With barely a month left in the year, it’s time to look ahead at 2020 and all of its wonderful possibilities. So, without further ado, here is a wish-list of five PBC fights we hope to see in the new year.
Andy Ruiz Jr. vs. Deontay Wilder (Heavyweight)
Whether this fight happens in 2020 or not remains to be seen. Deontay Wilder (42-0-1, 41 KOs), the undefeated WBC World Heavyweight Champion, is fresh off last Saturday’s rematch win versus Luis Ortiz, a bout that saw Wilder deliver yet another stunning one-punch KO victory.
Andy Ruiz Jr. (33-1, 22 KOs) will deal with his own rematch when he and Anthony Joshua square off again on Saturday, December 7. Of course, Wilder has other business to sort out before he can entertain a Ruiz fight. He is likely to face Tyson Fury next in a rematch of their draw last December.
But if Wilder wins, and Ruiz does the same, this means the undisputed heavyweight title would once again belong to an American. Plus, the heavyweight division could finally have an undisputed champion.
Moreover, it should make for an entertaining fight, given the styles at play. A potential showdown would pit the hair-trigger hand-speed of Ruiz against the unmitigated power of Wilder. Ruiz showed he had an iron chin versus Joshua. The question is whether or not he can withstand a Wilder right hand, easily the most devastating cross in the sport today.
Though Wilder’s skills aren’t textbook, he has superb reflexes and a keen knowhow of how to flash the jab to set up his straight right. And really, when you possess power like his, there’s no need to be overly deft. But if Ruiz, far more dexterous than given credit for, can surprise Wilder with combinations as he tries to wade inside, Wilder may find it challenging to unload his power.
David Benavidez vs Caleb Plant (Super Middleweight)
This is an alluring unification bout featuring fighters with distinct styles. David Benavidez (22-0, 19 KOs) is as natural a talent as they come: a tall, lanky bruiser who can put together combinations as well as anybody in his weight class. His poise and confidence belie his 22 years of age, as was evident in his last outing against veteran southpaw Anthony Dirrell. Benavidez stalked the cagey Dirrell en route to a ninth-round stoppage to win the WBC world 168-pound title.
Still, Dirrell was able to neutralize Benavidez’s offense at times by maneuvering around the ring and working behind his jab, a fact that did not unnoticed by the technically-sound Caleb Plant.
This the mf who’s suppose to beat me up— CalebPlant (@SweetHandsPlant) September 29, 2019
Certainly, Plant (19-0, 11 KOs) would have to do his best to keep the fight on the outside; it may not be in his best interest to trade with Benavidez. Still, Plant will need more than the jab to keep Benavidez honest. Mixing in counter left hooks and straight rights will be key. In his title-winning performance against Jose Uzcategui last January, Plant showed that his punches carry pop as he scored two knockdowns of the hard-hitting Venezuelan. The big unknown is whether Plant has the motor to box Benavidez for 12 rounds. If you’re Benavidez, you’re buoyed by the fact that Uzcategui was able to rally late to land some big shots on Plant. In the end, Plant held him off. Could he do the same versus Benavidez?
Jermall Charlo vs. Julian Williams II (Middleweight)
It has all the ingredients for a scintillating rematch: two top fighters in their primes with history. Recall that Jermall Charlo (29-0, 21 KOs) knocked out Julian Williams in vicious fashion back in 2016 as a 154-pounder before he moved up to middleweight, where he is now the WBC champion and will defend that title versus Dennis Hogan on Saturday, December 7, live on SHOWTIME (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT). There was a lot of bad blood leading up to Charlo-Williams, thanks mostly to Williams, who accused Charlo of trying to duck him, going so far as to calling him a “turkey.” It may not have turned out so well for Williams in the short run, but he retooled himself over the next few years.
Last April, Williams (27-1-1, 16 KOs) was a heavy underdog versus unified 154-pound champion Jarrett Hurd. Yet Williams dominated, unveiling nearly every skill in the book en route to a points win. Williams is the now the man at super welterweight—and he has options. Jermall’s younger brother, Jermell, rematches WBC world 154-pound titlist Tony Harrison on Saturday, December 21 on FOX (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT). Last December, Harrison wrested that title away from Charlo via controversial decision. Williams could face the winner in a unification bout. Or he could move up to 160 and attempt to exact revenge against the only man to beat him. No matter which direction he takes, the fans can’t lose.
Gervonta Davis vs. Leo Santa Cruz (Super Featherweight)
Leo Santa Cruz (36-1-1, 19 KOs) is now a four-division champion after easily outpointing fellow Mexican-American Miguel Flores on the Wilder-Ortiz 2 undercard.
Gervonta Davis (22-0, 21 KOs), the rising star from Baltimore, says he wants next. On Saturday, December 28, Davis faces Yuriorkis Gamboa for a vacant lightweight title at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia, live on SHOWTIME (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT). However, Davis, a two-time 130-pound champion, says the weight climb is more of an excursion than a long-term plan. If so, and if Davis gets past Gamboa, we could see him glove up against Santa Cruz in what figures to be an all-out offensive tussle. At 130, the 25-year-old Davis has steamrolled his competition, but Santa Cruz, 31, would easily be the toughest test of his career—and vice versa.
Guillermo Rigondeaux vs. Luis Nery (Bantamweight/Super Bantamweight)
There may not be a higher skills matchup on the docket.
Cuba’s Guillermo Rigondeaux, a career 122-pounder, is now moving back down to 118-pounds to challenge for a world title there versus Liborio Solis December 21 on the Harrison-Charlo 2 undercard in Ontario, California. If he wins, Rigondeaux (19-1, 13 KOs) could face Luis Nery, the dangerous Mexican and fellow southpaw, at either 118- or 122-pounds.
Nery (30-0, 24 KOs) can flat out fight. He goes to the body frequently, throws combinations, and employs a tricky overhand left. In years past, Rigondeaux favored an intensely economical approach in the ring with an aversion to mixing it up on the inside. But if his last fight against Julio Ceja was any indication, Rigondeaux may have a new philosophy on fighting. Against Ceja, Rigondeaux fought in the pocket, trading (and eating) big shots before scoring an explosive eighth-round stoppage, courtesy of his vaunted straight left. Has Rigondeaux lost his legs? That remains to be seen.
Whatever the case, a Rigondeaux-Nery matchup figures to be one of the more intriguing fights to make in the lower weight classes. To be sure, you’ll never see more heatseeking overhand lefts in a fight.