Boxing did it again.
The anticipated unification fight for all four heavyweight world titles between champions Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk seems to be off for the moment after months of negotiations and just when it looked like it was going to happen.
Fury has options. Deontay Wilder is the mandatory WBC challenger, but Fury beat him twice by KO and drew once) and there is little interest in a fourth fight. Usyk has three of the four belts, but his first mandatory challenger is WBA “regular” champion Daniel Dubois. Will Usyk go after the biggest prizefight or take on Dubois to get out of that title defense obligation?
Let’s talk about fights that are happening. Can John Ryder last all 12 rounds against undisputed super middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez? Is David Benavidez next for Alvarez? Can Canelo beat Dmitry Bivol if he moves up again for a rematch in September?
How about Teofimo Lopez Jr.? Can he win a world title again? Is Shakur Stevenson ready to be a top 5 pound-for-pound fighter?
Our boxing panel puts these topics in perspective and tells us if we are overreacting or not.
Usyk will move on and fight Daniel Dubois next
Usyk wants to hold on to the belts, so his next opponent(s) will be decided by his mandatory obligations for the WBA, IBF and WBO. Dubois holds the secondary WBA belt and is in front of the queue for that governing body, which has priority in having its mandatory defense met first. The WBA says Usyk must start talks for a defense against Dubois if he fails to sign for the Fury fight by April 1.
While Dubois (19-1, 18 KOs), from London, is the most likely opponent for Usyk, it’s not guaranteed. The English boxer only recently returned to training after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his last fight in December. Dubois, 25, was dropped three times in the first round against Kevin Lerena before recovering to stop the South African in the third round. Dubois is unlikely to fight before the end of May.
But if Dubois cannot fight Usyk next because he needs more time to recover from the injury (Usyk will not want to wait too long), then the Ukrainian could put his focus on Filip Hrgovic (15-0, 12 KOs), the 30-year-old Croatian who is the IBF’s No 1 challenger. Like Dubois, Hrgovic looked vulnerable in his last outing. He had to get off the canvas in the first round to defeat China’s Zhilei Zhang by decision in a title eliminator last August.
Dubois was also stopped in the 10th round by Joe Joyce in 2020, which makes you wonder if he could seriously trouble a skilled technician like Usyk. — Parkinson
Verdict: Not an overreaction
John Ryder will go the distance against Canelo Alvarez
As much as Ryder has improved to become an elite-level boxer in recent fights, he still should not be a factor going into the later rounds against Alvarez. If the English challenger takes Alvarez to a decision, then there will be claims that the champion is in decline, or at least was unmotivated and underestimated Ryder.
Is there a megafight left for Alvarez if he stays at super middleweight? Can he ever seriously threaten the light heavyweight champions Dmitry Bivol and Artur Beterbiev if he steps up a division again?
If Alvarez, 32, looks too far into the future or lacks motivation against Ryder, it will make the fight more competitive than it should be. But it is hard to imagine Alvarez lacking any desire to impress in his first fight in his home city of Guadalajara, Mexico, in 12 years.
Alvarez (58-2-2, 39 KOs) has spent his 18-year professional career operating levels above Ryder, who has admirably risen to the top while overcoming early setbacks. Ryder (32-5, 18 KOs), from London, stepped up a division to super middleweight five years ago and got his shot after a split decision win over Daniel Jacobs last year. He also suffered a controversial unanimous decision loss to Callum Smith in 2019. Those two performances, probably the best in Ryder’s career, are not enough to suggest he takes Alvarez the distance. Ryder, who has lost to three fighters Alvarez’s beat, will be brave until a stoppage, most likely in the latter rounds. — Parkinson
Teofimo Lopez Jr. will never win a title again
Why Josh Taylor vs. Teofimo Lopez is ‘even as a fight can get’
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Lopez seems to have some fundamental problems with his career ever since he became the unified lightweight champion in 2020. Since the start of 2021, he has one convincing win — a TKO victory over Pedro Campa in his first bout after losing to George Kambosos Jr.. His most recent win was a controversial split decision over Sandor Martin, who many believed should have been the victor.
The interactions between Lopez and his trainer and father, Teofimo Sr., don’t inspire much confidence on fight night, either. Teofimo’s marquee win over Vasiliy Lomachenko in 2020 to win three titles showed that he has the talent to be a two-time champion. Lopez also has the charisma to still be a star.
However, there’s too much talent at the 140- and 147-pound divisions for Lopez to become a champion. Perhaps a switch in his corner could push him back to the top. — Baby
Verdict: Not an overreaction
David Benavidez will never face Canelo Alvarez
Benavidez on Plant fight: ‘I will knock him out’
Former super middleweight titleholder David Benavidez is confident he’ll get the better of Caleb Plant when the two meet on Saturday.
Until now, Alvarez has never expressed a desire to face Benavidez. He has suggested that Benavidez face other 168-pound contenders first before he entertains the matchup.
Well, Benavidez is doing that this weekend. He’ll take on Caleb Plant for the WBC’s interim middleweight title. As of Wednesday, Benavidez is a significant favorite (-360, according to Caesars Sportsbook). A win puts him in line to face Alvarez. It’s hard to see the WBC forcing Alvarez to vacate his title if he wants to challenge Bivol again, unless Alvarez wants to ditch the belt voluntarily. At this point in his career, Alvarez is concerned with cementing his legacy. That will take a small dent if he never faces Benavidez. — Baby
Shakur Stevenson will be a top five pound-for-pound fighter this year
Stevenson won’t get there, but that’s because of who is ahead of him and who he is fighting in a couple of weeks (little-known Shuichiro Yoshino, who’s never fought outside of his country of Japan) — plus who might be next. For him to get into the top five, multiple people would need to lose.
At some point in Stevenson’s career, he’ll be a top 5 pound-for-pound fighter — but the end of 2023 might be a bit too soon. — Rothstein
Canelo Alvarez will become a light heavyweight champion
The last time I spoke with Alvarez was during a news conference at Akron Stadium in Guadalajara, where he will fight Ryder on May 6. Alvarez stressed that he will fight WBA light heavyweight champion Bivol in a rematch in September at 175 pounds.
For now, the unified champion in the division, Beterbiev, does not appear on Alvarez’s radar. I don’t see Alvarez as a favorite in the rematch despite him dealing with a couple of injuries in the first fight, one to his left hand and a rib injury that left him compromised. He’s already won a 175-pound title against Sergey Kovalev in 2019, so he has shown he belongs in the division and can compete with bigger fighters.
Now healthy and motivated, I believe the Canelo-Bivol rematch will be a toss-up. But Alvarez definitely has a chance to become light heavyweight champion again. — Rodriguez
Verdict: Not an overreaction
Oleksandr Usyk’s future, Canelo Alvarez’s next foe, Shakur Stevenson’s P4P status and more