The days when boxing fans could confidently point to the true world champion in a given weight class are long gone by. We have lived in the era of alphabet-soup shenanigans for half a century now, and the situation has only gotten worse as time goes by.
But as fans, we can still demand unification bouts, even if we might not end up getting them. These are the five I most want to see:
WBA Super Flyweight Champion Roman Gonzalez vs. WBO Champion Naoya Inoue
In truth, I think Carlos Cuadras should get a rematch with Gonzalez before this unification fight happens. Cuadras badly marked up Gonzalez’s face and gave him all he could handle. In an old, 15-round bout, I think the Mexican would have pulled ahead in the championship rounds. But ultimately fans from New York to Tokyo are going to want to see pound-for-pound king Gonzalez face Inoue, a true phenom who was a two-division world champion before he turned 21, in just his eighth professional fight.
WBA Featherweight Champion Carl Frampton vs. WBC Champion Gary Russell Jr.
Frampton fought a brilliant fight to defeat Leo Santa Cruz earlier this year, making him a world champion in his debut fight at 122 pounds. I would love to see him matched against IBF champ Lee Selby, but Russell presents the more compelling matchup. Frampton used terrific movement to get inside and rough up a much longer fighter when he faced Santa Cruz. I would love to see how he would handle Russell’s speed. This one has Fight of the Year written all over it.
WBA Lightweight Champion Jorge Linares vs. WBC Champion Dejan Zlaticanin
Linares was forced to vacate the WBC belt when an injury forced him to drop out of a bout with Zlaticanin last year. Now that Linares has lifted the WBA version of a title by winning a war against Anthony Crolla in Crolla’s hometown, there is no question what must happen next. Linares has to finally face Zlaticanin.
WBA Welterweight Champion Keith Thurman vs. WBC Champion Danny Garcia
Thurman proved his legitimacy by defeating the smart and rugged Shawn Porter earlier this year. He has already spoken about his desire to face Danny Garcia next. These two share a manager in Al Haymon, so if Garcia fails to step up for this one, he will deserve criticism as a ducker.
WBO Super Middleweight Champion Gilberto Ramirez vs. IBF Champion James DeGale
WBC champion Badou Jack deserves to be in the mix at 168, as well, but in my estimation, the two top stars here are Ramiriez and DeGale. DeGale lived up to his Olympic gold medal expectations when he turned in a terrific performance last year against Andre Dirrell, to claim the IBF belt. He followed it by handling former champion Lucian Bute. Ramirez looks like he could become one of Mexico’s true ring legends. He won his title by shutting out Arthur Abraham, one of the top middle and super middleweights of this century.