Here’s a surprise. Jake Paul could end 2023 with a better record than many of the top 10 pound-for-pound fighters, including Terence Crawford, Dmitry Bivol, Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk. But to get that win, Paul needs to face his first real professional boxer. Is it likely?
Former heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder hasn’t fought this year, and chances are he’ll have zero fights in 2023. And middleweight champion Jermall Charlo, who hasn’t fought in 2½ years, returns on Nov. 25 in a nontitle fight against Jose Benavidez Jr. Can he be the dominant fighter he was when winning titles at 154 and 160 pounds?
WBC interim super middleweight titlist David Benavidez, Jose’s brother, faces Demetrius Andrade on the same card’s main event, with the winner getting closer to a fight against undisputed champion Canelo Alvarez. But will Alvarez fight any of them for his Cinco de Mayo weekend bout?
On Nov. 16, on the same card in Las Vegas, Shakur Stevenson faces Edwin De Los Santos for the vacant WBC lightweight title and Emanuel Navarrete defends his WBO junior lightweight title against Robson Conceicao. Can this be the setup for a Stevenson-Navarrete megafight in 2024?
Mike Coppinger, Nick Parkinson, Timothy Bradley Jr. and Marc Raimondi offer their thoughts on what will and won’t be a surprise during the upcoming boxing schedule.
Don’t be surprised if … Jake Paul ends the year with more wins than P4P fighters Crawford, Usyk and Fury
It’s almost certain to happen. Paul announced Wednesday that he will face Andre August on Dec. 15. August has a 10-1 record (by comparison, Paul is 7-1 in eight pro bouts), but he has fought only once since November 2019.
In other words, it’s the exact kind of foe Paul’s critics have been screaming at him to face since he was 2-0: a real boxer. There’s no doubt those same critics will be the ones writing, “Who?” underneath social media posts. It’s going to take a long time for Paul to make the boxing public (and media) believe in him as a legit purveyor of the sweet science. Maybe it’ll never happen.
But this next fight will represent something of a reset for Paul. He and his team have been focusing on money fights and huge events. That has resulted in him beating high-profile MMA fighters in their late 30s or 40s like Nate Diaz and Anderson Silva. Who could fault Paul for doing that? This is prizefighting.
There will surely be more blockbuster fights like the aforementioned ones for Paul down the road. In the short term, he’s going to be working on building his record and improving his skills. So yes, expect Paul to be 2-1 by the close of 2023, barring something unexpected happening. Sorry in advance to “Bud” and the “Gypsy King.” — Raimondi
Don’t be surprised if … Shakur Stevenson fights Emanuel Navarrete next
This could be an epic showdown between two boxing powerhouses … if both fighters can successfully handle their business on Nov. 15 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas: Stevenson against Edwin De Los Santos and Navarrete vs. Robson Conceicao.
Stevenson has undeniably earned his reputation as the most-avoided fighter in boxing, with his stand-alone skills, impeccable defense send subliminal warnings of “You can’t beat me” to the competition. On the other hand, Navarrete has proved himself a true champion, having conquered three different weight divisions. The Mexican’s unconventional style combines fearlessness, exceptional punch volume and devastating power. His recent victory over fellow countryman Oscar Valdez has only boosted his confidence.
So watch how this matchup emerges as the stage is set in the old-school way of boxing, putting two main-event talents on the same card on the same night. — Bradley
Don’t be surprised if … Jermall Charlo shows he’s still a top fighter against Jose Benavidez Jr.
When Jermall Charlo was active, he looked like one of the sport’s elite fighters. With one of boxing’s best power jabs, strength and combination punching, Charlo was dominant at 154 and 160 pounds.
But that’s the past. Charlo’s last ring action was June 2021, when he struggled in a routine title defense against Juan Macias Montiel. When Charlo ends his layoff later this month, his WBC middleweight title won’t be on the line in the 10-round bout.
Why the WBC allows Charlo to go so long without a title defense is unexplainable. Nonetheless, Charlo will have an opportunity to prove he’s still a force to be reckoned with. And I believe Charlo will capitalize.
Now training in Pensacola, Florida, with former four-division champion Roy Jones Jr., Charlo will meet an opponent who has somehow been even less active. Since his final-round TKO loss to Terence Crawford in a 2018 title fight, Benavidez has competed just three times, with one win, one loss and one draw.
