The Light Heavyweight division has produced special fighters and moments over the years. Big names such as Joe Calzaghe, Archie Moore, Roy Jones Jr, and Michael Spinks have called Light Heavyweight home over the years. But how does the 175lb division look, as the sun dawns for 2021?
The World Scene
The division hasn’t had much at world level in 2020 with two champions who didn’t appear last year and one vacant belt. The reigning unified WBC and IBF champion Artur Beterbiev (15-0, 15KO) didn’t step between the ropes during 2020, mainly due to the pandemic but is scheduled to defend his belts against Adam Deines (19-1-1, 10KO) in March, a fight which has come about due to mandatory challenger Fanlong Meng (16-0, 10KO) being forced to withdraw from the bout as he is unwilling to travel to Russia.
Artur Beterbiev, WBC and IBF Champion
Elsewhere in the champions list is Dmitry Bivol (17-0, 11KO). Bivol is another that didn’t fight for the whole of 2020 but unlike his fellow Russian champion, he doesn’t have a fight set in the near future. Bivol hasn’t boxed since his lopsided points victory over Lenin Castillo (20-3-1, KO15) back in October 2019. In spite of promoter Eddie Hearn informing fans that he wanted to get Bivol back out before the end of 2020 nothing came to fruition and one of boxing's premier talents is left on the shelf for now.
Elsewhere on the world scene the WBO will crown a new champion when Maxim Vlasov (45-3 KO26) meets Joe Smith Jr (26-3 KO21) on February 13th. It might be valentine’s day but there is sure to be no love in the air when the two-throw leather at each other in a bid to become world champion. The belt became vacant when P4P superstar Canelo Alvarez relinquished the title last year.
Joe Smith Jr Vs Maxim Vlasov - Feb 13th
The world scene did take a blow when it was announced that Sergey Kovalev failed a recent drug test, which he blamed on a frog, possibly the strangest excuse heard in a long time. The likes of Gilberto Ramirez, Badou Jack, Marcus Browne, and Eleider Alvarez are all still sniffing around in hopes of world honours in 2021 and the seemingly imminent arrival of former WBA Super Middleweight champion Callum Smith adds a new puzzle to solve for the top of the food chain.
Ones to Watch
The division does feel like it is going through a transition period at the moment. No real box office stars have arisen at the top of the mountain and with Canelo Alvarez seemingly one and done at the weight the time has come for prospects to become world-beaters.
Golden Contract winner Richard Bolotniks (18-5-1, 8KO) may not have the prettiest record in the world but the Latvian deserves a mention as one to watch after a very impressive 2019-2020. With wins over Steven Ward, Hosea Burton and Serge Michel, the 30-year-old seems to have a crack at world level in the bag for this year.
American Charles Foster (19-0, 9KO) is another to keep a close eye on in the coming year. After a scheduled bout with Niall Kennedy fell apart in March of last year the American didn’t appear again for the remainder of 2020 but will be hopeful that he is soon back in the ring. The talented Connecticut fighter is looking to take a step up in his next fight and has been linked with names such as Jean Pascal in the past and will be hoping to get his name up there with the likes of Browne, Alvarez, and Ramirez by the end of the year.
Another to keep a watchful eye on over the next year is unbeaten Chinese star, Fanlong Meng (16-0, 10KO). The 30-year-old represented China at the 2012 summer Olympics and has remained unbeaten since turning pro. With wins over the likes of Frank Buglioni, Emmanuel Danso, and Adam Deines on his resume so far, the future is certainly bright for the southpaw. Meng has twice been scheduled to face unbeaten unified champion Artur Beterbiev but the covid-19 pandemic that has swept the world has thrown those plans into disarray for the foreseeable future.
Finally, potentially leaving the best till last Scotland’s Callum Johnson (18-1, 13KO) looks all set to return to the ring in 2021. The Commonwealth gold medallist hasn’t been seen in a boxing ring since March 2019 when he dominated fringe contender Sean Monaghan. Callum is perceived as one of the most avoided fighters in the UK by many and after a strong showing against Artur Beterbiev for the IBF strap back in 2018, where he had the almighty Russian down in the second before succumbing in the fourth, it is easy to see why.
Callum Johnson Vs Sean Monaghan - 9th March 2019
The Domestic Scene
The Light Heavyweight division hasn’t always been the greatest on this side of the pond. But coming into 2021 the 175lb scene looks as strong as it has ever been.
Late in 2020, Commonwealth champ Lyndon Arthur (18-0, 12KO) took a split decision over former world title challenger Anthony Yarde (20-2, 19KO) in a highly contentious bout. With those two rumoured to be facing each other again in 2021 it already looks exciting for the light heavyweight division in this neck of the woods.
Anthony Yarde aims a right hand at Commonwealth champ Lyndon Arthur
Matchroom standout Joshua Buatsi (13-0, 11KO) was seen once last year when he handed Marko Calic his first professional defeat with a seventh-round TKO. Buatsi has been linked with a fight with Callum Johnson recently although that fight doesn’t appear to be going ahead. Buatsi definitely needs to keep busy this year and continue his step ups.
Just below the main three of Arthur, Yarde and Buatsi sit a ton of prospects all waiting for their big moment to shine and show Britain what they’re about. The likes of Dan Azeez (12-0, 8KO), Hosea Burton (25-2, 11KO), Craig Richards (16-1-1, 9KO) and Shakan Pitters (14-1, 4KO). With Richards and Pitters having already clashed for the British title in December where Richards produced a stunning stoppage of the previously unbeaten champion to take home the gorgeous Lonsdale belt.
Whilst it might not be the glamour division it once was, the light heavyweight playground is certainly intriguing. Who will place their name as the number one light heavyweight in the world? Who makes the step up to world level from a pack of chasing contenders? And who proves they are the best in Britain? These are all questions we await the answers to in 2021.