After the excitement of the first big fight of 2021, which kicked off a new year of boxing on January 2nd with the fan-friendly Ryan Garcia proving his credentials against Luke Campbell, British boxing was hit with the sucker punch of the British Boxing Board of Control cancelling all domestic fights in January. Just as we digested those incredible seven rounds in Texas, we were to find out we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the same fanfare on our shores until February, at the earliest. However, this recess gives us the chance to mull over some of the domestic dust-ups we might be likely to see once we’re back up and running here in the UK.
Kell Brook v Amir Khan
While I understand that there may no longer be a fervid appetite for this fight among many fans, there seems to have been more noise about this fight taking place now than ever before. The timing of Khan’s recent callout correlates with the suspicion that Kell Brook has lost his punch resistance, after being dispatched by Terrance Crawford’s first meaningful attack in their November fight. However, I’m not sure how much I could begrudge either fighter cashing out at the end of their careers, which were mainly spent at the highest level. Also, if things were to get tasty in the build-up, I think they could claw back some of the interest that once had this fight as the most demanded in the UK.
Lyndon Arthur v Craig Richards
This fight makes the most sense for both of these fighters. Whilst some might argue for that Arthur should rematch Anthony Yarde immediately, I see no reason why the defending Commonwealth champion should have to give the challenger another chance in a fight which wasn’t a controversial win. I personally had Arthur up by a couple of rounds and I feel like Yarde must rebuild before coming again. As for Richards, he has done things the hard way and he deserves this chance to step up and gain more of the spotlight. After finally capturing the British lightweight title in empathic fashion against Shakan Pitters, he must get the opportunities that he has been, for a long time, knocking on the door for. A unification fight between the Commonwealth and British lightweight champions makes sense for all involved and it is a 50/50 fight which should really split the boxing community.
Joshua Buatsi v Callum Johnson
Before Buatsi’s last outing against the tough Marko Calic in October, I think many people would have thought he would blow out Callum Johnson if they were to ever meet. However, Calic exposed some real holes in Buatsi, particularly in his defence, and it forced many to reconsider where Buatsi currently is, especially as his potential is perceived at world level. Meanwhile, Johnson has become somewhat of a forgotten man in boxing, having last fought back in March of 2019 in a comeback fight. Before that, he stepped up to world level in a losing effort to the much-feared Artur Beterbiev, scoring a knockdown of his own before being halted in fourth round of an absolute firecracker of a fight. This fight shouldn’t be too difficult to make as both fighters reside with Matchroom Boxing and it is certainly one which would shape the domestic lightweight division moving forward.
Denzel Bentley v Felix Cash
2020 was a real breakout year for Denzel Bentley, as he captured the British middleweight championship at the second time of asking against Mark Heffron. While their first fight was declared a draw, I personally had Bentley ahead; he made no mistake with the rematch, forcing the game Heffron to retire with a horrendous eye injury. Bentley displayed a full arsenal, good movement, shot selection and the power to cause damage at that level. Felix Cash enjoyed his own coming-of-age performance against the seasoned Jason Welborn, dropping the more experienced man before stopping him in the fifth round. Once again, this would pit the Commonwealth champion (Cash) against the British champion (Bentley),putting the winner in a fantastic position to go to challenge for European honours and beyond. The challenge facing this fight happening is the fact Bentley fights under Frank Warren, and on BT Sport, whereas Cash is with Hearn, and Sky Sports, but stranger things have happened.
Conor Benn v Josh Kelly
While this fight may need another year to marinate for everyone involved to maximise their profit margin from it, I think we would all be happy to see it in 2021. After a fantastic performance against Sebastian Formella (who went the distance with Shawn Porter), the only fight Benn declared an interest in next was with Josh Kelly. Meanwhile, Kelly is still tied up in the never-ending saga with European champion David Avanesyan, so unless that gets re-scheduled quickly, a mouth-watering clash with Benn will be on the back-burner. However, both fighters are signed with Eddie Hearn and Matchroom, so there is no excuse for this one not to happen, but all that waits to be seen is if the powers that be hold it off until they’re both at world level. Granted, if they both make it there, that is.
Deion Jumah v Richard Riakphore
Deion Jumah’s career has been a stop-start affair thus far and the Coronavirus pandemic has not helped the 31-year-old accelerate it. However, he managed to secure a British cruiserweight title opportunity against the current holder, Richard Riakphore, back in September. So this fight looks like a sure thing for 2021. Riakphore won the title with a unanimous points victory over Jack Massey, and this fight is an intriguing one. We have the skilful technician in Jumah against the raw, powerful Riakphore. With Lawrence Okolie making strides to world level, there could be a very lucrative fight for the winner of this, for whoever manages to put themselves at the front of the pack domestically in the cruiserweight division.