Benavidez has proved durable, but he’s now fighting at an even higher weight. He should be the perfect foil for Charlo to show his skills. And if Charlo can score a KO in emphatic fashion, he can deliver a statement to the rest of the middleweight division and even Jose’s younger brother, super middleweight David Benavidez, that he’s once again ready for big fights.
Charlo and David Benavidez have been circling each other for years. If David Benavidez, who faces Demetrius Andrade on Nov, 25, and Charlo can both deliver impressive victories, they could be on a collision course for a high-stakes bout at 168 pounds next year. — Coppinger
Don’t be surprised if … Deontay Wilder doesn’t fight at all in 2023
The Alabama native wants to fight fellow former heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua next, but a date of Dec. 23 is now out of the question. Joshua-Wilder is not being considered for next month, and Wilder may not even be Joshua’s next opponent.
A clash between the two most concussive punchers in the heavyweight division makes perfect commercial sense, but Joshua’s promoter, Eddie Hearn (Matchroom), is now keen on matching the English boxer against former UFC champion Francis Ngannou, who floored WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury in a nontitle bout last month. Fury beat Ngannou by split decision and is expected to face Oleksandr Usyk, the WBA, IBF and WBO champion, next in a clash to decide the undisputed champion, probably in February 2024.
That would leave Wilder without enough time to announce another opponent before the end of the year, unless he convinces Ngannou to face him, instead of Joshua, in Saudi Arabia on Dec. 23. The American last fought in October 2022, in a first-round victory over Robert Helenius. Wilder has fought just one round in the past two-plus years, but at this late stage of his career, the 38-year-old only wants big paydays. If he can’t get Ngannou next month, Wilder will hold out to face a former champion next in 2024. — Parkinson
Don’t be surprised if … the winner of David Benavidez-Demetrius Andrade doesn’t fight Canelo Alvarez next
The winner of the Nov. 25 bout between Benavidez and Andrade — especially if it’s decided in dominant fashion — will announce himself as the most viable opponent for Canelo Alvarez’s Cinco De Mayo fight.
But really, all that matters is what boxing’s top star wants. And to date, Canelo has shown little interest in fighting either man.
There was “Boo Boo” Andrade in May 2021 being shooed away by Canelo and made into a meme as Alvarez mocked the would-be challenger following his victory over Billy Joe Saunders.
And when Canelo has been asked about a fight with Benavidez, he has often dismissed the idea. Just maybe, Canelo wants one of them to score a big win and earn the career-high payday.
Regardless of what happens when Benavidez and Andrade fight, Alvarez will have ample other options for the second fight of his three-bout deal with PBC.
He could always save the Benavidez-Andrade winner for Mexican Independence Day weekend in September. In the interim, Canelo could always choose to revisit a rematch with Dmitry Bivol. There’s also the prospect of a super-fight with Terence Crawford.
But just maybe, Canelo will pick Benavidez for his May opponent if the latter can deliver a big win over Andrade and give Canelo a reason to care. — Coppinger
Don’t be surprised if … Conor Benn vs. Chris Eubank Jr. doesn’t happen this year
There is not enough time to market the fight of this scale with a month and half before the planned date of Dec. 23. There are also still issues to resolve around Benn’s British boxing license and promoter Matchroom is now looking at the pair finally meeting at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, on Jan. 27.
This will allow enough time for the outcome of an appeal by the British Boxing Board of Control and UK Anti-Doping against the decision to clear Benn to fight in the UK after a suspension and also allow enough time to promote the event. Benn vs. Eubank was first scheduled to take place in October 2022, but was canceled in the days before the event after Benn tested positive for a banned substance.
The Cardiff venue has a retractable roof (an important consideration for hosting a boxing event in the winter) and can accommodate a crowd of 75,000+. It has previously held sold-out boxing events featuring heavyweight Anthony Joshua and super middleweight Joe Calzaghe. The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, with a crowd of 65,000+, is another possibility.
The non-title clash is expected to take place at middleweight and follows two epic encounters between their fathers (Chris Eubank Sr. and Nigel Benn) in the 1990s.
An announcement confirming the fight is expected next week. — Parkinson