By Gav Duthie: After reviewing the year it feels like the right time to preview next year. If we get a year anywhere near as good as 2017 boxing will continue to be in a strong place.
Best fighter – Mikey Garcia
I just have the feeling that 2018 is Mikey Garcia’s year. 2017 was great, it was a comeback year. Because he was out for nearly two years he is taking serious risks but with that comes rewards. He is already a 3-weight world champion and is facing the dangerous Sergey Lipinets for the IBF Jnr Welterweight crown early next year to add a 4th weight. A lot of a fighter’s legacy is dependent on opposition and Garcia has career defining fights ahead of him in Jorge Linares and Vasyl Lomachenko. I think he will get to fight at least 1 of those next year and he will win.
Best prospect – Josh Kelly 5-0(4)
Kelly’s trainer Adam Booth has already stated this is the most talented fighter he has worked with. High praise since he has trained the likes of George Groves and David Haye. Kelly has won his first 5 fights and has stepped up the level of opposition. At only 23 years old the Sunderland lad has plenty of time to make an impact, but he plans to be busy and could have a big fight by the end of the year. He was in the GB Olympic team for 2016 but was beaten by eventual Gold Medalist Daniyar Yeleussinov. With a nice blend of speed and power Kelly is one to look out for.
Best fight – Srisaket Sor Rungvisai v Juan Francisco Estrada
For this section I must go with fights that have already been made rather than fantasy. That makes some of the main contenders Groves v Eubank and Joshua v Parker. I think that the emergence of the Superfly cards will be the best action. Srisaket Sor Rungvisai has made himself into a superstar with back to back wins over Roman Gonzalez. Juan Francisco Estrada beat Carlos Cuadras on the same card in a cracker and this fight promises action from start to finish.
Biggest fight that can be made – Anthony Joshua v Deontay Wilder
This is the fantasy section. I can’t see this happening in 2018 but it could be the biggest fight. Gennady Golovkin v Saul Canelo Alvarez 2 comes close but heavyweight will always be king. Seeing that the unification between Anthony Joshua and Joseph Parker is set for the spring I would doubt they will manage another one before the years end. If Joshua defeats Parker it is likely he will have a mandatory obligation like Alexander Povetkin (WBA) to confront.
Cruiserweight – Mairis Briedis
In all honesty I’m torn between a few options which is why this tournament is so good. Usyk is the favorite but I’m a huge fan of the underrated Mairis Briedis. The Latvian has home advantage in the semifinal v Oleksandr Usyk with the contest taking place in Riga and he battled through a tough opener in Mike Perez. He also holds a spectacular knockout win over heavyweight world champion Manuel Charr. It’s a great matchup and anyone could win this tournament from the remaining 4.
Super Middleweight – George Groves
I think the winner of the Groves vs. Chris Eubank Jr. fight wins the whole thing. So, it’s really a case of trying to predict that fight. I think this fight all depends on Groves. If he boxes clever like he did against James DeGale or Martin Murray, he can expose Eubank Jr. If he goes toe to toe like against Fedor Chudinov or Jamie Cox, then Eubank wins. Chris is the better inside fighter and has one of the best uppercuts in the game. Let him up close and Groves has got a problem. Groves throws a lot of wide punches, but he has improved in this regard with more rights to the body. I’m picking George in a Groves v Smith final but it’s not an easy decision.
Best division – Light Heavyweight
Even with pound-for-pound number 1 Andre Ward retiring, the 175lb division is still the most competitive in my opinion. Ward’s shock exit from the sport created opportunities for the talented Dimitry Bivol and Artur Beterbiev to win world titles and for Sergey Kovalev to regain one of this. There is also a fantastic list of contenders, including Sullivan Barrera, Oleksandr Gzovdyk, Joe Smith Jnr, Badou Jack, Eleider Alvarez and a few more. It looks like Adonis Stevenson might get some big fight action as well to add to the mix.
Comeback – Andre Ward
Andre Ward has already said he misses fighting a short while after his retirement. It was a strange retirement. After defeating Kovalev twice, he obviously felt he had conquered the division. He was chasing strange fights like Tony Bellew and Anthony Joshua but decided to retire instead. If a new hero emerges at 175lbs like Beterbiev or someone else beats Kovalev he might come back to face someone else if the money is right.