The proliferation of titles makes it difficult for all but the most astute fans to determine the cream of the boxing crop.
That’s why Boxing Junkie came up with its “Great Eight” feature, which names the best fighter in each of the original eight weight classes –heavyweight, light heavyweight, middleweight, welterweight, lightweight, featherweight, bantamweight and flyweight.
Heavyweight includes cruiserweight (and the WBC’s bridgerweight), light heavyweight includes super middleweight, middleweight includes junior middleweight and so on.
In this installment of “Great Eight,” we point out that three of our champions are scheduled to fight before the end of the year.
Heavyweight champ Tyson Fury will face MMA star Francis Ngannou on Oct. 28 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Jermell Charlo, a 154-pounder, will jump two divisions to challenge Canelo Alvarez. And 112-pounder Sunny Edwards is scheduled to take on Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez.
And, of course, there is a good chance that at least one or two of our other champions — Dmitry Bivol, Terence Crawford, Gervonta Davis, Naoya Inoue and Juan Francisco Estrada also will see action before we move into 2024.
Which scheduled bout is most likely to produce a new Great Eight champion? Here is our ranking:
Edwards vs. Rodriguez — This is a dream matchup for those who follow the sport’s littlest fighters. It’s a 50-50 fight. Edwards is a wonderful technician capable of giving any opponent fits but he he’s a light puncher, which could work against him against Rodriguez. Rodriguez (18-0, 11 KOs) also is an excellent boxer but he can also punch. The key to the fight could be whether Edwards can take Rodriguez’s best shot.
Alvarez vs. Charlo — Alvarez is a seasoned boxer with heavy hands who is naturally bigger than Charlo and reportedly healthy for the first time in a few years, following surgery on his left wrist. On paper, that could spell trouble for Charlo. However, many are convinced that Alvarez is in decline after back-to-back subpar performances. If he is, Charlo certainly has the all-around ability to exploit that and pull off an significant upset.
Fury vs. Ngannou — OK, even a 36-year-old MMA fighter making his boxing debut could land a lucky shot and score a shocking knockout. Don’t be on it, though. Ngannou will be face to face with the best heavyweight in the world, a clever, athletic boxer who has become a heavy puncher in his past few fights. He’s also much bigger than Ngannou which means the underdog has no advantages,. Add all that up and you see why this is a ridiculous mismatch.
Here are the top fighters in the original eight divisions:
Tyson Fury (33-0-1, 24 KOs) – The top big man has a gimmie in his next fight, a lucrative matchup against MMA star Francis Ngannou on Oct. 28. An opponent with boxing experience (Oleksandr Usyk?) should come next.
Dmitry Bivol (21-0, 11 KOs) – Canelo Alvarez opted to fight a 154-pounder (Jermell Charlo) instead of a 175-pounder (Alvarez’s conqueror Bivol) in his next fight. That leaves Bivol without an opponent. He wants to fight this fall.
Jermell Charlo (35-1-1, 19 KOs) – The 154-pound champ is moving up to a different Great Eight division (175-168) to face Alvarez but he’ll probably fight at 160 or 154 afterward, which would allow him to maintain his place here.
Terence Crawford (40-0, 31 KOs) – Crawford left no doubt that he’s the best at 147 (and 140) with his sensational ninth-round knockout of rival Errol Spence Jr. on July 29. It will be difficult for him to top that performance.
Gervonta Davis (29-0, 27 KOs) – Devin Haney still has the belts at 135 pounds. Shakur Stevenson might be the most gifted in the division. But it’s “Tank” who has made the strongest impression and has the deepest resume.
Naoya Inoue (25-0, 22 KOs) – Inoue turned in a Crawford-like performance on July 25 in Tokyo, where he dismantled Stephen Fulton Jr. in eight rounds to underscore his greatness and become champ of a second Great Eight division.
Juan Francisco Estrada (44-3, 28 KOs) – The 33-year-old Mexican replaces Inoue as the top man here because of his body of work, which includes two victories over the great Roman Gonzalez in his last three fights.
Sunny Edwards (20-0, 4 KOs) – The slick Englishman will be defending his spot here on Dec. 16 in Phoenix, where he’ll take on Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez in a 112-pound title-unification bout. The winner will be king here.