By Donavan Leonard: Each year of boxing brings hope, hope, and intrigue for the promise of that which it can deliver. Last year this column has been written, attempting to predict that of the most respected champions would fail to keep straps round their waists.  While not every one of the predictions have been correct, youth has been served in light heavyweight, middleweight, and junior middle weight. Long reigning titlist Adonis Stevenson (lightheavyweight ) lost in a struggle against Oleksandr Gvozdyk (as of this writing Stevenson has just recently awoken out of his induced coma, and heartfelt wishes for a speedy and complete recovery come in order for him and some fighter who’s given blood to amuse the masses). Erislandy Lara, who’d held a junior middleweight title for nearly 5 years, was dethroned by the seemingly unstoppable force Jarrett Hurd.

Gennady Golovkin, that (depending on the origin ) was tied for the most middle weight defenses in history, had his historic reign come back down with yet another disputed decision versus Saul Alvarez. This time around that the official verdict was that a loss which ended his string of guards, and for the first time since 2010 he’ll enter a twelve months with no belt.

The group at 2019 is going to be more difficult to identify, as very few bouts involving authentic world champions (read:  maybe not Manny Pacquiao) are signed. This leaves much room for speculation future opponents and the desire to match it with world class foes. With that in mind, here are the top fighters that are on the outside looking in through 2019:

Deontay Wilder, WBC Heavyweight Champion.  Wilder was blessed to maintain his belt with a rejuvenated Tyson Fury, and with talks of an immediate rematch under way, it’s extremely difficult to imagine him performing any better.  He’s 33 years of age. Speak with him working with his jab, straightening his right hand, which makes adjustments, etc. is exactly that– talk. He’ll continue to throw wide shots. He’ll continue to wait rather than throw punches. And he will likely be outworked, out-thought, and out-boxed by Tyson Fury. If he manage to escape with a success (or draw in the first bout), World Champion Anthony Joshua is second man up, and Wilder becomes a ex-champ.

Saul Alvarez, WBC and WBA Middleweight Champion. Call it karma, but the deal with DAZN seems too fantastic to be true. Plus, DAZN has long had a difficult time keeping their finest bouts together (Billy Joe Saunders-Demetrius Andrade, David Lemieux-Tureano Johnson). There’s really a heavy push from DAZN to accommodate Alvarez with IBF winner Danny Jacobs, also it may function as the ‘Miracle Man’ that does just enough work to carry his belts, throw a wrench into the Alvarez machine, and thwart the over-ballyhooed trilogy between Alvarez and Golovkin. Even the matchup could be difficult as Jacobs has quicker hands and feet than Gennady ‘GGG’ Golovkin, and could also have a considerable weight advantage when he drops into the ring.

The hard nosed, hard-punching Berchelt would probably be preferred over any existing 130-pound winner, including Gervonta Davis. The rationale he’ll lose his title this year is politics…and Vasyl Lomachenko. Lomachenko resides five pounds north by lightweight, however you’ll find no authentic struggles left to get him at this moment. WBC light weight winner Mikey Garcia will probably be attempting to sell his or her lsquo;0’ into the fists of Errol Spence, and the WBO belt has been vacant. Lomachenko has said he would like to simply fight champions, but additionally said that his body is not ready for 140 lbs. His best burden is probably 130 lbs, and a bout with Berchelt seems more attainable from the kingdoms of boxing than Davis (PBC), or IBF titlist Tevin Farmer (DAZN). A drop in weight certainly is not the standard, particularly if Lomachenko needs to offer up his names, however if he feels 130 is his best weight and most useful opportunity for future fights, this can occur. Should it, Berchelt will put up a fight, but Lomachenko will relieve him in the belt.

Leo Santa Cruz, WBA Featherweight Champion. Leo Santa Cruz is great. He yells a lot of leather. He has bested Carl Frampton and Abner Mares, among others. There’s still another scalp he would like to add–Gary Russell Jr.. Russell Jr struggles one time per year, and after Santa Cruz dispatches of Miguel Flores (loser of two of the past three bouts), there’s speak with place both of these top notch pugilists together. It undoubtedly will not be a walk at the park to get Russell, but the hand-speed he displayed versus Joseph Diaz should be sufficient to allow him to partially unite the featherweight division, and add the WBA belt for his WBC trinket.

The advent of the World Boxing Super Series makes a number of the choices seem easier than some many the others.  Tete should be rightfully favored to overcome the long in the tooth Nonito Donaire from the semi finals of their WBSS, but that means meeting the Dragon, Naoya Inoue, at the finals. Tete was a winner since 2014, and it has provided fans with an eleven-second knockout versus Siboniso Gonya. However, Inoue appears to be an extremely special fighter with dynamite to get fists. His knockout of tough as nails Juan Carlos Payano appears to oppose his outstanding power. If all goes as intended by Inoue defeating Emmanuel Rodriguez and Tete besting Donaire, Inoue will likely be carrying Tete’s belts with him if he wins the WBSS in bantamweight.

Unfortunately some branches will not hold a Wonderful deal of excitement within their Match Ups due to fresh champions who will most likely get a soft bout or two to help reevaluate their standings and reigns (175, 168), although some are divided by the electricity brokers preventing funerary bouts (147, 130).    Expect 2019 for a down year after two incredible years at this activity. There’ll be some excellent action at 140 and 118  with the authentic champions determined as they need to be, even at the ring. There’s also an fantastic probability that there is a unified heavyweight winner. That, if nothing else, should give hope to fans of the sweet science.

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