After a few eventful days in the boxing world, attention has turned back toward Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua with the announcement that the two heavyweight world titlists have signed a two-fight deal.
A few big questions remain, including where and when the first fight will take place. And despite a two-fight agreement, boxing has a history of turning plans like that on their heads. With Deontay Wilder and mandatory challengers waiting in the wings, will Fury and Joshua actually fight twice in a row?
Speaking of return fights, the rematch between Juan Francisco Estrada and Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez was a highly entertaining showcase that left fans wanting more. But before they can explore a possible third bout between them, Estrada must entertain a different trilogy fight, against Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. So which fight will be better?
Our boxing panel breaks down these big questions and gets to the heart of what’s real, and what’s not.
Tyson Fury-Anthony Joshua won’t have back-to-back fights
Nick Parkinson: Real. The world heavyweight champion rivals have signed a two-fight deal, and promoters hope to stage the first of those by June or July, and you can see a scenario where we have to wait until 2022 for the rematch.
First there’s the possibility one of them could suffer an injury or cut which could jeopardize the rematch happening four or five months later. Fury required 47 stitches to mend a gruesome cut suffered above his right eye in a decision win over Otto Wallin in September 2019, and a similar injury would raise doubts about an end-of-the year return with AJ.
Mandatory defense obligations — Oleksandr Usyk is the WBO mandatory challenger to Joshua, and the winner of the Alexander Povetkin-Dillian Whyte rematch is the mandatory for Fury — will not be an insurmountable problem, as Fury and Joshua could always drop the belts to make the rematch happen when they want. But one challenge they won’t be able to influence will be the possibility of restrictions on crowd numbers later this year due to coronavirus, which could affect the chances of holding a rematch on home soil.
Saudi Arabia or venues in the United States are leading contenders to stage Fury-Joshua 1, rather than the megafight being held in the fighters’ native England. United Kingdom government restrictions on crowd numbers to stop the spread of coronavirus has ruled out the possibility of a 90,000 crowd at Wembley Stadium in London this summer.
Crowd numbers are slowly being fazed back into sports events from the spring, but any rise in case numbers could scupper Fury-Joshua 2 being staged in the UK. There is also only one venue — the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales — that could stage the rematch with a crowd of 80,000 in the winter months. That could tempt promoters to push back the rematch to the spring of 2022, enough time to build up interest and be assured that coronavirus would not KO attempts to stage Fury-Joshua 2 at Wembley in April or May 2022.
The loser of the first fight may also see the value in having another fight next, while the winner makes a mandatory defense to hold on to the belts, before they meet again.
A Juan Francisco Estrada-Roman Gonzalez trilogy fight would be better than a trilogy between Estrada and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai
Juan Francisco Estrada and Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez didn’t disappoint in their rematch, with Estrada edging out the victory by split decision.
Bernardo Osuna: Real. On the same night that boxing lost legendary warrior Marvelous Marvin Hagler and we commemorated the 28th anniversary of the first of three memorable fights between Humberto Gonzalez and Michael Carbajal, the little giants of this era proved why boxing deserves a trilogy between Juan Francisco Estrada and Roman Gonzalez.
The high level action Estrada and Gonzalez delivered on Saturday was fight of the year worthy. The sublime boxing skills, harnessed aggression and relentless grit put on display by the Mexican champion and the Nicaraguan legend delivered on the expectations that we all had coming into this long awaited rematch. It was worth the eight years and 204 days that we had to wait to see these two men back in the ring, because it allowed Estrada to hone his craft after losing to Gonzalez the first time. It also gave Gonzalez enough time to rise from the ashes of his back-to-back losses at the hands of Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, who is next in line to face Estrada as his mandatory challenger.
Any combination of these three all-action fighters is acceptable, but what I want to see is Estrada and Gonzalez settle their unfinished business. Too many times boxing falls short in delivering, but Gonzalez and Estrada did more than that, proving that fighters in the lower weight divisions deserve more credit and attention. These two threw a total of 2,529 punches in the rematch and a combined 4,662 in 24 rounds. They averaged 211 punches per round, 3,046 days after they threw a combined 178 punches per round.
Age didn’t simmer Estrada and Gonzalez, it made them better and more fierce. I am all for seeing them do it again, but please keep judge Carlos Sucre, with an aberration of a 117-111 scorecard away from the arena, so that nobody can put a blemish on what will be a trilogy for the ages.
Vergil Ortiz will pass the test against Maurice Hooker
Cameron Wolfe: Real. This is clearly Ortiz’s toughest challenge as a pro. Hooker is a former junior lightweight world titlist whose only loss came to Jose Ramirez, arguably the best boxer at 140. Ortiz has walked through and knocked out every man that has gotten into the ring with him as a pro, and it shouldn’t be that easy with Hooker.
So yeah, I’d expect Hooker to test Ortiz by landing some hard blows and even winning some rounds. But ultimately, Ortiz just has too much power and talent for it to be more than a solid test.
David Benavidez is good enough to face Canelo Alvarez at 168
David Benadvidez tells Max Kellerman that he’s open to a fight with super middleweight prospect Edgar Berlanga. Watch the full interview on Max on Boxing at 5:00 ET on ESPN2.
Ben Baby: Not real. It’s still too early for Benavidez to take on someone like Canelo, even if he thinks he’s ready. Benavidez took care of business against Ronald Ellis last Saturday and picked up the stoppage win that was expected against an opponent of that caliber.
Benavidez may have the power and the precision to challenge one of boxing’s top pound-for-pound fighters, but it might be best for all parties involved in Benavidez faces Caleb Plant, who currently holds the IBF super middleweight title and gain more experience against a top fighter. If he could beat Plant, it would mean Canelo’s desire to unify all the belts in the 168-pound division would have to go through Benavidez.
Otherwise, there’s really no financial incentive to take on a risk such as Benavidez without a big payday. With Benavidez and Plant both fighting in the Premier Boxing Champions stable, that’s a makeable fight. Should Benavidez look impressive against Plant or someone of that caliber, then it will be time for him to step into the ring against Canelo.
WBO junior lightweight champion Jamel Herring will knock out Carl Frampton
Nick Parkinson: Not real. Herring will be bigger and stronger, and more experienced at junior lightweight. This could present serious problems for Frampton, who is attempting to win a world title in a third weight class. Frampton will have also gone nearly a year and half since his last top-tier opponent (Josh Warrington) with just two fights since due to hand injuries and delays caused by the pandemic.
However, Frampton’s ring IQ and skillset, developed over considerably longer time at the top than Herring, will see him overcome concerns over his size and inactivity to earn a points win. Frampton has been boxing the world’s best for eight years, beating the likes of Leo Santa Cruz, Nonito Donaire, Scott Quigg and Kiko Martinez. Herring has not faced that same caliber of opposition, with his best win coming over Masayuki Ito for the title two years ago.