Boxing has been booming in 2023, with some of the biggest matches possible coming together and some of the world’s best boxers elevating their game to new levels.
From Gervonta “Tank” Davis drilling Ryan Garcia with a fight-ending body shot, to Terence Crawford and Naoya Inoue elevating themselves to the undisputed No. 1 and 2 pound-for-pound fighters in the sport, to new champions across several weight classes, the year has been as good for boxing as any in recent memory.
As with any sport, there’s an inevitable desire to ask “What’s next?” For some of the sport’s biggest stars, we know who they’ll face in their next trip to the ring. For others, there are ideas but nothing set in stone.
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With all that in mind, let’s take a look at the next step for most of the biggest stars in boxing.
Terence Crawford: A rematch with Errol Spence Jr.
Crawford thoroughly dismantled Spence in their July 29 clash, dominating nearly every moment of the fight before forcing the TKO in Round 9. Crawford’s performance was so impressive that it jumped him over Naoya Inoue — who had his own dominant win over Stephen Fulton days before — in most pound-for-pound rankings. That fight came with a rematch clause, which Spence made clear he would be activating with the hope that the rematch would take place at 154 pounds. Crawford seemed open to taking the fight at junior middleweight, though that hasn’t been sorted. Either way, it appears Crawford and Spence are destined to run it back in a fight that could further stamp Crawford as the best fighter in boxing or could provide some degree of redemption for Spence.
Saul “Canelo” Alvarez: A Sept. 30 clash with Jermell Charlo
This fight is already. While many expected Alvarez to defend his undisputed super middleweight titles against the other Charlo twin, Jermall, he was not ready to get back in the ring. However, undisputed junior middleweight champion Jermell Charlo stepped up to take the fight. This will be Alvarez’s third defense of his status as undisputed champion. He picked up his fourth world title at super middleweight with his win over Caleb Plant and dropped a decision to Dmitry Bivol at light heavyweight, Alvarez’s first defeat since losing to Floyd Mayweather in September 2013. He rebounded with wins over Gennady Golovkin and John Ryder in his most recent outings.
Gervonta “Tank” Davis: Trainer suggests Isaac Cruz rematch is next
Davis picked up a high-profile win earlier in the year, stopping Ryan Garcia with a left hook to the liver. Davis has become one of the sport’s biggest stars and has done so while not yet fighting most of the top talent in the division and with most of his recent fights either being for secondary titles or no title on the line at all. A fight with Cruz isn’t exactly the most “in-demand” option for Davis, especially considering he already beat Cruz in a competitive fight that saw Davis forced to fight one-handed because of a hand injury. Davis’ trainer, Calvin Ford, recently said they were just waiting for a contract to come across for their next fight before suggesting it would be “Pitbull” Cruz.
Cruz has been angling hard for the rematch and just cleared a very tricky hurdle with a split decision win over an awkward Giovanni Cabrera in late July.
Ryan Garcia: A possible world title showdown with Rolando Romero
Losing to Davis was certainly a career setback for Garcia and now he has the chance to prove he has the resiliency to bounce back. Garcia has called for a fight with “Rolly” Romero, which Romero has talked up as a “huge” fight. There are obvious reasons Garcia would target Romero, mainly that Romero’s WBA super lightweight title appears one of the easiest to take in the sport. Romero was getting thoroughly handled by Ismael Barroso in May when the fight was stopped during Romero’s first stretch of meaningful offense, handing him the vacant title by a universally derided TKO stoppage. Romero has looked very vulnerable in recent outings and someone hunting for their first world title eyeing him makes sense.
Romero somewhat backed off on his talk of his first title defense coming against Garcia by saying first he has to handle WBA mandatory challenger Ohara Davies. Given Romero’s deficiencies, it could well be Davies that Garcia is trying to fight in his next outing. There have not really been any other rumors around Garcia, who has talked about not needing tune-up fights, though he did suggest one with recently-crowned UFC bantamweight champion Sean O’Malley.
Tyson Fury: A fight with former UFC champ Francis Ngannou and then … who knows?
It’s somewhat exhausting to talk about Fury’s career at this point. After a tremendous rivalry with Deontay Wilder that saw Fury score a draw before two stoppage wins, seemingly everything has been disappointing. It’s easy to give a pass to giving Whyte a thrashing as mandatory challenger for Fury’s WBC heavyweight title. What followed was Fury retiring, unretiring, throwing out challenges for fights with Anthony Joshua and Oleksandr Usyk in which Fury never seemed interested in good-faith negotiations. Then, a completely unnecessary fight with Derek Chisora that played out exactly as anyone reasonable would have expected.
It’s been a disappointing run for the best heavyweight on the planet. A fight with Joshua is likely the biggest fight in English boxing history. A fight with Usyk is the two best heavyweights in the world clashing for undisputed status. Instead, Fury will be fighting former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou on Oct. 28.
Fury should beat Ngannou fairly easily. While it’d be nice to think Usyk would be next up, Fury’s behavior doesn’t suggest it’s a sure thing. Honestly, another retirement, whether legitimate or a PR trick, is just as likely.
Devin Haney: A move up in weight for a fight with Regis Prograis … maybe
It has seemed clear for years that undisputed lightweight champion Haney was growing out of the 135-pound division. While he wasn’t looking to vacate his lightweight belts immediately, Haney set a move up in weight in motion when it was announced that he’d agreed to a fight for Prograis’ WBC title at junior welterweight. The fight makes sense, with Prograis having wasted much of his recent career and needing a legitimate opponent while Haney gets his own stiff challenge and a chance to grab a world title at a second weight.
Despite some shenanigans in the negotiations that followed the announcement of the two agreeing to fight, both sides appear to have reached a deal. ESPN reports that the fight will now take place on Dec. 9 in San Francisco — Haney’s hometown — on DAZN PPV. The fight was tentatively set for Oct. 28 in Las Vegas when the two initially struck a deal. Coming to terms on this fight also avoids some unnecessary matchups, like one that Prograis posted on social media he would pursue in Adrien Broner.
Naoya Inoue: An undisputed super bantamweight fight with Marlon Tapales
Inoue is an elite pound-for-pound talent who continues to grow as a star. After becoming undisputed at bantamweight, he moved up to super bantamweight for a very risky fight with Stephen Fulton. Inoue thrashed Fulton to grab the WBC and WBO titles. Not every fighter or division is filled with complications and controversy. Tapales holds the WBA and IBF titles and was in the ring with Inoue after the Fulton fight. Inoue vs. Tapales is easy to make and gives Inoue the chance to become undisputed in the second weight class of his career.