Boxing is poised to continue its massive momentum in 2021, with many stars expected to fight it. Last year gave us some of the wildest moments of the new millennium, while also setting the stage for some young stars to really take off in 2022. Additionally, the Paul Brothers continue to be a force to watch as they turn the sport on its axis and need attention.
With so many options to choose from, CBS Sports writers themselves answered some of the biggest questions on the cutting edge as the new 12-month battle kicks off this weekend.
Now let’s dive into the questions and predictions from “Morning Kombat” host Brian Campbell and staff writer Brent Brookhouse.
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Which sector will be the most surprising in 2022?
Although the 140-pound division has had world-class fighters in recent years, from the fights of Terence Crawford to the undisputed champions to the duel domination of Josh Taylor and Jose Ramirez, ultimately leading to their unification in 2021, but for some time the divisions are thought to be deep. Former unified champion Danny Garcia rose to welterweight full-time in 2015, with most of the big names following him at 147 pounds. But recent teasing of former lightweight king Teofimo Lopez Jr.’s interest in chasing Taylor’s four-belt reign will be a great addition to the top of the junior welterweight ladder and could generate its own its own chain reaction. Ramirez will start the year trying to recover from his first defeat against Jorge Pedraza, with the likes of Regis Progras, Jose Zepeda and Victor Postol adding to the list significant depth. But if Lopez is followed by any number of young welterweights who seem poised to break out, including Gervonta Davis, the 140-pound business could be big enough for the average fan to take notice by 2022.
Brookhouse: Lightweight (but for all the wrong reasons)
While there are still plenty of reasons to be excited about all the young talent in boxing at 135 pounds, 2022 could very well be another year when Gervonta Davis, Ryan Garcia and Devin Haney won’t be able to cross the ring. Teofimo Lopez seems to have ended his time at featherweight after losing to George Kambosos, and it’s unlikely that any featherweight will be chasing him without a title. This leaves everyone chasing Kambosos who are definitely worth watching, but whichever two players lose the Kambosos draw, it’s unlikely to step into the ring with the other. Add in Vasiliy Lomachenko — who’s also looking for a Kambosos fight — and you have another star who probably won’t face those young stars. There’s still a lot of talent in the division, and they’re probably all in interesting battles. These battles are unlikely to be against each other.
Who is Jack Paul’s logical opponent in 2022?
Campbell: Everyone from Paul to MMA fans might be interested in some kind of crossover boxing match between him and any number of UFC stars, including Conor McGregor, Nate Diaz and Jorge Mas Vidal. But Controlling President Dana White’s current contracts with UFC fighters could prevent that from happening anytime soon. Because of this, Paul could benefit from a little legitimacy in fighting “real” boxers. The idea of his recent fight with former middleweight champion Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. is smart, especially if the 35-year-old son of a boxing legend has been out for the past seven years. Continuing to slide four losses in the game and almost unforgivably each fight became difficult and lacked professionalism. Yes, Chavez lost last year to 46-year-old former mixed martial arts star Anderson Silva in a legal boxing match. But if Paul passes a potentially dangerous test, the match will still give him some serious respect, while also being the perfect setup for a marketable fight with Silva, if he wins, to end the year.
Brookhouse: Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. remains the best option. He’s a former world champion and a “real boxer,” two things that all Paul doubters are asking him to fix. Many have even suggested that Paul only needs to face a 5-0 boxer to tick “fight a real boxer”. Of course, those goalposts affect every game Paul plays until he inevitably loses or retires. Yes, Chavez lost a recent bout to Anderson Silva, one of the greats in boxing of this era, and Silva’s performance was ridiculous. Still, Paul stepped into the ring with a former champion and a man with 53 victories over “real boxers”? For a 5-0 YouTuber, that would be a feather on Paul’s head.
Who ended the year at lightweight?
