Two Big Fights Certain to Happen in 2018…and The Winners Are….

There are two big fights in the discussion stage for 2018 that I believe will soon be announced. The first is the heavyweight title bout between WBC champ Deontay Wilder 39-0 (39) and formidable contender Luis Ortiz 28-0 (24). As most know Wilder and Ortiz (shown exchanging words after Ortiz knocked out no-hoper Daniel Martz on Dec. 8) were scheduled to fight this past November but the bout fell through when Ortiz failed a drug test. On the night he was to face Ortiz, Wilder knocked out Bermane Stiverne in the opening round.

When the Wilder vs. Ortiz match was announced I said in this space that it would never happen. My reasoning was that Ortiz was too dangerous for Wilder to risk fighting and losing, thus blowing his chance for a monumental payday in a unification bout with IBF/WBA champ Anthony Joshua. Regardless of what anyone thinks or says, undefeated Wilder versus undefeated Joshua is without a doubt the most anticipated fight in the heavyweight division and perhaps in all of boxing. The key is they both need to be unbeaten for that to hold form. If either were to suffer a defeat in the interim, the interest in seeing them fight would be minuscule at best.

It is my firm belief Wilder’s management doesn’t believe in him being the alpha fighter of the division as much as Deontay believes it. There’s been a lot of money invested in Wilder. He’s been brought along and built up to be the next George Foreman. The problem is there are plenty of skeptics who haven’t bought into it. The gig works only as long as Wilder is undefeated and once that’s no longer the case, I can’t help but think the interest in him will evaporate. But from his management’s perspective, that’s okay as long as he’s paid a king’s ransom when he finally loses. Joshua is seen as the better fighter and if there’s a heavyweight around who can represent boxing’s flagship division down the road it is AJ and not Wilder. This will be enhanced in a big way when Joshua meets and defeats Wilder.

Now there’s talk of Wilder facing Ortiz this coming March and there’s something about it that feels real this time around. Wilder is coming off his most impressive win and Ortiz — who they say will be 39 in March of 2018, but is probably already over 40 — hasn’t looked good in over two years since he stopped Bryant Jennings in December 2015. And for those reasons I believe this time Wilder will really face Ortiz in his first fight of 2018. The clash between them will be a ratings bonanza and draw a ton of interest. It will also be the fight in which most form their opinion of Wilder heading into his showdown with Joshua.

I predict Wilder will beat Ortiz when they fight. I’m not sure on the means he’ll win by, but the fact that the fight comes to fruition tells me all I need to know – and that is somebody knows something that we/me don’t. There is simply too much money riding on Wilder beating Ortiz so he can fight Joshua for me to accept he’s going to lose, at least until I see it.

Either Wilder’s insiders know Ortiz is 1) old and safe now and the risk is minimal or 2) they know Ortiz will not have his heart set on winning and in one form or another won’t show up. Again…when Wilder fights Ortiz in 2018, Wilder wins!

The other fight close to being finalized is the middleweight title rematch between Canelo Alvarez 49-1-2 (34) and Gennady Golovkin 38-0-1 (33). Canelo and GGG fought to a disputed draw this past September. Dave Moretti saw it 115-113 Golovkin, Don Trella saw it 114-114 and Adalaide Byrd had it 118-110 Canelo (I saw it 115-113 Golovkin). In a media poll after the fight Golovkin was seen as the winner by an overwhelming majority of those who scored the fight live.

The decision and the intensity of the fight dictates there has to be a rematch. Both fighters have a huge following and in their mind nothing was resolved in the first fight. If you were rooting for Golovkin, nothing will deter you from believing he truly got the better of it. On the other hand, if you were pulling for Canelo, he had enough good moments along with winning the last two rounds that you can sell yourself on him winning.

The intrigue for the rematch is monumental because one can make a solid case for each of them. If you favor Golovkin, you believe he’ll pick up the intensity and force the fight more while going to the body instead of ignoring it as he did the first time. The case for Canelo is that he learned how to box GGG and knows he can take his big punch, thus he’ll take the initiative more this time to insure the rounds he wins are more conclusive.

Prior to the first fight I predicted Golovkin would win but if he didn’t stop Canelo he wouldn’t get the decision. In my opinion that’s exactly what transpired. Canelo is one of boxing’s biggest stars and biggest draws at the ticket office. At age 27 he has the much brighter future than the soon to be 36-year-old Golovkin. Alvarez is a counter-puncher who has improved and shown more versatility in his recent fights. He showed decent moment and punch variation during the Golovkin bout and that was in spite of being unsure of himself going in. That’s something that won’t be in play when they fight again.

After being in the ring with Golovkin for 12 pretty hard rounds, Canelo now knows GGG is slower of hand and foot than he believed. He’s also confident in that he can handle GGG’s Sunday punch and that GGG can no longer get his punches off in rapid succession. Alvarez is cognizant that if he gets off a little more while keeping his feet moving, much of GGG’s game can be stymied. Moreover, Golovkin will be older and a little worse for the wear and Canelo can draw from the fact GGG tired and looked old during the last two rounds of the bout when the outcome was still up for grabs on the judges’ cards.

Conversely, going into the rematch Golovkin now knows for certain he cannot beat Canelo by decision. When they fight next year the pressure will be on him to win by stoppage. And from what I saw during their last confrontation, GGG doesn’t have it in him to stop Canelo. During the second half of the fight he looked slow, fought with some trepidation, ignored his opponent’s body, and wasn’t re-engaging as willingly as he had in previous fights. That’s the sign of an older fighter. No, he didn’t fear getting hit, but the shots bothered him a little more than what we’ve seen. I believe when he meets Canelo next year, GGG will be less than he was the first time and Canelo will be better than he was….and that will make a big difference.

If Golovkin couldn’t get Canelo out inside the distance when they last met, there’s nothing I can make a case around for him doing it in the rematch, especially when I anticipate Canelo will have improved. And that translates into the bout going to the judges’ cards again. Good luck with that. If Canelo had the edge in the scoring during a fight most saw him losing, one can only think how the rematch will be scored when he actually gets the better of it.

A somewhat impressive performance by Canelo in the rematch just about erases the memory and result of the first bout. With a strong win over Golovkin on his resume, Canelo moves on to some monster paydays meeting the surging middleweights nipping at his heels……and that’s great for boxing.

Canelo beats Golovkin legitimately when they next meet in 2018!

Photo credit: Douglas DeFelice / PBC

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