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Newsletter: The Fight Corner: A 2019 top fights wish list

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A Gennady Golovkin-Canelo Alvarez rematch seems likely this year.
(Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Hi, my name is Lance Pugmire, and welcome to our weekly boxing/MMA newsletter. This newsletter will be delivered right to your inbox every week if you sign up here. Let’s get right to the news.

Just like some learned Christmas morning, we don’t get everything we ask for.

Boxing fans may be the ultimate gluttons for punishment on this point. The most obvious fights can be the most difficult to make, so as we set out to craft our 2019 wish list, a rating system is required to realistically measure how high we should get our hopes up.

Ten means you can take it to the bank that the bout will happen. One means you better keep your hopes muted in the range they were when you asked for that Bugatti like Floyd Mayweather Jr. drives.

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2018 will be known as the year that saw the rise of streaming apps like ESPN Plus and DAZN while marking the demise of legendary HBO, which, under Peter Nelson, surrendered to the new platforms.

If boxing was formerly separated by those “across the street” Manhattan neighbors HBO and Showtime, the sport has now moved toward further possible fragmentation with Bob Arum’s Top Rank on ESPN, Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions on Showtime and Fox, and Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions and Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing mostly on DAZN.

De La Hoya proclaims he’s interested in making the best fights possible and Hearn has said, “I’m not going to hold guys back from a life-changing contract,” which every fighter should demand of their promoter.

So let’s bask for a minute here in the good will of the holidays and think the best of the fight makers’ intent while now measuring their sincerity.

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Anthony Joshua vs. Deontay Wilder, heavyweights: Wilder’s compelling Dec. 1 draw with Tyson Fury was entertaining and provided the priceless moment of Fury rising from a 12th-round dead pose to remain unbeaten, setting up a deserved rematch that should take place by June.

Yet, Joshua-Wilder beckons, and while Joshua and Hearn seem committed to an April 13 bout at Wembley Stadium, the Wilder bout is ripe now and should happen in 2019.

Rating: 2

Vasiliy Lomachenko vs. Mikey Garcia, lightweights: While Garcia dares to move up two weight classes to pursue his fifth weight class belt against unbeaten welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. on March 16 in Texas, Lomachenko is set for a three-belt unification April 12 at Staples Center.

There’s not a more perfect fight to make than this one, but with Arum handling Lomachenko and Haymon tied to Garcia, it has issues. Even with a surprise Garcia victory in March, this meeting has merit as it would further Garcia’s rare feats of wearing five weight-class belts with the potential to wear all four 135-pound belts.

Rating: Four

Errol Spence Jr. vs. Terence Crawford, welterweights: The best idea that’s emerged so far is to let PBC handle one of these fights on Showtime or Fox, and let ESPN have the other.

Both bouts have the ability to become classics, a return to the era of Leonard-Hagler-Hearns-Duran, where the talent ensures high drama.

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Spence, from Texas, and Crawford, from Nebraska, flashed the appeal of their rivalry when they debated their situation in front of Arum earlier this year.

Since the cupboard is bare for Crawford on the Top Rank side and Spence can let fellow PBC-linked welterweight champions Shawn Porter and Keith Thurman fight around the summer, the timing is ideal.

Rating: Five

Jarrett Hurd vs. Jermell Charlo, super-welterweights: This collision course of champions was paused Saturday when Charlo lost his WBC belt to Tony Harrison by a disputed decision in Brooklyn, but Hurd wanted a hometown fight in the spring anyway. So if Charlo can regain the title, a showdown with Hurd for three belts not only needs to happen, it’s being scripted by Haymon, so expect it by late summer-early fall.

Rating: 10

Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin, middleweights: We’ve seen it twice now with neither man falling, so the appetite isn’t what it was before their first meeting.

But the narrowness of the first two fights does beg for a trilogy to help settle the argument. That’s why Golovkin doing anything but joining DAZN would be beyond puzzling given the length of the remainder of his career.

Alvarez will fight someone else, likely fellow champion Daniel Jacobs, on May 4 in Las Vegas, but then that decisive date with Golovkin will loom – a third straight September of a pure grudge match.

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Rating: Eight

Leo Santa Cruz vs. Gary Russell Jr., featherweights: This is not an endorsement for the quality of what this fight could become, but these champions need to fight each other to settle who’s best in the division.

Santa Cruz might find Russell’s speed and skill more complex than anything he’s ever dealt with, and Russell could use the exposure of a fight like this.

Santa Cruz says he’s told Haymon he wants Russell this year, and their bond is such, the Southland champion should get what he desires.

Rating: Eight

Making those bouts will lead to a successful 2019, and now let’s look back to name the Los Angeles Times’ winners of the year that was:

Fighter of the year: Oleksandr Usyk, cruiserweight.

The Ukrainian close friend of Lomachenko unified the division by winning the first-ever World Boxing Super Series competition, topped that by producing a thunderous knockout of former champion Tony Bellew and set himself up as a player in the heavyweight division.

Trainer of the year: Anatoly Lomachenko

Vasiliy’s Oxnard-based father should win this award from the Boxing Writers Assn. of America for the second year in a row after directing Usyk through his breakout campaign and guiding his sore-shouldered son through his first pro knockdown to rally and defeat veteran champion Jorge Linares, and then unify titles earlier this month.

Fight of the year: Hurd knocking down Cuba’s Erislandy Lara in the 12th round to win a combative, close bout for two 154-pound belts possessed everything sought in the defining battle on the calendar: high stakes, desperation, skill.

Until next time

Stay tuned for future newsletters. Subscribe here, and I’ll come right to your inbox. Something else you’d like to see? Email me. Or follow me on Twitter @latimespugmire


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