By: Oliver McManus
“Somebody’s 0 has got to go”, it’s possibly the most used phrase in modern boxing. Mind you, if David Diamante has his way it will soon become “let’s nix a nil” but the premise remains the same, two unbeaten fighters putting their records on the line in, hopefully, guts-and-glory encounters.
Don’t get me wrong, a loss doesn’t make you a bad fighter and beating an unbeaten man doesn’t, equally, make you a star player in the sport. As we’ve seen recently there have been a fair few damp squibs when it comes to unbeaten vs unbeaten – Andrade vs Kautondokwa, anyone?
Nonetheless there are plenty of mouth-watering fights in prospect and these are three fights I want to see, at world level, where someone’s 0 has got to go…
Anthony Joshua vs Oleksandr Usyk – Heavyweight
Where better place to kick off than in the heavyweight division? Anthony Joshua has had things pretty much his own way at the top of the game since winning his first world title – sanctioned by the IBF- in 2016. Since that capitulation of Charles Martin, Joshua has fought in six world title bouts and added the WBA, WBO and IBO straps to his collection.
With a touted fight against Deontay Wilder falling by the wayside – take whoever’s side you want on that thorny issue – Joshua is next out on April 13th, at Wembley, with an opponent yet to be scheduled in.
But I’ll be honest, the tag of undisputed aside, I’d much rather see AJ in with the man who holds all of the cruiserweight belts and, arguably, one of the best in the world pound for pound. Usyk seems to me, and many others, the toughest challenge that Joshua can face.
Technically he is sublime and he possesses the heavyweight power required to take Joshua into deep water but, let’s not forget, Usyk has amateur pedigree in the heavier division so it’s not like he’s inexperienced at the weight. Even having said that experience wouldn’t be an issue for someone of such natural quality as Usyk for his fight IQ and ring-ability transcends weight classes.
Coming off the back of a breezy fight against Tony Bellew in which, if we’re honest, he never looked out of control the natural step is for Usyk to go up to heavyweight. Joshua, we know, is searching for “legacy defining” fights and a bout against Oleksandr Usyk is about as big as they come.
The fight seems the most realistic, out of all the big heavyweight contests, with Eddie Hearn taking an active involvement in the promotion of the Ukrainian powerhouse so, fingers crossed, we could see a blockbuster event next year.
Winner of Errol Spence Jnr and Mikey Garcia vs Terence Crawford – Welterweight
Announced last week is the fight that, if we’re honest, made no real sense. Mikey Garcia was the man we all wanted to see fight Vasyl Lomachenko and Errol Spence was the champion looking to unify with Terrence Crawford.
The IBF Welterweight title will be on line come March 16th with Garcia looking to become a five weight champion in his 40th fight. A frighteningly skilled boxer, the California native has continually proved his credentials with a frightening knockout power.
In his last three fights Garcia has been extended the distance but has boxed with class throughout the 36 rounds, controlling the pace of the fight and manouvering his way out of danger with a comprehensive ease.
Errol Spence Jnr goes into the bout with an obvious weight advantage – fighting 12lbs heavier than the division in which Garcia actively holds a world title. 2 years the younger man, Spence burst onto the scene in 2016 with knockout victories over Chris Algieri and Leonard Bundu.
Having captured the IBF crown with a ferocious victory against Kell Brook, in Sheffield, the Texas-man has defended the belt twice in equally terrifying fashion. A non-stop work rate with continual punch output, if you let the champion unfurl his hands then you’re going to be in trouble.
And whilst the question of weight will loom over the bout until fight night, Garcia is a consummate professional and an outstanding athlete. For a man trying to prove his ability in the welterweight division, there could be no better way to silence the critics than claiming a world title in your first fight so that’s where Terence Crawford comes into play.
Errol Spence is the man that people wanted to see in a unification class with Bud, they would produce a scintillating fight. If Mikey Garcia is able to overcome such a challenge then he will have instantaneously justified getting a fight with the WBO champion.
All roads lead to unification, or so they… bring it on!
Artur Beterbiev vs Dmitry Bivol – Light Heavyweight
We’ll deal with the younger boxer first in Dmitry Bivol who ticked over towards the back of 2014 with a Bronze Medal at the 2008 Youth World Championships and a Gold Medal at the 2013 World Combat Games. A two time Russian national champion with a record of 268-15, his amateur pedigree was impressive but paled in comparison to his counterpart.
As a professional, though, the 27 year old really turned up the heat by claiming the first, major, belt of his career in just his fifth fight. The knockout power we all enjoy was evident from the first second of his debut but, with that, he’d find opponents looking to hold and just survive through the early phases. Not that that mattered, Bivol has always found ways of punishing his opponent.
Even when he has been stretched the distance – three times in 14 fights – the Kyrgyzstan-born man has always looked in complete control with an array of power punches as well as technical skill. Of course we’ll all remember his fierce one-punch knockout over, admittedly over-matched, Trent Broadhurst that saw Bivol claimed champion.
Successful defences against Sullivan Barrera and Isaac Chilemba have followed – he next fights Jean Pascal on the 24th – but surely the Russian will be eying up the options for unification come the turn of the year.
Beterbiev, on the other hand, turned pro in the middle of 2013 and initially built up a strong following in Canada – the elite amateur (World Champion & runner up, two-time European champion) had moved to Montreal in order to purse his professional ambitions.
At 5 and 0 he stepped up to face Tavoris Cloud – a former IBF champion – and dealt with the threat of the American, coming off a world title loss, in convincing fashion. The momentum from this bout seemed to follow as Beterbiev looked to fight better opponents at every opportunity possible.
A refreshing attitude of “fight who’s in front of me and knock them out” has ensured success with all thirteen of his wins coming via an early stoppage. A grizzly fighter, that’s the best way to describe it, Beterbiev never looks the fastest of opponents but, boy, does he have vicious punch power.
Typically standing with his hands at shoulder level, the 33 year old stands ready to pounce and is mature enough not to go out all-guns-blazing. The IBF champion won his title against Enrico Koelling last November and, in a fight that ended in the 12th, boxed patiently and calmly to do so.
Two unbeaten Russian powerhouses, slugging it out to unify light heavyweight world titles… what more could you ask for?