For years, boxing has been a sport in decline, but 2017 provided some hope for fans of the fight game. Highlighted by, of course, the spectacle between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor, Canelo Álvarez vs. Gennady “GGG” Golovkin, Anthony Joshua vs. Wladimir Klitschko, the dominance of Vasyl Lomachenko, and ESPN teaming up with the legendary promotion known as Top Rank Boxing.
Here are some storylines to follow and pay attention to in 2018.
Make no mistake about it, whether retired or active, the story always begins with “Money” Mayweather. He’s proven time and time again to be one of the biggest draws in boxing history, and never fails to keep his name relevant. He adamantly claims he is “done”–even saying it during a FaceTime with Stephen A. Smith during a commercial on First Take.
Yet, his name came up in November for a return to boxing, and then again in December when UFC President Dana White said there was a “realistic possibility,” Mayweather could actually fight in the octagon. Mayweather denied this rumor as well.
Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder
It feels like centuries since a heavyweight fight has been worth scheduling a day around, but that is about to change. Anthony Joshua (20-0, all via KO) showed the world what he could do in one of the most brutal fights of the past decade, earning a TKO in the 11th-round against heavyweight royalty Wladimir Klitschko. By attracting a crowd of 90,000 at the sold-out Wembley Stadium (British Boxing record), Joshua announced himself as the next heavyweight superstar.
The next step is to find the rival, which is where Deontay Wilder(39-0, 38 via KO) comes into play. Wilder has the ability to end any fight at any moment with just one-punch, something the division has not witnessed since the likes of Mike Tyson. Wilder has made it very clear, he wants this mega-fight:
The fight appears to be en route to happen at some point, although, there is no guarantee it will take place in 2018. However, Joshua’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, is confident it will take place by December.
ESPN and Top Rank
In late July, ESPN struck a surprising deal with promoter Bob Arum and his Top Rank promotion. Bringing marquee boxing bouts back to cable television has been a major success so far. The broadcasts averaged 1.5 million viewers, including the first Manny Pacquiao-Jeff Horn fight peaking at 4.4 million viewers. Pacquiao is the biggest name for the promotion, but phenoms Terence Crawford and Vasyl Lomachenko are what should thrill ESPN going forward. Crawford, known for proudly fighting in his hometown Omaha, has looked nearly flawless in his 32-0 career, and could really benefit from beating (destroying) a well-known Pacquiao at some point this year. Lomachenko, as Arum says, is “the best since Ali,” and has proclaimed himself “No Mas Chenko” now that fighters are literally quitting during their fights against him.
It sounds like ESPN plans on going all-in on their coverage as well.
Canelo and GGG
While it was Mayweather vs McGregor that intrigued the mainstream media and fans, Canelo vs. Gennady Golovkin (GGG) in September was what the hardcore fight fans were eager to witness. GGG came in as the most feared puncher in the sport and was looking to claim the title of the world’s pound-for-pound best; Canelo came in as the biggest draw in the sport (with Mayweather retired) and had shown major improvement since his only loss to Mayweather back in 2013. Billed as Supremacy, the matchup lived up to expectations. Like usual, though, the judges got in the way. They overshadowed the fight with a bogus, completely illogical draw when it was clearly won by GGG. ESPN’s Teddy Atlas was not happy:
Now, the biggest storyline of 2018 will be if/when the two meet again. There is belief it will happen on Cinco de Mayo.