The heavyweight division continues to tease boxing fans with potential megafights this year. One of those potential bouts is a battle between two former champions, Deontay Wilder and Andy Ruiz Jr., but will that fight come to fruition, or is the business of boxing getting in the way of a big fight — again?
Another heavyweight, Jared Anderson, headlined last weekend’s event at home in Toledo, Ohio, against former champ Charles Martin. And while “Big Baby” Anderson won a unanimous decision, is he ready for the top heavyweights in the division?
At super middleweight, the division king, Canelo Alvarez, returns in September against junior middleweight undisputed champion Jermell Charlo, who’s moving up two divisions for the opportunity. Can he pull the upset against Alvarez?
And at junior welterweight, Teofimo Lopez Jr. said he was retiring after his impressive victory over Josh Taylor. Have we seen his last appearance in a ring? And in the U.K. it seems to be a renaissance, with a half-dozen fighters making noise in their respective divisions. So who is the most talented current fighter in the U.K.?
Mike Coppinger, Ben Baby and Nick Parkinson answer these questions and try to separate what’s real and what’s not.
Real or not: Andy Ruiz Jr. will be Deontay Wilder’s next opponent
Not real. Ruiz’s father, Andy Ruiz Sr., told ESPN last week that the former heavyweight champion won’t fight Deontay Wilder unless he backs off his 70-30 demand and agrees to a 50-50 split.
Wilder has said that Ruiz doesn’t deserve parity, so given the massive difference here, this fight doesn’t look likely. Ruiz Sr. said that fighting on even financial terms is a deal breaker for his son, a star boxer in his own right who scored a TKO win over Anthony Joshua in 2019 to win three heavyweight world titles.
Neither Wilder nor Ruiz currently holds a title, but the matchup would be explosive and feature two big-name heavyweights with tremendous punching power. Wilder is the biggest puncher in all of boxing, but Ruiz is a feared puncher as well.
Ruiz knocked down Luis Ortiz three times in a unanimous-decision victory in September and has displayed countless times that he owns one of the best chins in boxing. The Wilder-Ruiz fight has been in on-and-off discussions for over a year, and if it happens, it would be one of the most anticipated events on the 2023 calendar.
It would be a shame if the fight didn’t materialize, especially with Wilder set to turn 38 later this year. But Wilder appears to have bigger fish to fry as he continues talks for a potential superfight against Joshua in December in Saudi Arabia. — Coppinger
Real or not: Jermell Charlo will produce a huge upset against Canelo Alvarez
Not real, and get real! While Charlo has been idle collecting dust, Canelo has regained some shine in the past year following a decision loss to Dmitry Bivol at light heavyweight. But most importantly, Charlo is stepping up two weight divisions to take on the undisputed super middleweight world champion.
The announcement that Jermell — and not his brother Jermall — will be fighting Canelo stunned the boxing world, as Jermell is taking this opportunity rather than accepting less of a challenge to defend his undisputed junior middleweight championship.
Jermell Charlo, 33, has not boxed since he stopped Brian Castano in a rematch in May last year, which came 10 months after a draw in the first fight, which many thought Castano won. It has been a shame not to see more of the talented Jermell, but he broke his left hand in December 2022 while preparing to face Australian Tim Tszyu, for a fight that had been scheduled for January. Charlo vs. Tszyu seemed a logical next step for the Texan this year, a fight he would be the betting favorite despite the layoff and Tszyu’s progress.
Charlo will have to produce a huge upset to beat Canelo, now back in form after widely outpointing John Ryder in May and Gennadiy Golovkin in September 2022.
In those two wins, Canelo demolished theories he was in decline following the loss to Bivol just over a year ago. Canelo is not only in form, he has been active and will be at his natural super middleweight weight class. Charlo goes into the fight following inactivity and injury, as well as stepping up two weight classes.
It’s just too much to seriously expect Charlo to pull it off. — Parkinson
Real or not: Teofimo Lopez Jr. will fight again this year
Teofimo not impressed by potential Haney fight
Teofimo Lopez explains why a Devin Haney bout wouldn’t be enough to get him to come out of retirement.
Not real. It’s possible Lopez doesn’t compete a second time in 2023 after he claimed retirement following his impressive win over Taylor last month to capture the WBO and lineal junior welterweight title.
