From a long-awaited trilogy bout between Canelo Alvarez and Gennadiy Golovkin for all the marbles at 168 pounds, to a heavyweight rematch between unified champion Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua, the second half of the year already has multiple must-see fights lined up. While these are two of the best fights to be made in boxing, there are other matchups with great significance — for their divisions and for the fighters themselves.
Claressa Shields and Savannah Marshall will finally put their animosity to rest in a women’s middleweight bout for all four major world titles. Ryan Garcia, one of the most talented young boxers in the sport, returns to the ring for the first time in 17 months, in a make-or-break bout against another top contender in Javier Fortuna.
Then you have the Jake Paul-Hasim Rahman Jr. fight at Madison Square Garden. While the boxing world won’t see Paul as a “real fighter,” the entertainment value that Paul brings to his events is second to none.
So, with a stacked worldwide boxing schedule between now and the end of September, ESPN guides you to save some dates by ranking the 10 must-see matchups.
1. Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennadiy Golovkin – Sept. 17 in Las Vegas – DAZN
Boxing fans have waited four years for this trilogy fight, and the settling of this festering feud is one you just can’t miss. Outside of Terence Crawford vs. Errol Spence and possibly Tyson Fury vs. either Anthony Joshua or Oleksandr Usyk, this is still the biggest fight available in boxing.
Golovkin, from Kazakhstan but based in California, might be 40 and less of a force than he was during 23 consecutive knockout wins between 2008 and 2016, but this is the boxing equivalent of the final series of your favorite box set.
What sets this up perfectly is the twist in Canelo’s career: Alvarez slumped to a unanimous decision loss in a light heavyweight title fight with Dmitry Bivol in May. After a brilliant run for Alvarez in hoovering up belts at middleweight, super middleweight and light heavyweight, the Bivol setback makes this fight against Golovkin a tighter call (although Canelo still starts favorite).
After a controversial draw in 2017, then a majority decision win for Alvarez a year later, this trilogy fight for all the belts at 168-pounds will settle one of the biggest rivalries in boxing today. Golovkin will be driven by a sense of injustice, Canelo by a need to restore pride.
2. Oleksandr Usyk vs. Anthony Joshua, Aug. 20 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia – DAZN
Anthony Joshua can’t deny that a potential fight with Tyson Fury gives him extra motivation to win his rematch with Oleksandr Usyk.
With three of the heavyweight world titles on the line, and the possibility of the winner progressing to face Tyson Fury (holder of the fourth title) to decide an undisputed champion, there is so much on the line.
It is not just their earning capacity and a megafight with Fury. Joshua has more to lose — a second successive loss to Usyk will seriously damage his career and profile, and likely killing his hopes of ever fighting Fury.
That makes the fight interesting: How will A.J. respond to that pressure, and how much of a difference has working with new trainer Robert Garcia made? Also, what effect has the war in Ukrainian Usyk’s homeland had on his focus?
3. Claressa Shields vs. Savannah Marshall – Sept. 10 in London – ESPN+
Women’s boxing is enjoying a big year in its growing popularity, and the undisputed middleweight clash between Shields and Marshall is another important moment for the sport that you shouldn’t miss.
Following the megafight between undisputed lightweight queen Katie Taylor and seven-division champion Amanda Serrano in April, Shields-Marshall is just as big and will capture the imagination of viewers beyond the boxing hardcore. While Taylor and Serrano were cordial and respectful in the lead-up to their New York encounter, expect plenty of trash talk between Shields and Marshall to build anticipation.
They have been on each other’s radars for years and while Shields has cleaned up since turning professional (a world champion in three weight classes), Marshall holds a win over her as an amateur in 2012. Marshall is a big puncher, perhaps the biggest in women’s boxing, and it will be interesting to see how the educated boxing of Shields deals with that.
4. Jake Paul vs. Hasim Rahman Jr. – Aug. 6 in New York – Showtime PPV
Jake Paul explains his decision to fight Hasim Rahman Jr. after Tommy Fury was given a termination notice by Paul’s team.
After all the smack talk between Jake Paul and Tommy Fury, Paul now faces Rahman instead but this is still a step up in class for the social media star. Rahman lost his last fight by fifth-round stoppage but, crucially, has been a professional five years. Like it or loathe it, fights like this are relevant now and you’ll have to tune to have an opinion on it.
