Boxing: Setting the stage for 2018

Boxing: Setting the stage for 2018 article feature image

Boxing’s best year in long time is about to come to a close, and it will be really hard for 2018 to hold a candle to 2017. It was also a good inaugural year for The Action Network’s boxing coverage, as we finished 2017 up 16 units.

There are some good fights coming in the first few months of 2018, and now’s as good a time as any to start breaking them down.

Errol Spence (-1325) vs. Lamont Peterson (+900), Jan. 20

Errol Spence (22-0, 19 KOs) is on the cusp of the pound-for-pound list and could end 2018 as one of the top three American boxers if all goes according to plan. He kicks things off with his first title defense against veteran Lamont Peterson (35-3-1, 17 KOs) at the Barclays Center on January 20.

This is Spence’s first fight since he won the IBF Welterweight Title with a fifth-round knockout of Kell Brook in the latter’s hometown of Sheffield, England. It was a rock solid performance from Spence, who took a major step by stopping a fighter of Brook’s stature.

Peterson as a first title defense makes sense for Spence. Peterson is a respected journeyman with whom Spence is familiar with, but he shouldn’t pose a risk of halting Spence’s ascent.

The line doesn’t offer much value, but I’ll be looking at the over/under. Spence should stop this fight, and he’s proven he has the ability to overwhelm a good fighter with his pressure. Peterson is a tough customer, but this has the feel of a really early stoppage, and I think that’s where the value will eventually be.

Anthony Joshua (-2000) vs. Joseph Parker (+900), Mar. 31

You could argue that Anthony Joshua is the face of boxing right now. After his “Fight of the Year” performance against Wladimir Klitschko in April, Joshua took over as the heavyweight kingpin, and the 2008 Olympic Gold Medalist figures to be the sport’s biggest mover and shaker in 2018.

Joseph Parker (24-0, 18 KOs) is a 25-year-old New Zealand native who has been chasing a showdown with Joshua for the past couple of years. He is the current WBO Heavyweight champion. If the fight takes place in the United Kingdom (it is rumored to be headed to Cardiff, Wales) it will be the second straight bout in the UK for Parker, who is coming off a controversial majority decision victory over Hughie Fury in September.

Joshua’s last fight was a bit of a slog, but he did finally dispatch of journeyman Carlos Takam in the 10th round. It was a bit of a weird spot for Joshua, who was supposed to fight Kubrat Pulev but had to settle for a bout with the grinder Takam after the Russian strained his pectoral. It was a fight I felt he would have trouble closing given Takam’s style and the short-notice nature of the bout.

I don’t foresee the same issues with this one. Even though Parker is a more talented fighter than Takam, Joshua will have a full training camp to prepare for the Kiwi and, compared to the Takam fight, this tilt will have a lot more juice to it. Joshua is a showman, and this time his dance partner will be a willing combatant.

Given how his fight with Takam played out, I could see the market for the over/under being skewed toward the over, putting some real value on the under. Like with the Spence fight, I could see this one ending quickly, as Joshua will look to make up for his lackluster performance his last time out.

Gennady Golovkin (-170) vs. Saul Alvarez (+145), May 5

Their first encounter was marred by a controversial draw, but the silver lining is that it looks like we will get to watch Gennady “GGG” Golovkin (37-0-1, 33 KOs) and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (49-1-2, 34 KOs) go at it again.

Most people believe Golovkin should have been declared the winner in the first fight, although it was a close battle. As well as Canelo fought in September, it seemed like Triple-G had very little trouble absorbing his most powerful and well-timed punches. Canelo’s only feasible path to victory is by outpointing Golovkin, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing given the way the judges seemed to favor him in the first bout.

With this fight still in the works, it’s not time to really get into the particulars. It will likely be the biggest fight of the first half of 2018, but for now, let’s leave it at that.

David Haye (-215) vs. Tony Bellew (+185), May 5

Haye and Bellew are not household names in the States, but the two veteran pugilists are well known to fight fans across the pond. The two longtime rivals met back in March, and Bellew, who was even bigger underdog for the first tilt, pulled off the upset with a stoppage in the 10th round.

How did he win? Well, Haye blew his knee midway through the fight and admirably tried to continue on. He made it a few more rounds but was basically a punching bag for the last 10 minutes of the bout. It was a lucky win for Bellew, who didn’t even celebrate in the ring out of respect for his rival.

Even though he broke down in the first fight, I think there is some value on Haye at this current price. He’s the superior fighter, and I’d make him closer to -310/320. All “Hayemaker” needs to do is hold up, and we should be looking at a trilogy fight sometime in late 2018.

Boxing record: 6-2-1, +16.2 units

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All odds courtesy of BetOnline and current as of 12/28

Photo: Joe Camporeale, USA Today