Heavyweight undisputed, Spence v Crawford and six dream boxing bouts for 2022

Some massive fights could take place in the new year, including undisputed bouts in the lightweight and bantamweight divisions

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It was an action-packed year for boxing, which saw divisions unified, new world champions emerge, trilogies settled, shock results, brutal knockouts, and plenty more inside the squared circle.

But as ever with boxing, it was also a year that witnessed numerous mega-fights fail to materialise. Such is the convoluted and political world of professional boxing, there are never any guarantees, but as we look ahead to 2022 with hope, here are a few of the dream bouts we hope to see take place.

Heavyweight undisputed

It came tantalisingly close to reality when WBC champion Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua, then the holder of the other three belts, agreed to a historic showdown in Saudi Arabia, only for a judge to order Fury to fight former champion Deontay Wilder for a third time.

Fury (31-0-1) duly held up his end of the bargain with another destructive stoppage of the American, but British rival Joshua had been dismantled by Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk two weeks earlier.

With Joshua immediately activating the rematch clause and the bout expected for the spring, Fury is likely to face another challenger at a similar time. If the WBC have their way, that will probably be against No 1-ranked Dillian Whyte, although the council have delayed its decision thus far.

Whatever the outcome of their next fights, boxing has been clamouring for a winner-takes-all heavyweight bout for too long. And while supporters - and no doubt the money men - will hope it's Fury v Joshua, an undisputed bout between Fury and Usyk is still a mouthwatering prospect.

Even if Whyte, who has been waiting half a lifetime for a world title shot, gets his chance against Fury and secures a massive shock result, a rematch with Joshua or a clash with Usyk would be a fine spectacle.

Whichever two boxers are in the ring, it's time to find out who the the undisputed king of boxing's blue riband division really is.

Spence v Crawford

There is, quite simply, no other title fight at welterweight which will satisfy the fans until these two champions put their respective belts on the line against each other. The problem is, Errol Spence v Terence Crawford doesn't even feel that close to happening.

WBC and IBF champion Spence, who was involved in a high-speed car crash in 2019, did not fight in 2021, with his most recent bout coming in a points win over Danny Garcia in December 2020. He was scheduled to face Filipino legend Manny Pacquiao in August but pulled out with an eye injury.

Meanwhile, WBO king Crawford only fought once, defeating Shawn Porter via a 10th round TKO in November. For one of boxing's most high-profile divisions, that is just not enough activity from two of its champions.

Spence (27-0-0) looks set to make up for lost time when he faces WBA champion Yordenis Ugas in early 2022, so any potential showdown with Crawford would likely not take place until later in the year, if at all. While Crawford (38-0-0) has made it clear he wants to fight Spence - "you all know who I want, I've been calling him out" - there appears a lack of interest from his fellow American's side.

Kambosos Jr v Lomachenko

George Kambosos Jr produced one of the shock results of 2021 when he earned a split decision win over three-belt lightweight champion Teofimo Lopez Jr in a fight of the year contender in November.

In a lightweight division stacked with talent, the Australian is now calling the shots and the WBA, IBF, and WBO title-holder is targeting an undisputed showdown with WBC champion Devon Haney in his hometown of Sydney.

However, Vasiliy Lomachenko, the obscenely talented Ukrainian, got himself back in the title mix in 2021 with two statement victories over Masayoshi Nakatani and Richard Commey after losing his titles to Lopez Jr in October 2020. He is now ranked No 1 by the WBO and WBC.

In terms of styles making fights, the ferocious speed of Kambosos and the slick, technical brilliance of Lomachenko would make for an absorbing bout. Additionally, boxing needs to see its biggest stars involved in title fights and Lomachenko is certainly one of those.

George Kambosos after his split decision win against Teofimo Lopez. AFP

Beterbiev v Bivol

The light-heavyweight division often gets overlooked, but there is definitely something brewing at 175lbs.

There are a handful of British names towards the top of the division, with Callum Smith making the step up from super-middleweight, Anthony Yarde back in title contention following his impressive stoppage win in a rematch with Lyndon Arthur, Joshua Buatsi knocking on the door, and Callum Johnson in line to face WBO champion Joe Smith.

But the spotlight is shining on the light-heavyweights thanks to its two unbeaten Russian champions. Dmitry Bivol (19-0-0) has held the WBA title since 2017 and made the sixth and seventh title defences in 2021 with points wins over Craig Richards and Umar Salamov.

Artur Beterbiev (17-0-0), meanwhile, continued his remarkable streak of being the only world champion with a perfect knockout rate when he stopped Adam Deines and Marcus Browne to retain his WBC and IBF crowns.

While there are plenty of exciting match-ups to be made at light-heavy in 2022, a showdown between the two Russian champions could be just what the division needs to really push it into boxing's mainstream.

Artur Beterbiev, right, knocks out Marcus Browne to defend his WBC and IBF light-heavyweight titles. AP

Alvarez v Andrade

Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez has already set his sights on an audacious step up to cruiserweight after the WBC approved the Mexican's request to move up two divisions to face Ilunga Makabu in his bid to win world titles in five weight classes.

Alvarez (57-1-2) cemented his status as boxing's pound-for-pound king in 2021 after completing his destruction of the super-middleweight division with stoppage wins over belt holders Avni Yildirim, Billy Joe Saunders, and Caleb Plant.

But as he looks up, perhaps the best fight for Alvarez can be found in the division below. Demetrius Andrade, the WBO middleweight champion, impressed in 2021 with victories against Liam Williams and Jason Quigley, and looks the best-placed to challenge the Mexican.

A trilogy bout with IBF champion Gennady Golovkin appears to have lost some of its appeal given the Kazakh's inactivity in 2021, while Alvarez doesn't seem all that interested in a bout with WBC king Jermall Charlo.

Andrade (31-0-0) has been ordered to face WBO mandatory Janibek Alimkhanuly, so any potential clash with Alvarez would have to be scheduled for later in the year. But with boxing politics being the way they are, who knows if it will even be possible.

Still, it would be a dream match-up, with Alvarez fast running out of credible opponents.

Inoue v Donaire II

Naoya Inoue continued to establish himself as one of the biggest stars in boxing in 2021 as the WBA and IBF bantamweight champion delivered devastating stoppage wins over Michael Dasmarinas and Aran Dipaen.

The Japanese fighter is determined to rule the division, which would mean defeating WBO holder John Reil Casimero - or whomever holds the belt when the fight can be arranged - and a potential rematch with Filipino great Nonito Donaire.

Inoue (22-0-0) and Donaire (42-6-0) produced an all-time classic when they went to war in 2019 with Inoue taking a unanimous points victory, and the chance to run it back - especially if it's for the undisputed crown - would be one of the biggest fights of 2022.

Win that and a step up to super-bantamweight would beckon for Inoue.

Naoya Inoue after retaining his IBF and WBA bantamweight titles against Aran Dipaen. AP
Updated: January 01, 2022, 4:31 AM