After Jake Paul's destruction of Ben Askren and ahead of Logan Paul's exhibition showdown with Floyd Mayweather, a narrative has taken hold that the clowns have taken control of the circus in boxing. If you're really paying attention, however, the sport is on something of a roll in making meaningful, high-quality fights.
In fact, the next three months could prove to be something of a boon as fans and a live gate returns with more people receiving the COVID-19 vaccination. There's already a slew of big fights on the books, including a heavyweight title trilogy and the return of a legend against a pound-for-pound great. And everything in between from June to August seems to carry some importance toward getting clarity in the biggest divisions in the sport.
With that in mind, let's look ahead at some of the fights that have us most excited as boxing moves into the summer.
Floyd Mayweather vs. Logan Paul -- June 6
Your mileage may vary on this one, but in terms of sheer interest, the greatest boxer of his generation taking on a controversial social media influencer -- an occupation that was not even a thing for most of Mayweather's careeer -- is going to outpace almost anything on the horizon for combat sports. The outcome is not really in doubt. Mayweather is at a size and age disadvantage while Paul's primary issue is not knowing how to fight. Paul was defeated by KSI, another YouTube star who doesn't know how to box, in his pro debut. Maybe this sparks Mayweather to fight Logan's brother Jake in an exhibition fight later this year, which is at least slightly more interesting as Jake seems roughly four times better a boxer than Logan and he did steal Mayweather's hat that one time.
Naoya Inoue vs Michael Dasmarinas -- June 19
Inoue vs. Dasmarinas doesn't rank high as the best possible matchmaking for the summer. That said, Inoue is one of boxing's top must-watch attractions. In his 10 most recent fights, Inoue has only gone to a decision once, that fight coming against Nonito Donaire in one of the best fights of 2019. Inoue is a force of nature and someone worth tuning in to see fight every time out, even if it's against someone like Dasmarinas, who is a capable enough fighter but not a needle-moving name in the boxing world. This could also be Inoue's last fight at bantamweight -- where he holds the WBA and IBF belts -- as Bob Arum has suggested the Japanese slugger will move up in weight after the fight.
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The rest of June 19
June 19 is a loaded night for boxing. In addition to Inoue vs. Dasmarinas, there's Jermall Charlo vs. Juan Macias Montiel and a stacked undercard on Showtime, Jaime Munguia vs. Maciej Sulecki on DAZN, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. vs. MMA legend Anderson Silva on PPV and Teofimo Lopez vs. George Kambosos Jr. on PPV. There's a little something for everyone there, with some main events of questionable quality, good undercard fights and even some gimmicky nonsense with Chavez vs. Silva. Peppered throughout those cards, however, are some intriguing fights. If you're just wanting to watch men punch each other in the head for a few hours, June 19 is the day for you.
Vasiliy Lomachenko vs. Masayoshi Nakatani -- June 26
Lomachenko is not taking an easy fight in his attempt to get back on track after losing to Teofimo Lopez in October 2020. Lomachenko, once arguably the top pound-for-pound fighter in boxing, will face a tall, rangy lightweight in Nakatani, whose lone career loss came against Lopez in a fight where he was the first fighter to give Lopez some real problems. Lomachenko needs a win to re-establish himself as a player at the top end of a suddenly loaded lightweight division and get back in the mix with some of the younger, fresher names at 135 pounds. Nakatani has the skills to not make that easy.
Jermell Charlo vs. Brian Castano -- July 17
Another in boxing's current run of bouts for undisputed champion status. Charlo holds the WBC, WBA and IBF super welterweight championships while Castano holds the WBO title. It's a legitimate battle between the top two fighters in the division. As important as the legitimate nature of a fight for all four belts, Charlo and Castano are both fighters with fan-friendly styles who are thrilling finishers. This is one to truly get excited for.
Tyson Fury vs. Deontay Wilder 3 -- July 24
It's strange to be disappointed by the idea of a fight between two of the best heavyweights on the planet who have a history of trash talk and drama. The disappointment is real, however, with this fight killing Fury vs. Anthony Joshua to determine the undisputed heavyweight champion. After their dramatic draw in the first fight, Fury left no doubt in the rematch, dominating Wilder before scoring the stoppage win. Wilder has gone on to accuse Fury of tampering with his gloves, having his own corner work against him and his walk-out costume for being so heavy it burned out his legs before he hit the ring. Another loss here would be difficult on Wilder from a psychological viewpoint and Fury has clearly proven himself the better boxer in their two fights. All that said, Wilder punches as hard as anyone in boxing -- and maybe anyone in the history of boxing punch-for-punch. Drama is nearly guaranteed.
Errol Spence Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao -- Aug. 21
Spence vs. Pacquiao came out of nowhere. Spence was tied to a fight with Yordenis Ugas for the summer, but landed a much bigger opponent in Pacquiao. It should be expected that Spence, who holds the WBC and IBF welterweight titles, will be considered the favorite coming into the fight. Pacquiao is the bigger star but hasn't fought since a thrilling split decision win over Keith Thurman in July 2019 to win the WBA super championship. His inactivity led the WBA to demote Pacquiao to "champion in recess" with Ugas promoted to full champion. But Pacquiao doesn't need a belt to make this fight any bigger.
Anthony Joshua vs. Oleksandr Usyk -- Likely for August
When Wilder managed to break up the planned heavyweight unification between Joshua and Fury, it opened the door for Usyk to get his shot at Joshua. Usyk was undisputed champion at cruiserweight before moving to heavyweight, where he immediately became mandatory challenger for the WBO title. A somewhat tepid win over Derek Chisora in his heavyweight debut took some steam out of Usyk's hype, but his team wants their shot and the WBO has ordered the fight be worked out or it will head to a purse bid. It's the best available fight for Joshua with Fury and Wilder tied up and Usyk will be a live dog.