So far, Paul has faced inexperienced opponents and he is taking a risk by facing a more experienced, legitimate boxer in Rahman, who has stopped six of his 12 opponents with just one defeat. Whichever way this fight goes, someone will be left humiliated.
5. Ryan Garcia vs. Javier Fortuna, July 16 in Los Angeles – DAZN
Garcia’s huge social media presence and the time off he took to address his mental health will generate plenty of interest for this clash. Garcia can fight, he has incredible hand speed and is destined to play a part in an exciting series of fights at lightweight and beyond. But he has fought only twice since 2019 and changed trainers last year.
Luke Campbell provided the Californian with a good test in January 2021, but Garcia did not fight again until April 2022. Fortuna, a much more experienced fighter, will provide another indication of whether Garcia is just hype or the real thing, with fights against Devin Haney or Gervonta Davis in the pipeline — if Garcia wins.
6. Andy Ruiz Jr. vs. Luis Ortiz, Sept. 4 in Los Angeles – Fox PPV
Andy Ruiz is getting ready for his PPV fight against Luis Ortiz in Sept. 👀
— ESPN Ringside (@ESPNRingside) June 27, 2022
After beating Joshua for three heavyweight world titles, then piling on the pounds before losing to Joshua later in 2019, Ruiz looks slimmer and sharper on recent footage from his training camp.
Ruiz’s fast hands, if combined with more movement around the ring, will pose big problems for the big-punching Ortiz. This matchup also has a bearing on who could be challenging for a heavyweight title in 2023 — and will answer which of these contenders we should take seriously. One not to be missed.
7. Teofimo Lopez vs. Pedro Campa – Aug. 13 in Las Vegas – ESPN/ESPN+
It wasn’t so long ago that Lopez was the hottest property in boxing, having boxed brilliantly to defeat Vasiliy Lomachenko and become unified lightweight world champion in 2020. But, Lopez was the victim himself of an upset in his last fight when he lost to George Kambosos Jr. last November and his rebuilding starts with this fight at junior welterweight.
It will be interesting to see how Lopez reacts to jumping up a weight class and will be an indicator as to how quickly he can progress at 140 pounds. A loss could be the end for the “Takeover.”
8. Danny Garcia vs. Jose Benavidez Jr. – July 30 in Brooklyn, New York – Showtime
Simple. A victory over Benavidez will keep Garcia on course to achieve his goal of winning a world title in a third weight class — but there are questions over how much he has left in his tank.
Garcia, 34, a former junior welterweight and welterweight world champion, has not boxed since losing a unanimous decision to Errol Spence Jr. challenging for the welterweight title in December 2020. That was Garcia’s third career defeat.
Benavidez is in a similar position. He lost by stoppage to Terence Crawford in 2019, and didn’t fight again until a majority draw in November against Francisco Torres. With just two fights in the past four years, Benavidez, just like Garcia, fighting to stay relevant, and desperation is a great motivator.
9. Kazuto Ioka vs. Donnie Nietes – July 13 in Tokyo
The 115-pound division is full of class: Juan Francisco Estrada, Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez and Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez lead the way, and Ioka gets a chance to show off his own ability in his fifth title defense. If Ioka looks good, it stokes up interest in a possible showdown with Japanese rival Naoya Inoue, the brilliant unified bantamweight champion currently riding high in the pound-for-pound rankings.
Nietes, 40, a former world champion, is seven years older and could get blown away in a masterclass from Ioka.
10. Derek Chisora vs. Kubrat Pulev – July 9 in London – DAZN
Chisora last challenged for a world title more than 10 years ago (a unanimous decision loss to then champion Vitali Klitschko in February 2012) while Pulev was easily dispatched by Anthony Joshua, then champion, in 2020. They are also way beyond their prime — Chisora is 38, Pulev 41. But what will not stop us from enjoying this scrap is the thrills and spills and the power they both bring into the ring.
The outcome is largely irrelevant to the world title scene, but Chisora is rarely in a dull fight and was super-charged for fights against reigning WBA-IBF-WBO champion Oleksandr Usyk and Joseph Parker (twice) in the past two years. Chisora fought valiantly during defeats in those three fights and has captured the hearts of many UK fight fans. Chisora’s followers will be hoping he can avenge a split-decision loss to Pulev in 2016.