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For everything that the sport of boxing failed to deliver throughout a difficult 2020, hope strings eternal upon a new year. 

Admittedly, it’s hard to imagine many super-fights taking place until the COVID-19 pandemic is better controlled, thus allowing for large crowds and huge live gates to once again fuel the promotion of major events. But one thing is certain entering 2021 — there are no shortage of fights that fans are clamoring for whether they are realistic and likely to happen or not. 

Let’s take a closer look at this writer’s wish list for the five best boxing matches to make in the upcoming new year. 

1. Anthony Joshua vs. Tyson Fury

Outside of Floyd Mayweather coming out of retirement to fight a YouTuber or Mike Tyson continuing his comeback on the senior tour, this is the biggest fight boxing could make in 2021 among active competitors. But we all know the first match to crown a four-belt undisputed heavyweight champion won’t be easy to make, even if all parties sound interested in doing just that. Both fighters have potentially difficult mandatory tests in front of them that either need to be consummated to avoid being stripped of titles or the fighters need to be paid hefty step-aside fees. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen in the new year, though. 

Don’t overlook how important live crowds will be to this fight being made, however. Joshua-Fury is the biggest fight in the rich history of British boxing and could easily attract close to 100,000 fans into a stadium. Both fighters are personable and charismatic, which would help make this matchup a dream for casual fans craving the days of one division, one champion and one face atop the heavyweight division — and, by proxy, the entire sport. 

2. Errol Spence Jr. vs. Terence Crawford

If Joshua-Fury is the biggest commercial fight to be made among active competitors in the same division, this welterweight unification is the best critical matchup to be had as it pairs unbeaten champions already affixed atop the sport’s pound-for-pound list. The problem is whether the fight can actually be made from a political standpoint given Spence’s public disdain for a reasonable financial split and Crawford’s isolated reality on the wrong side of the promotional and political tracks. 

The good news is that “Bud” is expected to be free from his Top Rank deal this fall, which could go a long way in this fight being made should he entertain a move to PBC, where just about every fighter between 147 and 154 pounds that matters currently resides. As long as boxing doesn’t screw this up and wait too long, Spence-Crawford could become the Sugar Ray Leonard-Tommy Hearns of the modern era as both fighters appear to be all-time greats in the making. 

3. Canelo Alvarez vs. Jermall Charlo

Casual fans would prefer Alvarez, boxing’s pound-for-pound and pay-per-view king, to fight Gennadiy Golovkin in a trilogy bout while more hardcore fans might clamor for the Mexican superstar to truly test himself at light heavyweight against unified titleholder Artur Beterbiev. Other observers, more knowledgeable on the reality of Alvarez’s 2021 goals, could offer up a handful of top super middleweights including Caleb Plant, David Benavidez and Billy Joe Saunders. But the best matchup to test Alvarez’s skills that is also the closest to his preferred weight of 168 pounds remains Jermall Charlo, who has indicated his willingness to move up to super middleweight to chase it. 

While the fight doesn’t seem likely for 2021 given Alvarez’s focus on unifying titles, Charlo has the combination of size, speed, power and a growing level of marketability as a brash American star to make the perfect dance partner for Alvarez on the biggest stage. Watching Canelo be forced to navigate Charlo’s foot speed and patience as a counter-puncher would be fun knowing he has the power to make Alvarez respect him. This could be the kind of all-action instant classic overflowing with elite skill that both of Alvarez’s fights with GGG were a few years back before the Kazakh slugger showed glimpses of decline. 

4. Teofimo Lopez Jr. vs. Gervonta Davis

Lopez’s upset win over former P4P king Vasiliy Lomachenko put the rest of the sport on notice as the unified (and undisputed, depending upon your definition) lightweight champion backed up every single bold prediction his father/trainer had made. There are no shortage of huge fights to make for Lopez at 135 pounds, provided he can keep making the weight. But the best of that group is Davis, which raises him above Ryan Garcia and Devin Haney as the preferred option for fans of Lopez. 

Davis, a two-division beltholder, is the most proven box office attraction below 147 pounds, and likely brings the most danger as a boxer/puncher. The bad news is that this fight probably has no chance of being made in 2021 given the age of both and the fact that they operate in separate network and promotional spheres. But it’s among the best fights that could be made in the sport and challenges even the most discerning boxing expert to truly sit back and examine how it might play out. 

5. Shakur Stevenson vs. Vasiliy Lomachenko

This crossroads fight at 130 pounds would likely need Lomachenko to agree to move back down to his more comfortable home of junior lightweight considering Stevenson just moved up after a run as WBO featherweight champion. But it’s a fight that wouldn’t be hard to make given both are promoted by Top Rank. The unbeaten Stevenson, at 23, has somehow lived up to his comparisons to a young Mayweather at just about every turn. He has been outspoken in his desire to face Lomachenko and boasted he would defeat him “even easier” than Lopez did in 2020. 

It just depends upon whether the 32-year-old Lomachenko would be interested in such a challenge. Given the collective hand and foot speed in this matchup, it would likely be high-speed chess of the highest order and, in many ways, a pick ’em on paper as Stevenson would look to make a huge statement early in his career against a living legend of the sport. 

