With boxing preparing to return, what does the future hold for Britain’s seven world champions?
The UK government’s decision to lift sanctions on domestic competitive sport on Monday – allowing bouts to take place behind closed doors – means we may be a little closer to finding out.
Mike Costello and Steve Bunce ponder the question in the latest 5 Live Boxing podcast.
Anthony Joshua – WBA, IBF & WBO heavyweight
Joshua suffered a shock defeat by Mexican Andy Ruiz Jr in New York in June 2019, before avenging the loss six months later to recapture his titles in Saudi Arabia.
He was scheduled to fight his IBF mandatory opponent, Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev, on 20 June, but the fight was postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak.
But what chance of Pulev stepping aside to allow Joshua a unification fight with WBC champion Tyson Fury?
Mike Costello: “I’m more than happy to see Joshua face Pulev next rather than going into a Joshua v Fury fight now. In this post-lockdown time, we can start to build it all again.”
Tyson Fury – WBC heavyweight
It’s not just Pulev who needs to step aside to make Joshua v Fury happen at the moment, though. ‘The Gypsy King’ was set to face Wilder for a third time on 18 July, a fight which is now likely to take place later in the year.
Steve Bunce: “Let AJ get Pulev out the way, let Fury get Wilder out the way. We had some momentum, we went to Saudi in December, to Vegas in February, and they were both stunning fights.
“But I’m not sure we’ll see either Joshua-Pulev or the Wilder-Fury fights anywhere other than possibly Saudi Arabia this year. I can’t see it being in front of 70,000 or 90,000 fans.”
Billy Joe Saunders – WBO super-middleweight
When lockdown restrictions came in, the undefeated Saunders was close finalising a deal to face Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, boxing’s best-paid fighter, in Las Vegas on 2 May.
Bunce: “I still fancy Saunders is in the driving seat for a Canelo fight. That’s based on the idea that Canelo would consider it a nice easy fight.
“He’ll look at Billy Joe’s record and see that he beat Andy Lee five years ago and David Lemieux a few years ago. He won’t see a guy who frightens him. That’s not a criticism of Billy Joe, that’s just the way the Canelo business works.
“I think Billy Joe will get his crack, this side of Christmas, in front of a limited crowd.”
Callum Smith – WBA super-middleweight
Smith was also in the running for a big-money fight against Canelo but had seemingly lost out to Saunders. The Liverpudlian was last in action when he won a close points decision against John Ryder in November.
Costello: “Smith has been talking about potentially moving up to light-heavyweight to fight Russian Dmitry Bivol. It’s a fight that could be marketed. They met as amateurs in 2012 in the build-up to the London Olympics. Bivol won that on points.
“There is also the possibility of Smith facing Billy Joe Saunders. In terms of styles, that doesn’t excite me but the build-up would make that into an event which would be well worth following.”
Josh Taylor – IBF & WBA super-lightweight
The undefeated Scot recently signed a multi-fight deal with US promoters Top Rank. He was scheduled to defend his titles against mandatory challenger Apinun Khongsong from Thailand in May.
Costello: “The fight I’d love to see is with Jose Carlos Ramirez, who holds the WBC and WBO belts. I think that’s one of the best fights that can be made in world boxing.
“It’s very winnable for Taylor; he has too much all-round ability.”
Bunce: “What I want to see is Taylor back in action. Last year was one of the finest years by a British boxer. Period.
“He’s only had 16 fights. We might have five or six more years of this kid.”
Josh Warrington – IBF super-featherweight
Warrington, who has won all 30 of his fights, rejoined Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing in February. ‘The Leeds Warrior’ was last in action when he beat France’s Sofiane Takoucht in December.
Costello: “When Warrington signed with Matchroom, the opponent being talked about was WBA regular featherweight title holder Xu Can from China.
“His record and style is the perfect match-up. It can’t be a bad fight. In his recent defence, Xu Can threw something like 1,500 punches in 12 rounds.”
Terri Harper – WBC super-featherweight
Doncaster’s Harper was the first British woman to win a WBC title. She was set to defend it against Liverpool’s Natasha Jonas on 24 April at the Doncaster Dome, a fight now likely to take place with no crowd.
Costello: “There was a brilliant ovation for her when she was on the Kell Brook undercard. The noise was every bit as loud for Harper than it was for Brook.
“There’s a slight loss in momentum in moving behind closed doors but the important thing is to get the fight with Jonas done.”
Bunce: “Harper has a lovely scheme in her plans; she beats Jonas, goes on to unify the division. Then in a year’s time she beats Katie Taylor somewhere outdoors in Yorkshire.”