Campbell: Devin Haney
Given boxing’s online and political divisions, which make matching between the best opponents more difficult than expected extravagances, it’s hard to tell which fights might actually take place. If it’s a round robin, it’s hard to count on a dangerous up-and-comer like former unification king Vasily Lomachenko or Gwenta Davis. But undefeated WBC champ Devin Haney appears to have the inside scoop to proceed as newly crowned George Cambozos Jr continues negotiations over his financial reward for beating Teofimo Lopez Jr. in 2021 a fight. Even if the fight takes place in the defending champions Australia’s backyard, Haney could be favored over Cambozos. Given the mandatory responsibility of the undisputed champion, Haney is likely to step down as the new face of the division in 2022.
Brookhouse: Vasily Lomachenko
As I already said in our boxing predictions, I believe Vasiliy Lomachenko will end the year with three of the four belts in the division, with Devin Haney still the WBC champion. Lomachenko may be the easiest person George Kambosos’ men to strike a deal with, especially if Kambosos remains firm with those who come to Australia to fight him. Gervonta Davis will be content to keep fighting for the secondary title — while everyone around him pretends they’re world champions — and Ryan Garcia can’t seem to get himself back in the ring. That makes Haney and Lomachenko the most likely options for Kambozos. Whoever enters the fight will be favored over the champion. It also needs to be considered that Kambosos remains at the top of the division, both because he has proven he can win the “big names” and because it’s not impossible to see the political game of boxing make him take mandatory defenses against lower opponents. Opponents at a level or two, just because the sport likes to shoot in the foot.
Who came out on top at year-end welterweight?
Campbell: Terence Crawford
Did we finally get the Errol Spence Jr.-Terence Crawford superfight this year to define the post-Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao era at 147 pounds? That seems more likely if Crawford is a promotional free agent signing with the PBC. Spencer will have to first pass WBA champ Yordenis Ugas in their goal of an April unification, but the winner of the Spencer-Crawford fight is on its bright potential Until it reaches its expiration point due to age and injury, the winner will be the legitimate new king. Both fighters have been in the public eye as favorites to win the much-hyped fight in the past. However, given his physical setbacks in recent years, including surgery for a retinal detachment in 2021, Spencer appears to have more questions to answer. Crawford, who turns 35 in September, isn’t getting any younger, but he just proved he’s the best of the moment in his first elite welterweight test against Sean Porter last year. Love.
Brookhouse: Errol Spence Jr. and Terence Crawford
Is this cheating? Crawford vs. Spence is a “must fight” battle for the division, like it has been for years. With Crawford out of the top camp, the battle is now easier than ever. Still, the division has enough other names for the two to face off while continuing to find reasons not to step into the ring with each other. Both will win fights this year, but not face-to-face, and the question of who is the true welterweight king remains open.
Who are the stars of the outbreak in 2022?
Campbell: Tim Tszyu Coming soon, the rest of the 154-pound division needs attention. For the past two years, the son of Hall of Famer Kostia Tzuyu has overcome every obstacle in front of him in domestic competition in his native Australia, including stoppage-time victories over Jeff Horn and Dennis Hogan. It’s time for the 27-year-old to bring his talents to America’s biggest stage, where names come and go waiting for him. Tszyu is a confident fighter whose composure seems beyond his years. He’s also a brutal body fighter and seems poised to make this division his own for the next 12 months.
Brookhouse: Subril Mathias He has a chance to continue his redemption story when he rematches Petros Ananyan on Showtime on January 22. Ananyan upset Mathias in February 2020. While the results were a bit shocking, they were understandable. The first Ananyan fight came after Maxim Dadashev tragically passed away after losing to Matias in TKO. Matthias appeared to have come to his senses after the loss to Ananyang, where he beat forwards Malik Hawkins and Battier Janjukenbayev in two matches. Mathias’ style is popular with fans, and welterweight is a compelling division with plenty of good matchups. Between TV stories made for tragedy and redemption, light-hearted style and a division with big battles ahead, 2022 could be a big year for Matthias.