The postponement of so many fights last year has only served to heighten the need for mega-bouts in 2021.
Firstly, the participants require a recuperative payday and, secondly, their events will need sufficient size to cut through a sports market that has been itching to re-emerge and is therefore crowded with quality.
As ever, negotiating nous, contractual wrangling and brinkmanship will be to the fore.
But that notwithstanding, the year ahead bodes well for boxing fans. Here are the potential fights that may happen.
5) Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez v Billy Joe Saunders
The Mexican is prepared to travel up and down the weights to collect titles when it suits him but he has never held all four in one division. Saunders owns the WBO super-middleweight title, one of two that Canelo requires.
On his day, the unbeaten Englishman is perhaps the most skilled boxer in the UK. But inactivity and inconsistency have blighted his career.
In the post-fight press conference after his title defence against Martin Murray on December 4, Saunders publicly told his promoter, Eddie Hearn, to make this fight.
At the end of that month, the Matchroom boss suggested Canelo would fulfil his WBC mandatory against Anvi Yildrim in the first quarter of 2021 before moving on to Saunders later in the year.
Likelihood: 6/10. Saunders will need to dance to Canelo’s tune to get this big-money fight, something he has been reluctant to do in the past.
However, the southpaw knows the clock is ticking on his career, Canelo is a promotional free agent and the biggest draw in the sport. It’s time to gamble.
Alternatives: Saunders always has a money-spinning rematch against Chris Eubank Jr while Canelo has options across the divisions, with the standout being a trilogy fight against Gennady Golovkin.
4) Tefimo Lopez v Gervonta Davis
After beating the unbeatable Vasily Lomochencko, there are a host of fights available at 135lbs for Lopez. However, in financial terms, Davis makes the most sense.
‘Tank’ is a bonafide pay-per-view star after sending Leo Santa Cruz to sleep with a vicious uppercut in October.
The youth of these unbeaten fighters means Lopez (23) and Davis (26) could gamble for greatness knowing there is plenty of time to recover from the first blemish on their records.
However, you could also attest their youth will make them more cautious and their rival promotional camps also present a problem.
Likelihood: 4/10. Expect lots of talk but little action. Both fighters know they have options and this fight can wait.
Alternatives: Devin Haney holds the WBC lightweight belt and would be a viable alternative for Lopez, who holds the other three, or Davis.
3) Terence Crawford v Errol Spence
The intrigue around this fight is intense. Who is the best at 147lbs? Can the size and aggression of Spence beat the skills and boxing IQ of Crawford?
These are two very different boxers who are at the peak of their powers and vying for the No1 spot in their division.
However, neither talked much about the other after their title victories in 2020. WBO champion Crawford fights with Bob Arum’s Top Rank and Spence is looked after by Al Haymon’s PBC. When there is money at stake, these rivalries can be overcome, see Wilder-Fury 2 last year.
However, given of risk-reward ratio involved, it is no surprise both men are more interested in a fight with Manny Pacquiao. The 43-year-old is surely one defeat from retirement but beat Keith Thurman to win the WBA welterweight belt.
Likelihood: 2/10. Promotional issues and the carrot of Pacquiao may mean we have to wait at least another 12 months.
Alternative: Pacquiao could fight either them. That is much more likely to happen.
2) Josh Taylor v Jose Ramirez
This is a great fight for boxing purists and there appear to be few road-blocks. Taylor has the WBA and IBF belts, Ramirez has the WBO and WBC.
Both boxers are promoted by Top Rank. Ramirez has a mandatory against Jack Catterall but the Englishman is promoted by Frank Warren’s Queensberry Promotions, who also assist Taylor. Step-aside money and the chance to take on the winner for all four belts would seem a reasonable compromise.
Taylor would be the clear favourite after pummeling Regis Prograis to unify in October 2019 then destroying Apinun Khongsong in a round in September.
Meanwhile, Ramirez only scraped through a defence against Viktor Postol.
Likelihood: 8/10. Taylor has been talking about his exit strategy from boxing, suggesting he will take big fights and retire at the top. If he is true to his word he’ll push for Ramirez now.
Alternative: If the Ramirez fight cannot be made then Taylor may move weight before cashing out. He has talked about going down to135lb to fight Teofimo Lopez and Lomachenko or jump up to 147lb to take on Terence Crawford and Errol Spence.
1) Tyson Fury v Anthony Joshua
If we only see this one fight out of my top five, it will be enough. The path has not been cleared quote yet but the single key aspect of the negotiations is said the have been agreed – the split in money for the first fight and the inevitable rematch.
Wembley was the first rumoured venue but the Middle East has been much discussed more recently.
For once in boxing, the hype will be worth it – the two best and most charismatic heavyweights fighting for all the belts for the first time in a generation.
However, there are complications. Deontay Wilder’s camp has been making noises about a contract stipulation with Fury while Oleksandr Usyk is mandatory for Joshua’s WBO belt. Normally boxing can kick such issues down the road via the simplest of methods – money.
If it does not, then both combatants could deal with their issues and fight later in the year. After a proposed December date fell through, Fury may need a tune-up anyway.
Likelihood: A solid 7/10. The issues of Wilder and Usyk may well muddy the waters and even push their meeting to 2022 but, crucially, both Britons want it now.
Alternatives: Either of them against Usyk, Wilder, Povetkin or, if he can find one more impressive win, Joe Joyce.
Others to consider:
Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez v Juan Francisco Estrada II
Artur Beterbiev v Dmitry Bivol
Katie Taylor v Jessica McCaskill
Usyk v a top 5 heavyweight
Naoya Inoue vs Murodjon Akhmadaliev or John Riel Casimero
Fights to ignore:
Any bout involving the Paul brothers.