Honorable Mentions: Canelo Alvarez-Gennadiy Golovkin III, Josh Taylor-Jose Ramirez, Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez-Juan Francisco Estrada II, Caleb Plant-David Benavidez, Artur Beterbiev-Dmitry Bivol.



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Showtime Boxing: Angelo Leo vs. Stephen Fulton fight prediction, card, odds, start time, how to watch

stephen fulton

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.”

Can’t get enough boxing and MMA? Get the latest in the world of combat sports from two of the best in the business. Subscribe to Morning Kombat with Luke Thomas and Brian Campbell for the best analysis and in-depth news, including a preview of Showtime Boxing on Saturday night below.

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

Vic Pasillas

Raeese Aleem

Vacant interim WBA super bantamweight title

Rolando Romero (c)

Justin Pauldo

Interim WBA lightweight title

Prediction

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



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Recent Match Report – Sri Lanka vs England 2nd Test 2020/21

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Tea Sri Lanka 381 (Mathews 110, Dickwella 92, Dilruwan 67, Chandimal 52, Anderson 6-40) vs England

An ageless James Anderson bagged six wickets while delivering England the breakthroughs they needed against Sri Lanka on the second day of the second Test. The home side fought their way into a strong position, however, through impressive innings from Niroshan Dickwella and Dilruwan Perera.

By shortly after lunch, Anderson, the 38-year-old seamer playing his 157th Test, had doubled his tally from the first day, adding three more wickets to help end Sri Lanka’s innings on 381 and finish with figures of 6 for 40 off 29 overs.

They were important wickets, too, as he removed centurion Angelo Mathews with his sixth ball on day two and denied Dickwella an elusive Test century. Dickwella gifted Anderson his five-for, chipping to Jack Leach at mid-off for 92, his highest score in 41 Test appearances. Anderson then drew Suranga Lakmal into a poke outside off-stump and Zak Crawley took a sharp catch at gully.

It was Anderson’s second straight five-wicket haul in Tests away from home, following his 5 for 40 in Cape Town a year ago, and the 30th of his career – only Richard Hadlee has more among pace bowlers with 36.

Still, Sri Lanka’s performance represented further improvement with multiple contributors and a stubborn tail. Dilruwan made an impressive fifty from No. 8, taking to Leach in particular, dancing down the pitch three times to plunder fours through mid-on and mid-off and a six down the ground. He helped add 89 in partnership with Dickwella and then another 49 for the last two wickets to frustrate England.

Anderson picked up where he left off the night before but, where Mathews could not, Dickwella stepped up to keep Sri Lanka in an engaging tussle through the morning session.

Mathews added just three runs to his overnight score before a subdued England appealed for what appeared to be lbw, with the ball appearing to pass the inside edge and deflecting via the knee roll to Jos Buttler behind the stumps. Mathews was originally given not out but Joe Root called for a review and UltraEdge revealed a spike as the ball passed the bat to end Mathews’ fine innings and give Anderson his fourth wicket for the match.

Anderson continued in miserly fashion, conceding just five runs from his four-over spell.

Dickwella, meanwhile, shifted gears into drive, quite literally at times, as he assumed the lead upon debutant Ramesh Mendis’ arrival at the crease. Dickwella unfurled a series of well-timed boundaries, carving Sam Curran through backward point and punching Mark Wood through long-on.

A fantastic take by Buttler had Mendis out for a duck, a faint edge off Wood going down the leg side and finding Buttler’s glove at full stretch to his left.

Sri Lanka had lost two wickets for 11 runs in the space of 19 balls but Dickwella remained in excellent touch, piercing the covers with two beautiful drives, first off Wood then Anderson. He used Wood’s pace to guide the ball effortlessly to the rope at fine leg before bringing up his fifty with a single off Dom Bess, whom he then swept twice to the boundary.

Leach joined Bess in the attack as England opted for dual spinners after the first hour, to Perera’s delight. Bess was also on the receiving end of some harsh Perera treatment after lunch, spilling a return catch struck so hard it caused considerable pain to Bess’s non-bowling hand.

The spinners went wicketless as Wood’s hard graft was further rewarded with the wicket of Lasith Embuldeniya and Curran finally accounted for last man out Perera, who holed out to Leach at deep backward square leg.

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Badgers’ third period rally falls short against Penn State

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After falling behind by three goals in the first period, the Wisconsin Badgers rallied late, but fell short in a 5-4 loss to Penn State on Friday night.

The Badgers pulled within one goal twice in the third, but couldn’t find the equalizer.

Dylan Holloway got the Badgers on the board in the second period, but Penn State restored its three-goal lead, scoring a few minutes later to make it 4-1.

Roman Ahcan scored halfway through the third period and Ty Pelton-Byce brought the Badgers within one at 12:02.

Penn State took advantage of an open net and regained their two-goal lead before Cole Caufield added a goal in the final minute of the game.

Cameron Rowe made 13 saves in net for the Badgers, while Robbie Beydoun, who entered the game in the first period, ended the night with 21 saves.



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