It has been a massive year of boxing matchups so far this year, but it could be argued that the best is yet to come. Some of the biggest stars in the sport are set to compete in the ring in the second half of the year, with mega heavyweight contests including Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua among the standout events. But, which boxing matches can fans look forward to seeing before the end of 2021?
Aug 21: Manny Pacquiao (Lost) vs. Yordenis Ugas (Won)
Update (Aug 21, 2021):
Manny Pacquiao returned to the ring in late August, as the WBA welterweight title was on the line against Yordenis Ugas. However, it was a shocking defeat for the Filipino superstar, as he was beaten by a unanimous decision by Ugas.
The defeat has left question marks over the future of Pacquiao’s career, as it has been reported that the legendary boxer could soon announce his retirement from the sport. As for Ugas, a unification fight against IVO and WBC champion Errol Spence Jr could be on the agenda for early 2022.
There had been huge excitement for Manny Pacquiao’s return to the ring, as it was announced that the multiple world champion was set to take on Errol Spence Jr. However, plans for that fight were scuppered as the reigning WBC and IBF champion was forced to pull out due to injury.
However, a replacement for Spence Jr was quickly announced, as it was revealed that Yordenis Ugas would be taking on Pac-Man in Las Vegas on August 21st. The fight may not be what many fans had hoped for, but it will still be a title fight, as the WBA welterweight title will be on the line.
Aug 29: Jake Paul (Won) vs. Tyron Woodley (Lost)
Update (Aug 29, 2021):
Jake Paul passed the most serious test of his boxing career on August 29th, as he beat Tyson Woodley by split decision after eight rounds of action. The former UFC star certainly gave everything to the contest, and hit Paul with a number of hard shots that sent the YouTuber onto the ropes, which stopped him from hitting the canvas.
A rematch between the two is reportedly already in the works after Paul admitted that they could fight again if Woodley got ‘I Love Jake Paul’ tattooed on his body. However, rumors continue to circulate that Paul could instead step in the ring with either Tommy Fury or Conor McGregor in his next bout.
Jake Paul’s return to the ring will be another standout occasion for those that have followed the YouTuber’s rise. Paul comes into his latest challenge with a perfect 3-0 record, and previously beat former UFC star, Ben Askren, with a stunning KO victory in the opening round.
However, he will face a sterner test on August 29th, as he steps into the ring with Tyron Woodley. The 39-year-old will be making his boxing debut against Paul, but certainly holds an esteemed reputation, as he is a former UFC Welterweight champion.
It will be fascinating to see how Woodley performs in the ring, and fans can see a full preview for the fight here.
Sep 11: Evander Holyfield vs Vitor Belfort
This year has been all about stunning returns to the ring. Mike Tyson made his in-ring return earlier in the year, and former heavyweight rival Evander Holyfield will make his return on September 11th. The former undisputed cruiserweight champion and later world heavyweight champion will step into the void to take on Vitor Belfort following Oscar De La Hoya’s withdrawal.
The fight has been moved on short notice, and will now take place at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel in Hollywood. Holyfield was set to return to the ring earlier in the year on the Teofimo Lopez/George Kambosos undercard, but the delay meant that a new date was required.
Holyfield last had a professional bout in May 2011, as he ended his career with a dominant TKO victory against Brian Nielson. However, an unusual opponent will be standing across the ring from him in September, as Victor Belfort steps foot in a boxing ring for the first time since 2006.
It will be a fascinating clash of worlds in Hollywood, but will it be a winning return to the ring for the former heavyweight champion of the world?
Sep 25: Anthony Joshua vs. Oleksandr Usyk
The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium will host potentially the most appealing boxing match of the year on September 25th, as Anthony Joshua returns to the ring to defend his WBA (Super), IBF, IBO, and WBO heavyweight titles against Oleksandr Usyk.
It may not be the fight that many fans would have been hoping for this year, but the path to a Joshua vs Tyson Fury showdown could be made much simpler by the end of this year. Joshua was last in the ring in December, as he beat Kubrat Pulev via ninth-round knockout.
However, Joshua would be unwise to look past Usyk, who has proven pedigree. The Ukrainian dominated the cruiserweight division, as he became the fight boxer in the history of the sport to hold all of the world titles. He made his step up to the heavyweight division with a win over Chazz Witherspoon in 2019, before he beat Derek Chisora by unanimous decision last year.
This heavyweight contest promises to be a massive event, as Joshua makes his London homecoming. However, can the Brit get past his Ukrainian challenger?
Oct 5: Teofimo Lopez vs George Kambosos Jr
The WBA (Super), The Ring, WBO and IBF lightweight world titles will be on the line on October 5th, as Teofimo Lopez returns to the ring for the first time since his shocking victory over Vasyl Lomachenko. Lopez will face the mandatory challenger for the titles in New York, as Australian lightweight George Kambosos Jr will be his opponent at the Hulu Theater.
It’s fair to say that it hasn’t been plain sailing to get this fight on, as it has been cancelled on three occasions. It was most recently meant to be staged on August 14th, but those plans hit a brick wall after Lopez tested positive for COVID-19.
Finding a venue has also been troublesome, as the original bout was scheduled to take place in Miami, but those plans were ended due to the Marlins having a home game on the same day.
It will be fascinating to see how Lopez responds in his first fight as champion, as he is no longer the man chasing the gold, as he holds all the titles. Kambosos Jr will certainly not make life easy for the reigning champion, as he boasts a perfect 19-0 record, with ten of his wins coming by way of knockout.
Oct 9: Tyson Fury vs Deontay Wilder 3
The long-awaited trilogy fight between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder finally has a date, and the two giants will collide at the T-Mobile Arena on October 9th.
The previous two meetings between Fury and Wilder have made for captivating viewing. Their first fight in December 2018 ended in a controversial draw, before a rematch was immediately set for February 2020. There was far less controversy centered around the rematch, as Fury delivered a heavyweight masterclass, and won by TKO in the seventh round.
A battle of words ensued after that fight, with Wilder keen to emphasize that external factors were behind his loss. An original third fight was planned for July, but that was called off due to COVID. Fury’s camp believed that the time for the rematch in the contract had expired, which meant that plans for a unification fight were agreed.
However, in May, a judge ruled that Wilder and Fury 3 must happen this year. The fight was originally set for July, but was pushed back again after Fury tested positive for COVID-19. However, the final chapter in the story of these heavyweights will be written in October.
Nov 6: Canelo Alvarez vs Caleb Plant
One of the biggest fights in the second half of 2021 will see the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet return to the ring on November 6th. Canelo Alvarez will be stepping foot in the ring for the third time this calendar year, as he looks to add the IBF super-middleweight title to his collection against Caleb Plant.
Alvarez won the WBC, WBA (Super) and The Ring super middleweight titles back at the end of 2020 with a unanimous decision victory over Callum Smith. He was able to add the WBO title to that collection in May, with a stunning display against previously undefeated British champion Billy Joe Saunders at the AT&T Stadium.
Plant is certainly the most appealing fight out there for Canelo, as the American currently holds the one title that the Mexican doesn’t have. He has held the IBF title since beating Jose Uzcategui by unanimous decision in 2019. Plant has since successfully defended that title on three occasions; most recently against Caleb Truax in January of this year.
It will be a huge night in Las Vegas, but can history be made as Canelo targets becoming the unified super middleweight champion of the world.