3 BOLD Boxing Predictions for 2021 — Pacquiao, Charlo, Bivol, Beterbiev, More!
By Paul R. Jones! Looking ahead to the upcoming boxing schedule, I offer three bold predictions for 2021!
- Jermell Charlo will become the undisputed junior middleweight champ and 2021 Fighter of the Year
BOLD? Ok, you asked for it.
Actually, 2021 sets up nicely for Jermell Charlo to pull this off and become the frontrunner for 2021 Fighter of the Year should he seek out and beat WBA (regular) champ Erislandy Lara and the winner of the WBO-mandated title defense between champion Patrick Teixeira and Brian Castaño (February 13). And here’s why.
First, from a feasibility standpoint, Charlo vs. Lara or Castaño shouldn’t be difficult to pull off because they’re PBC alum. And, although the path to Charlo vs. Teixeira could preset thorny issues (e.g., travel visas during a pandemic), making the fight shouldn’t be impossible for PBC and Golden Boy Promotions given their ability to book Teixeira vs. Castaño.
Second, from an activity standpoint, it’s not abnormal for Charlo to fight twice a year, especially if predictions about the COVID-19 pandemic possibly subsiding by the end of 2021 are accurate.
Third, from a technical standpoint, unless you’re a Charlo hater, you’ve noticed that the Texan has upped his knuckle game and rapidly shed the “trash talker with a punch” stereotype since Charlo vs. Harrison (2018).
In fact, the post-Harrison Charlo is a much-improved fighter who’s more cerebral with his punch selection and placement, and far more patient. And after seeing ‘Mell’ lay waste to Jeison Rosario, Charlo may very well be the best fighter in Derrick James’ stable — we already know he’s the most confident.
The bottom line. Although it would be an ambitious schedule, I believe Charlo can fulfill this prophecy and take a giant leap towards cleaning out the division.
- Two long-awaited fights will finally happen
I’m bullish on Artur Beterbiev vs. Dmitry Bivol and Amir Khan vs. Kell Brook going down in 2021.
In the case of the former, with Canelo Álvarez campaigning south of light heavyweight, the road to Beterbiev vs. Bivol should be clearer in ‘21.
And if Beterbiev takes care of business against Adam Deines in March, and Bivol’s team hasn’t announced a dance partner by then, there’s no reason why the talented duo couldn’t hammer out a deal for a unification bout later in the year, especially if COVID-19 is under control and Bivol decides to recommit to fighting 2 or more times per year.
The bottom line. If my hunch is correct, expect Beterbiev vs. Bivol to be an all-out war that I’m fearlessly forecasting will receive Fight of the Year honors.
Regarding Khan vs. Brook, though past its expiration date, this fight has probably never been more doable than it is now given the fighters’ connection to promoter Eddie Hearn.
Indeed, Hearn believes that Khan vs. Brook is “…still a competitive, intriguing fight,” and I concur. Remember, just because two fighters are in the twilight of their careers doesn’t mean they can’t produce lightning in a bottle.
Equally important, despite Khan’s concerns about fighting during the pandemic, if COVID-19 subsides in late 2021 as predicted, then there’s still a path to Khan vs. Brook happening before year’s end (albeit slim).
Furthermore, I’m encouraged by the uptick in trash talk between Khan and Brook, who are promising knockout wins whenever they meet in the ring. And with both fighters probably not having too many big boxing paydays left, their shared sense of urgency may be just the catalyst that’s needed for contract negotiations to heat up.
The bottom line. I’m predicting that all the smack talk will finally lead to a signed contract, allowing fans to escape the feeling of being Charlie Brown trapped in the classic PEANUTS football gag where Khan vs. Brook is the football that Lucy keeps pulling away from us at the last second before we can kick the ball through the goal posts.
- Pacquiao will decide to retire
At 42, Manny Pacquiao has seen and done it all in boxing. But there are three signals suggesting that the Pac-Man may be inching closer to retirement.
First, per The Athletic’s Mike Copppinger, Pacquiao was in preliminary talks to face (interim) lightweight champ Ryan García after Pacquiao vs. McGregor was effectively scrapped following McGregor’s loss to Dustin Poirier.
However, while early reports indicated that Pacquiao vs. García would be an exhibition, a more recent account suggests that the bout “. . .isn’t going to happen” with serious questions about its feasibility.
Neither of these developments are encouraging for fans or the prospects of Pacquiao vs. García being made.
Second, Pacquiao’s extended layoff is a potential red flag.
And third, the Pac-Man’s demotion to “Champion in Recess” is yet another indicator that he might be less interested in defending his title than he is in other pursuits.
What’s more, history shows that it often takes a humbling loss or sound back-to-back defeats for an aging great to call it quits. For instance, Muhammad Ali bid farewell to boxing just shy of his 40th birthday after dropping clear back-to-back L’s to Holmes and Berbick. Similarly, Sugar Ray Leonard called it a career at 40 after being thumped by Norris and Camacho.
So when great fighters near the end of their career, their penultimate and final fights often play out like they did for Ali and Leonard rather than how they played out for Floyd Mayweather Jr.
The bottom line. I’m boldly predicting that the culmination of age, waning motivation, and competing interests (e.g., family, politics, philanthropy) —reinforced by the global pandemic — will have a stronger gravitational pull on Pacquiao than in previous years, leading him to fight only 1-2 times in 2021, perhaps in a title fight or fights against fellow champ Errol Spence Jr. and/or the newly elevated Yordenis Ugás.
But, if history teaches us anything, don’t be surprised if the Pac-Man looks less than spectacular in these bouts before electing to hang up his gloves with his money and marbles intact.
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■ About the Author:
Paul R. Jones! is a 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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