The most anticipated matchup between welterweight champions Errol Spence Jr. and Terence Crawford still isn’t finalized, but if/when it happens, will the winner be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world? Canelo Alvarez and Tyson Fury will have something to say if Spence or Crawford can’t produce an impressive performance.
In London on Saturday, middleweight Chris Eubank Jr. and welterweight Conor Benn meet in a 160 pounds battle 29 years after their fathers fought to a split draw in a rematch of Chris Eubank’s ninth-round TKO victory over Nigel Benn in 1990. Is this one of those rare instances where the offspring are better fighters than their fathers?
Tyson Fury has called out multiple opponents since his proposed fight with fellow heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk to unify all four major world titles for the first time in history, but is the fight with Usyk ever going to happen?
Mike Coppinger, Nick Parkinson, Ben Baby and Michael Rothstein answer these questions and more, as they try to separate what’s real and what’s not.
Real or Not: Winner of Errol Spence Jr.-Terence Crawford will be the best P4P fighter in the world
Baby: Real. This isn’t really up for debate. Crawford is currently my No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter. He was the former undisputed champ at junior welterweight and since moving up to the 147-pound division, Crawford has remained impressive. However, there are still plenty of people who believe the level of his competition has been lacking during his run as a welterweight champion.
Similarly, Spence has a legitimate claim as one of boxing’s best pound-for-pound fighters. He holds three of the four major welterweight belts. While Crawford has sustained success in multiple divisions, Spence has been impressive in big wins against former champions Shawn Porter, Yordenis Ugas and Keith Thurman, despite a car accident and resulting injuries that jeopardized his career.
So it only makes sense that a potential Spence-Crawford showdown will cement the winner as the pound-for-pound king. There are obviously others who have a legitimate stake to the claim, such as Canelo Alvarez and Tyson Fury. Alvarez’s stock has dipped a bit since losing to Dmitry Bivol in a failed attempt to win another light heavyweight title. Fury is the lineal heavyweight champion and holds the WBC belt, but Oleksandr Usyk has the better career resume (at cruiserweight and heavyweight) and has looked good in the sport’s highest weight class.
That leaves Spence and Crawford to settle things in what will be one of the most anticipated fights of the century. That is, of course, if it ever happens.
Real or Not: Tyson Fury will fight Oleksandr Usyk in 2023
Coppinger: Real. It would be a major surprise — even in a sport that continually fails to deliver marquee matchups — if Fury and Usyk didn’t meet next year for the undisputed heavyweight championship.
After Usyk clearly defeated Anthony Joshua in their rematch in August, both the Ukrainian and Fury expressed interest in facing each other next. Usyk stated he wouldn’t be available until next year due to injuries from the Joshua fight, while Fury said he would fight in December regardless.
The Gypsy King’s insistence on competing a second time in 2022 — despite on-again, off-again retirement claims — kicked off talks with Joshua for a Dec. 3 bout. A media circus has ensued. Then Fury claimed last Monday that he was moving on to a bout with journeyman Manuel Charr after a self-imposed deadline passed without signed contracts.
Naturally, Fury reversed course later in the week and said he would allow more time to complete a deal. Even if Fury and Joshua were to strike a deal, the champion should remain on a collision course with Usyk for the first half of 2023, if not later in the year.
Real or Not: Chris Eubank Jr., Conor Benn, better than their parents
Parkinson: Definitely not. While another Benn-Eubank matchup is a fascinating fight in its own right, and allows those old enough to reminisce about one of boxing’s most entertaining rivalries, it is not on the same scale as the two fights their fathers had in 1990 and 1993.
And neither Chris Jr. or Conor be considered as better fighters than their fathers.
In an extension of the Nigel Benn-Chris Eubank rivalry which captivated British sports fans in the 1990s, family pride rather than a world title will be on the line when Conor and Chris Jr. meet in a catchweight bout at the O2 Arena in London on Saturday.
Their purses might be more than three times what their dad’s earned, but their rivalry and achievements are not on the same scale as their fathers’.
