Ranking WBC mandatory fights: From Shakur-Cruz to Spence-Thurman and more

Sports

The WBC’s recent announcement of mandatory world title fights and eliminators has produced some solid matchups to look forward to. Some of those fights make sense while others are a bit underwhelming.

At super middleweight, we already knew the David Benavidez-Caleb Plant winner will be the mandatory challenger to undisputed champion Canelo Alvarez, a fight you cannot complain about as it matches the division’s No. 2 versus the No. 3, according to the latest ESPN divisional rankings.

But what about the others? What’s going to be a hit and what’s not so hot? Nick Parkinson ranks the WBC’s latest mandatory fights with the clear understanding that some of these may never come to fruition, and Mike Coppinger shares his thoughts on the chances of the fights actually happening.


No. 1: Errol Spence vs. Keith Thurman for Spence’s welterweight title

Spence versus welterweight and pound-for-pound rival Terrence Crawford for the undisputed championship remains the fight to make in boxing today, bigger than any other in terms of money, interest and significance. That’s also what makes Spence vs. Thurman so important.

Spence (28-0, 22 KOs), 32, who holds the WBC, WBA and IBF belts at 147 pounds, was in advanced talks to fight Crawford, but negotiations collapsed as has been the case with many other big fights in 2022. Both champions will fight alternative opponents next, leaving boxing fans to hope they can agree terms in 2023. Thurman (30-1, 22 KOs), 33, a former champion, has boxed only once in two-and-a-half years. Can he rediscover his old form to dash hopes of Spence-Crawford ever being made?

Chance it happens: 95%. When talks between Spence and Crawford collapsed, PBC turned its attention to Thurman. Spence has long vowed to never fight Thurman because he wasn’t given a title shot against him years ago, but it appears this bout will happen. –Coppinger


No. 2: Shakur Stevenson vs. Isaac Cruz, lightweight eliminator

Lightweight is arguably the most exciting division in boxing right now and a younger generation is attracting interest.

The prospect of Stevenson (19-0, 9 KOs), 25, who unanimously outpointed Robson Conceicao in September, fighting either Haney or former pound-for-pound No. 1 Vasiliy Lomachenko next year makes Stevenson vs. Isaac Cruz (24-2-1, 17 KOs), 24, from Mexico, a great matchup. Haney (29-0, 15 KOs), 23, the undisputed lightweight champion, is in talks to face Lomachenko (17-2, 11 KOs), 34, early next year.

Chance it happens: 10%. PBC is looking to build Cruz into a Mexican star, and the style matchup with Stevenson, a slick boxer, would undoubtedly make the pressure fighter look bad. Besides, this isn’t for a title, but a future shot. Additionally, Top Rank and PBC rarely do business together except for big-time fights. –Coppinger


No. 3: Stephen Fulton vs. Brandon Figueroa for the featherweight interim title

This is a great fight for the interim WBC featherweight title, with current champ Rey Vargas set to move up a weight division and vacating the belt. It matches ESPN’s No. 1 at junior bantamweight (Fulton), with the No. 3 and if the rematch is anything like the first time they met, you don’t want to miss it.

Fulton (21-0, 8 KOs), 28, edged a majority decision against Figueroa (23-1-1, 18 KOs), 25, in a 122-pound title unification fight in one of 2021’s best fights, and he then dominated Daniel Roman to retain the WBC and WBO junior featherweight titles in June. Figueroa, who has since notched up a sixth-round stoppage win against Carlos Castro, claims he was robbed against Fulton. He gets the chance to set the record straight in a fight that demands answers.

Chance it happens: 90%. Their best fight was one of the best action fights of the year. A rematch would be a welcome addition to the schedule. –Coppinger


No. 4: Jermall Charlo vs. Carlos Adames for Charlo’s middleweight title

Some would have liked to see Charlo matched against other available opponents (Jaime Munguia and Chris Eubank Jr., or even Demetrius Andrade for example) but Adames has earned his shot by producing some impressive displays.

Adames recently stopped Juan Macias Montiel, after a majority decision victory over Sergiy Derevyanchenko last year, and there is no denying this former junior middleweight deserves his chance at upsetting the odds against the division’s No. 1 fighter.

Chance it happens: 85%. Both boxers are with PBC, and it’s an intriguing matchup given Adames’ recent string of performances. Charlo hasn’t competed since June 2021 and there’s always the chance he makes his long-promised jump to 168 pounds. –Coppinger


No. 5: Nonito Donaire vs. Jason Moloney for the vacant bantamweight title

With Japan’s Naoya Inoue planning to go up a weight class after his fight against Paul Butler on Dec. 13 in an undisputed bantamweight championship bout, Donaire and Moloney could be next to fight for the vacant WBC world bantamweight title.

Donaire (42-7, 28 KOs), 39, has been great to watch over the years but he’s past his best after being wiped out by Inoue in two rounds in June. It’s a good fight for Moloney (25-2, 19 KOs), 31, who has kept busy with three fights in 2022 and registered four wins since his own stoppage loss to Inoue two years ago.

Chance it happens: 90%. The fighters are with different promoters, but this isn’t a difficult matchup to make, and neither man is likely to turn down a title shot. –Coppinger


No. 6: Deontay Wilder vs. Andy Ruiz Jr., heavyweight eliminator to become Tyson Fury’s mandatory challenger

As entertaining as all three Fury-Wilder fights were, we don’t need a fourth helping. There are better fights to make.

Wilder (43-2-1, 42 KOs) remains a big puncher, as he showed with his first round KO of Robert Helenius in October, but he was beat handily by Fury in two of their three meetings (stopped in seven and 11 rounds), and the first was a controversial draw (many thought Fury won that too). If Wilder beats Ruiz, only Wilder’s camp will be calling for a fourth fight after Fury knocked Wilder out a year ago.

Ruiz (35-2, 22 KOs), the former WBA, IBF and WBO champion, would be a better matchup for Fury, but an undisputed title fight with Oleksandr Usyk will be Fury’s priority in 2023.

Chance it happens: 99%. PBC, which promotes both former heavyweight champs, has been planning this matchup for the spring. If Canelo doesn’t fight on Cinco De Mayo weekend following wrist surgery, the highly anticipated bout could land there. –Coppinger

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