Boxing this year has the potential to really light the sports world up with breakout stars ready to claim their shine and big-name champions trying to etch themselves into the history books. With so much to choose from, the writers at CBS Sports took it upon themselves to answer some of the biggest questions at the forefront as a fresh 12 months of fighting is set to begin this weekend.
Let’s dive right in now to the questions and predictions from “Morning Kombat” hosts Brian Campbell and Luke Thomas as well as staff writer Brent Brookhouse.
Will we end 2021 with an undisputed heavyweight champion?
Brian Campbell: Yes
It will take some maneuvering from the powers-that-be to make sure the remaining mandatory obligations are either taken care of or paid handsome step-aside money, but there really isn’t anything outright dire to prevent Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury from fighting in 2021. Provided a clear winner was crowned, fans should expect to enter 2022 debating the outcome of a Joshua-Fury rematch.
Brent Brookhouse, Luke Thomas: No
There are just too many political elements at play to see it happen. Not only between fighters, promotions and networks, but with sanctioning bodies that set mandatory challengers based on financial decisions more than legitimate rankings. For example, Devin Haney already has two mandatory challengers set, ruling out a lightweight unification with Teofimo Lopez. It’d be wonderful to see Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury face off before the end of the year with all four recognized world titles on the line, but I don’t hold out much hope that all the pieces fit together in the next 12 months. — Brookhouse
Not a chance. As a general rule of thumb, it’s wrong to be so pessimistic about boxing’s architecture and incentive structure to assume big fights will never happen, but it’s equally foolish to think it’ll happen in a timely manner. There is virtually no way there will be enough speed behind the forces at play to unify all the belts. There’s even a case where if you get Tyson Fury vs. Anthony Joshua, you get it by virtue of belts being vacated. I would be shocked to see titles unified in a year where both heavyweight have mandatories and every other reason to delay gratifying the fans. — Thomas
This is where the future brokers of the sport for the next decade currently reside. Ryan Garcia, Gervonta Davis, Devin Haney and Teofimo Lopez Jr. are all young, unbeaten and poised to become household names should they all agree to fight one another multiple times in the coming years similar to the “Four Kings” of the 1980s. Add 130-pound sensation Shakur Stevenson to that group and the still capable Vasiliy Lomachenko and Jorge Linares to round out an absolutely loaded division that also includes Luke Campbell, Javier Fortuna and George Kambosos Jr. — Campbell
Heavyweight and welterweight are almost certain to give us big fights that we enjoy and are important for the sport, but there are at least four high-end lightweights (and arguably more) who can produce so much to the extent they stay healthy. That’s true even if they don’t fight each other and at least some of them are likely to do so, the first being Devin Haney and Ryan Garcia. There’s nothing exactly wrong with the other divisions, but lightweight is on fire and full of young guns ready to take on the world. — Thomas
If I hold out any real hope, it’s that welterweight continues chugging along until Terence Crawford can get free of his Top Rank contract to line up the most appealing welterweight fights possible — including Crawford vs. Errol Spence. Crawford and Top Rank seem ready to be done with each other, and the sheer amount of compelling fights that could be made once that hurdle is removed gives a lot of hope. Beyond that, lightweight is interesting, but there’s some concern that too many rising superstars won’t be put against each other immediately and fans will have to wait another year or two to see those young guns matched up.
Do we get any closer to Spence vs. Crawford?
Campbell, Brookhouse: Yes
It might come down to simple math at this point. Provided Terence Crawford concludes what has the look of a bitter exit from Top Rank and ESPN once his contract reportedly ends after one more fight, a subsequent signing with Premier Boxing Champions would be the final step. The only remaining debate would surround whether Al Haymon wanted to make the fight in 2021 or gamble with one more setup fight for each. — Campbell
I believe we see the fight signed before the end of 2021, maybe not in the ring during the year, but at least pen put to paper for the fight to happen in early 2022. All, of course, depending on if Crawford cuts ties with Top Rank following the end of his contract. — Brookhouse
Thomas: Most likely not
As I indicated with my answer about the heavyweight division, I’m extremely skeptical. Spence might say he wants it, but doesn’t really need it, especially to maximize earning potential. Crawford, unless he buys himself out of his deal, is still on the hook until at least October with Top Rank, who are seemingly incapable of making this fight work with PBC. We cannot rule it out, but I’m not going to wait around for it either.
Where does Manny Pacquiao fit into the 147-pound picture?
Although Pacquiao, who turned 42 in December, seemed to benefit the least from the lack of live crowds that led to him sitting idle in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic, he remains the most profitable B-side in the sport. Expect Pacquiao to add at least one more super fight to his legendary resume either against Spence or Crawford. A fight against UFC star Conor McGregor also isn’t out of the question to end the year.
Brookhouse: Wherever he wants
The simple reality is that Pacquiao is still a fighter who makes his opponent a big payday. Anyone at the top of the game — and signed with PBC — who wants Pacquiao can likely get him. He probably doesn’t remain champion against those top stars, but he likely has his pick of opponents. Of course, that opponent could be Conor McGregor in the second half of the year.
