Boxing in 2022: Five burning questions about the sport’s biggest stars heading into a new year
The sport of boxing is poised to continue building on its tremendous momentum in 2021 with many stars hoping to square off. The past year has given us some of the craziest moments of the new millennium while setting the stage for some of the young stars to really take off in 2022. Plus, the Paul brothers continue to be a force to watch as they turn the sport on its axis and demand attention.
With so much to choose from, CBS Sports writers have taken it upon themselves to answer some of the biggest questions at the forefront as another 12 months of fighting are set to begin this weekend.
Now let’s dive into questions and predictions from “Morning Kombat” host Brian Campbell as well as writer Brent Brookhouse.
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Which division will surprise the most in 2022?
Campbell: junior welterweight
While the 140-pound division has always had world-class boxers in recent years, from Terence Crawford’s run to the undisputed championship to the dueling reigns of Josh Taylor and Jose Ramirez that culminated in their unification in 2021, it’s been a time since the split was considered deep. Former unified champion Danny Garcia’s full-time move to welterweight in 2015 saw the majority of big names trail him up to 147 pounds. But the recent tease of former lightweight king Teofimo Lopez Jr.’s interest in continuing Taylor’s four-belt reign would be a major addition to the top of the ladder at junior welterweight and could produce its own effect. training. Ramirez will open the year looking to bounce back from his opening loss to Jorge Pedraza while Regis Prograis, Jose Zepeda and Viktor Postol add significant depth. But if Lopez was followed by a number of young lightweights who look set to come out, including Gervonta Davis, there could be enough big business at 140 pounds in 2022 for even casual fans to take notice.
Stream: Lightweight (but for all the wrong reasons)
While there remain plenty of reasons to be excited about boxing’s 135-pound division with all the young talent available, 2022 could very well be another year where Gervonta Davis, Ryan Garcia and Devin Haney fail to hold their own. face to face. Teofimo Lopez looks like his time at lightweight is over after losing to George Kambosos and it’s unlikely any of the lightweights will chase him down a division with no titles on the line. That leaves everyone chasing Kambosos, who absolutely deserves attention, but regardless of which two fighters lose the Kambosos draw, they are unlikely to set foot in the ring with each other. Add in Vasiliy Lomachenko – who is also looking for the Kambosos fight – and you have another star in the division who is unlikely to face these young stars. There is still a ton of talent in the division and they can all be in intriguing fights. These fights are just not likely to be against each other.
Who are Jake Paul’s logical opponents in 2022?
Campbell: Everyone from Paul to MMA fans would likely be interested in some sort of crossover boxing match between him and a number of UFC stars, including Conor McGregor, Nate Diaz and Jorge Masvidal. But the control President Dana White currently has over UFC fighter contracts is likely preventing that scenario from happening anytime soon. Because of this, Paul might enjoy a bit of legit fighting a “real” boxer. His recent flirtation with the idea of fighting former middleweight titleholder Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. is smart, especially if the 35-year-old son of a boxing legend continues his four-game losing streak in his seven last fights and an almost unforgivable. lack of professionalism every time a fight gets tough. Yes, Chavez just lost to former MMA star Anderson Silva, 46, last year in a legitimate boxing match. But the fight would still offer Paul some critical respect if he passed a potentially dangerous test while also being the perfect setup for a marketable fight against Silva, if he won, to close out the year.
Stream: Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. remains the best option. He’s a former world champion and a “real boxer”, two things all Paul doubters demand he address. Many people have even suggested that Paul only has to face a boxer 5-0 to tick the “just fight a real boxer” box. Of course, those goalposts will move Paul’s every fight until his inevitable loss or retirement. Yes, Chavez lost to Anderson Silva in his most recent fight, a combination of Chavez being one of the big blunders in boxing at this time and Silva putting in a ridiculous performance. Yet Paul steps into the ring with a former champion and a man who holds 53 wins over “real boxers”? That would be a feather in Paul’s cap that would be hard to ignore for a 5-0 YouTuber.
Who finishes the year on top at lightweight?
