Last year was a massive boom year for boxing, filled with top stars putting on amazing performances and long-awaited fights finally coming together. A year so big is a hard act to follow for the sport.
The first month of 2024 hasn't lived up to the lofty standards of the previous year, but there is plenty of hope on the horizon, even if there have been a few stumbling blocks along the way. The truly big fights of the year were set to begin in February, including a bout to crown the first undisputed heavyweight champion of the four-belt era when WBC champion Tyson Fury was set to clash with WBA, WBO and IBF champ Oleksandr Usyk on Feb. 17.
Unfortunately, Fury suffered a cut in training camp and the bout with Usyk was delayed until a rescheduled date of May 18.
As with any sport, there's an inevitable desire to ask "What's next?" For some of the sport's biggest stars, we know who they'll face in their next trip to the ring. For others, there are ideas but nothing set in stone.
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With all that in mind, let's take a look at the next step for most of the biggest stars in boxing.
Tyson Fury & Oleksandr Usyk: A pair of undisputed heavyweight championship fights
There is no doubt about what's next for the heavyweight division's two recognized champions. Fury and Usyk will battle to crown an undisputed heavyweight champion on May 18 in Saudi Arabia after a delay from Feb. 17 caused by Fury suffering a cut in sparring. Barring another unexpected curveball -- such as yet another Fury "retirement" -- the pair are contractually obligated to rematch. There's no reason that rematch wouldn't happen before the end of the calendar year, but there was no reason it took so many rounds of negotiations, leading to both men taking lesser bouts, in the first place. Either way, heavyweight is set to have an undisputed champion. That will change quickly as the IBF has made it clear mandatory challenger Filip Hrgovic must get his shot at the title after the first meeting between Fury and Usyk, with the winner being stripped of the title if they fight the rematch instead.
Gervonta Davis: A rumored return to the United Kingdom
Davis is arguably boxing's biggest star, but his resume is not littered with the highest levels of opposition. Davis picked up an early 2023 win over Hector Garcia as a warmup for a massive showdown with Ryan Garcia, which Davis won with a knockout by body shot. His momentum was then derailed when he was sentenced to 90 days of house arrest for a 2021 hit and run, which turned into more than a month in jail after violating the terms of his probation. There are plenty of intriguing fights for Davis in 2024, including a repeatedly discussed fight with former undisputed lightweight champion Devin Haney. Davis has been dismissive of a fight with Haney, despite it being a potential legacy-defining fight. Davis is now reportedly eyeing a fight in the United Kingdom, previously having fought in London in May 2017. There's no opponent linked to the fight, but Josh Taylor and Jack Catterall would be local attractions who are around Davis' weight.
Canelo Alvarez: Reports of fights with Jermall Charlo and Terence Crawford
Alvarez, the undisputed super middleweight champion and greatest fighter of his generation, is taking an unusual path through 2024 if recent reports are to be believed. Alvarez has been linked to a fight with WBC middleweight champion Jermall Charlo. Not only did Alvarez trounce Jermall's twin brother Jermell in 2023, but Jermall has only fought once since 2021, beating Jose Benavidez Jr. in a non-title fight in November. ESPN's Salvador Rodriguez reported that a fight with former undisputed welterweight champion Terence Crawford would be next. That would be a big fight but also odd in that Crawford has not fought above welterweight, most recently obliterating Errol Spence Jr. in a huge fight to crown an undisputed welterweight champion. Alvarez has a pair of deserving and talented contenders waiting for him at super middleweight, with David Benavidez and Jaime Munguia both having done more than enough to deserve a shot at the king.
Ryan Garcia: A headache-inducing search for a fight could end with Devin Haney
Garcia has been at odds with his promoter, Oscar De La Hoya of Golden Boy Promotions, for years. That tension has continued to escalate recently, with Garcia and De La Hoya trading verbal shots ahead of Garcia's December knockout win over Oscar Duarte. Garcia followed that up with public statements about wanting a fight with WBA super lightweight champion Rolando "Rolly" Romero or WBC champion Devin Haney. Garcia's team were reportedly in negotiations with Haney when Garcia then pivoted and announced the fight with Romero was a done deal, only for Romero to pivot to a fight with Isaac Cruz set for March 30. New reports now say Garcia and Haney are once again in negotiations for a showdown. It's a huge fight for boxing and a highly-risky one for Garcia, who got a hard reality check by "Tank" Davis in early 2023.
Naoya Inoue: An undisputed title defense against Luis Nery
2023 was the second consecutive year Inoue went undisputed in December. In 2022, Inoue won his fourth belt at bantamweight. In 2023, he repeated the feat at super bantamweight. All indications are that Inoue's first fight in 2024 will be against Luis Nery inside Tokyo Dome. There are a few hurdles to clear to finalize the fight, all surrounding Nery. Nery is currently indefinitely suspended from fighting in Japan after failing a drug test when he knocked out Shinsuke Yamanaka in 2017 and then missed weight for the rematch the following year. The Inoue team should be able to work with the Japanese boxing commission to get that suspension lifted for the first major boxing clash in Tokyo Dome in decades.
Dmitry Bivol & Artur Beterbiev: A long-awaited showdown for the undisputed light heavyweight title
Bivol and Beterbiev have been on a collision course for years but various factors -- including the WBC banning fighters who reside in Russia from fighting for their title -- have gotten in the way. Money from Saudi Arabia has seemed to have settled that issue, as it seems to so often in boxing these days. Turki Alalshikh announced that the fight is set to take place on June 1 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. It's a dream fight for boxing fans and one that is happening just in time, with both fighters quickly advancing toward the end of their peak athleticism.