Thomas: Takes on Spence
He’s the reason why Spence-Crawford won’t get made. There’s an outside chance he doesn’t really fit into the picture at all and takes a boxing bout against Conor McGregor, but the bigger threat is Spence decides to stay in the PBC family for most of the year only to venture out and fight Pacquiao when he doesn’t. The Filipino boxer is still a credible threat to anyone in the division and while off-peak in terms of popularity, nevertheless is much more popular than many other top choices.
Who is the breakout star of 2021?
Campbell: Shakur Stevenson
Should the former featherweight champion secure the kind of fights he’s talking about, including a showdown against Lomachenko, it’s not out of the question that he ends 2021 as the Fighter of the Year. That would be a substantial leap from where he is now, of course, but Stevenson really does appear to be dynamic enough for this kind of talk to not be hyperbole. His speed and swagger has often been compared to a young Floyd Mayweather.
Brookhouse: Edgar Berlanga
He is already a must-watch attraction, but he’s not really a “star” yet. That’s more a product of being given time to develop than anything else. He’s going to get big main event spots in 2021 and nothing creates a star in boxing like true knockout power. Sixteen first-round knockouts in 16 fights? That’s the easiest sell in combat sports. Seeing him take that power into the ring with bigger threats in the coming year is going to launch him to the level of being viewed as a true star.
Thomas: Berlanga/Jarron Ennis
Ryan Garcia is already on his way with his electric finish of Luke Campbell, but two names that stand out to me are Edgar Berlanga and Jaron Ennis. Berlanga has freakish power and is already attracting celebrity interest and promoter favoritism. He’s very much an underdeveloped product, but he might be poised for a huge 2021. “Boots” Ennis is a remarkable boxer whose skills jump off the screen when you watch him. Athletic and smart, he is a nightmare for opponents. He’s still young and working his way up in terms of opponents with names people recognize, but 2021 could prove a major turning point in his career.
John Wall had seven points and eight assists after missing five straight games with right knee soreness. It was the first game for Wall since the James Harden trade. The Rockets were without a key piece of that deal as Victor Oladipo rested a sore right quadriceps.
Luka Doncic scored 26 points while sitting the entire fourth quarter with the game out of reach. The Slovenian star was again without European sidekick Kristaps Porzingis, who rested his surgically repaired right knee as the Mavericks finished five games in seven days by completing their second back-to-back in that stretch.
The Rockets were also playing on a second consecutive night for the first time this season and won both to improve to 3-3 since the Harden trade.
“It was a very complete game for us on both ends of the floor, especially on a back to back,” coach Stephen Silas said a night after a 103-102 victory at Detroit. “Really good trip for us.”
Houston never trailed as Cousins opened the scoring with a three-point play and scored eight points in the first three minutes. Cousins matched his most points since a torn Achilles tendon ended his final season with New Orleans in 2017-18.
Gordon was 6 of 9 from 3-point range as the Rockets shot 43% (16 of 37) from beyond the arc. Cousins, who came in shooting 26% overall and 24% from long range, was 9 of 15, including 4 of 8 from 3.
“My thing is the shot quality,” Silas said about Cousins. “He works conscientiously on his 3-point shot. I knew it would come around. We just had to make sure he was getting good, quality shots. He did that tonight.”
The Rockets led 70-59 after the highest-scoring half against Dallas this season. The Mavericks pulled within 74-71 early in the third quarter before Houston finished the quarter on a 30-12 run.
“We don’t have any excuses,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. “The energy was a factor. We were able to get it up in spurts, but weren’t able to sustain it. They had more juice.”
Rockets: Wall played 21 minutes when coach Stephen Silas said he would watch his minutes closely and make sure he didn’t play long stretches. … David Mwaba scored a season-high 18 points, and Mason Jones had 16.
Mavericks: Tim Hardaway Jr., who was 0 of 12 from the field in the most recent Dallas loss against Toronto, missed all five shots in the first half before going 4 of 8 after halftime and finishing with 15 points. … Doncic had eight assists and five rebounds. … Boban Marjanovic matched Hardaway with 15 points, and Trey Burke had 13.
Carlisle said the Mavericks figured they would rest Porzingis given it was their seventh game in 11 days since the 7-foot-3 Latvian made his debut after the offseason surgery. Carlisle left little doubt Dallas was upbeat about Porzingis’ progress.
“He’s doing exceptionally well,” Carlisle said. “It was a decision we talked about a lot, and that was one reason he didn’t get downgraded until later in the day. Things are in a really good place.”
HOMECOMING, SORT OF
Silas was back in Dallas after the first-year Rockets coach spent the past two seasons as an assistant with the Mavericks. But it wasn’t much of a homecoming.
First of all, Silas’ family made the move from Dallas to Houston the day before the game, “so we missed each other.” Even if his family had still been in town, Silas wouldn’t have been able to see them because of COVID-19 protocols.
