BOXING fans were missing out on some of the biggest fights possible long before the Covid-19 pandemic struck and 2021 will soon reveal whether that gutting trend will continue.
The coronavirus fallout, the travel restrictions, the fan ban snatching around 40 per cent of fighter earnings and the lack of a vaccine all point to the biggest match-ups getting delayed.
But top UK promoters Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren have suggested the new streamlined sport will encourage fewer tune-up and learning fights, so the must-see bouts get made.
Vasiliy Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez showed their prize fighting colleagues that the hurt business can battle on by partaking in a behind-closed-doors thriller, without even a pay-per-view windfall in the US.
And now the likes of Anthony Joshua, Tyson Fury and Canelo Alvarez have to follow suit.
Here, SunSport dream up the seven best clashes we can hope to see in 2021 once the world has adapted to the new rules and regulations.
Tyson Fury vs Anthony Joshua
The Gypsy King’s plan to ditch the Deontay Wilder trilogy bout for a December 5 dance with Agit Kabayel appears to have backfired.
A judge is examining the contract for their February fight to decide if the 6ft 9in ace can move on without a third meeting, or if Wilder is entitled to a shot at revenge or at least a goodbye pay-off.
AJ’s December 12 mandatory defence against Kubrat Pulev should go ahead unhindered and, as long as he doesn’t suffer another Andy Ruiz-sized shock, both Englishmen should be free to decide an undisputed champ next year.
The 50-50 financial split for the first planned bout – with the winner getting 60-40 for the rematch – has already been agreed.
And there are already American states, UK stadiums and Middle Eastern nations ready to host the dust-up.
This looks like a fight that is so easy to make but rival promoters, broadcasters and egos remain the kryptonite for these dream contests.
Terence Crawford vs Errol Spence Jr
The WBO welterweight king has still not put a foot or fist wrong in his career.
The Omaha ace is a three-weight champion on an eight-fight KO win streak, despite moving up to face bigger men.
British ex-champions Amir Khan and Kell Brook have now been broken by the switch-hitter and he is running out of worthy opponents.
Manny Pacquiao is a recurring name but the Filipino legend is almost 42 and few real fight fans will want to see an aging icon get fed to a prime lion.
Spence, 30, is a far better fit and he has two of the 147lbs belts already, so would be much more than a big scalp on Crawford’s bed post.
But, much like Fury and Joshua, the compatriots are with warring promoters and broadcasters so we cannot hold our breath.
Teofimo Lopez vs Gervonta Davis
The lightweight division is absolutely fizzing right now because of the dominant points win Lopez landed over pound-for-pound ace Loma.
And the highlight reel KO Floyd Mayweather protege ‘Tank’ Davis landed on Leo Santa Cruz, both in a thrilling October fightfest.
Lopez is the hottest young prospect in the game at just 23, while Davis is a PPV star aged just 26 and seems to have mastered the ill discipline that threatened to waste his talent early on.
The Tank vs The Takeover would be a mouthwatering clash between two athletes in the prime of their lives. It seems outlandish that we are even wasting out time hoping for it, but this virus has thrown up stranger things so far.
Vasiliy Lomachenko vs Naoya Inoue
When Loma stood across the Las Vegas ring from Lopez last month, he looked half of the size of his 9st 9lbs rival.
The two-time Olympic hero is a natural featherweight who leaped up the divisions in his quest to completely rule a weight class and he succeeded until he came up against a younger, fresher and just plain bigger monster.
Following more shoulder surgery, Loma should now return to more suitable divisions of super-feather or feather and he could be joined by The Monster very soon.
Japan’s Inouye is already a three-weight champ at light-fly, super-fly and bantamweight but their dimensions and styles should match perfectly.
Loma is one inch taller but Inoue has a better reach by 3in. Inoue is the devastating body puncher while Loma is the matador famous for torturing his prey into surrender.
Crucially the pair do share a promoter in American Top Rank boss Bob Arum so this dream is one of the least far fetched.
Canelo Alvarez vs Callum Smith
It seems silly not having the Canelo vs Gennady Golovkin trilogy fight on this list, but now the Mexican has split from global streaming broadcasters DAZN, that fight is not even worth fantasizing over.
When Canelo and his Khazak two-fight nemesis were under the same umbrella for 18 months they could not get a third fight agreed so forget about it ever happening now.
The same goes for Billy Joe Saunders, DAZN were one day away from that fight being announced and the world would finally finding out just how brilliant the British southpaw is, before the pandemic struck.
But now Canelo is a free agent, with no loyalty to DAZN or their fighters, especially the ones who publicly slammed him for his 2018 doping bust.
Smith has smartly always been respectful about Canelo and he has bonafide super-middleweight WBA and Ring magazine belts that Alvarez will want in his vast collection.
Devin Haney vs Ryan Garcia
This battle of the wonderkids is spicy for so many reasons.
As amateurs they boxed six times, Garcia claims the score is tied at 3-3, Haney insists it was a 6-0 landside.
Haney is now supported by US fight icons Mayweather and Andre Ward while Garcia is the golden boy being backed by Oscar De La Hoya and Bernard Hopkins.
Both baby-faced assassins are 22 years old, with mind-boggling social media followers and influence.
Haney appears to be the more technical boxer with 15 of his 25 wins inside the distance.
Garcia has a left hook from hell that helped him KO 17 of his 20 victims.
Both claim to be the future of boxing – let’s just hope they don’t mimic Mayweather and Pacquiao who only finally met when they were both past it.
Artur Beterbiev vs Dmitry Bivol
There is a seriously talented pool of light-heavyweight contenders rising up the ladder – like London’s Josh Buatsi and Anthony Yarde.
But until these two colossuses collide, we won’t really know who is at the top of the tree.
Both Russian, both undefeated and both a bit terrifying. We need to see this score settled so the rest of the division can step up.
Bearded Beterbiev, 35, is 15-0 – all via KO – but he was dropped by brave Brit Callum Johnson in 2018, so has shown vulnerability.
Bivol is 29 and has needed the judges’ scorecards for his last four wins.
This could end up being a brilliant trilogy if both camps can get together to get the opener on and create a potentially iconic rivalry.
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