The 10 must-see fights in February — and why you should watch


February is an epic month for boxing, which sees perhaps the biggest fight of the year when the first undisputed heavyweight world champion of the four-belt era will be crowned.

But that historic fight between Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk is just part of a long list of title fights in the second month of the year. There are other significant fights to check out, even ones where no titles are on the line.

From the big guys to the 108-pound division, here’s a rundown of the 10 best fights in February:

1. Tyson Fury vs. Oleksandr Usyk, for the undisputed heavyweight championship

Feb. 17: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (ESPN+ PPV)

In boxing, sometimes the best never fight the best. Egos, boxing politics, rival promoters and broadcast deals have combined to deny what seem like natural matchups from ever happening.

But, thankfully, a deal has been brokered for the world’s two leading heavyweights to meet in the first undisputed heavyweight title fight of the four-belt era.

It is a fight not to be missed — perhaps the biggest of 2024 and may even be the most significant heavyweight fight for over a decade, surpassing bouts like Fury vs. Wladimir Klitschko (2015), Fury vs. Deontay Wilder (2018, 2020, 2021), Usyk vs. Anthony Joshua (2021, 2022) and Joshua vs. Klitschko (2017).

Fury (34-0-1, 24 KOs), 35, the WBC champion, opened as a slight favorite, despite recent shaky form. In October, he had to get off the canvas to win a split decision in a non-title fight against former UFC champion Francis Ngannou, whose boxing fight against Fury was only his first as a professional.

Usyk (21-0, 14 KOs), 37, the WBA, IBF and WBO champion, was also not at his best in his last defense. Daniel Dubois, a big outsider, felt he floored the Ukrainian with a body shot in Round 5 (but it was ruled a low blow and no count was given) before Usyk found his rhythm and range to produce an impressive ninth-round finish.

Both their last performances have left an expectation of uncertainty as to what we will get in the ring in Riyadh. But whatever unfolds, you need to watch it.

2. Teofimo Lopez Jr. vs. Jamaine Ortiz, for Lopez’s WBO junior welterweight title

Feb. 8: Las Vegas (ESPN/ESPN+)

Lopez (19-1, 13 KOs), 26, has the potential to regain his place as one of the sport’s brightest stars, but he needs a run of good form to make that happen. A lot is on the line for the New Yorker, who has been ambitiously talking about progressing to fight former undisputed lightweight champion Devin Haney, who now competes at 140 pounds.

After a brilliant win over Vasiliy Lomachenko, then a surprise loss to George Kambosos Jr., Lopez won a wide decision over Josh Taylor to win the WBO junior welterweight title in his most recent fight in June, but he still has work to do if he wants to be regarded as the best in the division with Haney now there too.

And this is a potentially tricky first title defense against Ortiz. There’s an interesting backstory to this clash. Lopez and Ortiz fought each other as amateurs in the final of the 2015 National Golden Gloves Championship. Lopez won on points, and Ortiz has been playing catchup since.

Ortiz (17-1-1, 8 KOs), who steps up from lightweight, will not be lacking in motivation to make another statement. Ortiz gave Lomachenko, a former three-division champion, a tough time when they met in October 2022. But anything less than an impressive win for Lopez will be damaging for his chances to move on to bigger things.

Also on the bill, there is a chance to check on the development of Olympic silver medallist Keyshawn Davis (9-0, 6 KOs) against veteran Jose Pedraza ((29-5-1, 14 KOs). Davis boxes in a 10-round lightweight, non-title bout after testing positive for marijuana in October 2023, which caused the Pedraza fight to be pushed back.

3. Takuma Inoue vs. Jerwin Ancajas, 12 rounds, for Inoue’s WBA bantamweight title

Feb. 24: Tokyo (ESPN+)

It’s not that Inoue, but you should still check out this great bantamweight contest. The younger sibling of ESPN’s No. 2 ranked pound-for pound fighter Naoya Inoue, the undisputed junior featherweight champ and four-division champion, is an accomplished boxer himself who faces an experienced challenger in Ancajas (34-3-2, 23 KOs), 32, for his first world title defense.

Inoue (18-1, 4 KOs), 28, from Japan, won the belt with a decision over Liborio Solis in April, but his reign faces a real danger against Ancajas, of Philippines, who made nine world title defenses at junior bantamweight. Ancajas’ run included stoppage wins over the likes of Jamie Conlan and Israel Gonzalez. The fight was scheduled for November 15, but it was postponed to February after Inoue suffered a rib injury during training in October.

Can Ancajas produce another stoppage win to silence the champion’s home crowd, or can Inoue make a statement that there is more than one Inoue to pay attention to?

4. Dan Azeez vs. Joshua Buatsi, 12 rounds, for the British light heavyweight title

Feb. 3: London

We will find out if Buatsi (17-0, 13 KOs), 30, is ready for a shot at either of the brilliant light heavyweight champions Artur Beterbiev or Dmitry Bivol when he faces rival Londoner Azeez. Other Britons — Callum Smith, Anthony Yarde and Lyndon Arthur — have discovered the two Russians are just simply a level above the rest of the division. Buatsi is due his chance and much has been made of his potential after winning bronze at the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, and has been untroubled so far in the paid ranks.

