Our boxing correspondent looks into the key talking points for the sport in 2021 – the good, the bad and the ugly
Which stars are waning?
Floyd Mayweather, who fights YouTube star Logan Paul in an exhibition bout on Feb 20. The undefeated American, who has a 50-0 record, has not fought since his New Year’s Eve exhibition in Japan in 2018, when he knocked out Tenshin Nasukawa in one round. He will be 44 years old four days after the Paul bout.
Similarly, Filipino congressman and boxer Manny Pacquiao, now 42, an eight-weight world champion, has not fought since July 2019.
One defeat can freeze top-level boxers out and losses for Deontay Wilder, Daniel Dubois and Vasyl Lomachenko mean they have rebuilding to do in 2021. Heavyweight Dillian Whyte has the opportunity in late January to avenge his defeat by Alexander Povetkin.
Which stars are rising?
The American Teofimo Lopez at lightweight, and Scotsman Josh Taylor at light-welterweight, could continue to climb the pound-for-pound rankings. Undefeated two-belt world champion Taylor crept into the Ring Magazine top 10 pound-for-pound list at No 9 after his first-round knockout of Apinun Khongsong in September. Lopez, 23, also undefeated, claimed the undisputed lightweight title last year with a stirring triumph, dominating Lomachenko, the three-weight world champion.
The 2012 Olympic gold medallist Oleksandr Usyk is a rising force in the heavyweight division, and is mandatory challenger to Anthony Joshua’s World Boxing Organisation heavyweight title.
Women’s boxing remains on the rise, with Katie Taylor leading the pack. Promoter Eddie Hearn seeks super fights for the Irish star this year.
Beyond Covid, what is the sport’s looming crisis?
It is the same old story with the four main sanctioning bodies creating too many champions, and diluting the top of the weight divisions. There is incredible strength in depth in the lightweight and welterweight divisions and promoters ought to be urged to set up the best match-ups in 2021. Cross-promotional rivalries also continue to blight the sport’s biggest match-ups, with a phenomenal fight in the making between Errol Spence and Terence Crawford for the undisputed title at welterweight yet to be agreed.
Do not be surprised if…
GB return from the Olympics with another group of formidable medal winners who will rise up the professional rankings quickly. Medal picks are: Frazer Clarke, a protege of Anthony Joshua and Joe Joyce in the GB team, who is a formidable super-heavyweight force; Lauren Price is world No 1 and unbeaten in two years in the women’s middleweight division; welterweight Pat McCormack is ranked No 1 in the world, made the world championship final but lost on points; featherweight Peter McGrail has won a medal at every major event in this Olympic cycle – European gold, and two world bronze medals; and Caroline Dubois, 19, is a wild-card entry who has never been defeated. She competes in the women’s lightweight division.