The boxing year has started to come alive a bit after a really dead January, with February picking up the pace, and March having a lot on the schedule, too.
As always, we have to note that now more than ever, the schedule is subject to change. Not only are we risking fighters coming up with injuries or visa issues or whatever, but COVID-19 still lingers over boxing as it does the rest of the world. If you lined up a parlay bet on all 10 of these fights actually happening in March, the odds would be pretty strong against it, let’s put it that way.
But for now, here are my picks for the top 10 fights coming in March.
10) Artur Beterbiev vs Adam Deines (Mar. 20, ESPN/ESPN+)
Much-delayed, maybe will actually get done this time. For a fight that doesn’t shape up to be much and that nobody was asking to see, it’s been a lot of trouble to get Beterbiev-Deines in a ring.
The TL;dr version is that Beterbiev (15-0, 15 KO) was supposed to face mandatory challenger Meng Fanlong last year, but that didn’t happen with visa issues, etc., and then Deines (19-1-1, 10 KO) — the man Meng beat to become mandatory — was instead the new mandatory. And then that didn’t happen for this reason or that, injuries to Beterbiev, other stuff, whatever. It is slated for Moscow on the 20th now.
Beterbiev is a huge favorite here and will be expected to steamroll Deines, in all honesty, but two things: there aren’t that many really good matchups set for this month, and it is a chance to see Beterbiev back in action, which is always fun.
9) Claressa Shields vs Marie-Eve Dicaire (Mar. 5, PPV)
The “GWOAT” is headed to PPV! Not so much because they were dying to do that, but because the options are running a little thin in basically every way. Showtime has long supported Shields’ pro career, but they appear to have had no interest in this one, or at least not enough at the price the Shields team would have wanted.
How do I put this without upsetting the “GWOAT” or her team? I think Shields (10-0, 2 KO) is genuinely too good compared to the available opposition to do much more than she’s already done in boxing, and that goes for generating any more interest than she has to this point, too. There’s just really no intrigue in her fights. The last time anyone thought she might actually have a chance of losing, she beat Christina Hammer with ease.
And by the way, I realize what I’m saying makes anyone wonder why I’d have it on a list of “best” fights for a month, but it is a significant fight, too. And the options of what I’d have on the list instead (David Benavidez vs Ronald Ellis, Chantelle Cameron vs Melissa Hernandez, Tim Tszyu vs Dennis Hogan) aren’t exactly incredible choices or matchups.
This is for all four belts at 154 pounds, so it’s an undisputed title bout. There’s nothing wrong with it as a matchup, honestly; Dicaire (17-0, 0 KO) is as good an opponent as Shields can fight at 154. This fight makes the list because it’s something of a thin month and it’s, again, not a bad matchup. I fully realize this isn’t going to get many people too excited, though.
8) Serhii Bohachuk vs Brandon Adams (Mar. 4, NBCSN)
If things hold, Ring City USA have three solid main events coming this month on NBCSN, starting with this one. Bohachuk (18-0, 18 KO) has been dusting opponents since going pro in 2017, but he hasn’t been seen much by wider audiences, with a lot of his fights streaming on Facebook. At 25, the Ukrainian wants to make a move.
Adams (22-3, 14 KO) is a good opponent, an all-around solid fighter who can punch some, and is a bigger threat at 154 than he is at 160, where he challenged Jermall Charlo for a title in 2019 and lost every round. This one has some “bombs away” potential, not only because Bohachuk likes to bring the fight, but because Adams is plenty dangerous if we get to the two of them just exchanging.
7) Alberto Machado vs Hector Tanajara Jr (Mar. 18, NBCSN)
The second of the Ring City main events, as former 130-pound titlist Machado (22-2, 18 KO) takes on unbeaten lightweight prospect Tanajara (19-0, 7 KO), with both of them looking to achieve something with a win.
Machado, of course, wants to get his name into that 135 title mix. He hasn’t fought since Dec. 2019, when he moved up and did look strong beating Luis Porozo, following two straight stoppage losses to Andrew Cancio at 130. For him, it’s still about rebounding to a degree. For the 24-year-old Tanajara, he and his team want to get his name in there with the other young lightweights. In all candor, he’s never looked like the sort of prospect that Teofimo Lopez, Ryan Garcia, Devin Haney, or Gervonta Davis have. There’s a reason he hasn’t gotten the same hype.
But Tanajara is no bum, either. He’s tall (5’10”) and rangy (75-inch reach) and he can box, and he’s passed his tests so far. Machado, 30, is a step up, a guy who can bomb. Good matchup.