But Azeez (20-0, 13 KOs), 34, will be a difficult test and will not lack motivation. The pair are both from south London and know each other well from many sparring sessions in their journey to this point, which will decide who gets to progress to a world title shot later this year.

The whole of boxing hopes we get to see Beterbiev-Bivol for all four belts in 2024, but the winner of Buatsi-Azeez should be front of the queue for a shot at the winner of the undisputed title fight.

5. O’Shaquie Foster vs. Abraham Nova, 12 rounds, for Foster’s WBC junior lightweight title

Feb. 16: New York (ESPN/ESPN+)

Foster (21-2, 12 KOs), 30, can establish himself as the No. 1 at 130 pounds this year if the Texas-based boxer continues his fine streak of form.

After beating Rey Vargas by unanimous decision to win the belt in February 2023, and then Eduardo Hernandez by last round stoppage in a first title defense in October, Foster can set up the possibility of title unification fights later this year with a victory at Madison Square Garden.

Nova (23-1, 16 KOs), 30, from Puerto Rico but based in New York, made a statement in his last fight by knocking out Jonathan Romero in the third round. Nova has shown he can be vulnerable, and in 2022 Robeisy Ramirez stopped him in five rounds, but he could be inspired by his home crowd.

6. Alexandro Santiago vs. Junto Nakatani, 12 rounds, for Santiago’s WBC bantamweight title

Feb. 24: Tokyo (ESPN+)

Nakatani, who produced one of the best KOs of 2023, can set up a potential unification title fight with Japanese rival Takuma Inoue if he wins the WBC belt from Mexico’s Santiago (28-3-5, 14 KOs).

Nakatani (26-0, 19 KOs), 26, a two-division champion, is moving quickly through the divisions and is fun to watch. In May last year, he left Andrew Moloney laid out on the canvas with a devastating left hook in the last round.

Santiago won a narrow decision over veteran Nonito Donaire for the title but he will face a faster, busier opponent in Nakatani, who steps up a division after a brief reign as WBO junior bantamweight champion last year.

There is plenty of Japanese talent at bantamweight, and Nakatani will want to make a statement on his debut in the division.

7. Hamzah Sheeraz vs. Liam Williams, 12 rounds, middleweights

Feb. 10: London

Sheeraz (18-0, 14 KOs), 24, is one of the most exciting middleweights in the world, but you probably have never heard of him.

The English boxer is in impressive form — he stopped Dmytro Mytrofanov in two rounds in August to defend his fringe WBC Silver belt for his 12th stoppage win in a row — and this is a good matchup to accelerate his career, should he secure victory against Williams, a former world title challenger.

For Williams (24-4-1, 19 KOs), he cannot afford to lose at this stage of his career. The 31-year-old lost a unanimous points decision to Demetrius Andrade for the WBO title in 2021 and was floored four times in a decision loss to Chris Eubank Jr. in 2022.

These British rivals meet at a crossroads in their career and Williams is the biggest test of Sheeraz’s potential.

8. Adrian Curiel vs. Sivenathi Nontshinga, 12 rounds, for Curiel’s IBF junior flyweight title

Feb. 16: Oaxaca, Mexico (DAZN)

Curiel (24-4-1, 5 KOs) will be trying to prove his second round KO win over Nontshinga (12-1, 9 KOs) was no fluke.

Curiel produced a big upset when he knocked out the South African in Monte Carlo in November with a stunning right hand finish. Curiel’s record did not suggest he had such power, especially at the top level. It will be interesting to see how the sequel plays out, not that long after their first brief encounter.

9. Conor Benn vs. Peter Dobson, 12 rounds, welterweight

Feb. 3: Las Vegas (DAZN)

Benn (22-0, 14 KOs), 27, finds himself boxing thousands of miles from home and not against the opponent he wanted, but there will still be plenty of eyeballs on the welterweight contender’s non-title bout. Many will be wondering if Benn is still focused and motivated after a fight against British rival Chris Eubank Jr. failed to materialize — again.

Benn is currently prohibited from boxing on British soil due to testing positive for a banned substance ahead of a scheduled fight with Eubank in October 2022. Since April 2022, Benn has only fought once — a ten round decision win over Rodolfo Orozco — while maintaining his innocence.

The Eubank fight seems unlikely for the moment (it had been in play to take place in London on Feb. 3) but Benn can propel himself towards fights against other big names with a good performance. Dobson (16-0, 9 KOs) has been inactive for over a year and Benn will be hoping to look good as he targets fights against the world champions for later this year.

10. Edgar Berlanga vs. Padraig McCrory, 12 rounds, super middleweights

Feb. 24: Orlando, Florida (DAZN)

Berlanga’s recent form has been just good, rather just exceptional. If Berlanga (21-0, 16 KOs), 26, from New York, can produce a bit of excitement and reaction, he could even emerge as a contender to challenge Canelo Alvarez for his four super middleweight titles in May — or September. After stopping his first 16 opponents in the first round, Berlanga’s last stoppage win came just over three years ago, and the aim will be to end the run of decision victories. But McCrory (18-0, 9 KOs), from Northern Ireland, is capable of making it difficult for Berlanga to produce that eye-catching performance.

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