Campbell: Devin Haney
Given the boxing network and political divide, which make pitting the best against each other more of a difficulty than an expected luxury, it’s hard to gauge which fights might actually take place. If it was a round robin, it would be hard to count former unified king Vasiliy Lomachenko or such a dangerous rising star as Gervonta Davis. But as new champion George Kambosos Jr. continues to negotiate a financial reward for his upset of Teofimo Lopez Jr. in 2021, it looks like undefeated WBC champion Devin Haney has the inside lane to ink a fight. Haney would likely be favored over Kambosos, even if the fight took place in the defending champion’s backyard in Australia. And given the obligatory responsibility of an undisputed champion, Haney would likely leave 2022 as the new face of the division.
Stream: Vasily Lomachenko
As I’ve already stated in our boxing predictions, I think Vasiliy Lomachenko ends the year with three of the division’s four belts, with Devin Haney remaining WBC champion. Lomachenko is probably the easiest for George Kambosos’ people to strike a deal with, especially if Kambosos stands firm on the men who come to Australia to fight him. Gervonta Davis will just keep fighting for secondary titles – when everyone around him is pretending it’s world championships – and Ryan Garcia can’t seem to get back in a ring. That leaves Haney and Lomachenko as the likeliest options for Kambosos. Whoever took the fight would be preferred over the champion. It must also be taken into account that Kambosos remains at the top of the division, both because it has proven that it can win “the big one” and because it is not impossible to see the political game of boxing allow him to take a mandatory defense against an inferior. -level opponent or two simply because the sport likes to shoot itself in the foot.
Who finishes the year on top at welterweight?
Is this the year we finally get the Errol Spence Jr.-Terence Crawford superfight to define the post Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao era at 147 pounds? If Crawford, a promotional free agent, signs with PBC, that seems much more likely. Spence will first have to go through WBA champion Yordenis Ugas in their unification scheduled for April, but the winner of a Spence-Crawford fight just before his brilliant potential reaches its expiration point in mid-age and wounds, the winner would be the new rightful king. In the past, both fighters have had their moments becoming the favorite in the public eye to win the highly publicized fight. Spence, however, seems to have more questions to answer given his physical setbacks in recent years, including surgery in 2021 on a detached retina. Crawford, who turns 35 in September, is not getting any younger, but he just proved in his first ever elite welterweight test against Shawn Porter last year that he is the current favorite.
Stream: Errol Spence Jr and Terence Crawford
Is it cheating? Crawford vs. Spence is the “must have” fight in the division, just as it has been for years. With Crawford out of the Top Rank camp, the fight is easier to fight now than it was before. Still, there are enough other names in the division for both men to face while still finding reasons not to get in the ring with each other. The two would win their fights throughout the year but not face off, leaving the question of who the welterweight king really is still up in the air.
Who is the star of 2022?
Campbell: Tim Tszyu happens and the rest of the 154-pound division must take heed. Hall of Fame son Kostya Tszyu has cleared every hurdle placed in front of him in the past two years at national level in his native Australia, including stoppage wins over Jeff Horn and Dennis Hogan. It’s time for the 27-year-old to take his talents to the biggest stage in the United States where a name-laden division, coming and going, awaits him. Tszyu is a confident fighter with a level of poise seemingly beyond his years. He’s also a brutal puncher and looks set to make the division his own over the next 12 months.
Stream: Subriel Matias has a chance to continue his redemption story on January 22 when he takes on Petros Ananyan on Showtime. Ananyan upset Matias in February 2020. Although the result was a bit shocking, it was somewhat understandable. Ananyan’s first fight came a fight after the tragic death of Maxim Dadashev following his TKO loss to Matias. Matias looked to have regained the lead straight after the loss to Ananyan with a dominating pair of wins over prospects Malik Hawkins and Batyrzhan Jukembayev. Matias has a fan-friendly style and junior welterweight is a compelling division with plenty of good matchups. Between a made-for-TV story of tragedy and redemption, an eye-catching style and a division where big fights are in his future, 2022 could be a huge year for Matias.