6) Amanda Serrano vs Daniela Bermudez (Mar. 25, NBCSN)
The third of Ring City’s main events, and a really good matchup for women’s boxing. Serrano (39-1-1, 29 KO) is the — let’s be honest here — rare actual banger on the women’s side of the sport, a powerful puncher who has hopped weights all over the place; she had world title fights at 140, 115, and 126 back-to-back-to-back in a one-year span between 2018 and 2019.
Whatever you think of Serrano’s belt collection (it’s a lot of vacant title fights, yes), she’s a top pound-for-pound fighter. But Bermudez (29-3-3, 10 KO) sits in our current women’s pound-for-pound top 10, too. The Argentine fighter has won world titles at 115, 118, and 122, herself, and her three losses have come against fellow standouts (one to Edith Soledad Matthysse in 2011, two to Yesica Bopp in 2011 and 2014).
This fight will be for a pair of featherweight belts, both currently held by Serrano. In all reality, if you’re just generally opposed to women’s boxing, not much is going to change your mind, I don’t think, but if you’re open to it or a fan of that side of the sport, this is a really good matchup, one worth tuning in to see.
5) Lawrence Okolie vs Krzysztof Glowacki (Mar. 20, DAZN)
The 28-year-old Okolie (15-0, 12 KO) has won British, Commonwealth, and European titles at cruiserweight. He’s not a young boy in his early 20s, and he’s done as much as he’s going to really do at the domestic or regional kind of level. It’s time for him to go after a world title, and he’s doing that here, facing the 34-year-old Polish veteran Glowacki (31-2, 19 KO) for the vacant WBO belt.
You can still form a good argument that Glowacki is the No. 2 cruiserweight in the world. He lost to Mairis Briedis in 2019, yes, but that fight was next level out of pocket. A southpaw who can box, has some pop, and most important, has big experience. And he’s been in some damn good fights over the years, dating back to his epic 2015 rally win over Marco Huck, followed by a really fun battle with Steve Cunningham in 2016. Other than Briedis, he’s only lost to Oleksandr Usyk.
But Okolie will have real advantages. At 6’5”, he’s a long, tall cruiserweight, and when he commits to his punches, he can throw with some nasty power. Okolie’s biggest knock hasn’t really been about his talent thus far, just the fact that sometimes he can be dreadfully dull to watch. Glowacki may drag a good fight out of him, though, especially if Glowacki gets down on points and has to go for it. Another thing to note: both of these guys are willing to fight dirty if they must.
4) Jessica McCaskill vs Cecilia Braekhus 2 (Mar. 13, DAZN)
Last August on the streets of Tulsa, Jessica McCaskill pulled a big upset, winning a decision over Cecilia Braekhus to end Braekhus’ 11-year welterweight title reign, which included just shy of six years as undisputed champ at 147.
The scoring was not cut-and-dry. Personally, I thought Braekhus (36-1, 9 KO) did enough to win the fight, but McCaskill (9-2, 3 KO) took the majority decision. There’s some heat between these two now, too. Not to throw out goofy, stereotypical ways to describe women, but McCaskill really has a feisty sort of attitude, a good chip on her shoulder that has driven her to keep improving as a pro fighter, to the point she is now the welterweight queen, and has won titles in two divisions. Braekhus has always been sort of a dignified type, but it’s pretty clear McCaskill irks her a bit.
The 39-year-old Braekhus clearly did consider retirement, at least for a moment, after losing to McCaskill, but she changed her mind fairly quickly, and this has been planned for a while. McCaskill isn’t dramatically younger at 36, but that’s just in years. Braekhus has fought 37 pro fights and 294 rounds since 2007, while McCaskill has fought 11 times, 71 rounds in total, since 2015. The first fight was a good tactical battle, I expect this one will be, too.
3) Vergil Ortiz Jr vs Maurice Hooker (Mar. 20, DAZN)
22-year-old Golden Boy welterweight Vergil Ortiz Jr (16-0, 16 KO) hasn’t really made the sort of loud, clanging noises that, say, Teofimo Lopez or Ryan Garcia have, or even Devin Haney who has been tremendous at promoting himself since he turned pro.
But I really think Ortiz might wind up the best fighter of the lot. This is one of the most exciting young fighters in the sport. I love watching Ortiz fight — he’s got a clinical viciousness to him, and we’ve seen him use that in his last four fights, where he has just taken apart solid vets Mauricio Herrera, Antonio Orozco, Brad Solomon, and Samuel Vargas. And while we still have questions about super middleweight Edgar Berlanga and his 16-fight first round stoppage streak, Ortiz has gone into some at least slightly deeper waters, and the power was still there. Nobody’s been able to do much with him yet.