English rivals Benn and Eubank fought twice for middleweight and super middleweight world titles and their feud lasted long after their controversial split draw in 1993 and Eubank’s ninth-round stoppage victory three years earlier. Their fights were huge crossover events and attracted the interest of the casual fan, people who would not normally watch boxing, due to the drama of their fights and their acrimonious rivalry. Conor versus Chris Jr., meanwhile, suddenly materialized without any call for it or trash talking, but just because of the lack of options both had at the time.
Their kids just won’t achieve what their fathers did.
Both Chris and Nigel won world titles at two weight classes — Conor and Chris have yet to hold a major world title between them. Both are talented and may go on to claim a world title belt in 2023, but Chris Sr. won 17 of 24 title fights (two draws), while Nigel won 11 of 16 world title fights (with one draw). Conor (21-0, 14 KOs), 26, has yet to fight for a world title, while Chris Jr. (33-2, 23 KOs), 33, lost his only fight for a belt by decision to George Groves in 2018.
The level of some of those fights was also bigger than Saturday’s Benn-Eubank encounter. Eubank-Benn II for instance, attracted a free-to-view television audience of 16.5 million, and an attendance of 42,000 fans at Old Trafford, home of English Premier League side Manchester United. Chris Eubank Jr.-Conor Benn, in their home market of the UK, is unlikely to eclipse the 1.8 million which bought Anthony Joshua versus Joseph Parker in 2018, the UK pay-per-view record for a boxing event.
Benn-Eubank I and II was also part of an exciting era for the sport. They both had big fights against Michael Watson, Steve Collins, Thulani “Sugar Boy” Malinga, and versus Gerald McClellan for Benn and versus a young Joe Calzaghe for Eubank. Eubank Jr.-Conor is a standalone event.
Some things are bigger now though, like the purses the sons will earn. Benn and Eubank shared a purse of 250,000 pounds when Benn made a second defense of the WBO middleweight world title at the NEC in Birmingham in November, 1990. As their rivalry intensified, Benn and Eubank got 1 million pounds each for the rematch three years later.
Conor and Chris Jr. are reportedly earning 3.5 million pounds each, with a 125,000-pound fine for scaling above the 157 pounds weight limit.
But even if Chris Jr.-Conor is not as big as when their dads slugged it out all those years ago, it’s still a must-see fight.
Real or Not: Vasiliy Lomachenko will fight for a 135-pound title next year
Coppinger: Real. Lomachenko was in line to fight George Kambosos for all four belts in June 2022 before deciding to remain in war-torn Ukraine. Devin Haney went on to rout Kambosos to become undisputed lightweight champion and will meet Kambosos for a rematch on Oct. 15 on ESPN and ESPN+.
Haney should cruise to victory once again, putting him on schedule to face Lomachenko in the first quarter of 2023. After all, Lomachenko returns on Oct. 29 against Jamaine Ortiz, a matchup the former pound-for-pound king should win handily.
Haney has lobbied for a fight with Lomachenko for some time, and with both boxers now aligned with Top Rank, there’s a clear path to a deal. Coming to an agreement on money with each side surely won’t be easy for Top Rank, but it’s an excellent matchup that would generate major interest.
Bob Arum seems keen to deliver for Lomachenko, one of his longtime stars, and there’s no better way than afford him the opportunity to finally become an undisputed champion. Coming off the loss to Teofimo Lopez, Lomachanko has fought just twice, securing dominant wins over Richard Commey and Masayoshi Nakatani.
Real or Not: Sebastian Fundora will win a world title at 154 pounds
Rothstein: Well, he already has — at least on an interim basis. The 24-year-old won the interim WBC crown when he stopped Erickson Lubin in an impressive performance in April. While he fights again in October — his first defense of the belt — the real test will come when he gets a chance to face undisputed champion Jermell Charlo whenever that occurs. Hopefully that happens in 2023.
Fundora, at 6-foot-5, is a matchup nightmare for anyone because of his height and reach. Plus, there’s real power behind his punches. Fundora is a good fighter — one of the best young fighters in the sport, regardless of division — so yes, a non-interim world title is in his future. I’ll go one step further, too. By the time he’s done, he’s a multi-division world champion.