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4 Outside-of-the-Box Fights that Would Steal the Spotlight in 2020

Keith Thurman Kell Brook Roman Gonzalez

By Paul R. Jones: Here’s a simple thought experiment: come up with a handful of fights (involving active fighters) that would fly under the radar of casual boxing fans, but could produce a 2020 Fight of the Year candidate if they ever happened.

Of course, everyone wants to see Wilder vs. Fury 2, Spence Jr. vs. Crawford, and Lomachenko vs. Davis. But these fights hardly qualify as under the radar.

So, I’m digging deeper to list my top 4 outside-of-the-box fights for 2020:

4. KEITH THURMAN vs. KELL BROOK — WELTERWEIGHT (147 lbs) / JUNIOR MIDDLEWEIGHTS (154 lbs)

In the spirit of Jeopardy! and its recently-crowned GOAT, Ken Jennings, here’s the clue:

What you get when you mix “KOs for life” with “chocolate brownies”: (Answer) What is ACTION?

All jokes aside, a matchup between Keith Thurman and Kell Brook could produce an adrenaline-soaked classic with two fighters that have a lot in common.

For instance, both fighters are former world champs that hold a signature win over former WBC World Champ, Shawn Porter.

And despite losing to the likes of Pacquiao, Golovkin, and Spence Jr., Thurman and Brook gave a good account of themselves in each of these bouts. In fact, Thurman and Pacquiao produced a 2019 Fight of the Year candidate, while Brook was ahead on the scorecards in the early going against GGG and Spence before sustaining serious eye injuries.

Stylistically, Thurman vs. Brook could be sneaky-good, pitting the boxer-puncher Thurman against the pressure, aggression, and power of Brook.

Brook is already on record saying he’s willing to compete at 147 for big fights. And, if Brook gets by Mark DeLuca and Thurman returns from hand surgery on schedule, a fall or winter showdown between Thurman and Brook would be a helluva fight whether held stateside or across the pond.

3. JARRETT HURD VS. JAIME MUNGUÍA — JR. MIDDLEWEIGHT (154 lbs) / MIDDLEWEIGHT (160 lbs)

Holy heartrate monitor, Batman! It’s Hurd vs. Munguía.

Indeed, to fully appreciate this high-octane slugfest, you’re going to need a utility belt with built-in cardiac monitoring.

Consider that Hurd, a former unified Jr. Middleweight Champ, was on boxing’s fast track before falling off the rails against Julian Williams in 2019. And although Hurd vs. Williams was on everyone’s short list for Fight of the Year, the Hurd came up on the losing end of a fight he was pegged to win.

That loss undoubtedly took a tool on Hurd, with the 29-year-old admitting that he felt “lost” psychologically. Change was also imminent with the Marylander ditching his gold Mohawk and longtime trainer Ernesto Rodriguez, and moving his camp to Colorado.

Nevertheless, Hurd is eager to shake off the stench of the Williams fight. And, assuming Hurd gets past Francisco Santana in his return bout, Munguía would offer a solid stylistic contrast.

Don’t forget, Munguía’s also been anything but predictable (e.g., looking good in his middleweight debut versus Gary O’Sullivan, while looking ordinary in his “win” over Dennis Hogan in one of 2019’s worst decisions.

On the bright side, however, Hurd and Munguía are physical and strategic outliers as jr. middleweights. For instance, both stand over 6’0”, but rather than rely size advantage, they often prefer to control ring geography with a mean cardio game, above-average punch absorption, and consistent pressure.

This bodes well for fans.

Both fighters also throw loads of punches in close quarters, which means Hurd vs. Munguía could flirt with punchstat records if it ever materializes.

Taken together, this high-stakes game of chicken is destined for fireworks with neither fighter expected to swerve during their 12-round collision course.

Count me in.

2. KOSEI TANAKA vs. ROMÁN GONZÁLEZ — FLYWEIGHT (112 lbs) / SUPER FLYWEIGHT (115 lbs)

Japan’s Kosei Tanaka, the reigning WBO World Flyweight Champ, is one of boxing’s rising stars.

He’s dominating the field, winning world titles early in his career, and beginning to crack the top 10 in mainstream P4P lists.

And at 24, Tanaka is building a resume that might lead to a permanent spot in Canastota one day. But, the pint-sized dynamo needs to add some big names to his roster to bolster his case.

Enter Román ‘‘Chocolatito’’ González, boxing’s former P4P kingpin who fell from his perch after dropping back-to-back losses to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai—the first of which was highly debatable.

Although the Nicaraguan seems to have graduated from the Gary Russell Jr. school of fight scheduling, González still packs a wallop and makes for a compelling fight if pitted against Tanaka.

Remember, only three pounds separate González and Tanaka. So, it’s conceivable that these fighters could either meet at a catch weight or Tanaka could move up to super flyweight for a challenge.

Either way, this is a dope matchup.

For added oomph, Tanaka vs. González could be held away from the Land of the Rising Sun to help level the playing field.

1. NAOYA INOUE vs. LUIS NERY — BANTAMWEIGHTS (118 lbs)

If Naoya Inoue isn’t on your pound-for-pound list then something’s wrong.

Inoue’s annihilated virtually everything in his path except former multi-division world champ, Nonito Donaire, whom Inoue fought in boxing’s clear-cut, 2019 Fight of the Year.

In that barnburner, Inoue proved that there are levels to his game.

The Japanese flamethrower proved that he’s more than just a knockout artist, beating “The Filipino Flash” without having to rely solely on his power.

In fact, the “Monster” is quickly developing into a true, 5-tool fighter—showcasing concussive power, speed, good technique, responsible defense, and a ring IQ beyond his years. Throw in fan-pleasing intangibles (e.g., unfettered aggression) and it’s easy to see why the 26-year-old is experiencing success.

To date, however, Inoue hasn’t fought anyone with the kind of power that Luis Nery (30-0, 24 KOs), of Mexico, possesses. Nery is a former Bantamweight World Champ, who took his strap from Inoue’s fellow countryman, Shinsuke Yamanaka (27-2-2, 19 KOs).

Ironically, Yamanaka’s only two losses were courtesy of back-to-back beatdowns from Nery (although the first loss was shrouded in controversy after a failed drug test).

Nevertheless, Inoue vs. Nery is compelling on multiple levels: stylistically (orthodox vs. southpaw); pedagogically (i.e., the mental match-up between the calming influences of trainers Shingo Inoue and Freddie Roach); psychologically, with both fighters having the seek-and-destroy gene embedded in their DNA); and physically, with the duo possessing game-changing power that can separate foes from their senses in a heartbeat.

There’s also a personal element to this matchup: Nery and Inoue’s camps have ratcheted up the trash-talk to a tipping point, stemming from digs about Nery’s mishaps outside of the ring (e.g., missing weight multiple times) to Team Nery’s assertion that the undefeated Mexican would stop Inoue cold if they ever fought.

All things considered, both fighters would be out for blood: throwing punches with the sole intention of ripping their rival’s soul out.

Simply put, Inoue vs. Nery is must-see TV, guaranteed to produce pyrotechnics. I’m talking #CautionFlammable.

You’d have to be crazy to miss this one.

Do you agree?

Please let me know by leaving a comment, and ‘liking’ and retweeting this article on social media.

It would mean a lot to me.

* * * *

About the Author: Paul R. Jones! is a long-time boxing writer and ringside photographer for Boxing News 24. A scientist by day and boxing writer by night, Paul covers the humorous, offbeat, and absurd from the sport of boxing. You can keep up with more of what Paul is thinking about on Twitter @boxingepicenter. You can also e-mail him at prjones1@hotmail.com.


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