impact on his rhythm and success, and can he evade the power that Brook will bring the encounter?
Brook is heavier handed, but how much damage was left by the Sheffield boxer’s fourth-round stoppage defeat to WBO champion Crawford in November 2020? Brook previously suffered broken eye sockets in stoppage losses to Errol Spence (2017), the current WBC-IBF welterweight champion, and Gennadiy Golovkin (2016), the current IBF middleweight champion.
Both men have suffered punishing losses, and both have sustained significant damage throughout their careers in wins and losses alike. This is perhaps their final big moment in the spotlight, and it’s likely to be a fast and furious firefight that should not be missed.
Don’t be surprised if Josh Taylor only makes one defense of his undisputed title
Parkinson: After working hard to make history and unify the junior welterweight division last year, Josh Taylor will most likely quit the division, so long as he successfully makes his first defense against England’s Jack Catterall in front of his home fans in Scotland on Feb. 26. In Taylor’s eyes, there aren’t enough opposition, challenges and big money fights left at 140 pounds.
Taylor defeated Jose Ramirez by unanimous decision in May last year. It was a clash between the division’s best two boxers, and Taylor left no room for doubt after flooring Ramirez twice in a brilliant display. But after Catterall, then what?
Taylor openly admits his future lies at welterweight, a division packed with talent. He has the potential to boost his career earnings in matchups against some of the highest profile boxers in the sport, such as Terence Crawford (WBO champion), Errol Spence (WBC, IBF champion) and Vergil Ortiz. At 31, Taylor wants to cash in, but one concern for Taylor is the current legal situation between Crawford’s former and Taylor’s current promoter, Top Rank.