“Obviously, being here, a place that’s so close to my heart but no fans and you’re not allowed to even shake their hands or hug,” Silas said. “Yeah, we’re going to Dallas, but it’s on a back-to-back and there’s no fans and I can’t even take a walk on the Katy Trail (near the Mavericks’ arena). It’s a downer.”
Rockets: Washington visits Tuesday in one of three Houston home games in a span of 12 overall. It’s the second scheduled game for the Wizards since a six-game shutdown because of COVID-19 protocols.
Mavericks: Denver visits Monday to finish just the second set of consecutive home games for the Mavericks, who played 11 of their first 15 on the road.
Welcome to FIFA.com News – First teams qualified for the FIFAe Club World Cup 2021
Qualifiers from Zones 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 confirmed
Playoffs in Zone 4 to take place on 28 January
Zone finals in February to crown six zone winners
After weeks of intense qualification, 27 out of 42 teams have qualified for the FIFAe Club World Cup 2021™. The pinnacle event of competitive EA SPORTS FIFA for teams will feature the best clubs from each of the six zones and will take place from 24-28 February 2021. The reigning FIFAe Club World Cup Champion Complexity Gaming has qualified for the second time in a row.
27 teams from Zones 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 have already secured their spot in the zone finals, while the field of participants will be finalised after the Zone 4 playoffs have been finished next Thursday.
Once the qualification has been concluded, teams will be rewarded with a total prize pool of USD 105,000 and the 42 qualified teams will compete for another USD 245,000 in prize money at the FIFAe Club World Cup 2021 in late February.
The following teams have already qualified and will compete at the zone finals from 24-28 February:
The qualified teams:
Zone 1 (Oceania)
Team FW AU
Melbourne City Esports
Dire Wolves/Black Sheep – Teams aretied on Consistency Ranking and will play the decisive game next Thursday
Zone 2 (Asia)
GBX Esports Team
Blue United eFC
Zone 3 (Africa & Middle East)
Tuwaiq eSports Club
Zone 5 (South America)
ELS Torneios Online
MGCF eSports – RMA Tech
FC Basel 1893 eSports
SPQR Brasil Team
Team FW BR
Central Español Uruguai
Zone 6 (North America)
New York City Esports
The Zone 4 teams who have made it to the playoffs taking place on 28 January, as well as all the other qualification results, are available on FIFA.gg.
Showtime Boxing: Angelo Leo vs. Stephen Fulton fight prediction, card, odds, start time, how to watch
Undefeated junior featherweights Angelo Leo and Stephen Fulton were originally set to fight for the then-vacant WBO super bantamweight title this past August. Unfortunately, Fulton tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the planned scrap and Leo instead beat Tramaine Williams to capture the title.
Leo and Fulton are finally ready to face off on Saturday, meeting in the main event of a triple header from Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut (9 p.m. ET, Showtime). In a sport that often keeps young, talented and undefeated prospects separate for as long as possible, it’s a refreshing change of pace to see the commitment to putting these two in the ring for Leo’s WBO title.
“I’ve known I was going to fight Fulton for almost a year now,” Leo told The Ring. “I’ve been preparing for him for a while. Now that it has finally come, everything we have worked on has come more naturally to me.
“It’s going to be a great match up. It’s what boxing needs: You’ve got two undefeated fighters, two fighters in their prime with similar records. What more can you ask for? All the way around, on paper, it looks like a great fight. But deep down inside, I know I’ll come out with the victory.”
The fight represents an opportunity for Fulton to become world champion after holding some secondary and fringe titles in his first 18 fights. It’s a moment Fulton says he’s ready to take advantage of.
“To me, it means everything to be a world champion from Philadelphia,” Fulton told ESPN. This is what I’ve been working for my whole career. To my city, it would show people from my neighborhood that there’s a way out. But I don’t feel any pressure because of it. This sport teaches us the discipline to perform in moments like this. The pressure is just a part of my job.”
Plus, Vic Pasilas and Raeese Aleem will square off in the co-main event with the interim WBA super bantamweight title on the line. Pasillas boasts an undefeated record at 16-0 with nine knockouts to his name. Aleem is also unbeaten at 17-0 with 11 knockouts. The winner will be next in line to challenge full WBA champ Brandon Figueroa.
Leo vs. Fulton card, odds
Stephen Fulton -160
Angelo Leo (c) +135
WBO super bantamweight title
Vacant interim WBA super bantamweight title
Rolando Romero (c)
Interim WBA lightweight title
Leo vs. Fulton is a very competitive fight on paper. Both men have a lot of skill and Leo easily handled a decent — though not great — opponent in Williams to win the WBO title last time out. Fulton isn’t likely to blow the doors off anyone with sheer power. He only has eight knockouts in 18 fights. But his skills are enough that he doesn’t require that kind of one-punch power. Fulton works well off the jab and has good hand speed to follow up that jab with straight shots that can connect before the opponent has even reacted to the initial shot. With neither man having that one-shot knockout power, it’s possible they have the confidence to mix it up a bit and there’s potential for an exciting fight to break out. All that said, Fulton’s edge in speed should be enough for him to get off first and control the action. Pick: Stephen Fulton via UD