But it would be a major surprise if Lopez didn’t return to the ring in the first half of 2024, if not sooner. In the lead-up to the Taylor fight and after the victory, Lopez said time and again that his next fight would come in a courtroom for custody of his son as he continues divorce proceedings.
Once Lopez has settled his personal matters, he will undoubtedly be back to capitalize on his signature victory against Taylor, following the 2020 win over Vasiliy Lomachenko.
The biggest matchup out there for Lopez is undeniably a fight with Devin Haney, the undisputed lightweight champion looking to move to junior welterweight in the near future. But it may have to wait while Lopez takes time away from the ring.
But, is Lopez retired? Absolutely not. He tweeted over the weekend about sparring Floyd Mayweather and is just 25 years old, with millions and millions more to earn. And he still owns his WBO junior welterweight title, too. — Coppinger
Real or not: Jared Anderson is not ready for the top 5 heavyweights
Jared Anderson fends off Charles Martin in heavyweight bout
Jared Anderson keeps his undefeated record after fending off Charles Martin by unanimous decision.
Real. However, this isn’t a bad thing. As good as Anderson has looked as a prospect, his victory Saturday against former heavyweight titleholder Martin showed that moving into the contender tier isn’t easy. Despite being a big favorite and looking dominant at times, Anderson had to gut out a unanimous decision victory.
He appeared hurt in the fifth round and in the final seconds of the last round, when his legs buckled before the bell sounded in Toledo. Martin winked at Anderson as if to suggest that he had doled out a learning moment to the 23-year-old.
After being rocked early, Martin tagged Anderson as he pulled straight back, which is considered a big no-no among those who have a solid defense. The late lull in the 10th round could have presented a massive risk to the momentum Anderson has built in his career.
Anderson has a few things to work on before he faces a top five heavyweight. Even if there’s a clear distinction between the champions (Tyson Fury, Oleksandr Usyk) and everyone else (Deontay Wilder, Anthony Joshua, Andy Ruiz Jr.), the second tier of heavyweights has all been legit champions at some point in recent years.
But Anderson is certainly ready to face someone in that next tier. How about a matchup against Filip Hrgovic? The undefeated Croatian hasn’t fought since August 2022, when he beat Zhilei Zhang. At 31, Hrgovic needs to get his career moving. That’s a great non-title fight and the type of bout that doesn’t exist enough in boxing. — Baby
Real or not: Sunny Edwards is the most talented U.K. fighter right now
Real. When judging on talent alone, Edwards, the IBF flyweight world champion, has the slick skills, quick hands, flashy footwork and ring intelligence which combined, are superior to the skill levels of heavyweight Tyson Fury, light heavyweight Callum Smith, junior welterweight Jack Catterall, junior lightweight Joe Cordina and featherweight Leigh Wood, who are all in the top three of their respective weight classes according to ESPN.
Edwards (20-0, 4 KOs) was underwhelming in his last decision win over Andres Campos on June 10, but perhaps he was being cautious or was distracted with a unification title fight against American Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez, the WBO champion, set for the end of the year.
In previous fights, Edwards has already provided enough evidence to convincingly claim to be the U.K.’s most skillful boxer — yet he is unknown outside of boxing fans there.
But regardless of his talent, Edwards is not the U.K.’s No. 1 fighter. Despite inactivity and the disappointment of not seeing any progress toward making Tyson Fury box Oleksandr Usyk in an undisputed heavyweight title fight, Fury is still the No. 1 and a talented boxer himself. Fury is the only U.K. fighter that holds a No. 1 spot in his respective division and is in the latest pound-for-pound rankings (No. 8).
One thing Edwards’ record lacks is knockouts, unlike Smith (29-1, 21 KOs), a former champion at super middleweight, who faces a difficult task against knockout machine Artur Beterbiev for three world titles on Aug. 19. Smith will be the underdog, but he was destructive in his two fights since stepping up a division following a decision defeat to Canelo Alvarez 2½ years ago. If Smith produces something special against Beterbiev, he may take the No. 1 spot on this list.
Cordina and Wood won world titles in their last fights but still have more to do to eclipse Edwards and Fury, based on skills alone. Flyweight Galal Yafai, an Olympic gold medalist in 2021, and Adam Azim are early in their careers but have unquestionable talent and could one day be considered the U.K.’s most talented boxer. — Parkinson