Hooker (27-1-3, 18 KO) is a really good step for Vergil, whose options are kind of limited with Golden Boy, similar to what Terence Crawford has faced as a welterweight with Top Rank. The 31-year-old Hooker, a Texan like Ortiz, is a former titleholder at 140. He was stopped in his one loss to Jose Ramirez, a total firefight from 2019. But Hooker can fight, and this is a chance for him to score a big one at 147, maybe make himself attractive for a Bud Crawford fight this year.
2) Alexander Povetkin vs Dillian Whyte 2 (Mar. 27, DAZN)
This one basically explains itself, but let’s look back on some comments from last August’s live thread, when Povetkin got off the canvas twice to brutally KO Whyte for the upset:
6:15 to 6:18 pm ET:
- “DOWN GOES POVETKIN ON A HOOK!”
- “DOWN GOES POVETKIN ON A LEFT UPPERCUT!”
- “Povetkin down twice can you believe it”
- “Nice uppercut, didn’t think that would drop him”
- “Povetkin looking every day of 41”
- “Huge swing round for Whyte”
- “4th is a BIG Whyte round”
- “Povetkin goes down but has legs. Wow! Uppercut at end of round puts Povetkin down hard! Jab still working well for Whyte”
- “Damn Whyte actually doing shit”
- “nooooo pov”
6:18 to 6:22 pm ET:
- “OH SHIT!”
- “DOWN GOES WHYTE AND IT IS OVER!!!!!!!!”
- “IT HAPPENED!”
- “Holy GOOOOOOOM”
- “Fuck, well that is Whyte screwed in terms of getting a title shot.”
- “Oh my goodness. Whyte KOD by a massive counter uppercut. Bye bye Whyte!”
- “Holy shit!”
- “oooohhhh my god!!!!!!!!!”
- “Whyte was asleep before he hit the floor”
- “Goddamnit, do I love heavyweight boxing.”
- “That is heartbreaking for Dillian. That is genuinely one of the most shocking turnarounds in history.”
- “Fucking brutal, went down like a chopped down tree.”
- “wow he was lights out before he hit the ground”
- “41 years old may hurt chin and reflexes but savvy tactical brilliance gains help make up for it.”
- “Easily knock out of the year. Might be upset of the year as well”
- “Povetkin didn’t have slow hands in that uppercut. That mofo snapped like lightning”
- “Awesome uppercut, dropped him like a sack of potatoes”
Povetkin (36-2-1, 25 KO) and Whyte (27-2, 18 KO) will meet again in Gibraltar, the fight having been delayed from January to March 6 to now March 27. It’s a must-see. Povetkin is 42 now, but all the pressure here is on the 32-year-old Whyte.
1) Juan Francisco Estrada vs Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez 2 (Mar. 13, DAZN)
A day before I turn however old it’ll be — 30 or 40 or something, who keeps track anymore? — Matchroom Boxing gifts me with a fight that I’ve wanted to see for years. So have a lot of people. So has Juan Francisco Estrada.
Estrada (41-3, 28 KO) and Chocolatito (50-2, 41 KO) met as junior flyweights way back in the ancient year of 2012, with Chocolatito winning. Over eight years later, after Estrada chasing Gonzalez up the weight classes from 108 to 112 to 115, it’s finally happening.
Rumors of Chocolatito’s demise back in 2017 were obviously greatly exaggerated. Srisaket Sor Rungvisai just turned out to be “that dude” for him, a guy he just didn’t deal with well. It’s said all the time but it’s always true: styles make fights. Ricardo Mayorga beat Vernon Forrest twice, man, and Shane Mosley couldn’t handle Vernon Forrest, and so on and so forth. Things happen in boxing.
Estrada did better against Rungvisai, losing a close decision in 2018 and coming back to beat him in 2019, but Rungvisai was hell on Estrada, too, and might have won both fights if not for an all-time puzzling tactical decision in the rematch.
So here we are. Estrada has the WBC belt at 115, Gonzalez has the WBA belt, they’re either the top two or two of the top three, four at worst in the division right now. It’s a great fight, and it’s time for it to happen. These are excellently skilled boxers, but warriors, too, and when you pit two guys like that, you can get some really special stuff. There may not be a truly better matchup that comes in 2021, quite honestly.