Although in early 2020 the future of the industry looked incredibly uncertain when the possibility of having capacity crowds filling up stadiums evaporated as the pandemic set in, looking ahead to 2022, the future looks very bright for the world of boxing.
Despite all the uncertainty that 2020 held for the professional sports industry, 2021 was incredibly fruitful both for boxing fans and the industry as a whole.
For example, in May, Canelo Alvarez secured another stunning victory over Billy Joe Saunders in front of a record-breaking crowd of 73,126 in Arlington, Texas. This was followed by a string of similarly high-profile fights. Tyson Fury’s long-awaited trilogy fight with Deontay Wilder delivered everything we could have hoped for, with the Gypsy King putting on an incredible display of skill. Shortly after, this was followed by another Alvarez matchup, which saw Canelo secure ‘undisputed’ status with a brutal TKO over Caleb Plant.
Beyond some of these highlights, how will the events of 2021 continue to shape boxing as we move into 2022? And, perhaps more importantly, what does the future of the boxing industry look like?
The Fury-Joshua will probably continue to elude us
After various rounds of failed negotiations, it finally looked like the fight that all boxing fans had been waiting for was finally going to happen. With the date set for August, Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua finally signed the ink on a deal to fight in what was set to be the wealthiest heavyweight fight of all time.
This news set the boxing world alight. With a date finally set after years of negotiations and missed opportunities, boxing fans could hardly contain their excitement.
Unfortunately, however, this was soon followed by a sequence of developments that even the wildest casino gambler could not have predicted!
Following a ruling by an arbitrator that Fury owed Wilder a trilogy fight, what had seemed like a sure thing was no longer in the cards. This triggered a sequence of events in which Fury secured a victory over Wilder, with Joshua losing to Oleksandr Usyk in a dramatic turn of events. Given that Usyk dismantled Joshua in such a decisive fashion, this has called the very prospect of Fury and Joshua fighting into question.
As things currently stand, Joshua is preparing for a rematch with Usyk. On Fury’s side, he is deep in negotiations with the up and coming challenger Dillian Whyte.
However, in terms of where the once longed for matchup between the two British greats stands, this is uncertain. Based on how elusive this fight has turned out to be in the past, it seems far from a sure thing that the two will eventually meet.
Jake Paul will continue to keep grabbing headlines
Although the traditional boxing circuit has been far from devoid of exciting match-ups over the last year, the fighter grabbing by far the most headlines was the YouTuber turned boxer, Jake Paul.
Having initially got his start against the former pro-athlete Nate Robinson, Jake Paul has continued to be a dominant force in the boxing world — much to the dismay of the purists and traditionalists.
Following a distinctly amateurish performance against Robinson — after all, they were two amateurs — Paul grabbed headlines once again after he flatlined the former Bellator and ONE Championship champion Ben Askren.
However, his most challenging test came against the former UFC Champion Tyron Woodley, whom many believed would be the first true test for Paul.
Much to the surprise of the boxing world — and possibly even Paul himself — the former YouTuber cinched a victory over the trigger shy Woodley.
After a drawn-out back and forth with Tommy Fury, in which Fury eventually withdrew from the planned fight due to an injury, Woodley stepped back into the ring for a rematch against Paul. Much to the surprise of the boxing world, Jake Paul secured a stunning KO in the sixth round.
The image of Woodley quite literally flatlined on the canvas is perhaps the perfect metaphor for Paul’s rise through the ranks. It was unexpected, spectacular if a little amateurish, and headline-grabbing.
Although Paul’s next opponent is not yet settled, a buzz is already building about his next move. This in itself indicates that although the boxing community might not have fully embraced him, all eyes will be on him in 2022.
More crossovers and meme fights
Similar to how Jake Paul has managed to turn from a once thought of ‘meme-fighter’ into a legitimate up-and-coming prospect, MMA stars have flirted with the pro-boxing circuit with increasing frequency. This is a trend that looks set to continue into 2022.
We would be short-sighted to overlook the contribution of the ‘Notorious’, and controversial, Conor McGregor, who is the originator of this trend. Following his much talked about clash with Mayweather, an increasing number of MMA stars have attempted to prove their worth in the boxing ring — albeit with varying degrees of success.
While Askren and Woodley mark a low point for this trend, others have experienced much greater success. The former UFC Champion and consensus GOAT Anderson Silva is one of the lucky few who have successfully transitioned. In the summer of 2021, Silva put in a decent performance against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Most recently, Tyson Fury has flirted with the idea of stepping in the ring — be it boxing or MMA — with the current UFC Heavyweight Champion, Francis Ngannou.
While this might seem like a curious matchup on paper, it would likely result in Francis being dismantled by Fury’s far superior striking. However, the fact that current UFC stars are so openly discussing such crossovers as realistic prospects indicates the direction the boxing world looks set to take in 2022. Whether this will start to pay dividends for current or former MMA stars remains to be seen.