A big part of being a boxing fan is playing the “What if” game. As in, what if Muhammad Ali fought Mike Tyson or what if Sugar Ray Leonard fought Sugar Ray Robinson. It makes for fun conversation in the bar room or Online.
But it can be a real drag when we’re forced to play the game too much regarding active fighters. Fans outright exhausted themselves playing “what if” for over half a decade with Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather. When there are big stars in the same division, they should fight each other. Fans shouldn’t be left to bicker back and forth with each other, playing “what if” for years on end.
With Mayweather now retired (for at least the time being) and Pacquiao out of commission with an alleged injury, it creates a bit of air in the room to focus on younger, deserving stars. With that in mind, here are some great “what if” fights that might help usher in a new era of legends:
Roman Gonzalez vs. Naoya Inoue: With Mayweather out of the way, Gonzalez is arguably the best pound-for-pound boxer in the sport. The three-division champion is 43-0 with 37 KOs. At just 22, Inoue is a phenom. In just his eighth fight, he beat veteran champion Adrian Hernandez for the WBC light flyweight title. He then jumped over the flyweight division and knocked out long-time WBO 115-pound champion Omar Narvaez in just two rounds. These two share a promoter in Japan, so there’s no sane reason for this one not to happen, so long as Gonzalez can take care of Brian Viloria later this month (and he surely will).
Terence Crawford vs. Viktor Postol: Already a world champion at lightweight and junior welterweight, Crawford looks poised to be the next great American superstar. In his Round 10 KO of the fearsome Lucas Matthysse last weekend, Postol looked like the 140-pound version of his countryman, Wladimir Klitschko. These are two highly skilled fighters in the same division and should face off in a unification fight.
Keith Thurman vs. Timothy Bradley vs. Kell Brook vs. Danny Garcia: With Mayweather out of the way, it’s time to determine who the true top dog at welterweight is. Bradley and Brook hold the WBO and IBF belts, respectively. Thurman and Garcia are undefeated young stars. In a perfect boxing world, we’d see a tournament to establish the true No. 1 fighter in boxing’s most competitive division.
The winner of Miguel Cotto vs. Saul Alvarez vs. the winner of Gennady Golovkin vs. David Lemieux: Both of these upcoming pay-per-view clashes have me pumped up. But they’ll ultimately have a lot more historical significance if the winners face off and establish a true king at middleweight.
Sergey Kovalev vs. Andre Ward: Andre Ward may be the most talented fighter on the planet, but there’s nothing left for him to prove at super middleweight. It’s a division he cleaned out years ago. At light heavyweight, there’s a number of exciting potential fights for him and none would be bigger than a showdown with the dangerous Kovalev, who holds the WBA, IBF and WBO belts at 175 pounds.
Deontay Wilder vs. Bryant Jennings: No unbiased observer could possibly claim that Deontay Wilder’s WBC strap truly makes him world champion at heavyweight. But it does give him a claim for being the best active American heavyweight. He should have to prove it against Jennings, though. Jennings’ loss to Wladimir Klitschko earlier this year wasn’t really that close. But it was still an impressive performance for a guy who didn’t even start boxing until age 24. If Wilder truly wants to earn the respect of boxing fans, there could be no quicker way for him to do it than by facing Jennings.