The COVID-19 pandemic decimated 2020 from a boxing perspective, and it is already affecting things in a big way in early 2021.
All of the UK’s planned January shows are now off with the nation in a new lockdown, and it looks like it could be the second quarter of the year before things properly get back to normal.
2021 of course should be anchored by the long-awaited world heavyweight title unification match between Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua. That is currently slated for late May or early June according to Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn.
There are plenty of other great upcoming fights to look forward to once vaccinations against the pandemic allows for the easing of restrictions – including the Alexander Povetkin vs Dillian Whyte rematch and a cracker between Robert Helenius and Adam Kownacki.
Upcoming boxing fights: Heavyweights
Here is how the heavyweight division currently looks from a scheduling perspective:
Joseph Parker (27-2) vs Junior Fa (19-0)
Date: Saturday February 27, 2021
Planned venue: Spark Arena, Auckland New Zealand
Current odds: 1/8 Parker, 11/2 Fa
This eagerly-awaited all-New Zealand blockbuster is finally set to happen in the first quarter of 2021 after the planned December 11 date bit the dust due to injury to Fa which required surgery. Former WBO world heavyweight champion Parker will see the showdown as a stepping stone to another world-title shot while for the unbeaten Fa it represents the opportunity to catapult himself into that sort of elite level. It is hoped there will be no further delays for this fight with New Zealand currently faring well in the battle against COVID-19.
Date: Saturday March 6, 2021
Planned venue: SSE Arena, Wembley
TV: Sky Sports Box Office (UK), DAZN (United States)
Current odds: 2/5 Whyte, 2/1 Povetkin
The picture-perfect left uppercut that poleaxed Dillian Whyte in round five of their first meeting didn’t just end the fight. It wrecked that world-title dream for ‘The Body Snatcher’ – for now. It is a long road back for Dillian now, and first up he has to avenge that defeat by Alexander Povetkin. Gone is the immediate right to a challenge against Tyson Fury. This time it is his career at the very top level on the line. This one had been scheduled for Saturday November 21, 2020. But it was postponed into 2021 after Povetkin was hospitalised following a positive test for COVID-19. The bout will now be further delayed from January 30 with Povetkin still recovering from COVID-19 and the UK in the grip of a new national lockdown. The winner of course will take the WBC interim heavyeight title, and mandatory challenger position to the title held by Tyson Fury.
Robert Helenius (30-3) vs Adam Kownacki (20-1)
Date: tbc (first quarter 2021)
Planned venue: tbc
TV: Fox or Showtime
Current odds: –
The 33-year-old Finn stopped the march of promising Pole Kownacki to world level with a stoppage victory in Brooklyn in March 2020. It now appears as if Kownacki will get the chance to avenge that first career defeat with the pair likely to rematch in the United States in the first quarter of 2021. Their first meeting was a cracking scrap and Kownacki knows that he cannot slip up again. It promises to be hugely entertaining when it does happen.
Boxing Schedule: Heavyweight fighters without a confirmed next fight date
Tyson Fury: The WBC, Ring magazine and lineal heavyweight king has seen a trilogy fight with Deontay Wilder and a planned December 5 date (likely against Agit Kabayel) fall through. Now he says he will be back in 2021. That will likely be against Wilder, or more probably the unification match with Joshua.
Anthony Joshua: Crushing defeat of Kubrat Pulev in December 2020 showed he is as good as ever. Now all roads surely lead to that massive showdown with Fury. Or just maybe another mandatory defence – this time against WBO #1 Oleksandr Usyk.
Oleksandr Usyk: Mandatory contender for Joshua’s WBO heavyweight title. Hoping to get his shot next in early 2021. Whether that will be against AJ remains to be seen. Should the latter vacate, Usyk could end up meeting the winner of Dubois vs Joyce.
Andy Ruiz Jr: Had been slated to meet Chris Arreola in late 2020 but now appears he will not fight until 2021. Appears to be making a concerted effort to get in proper shape for his next run at a heavyweight title.
Luis Ortiz: His 46-second defeat of Alexander Flores told us little about his remaining elite credentials. 2021 should tell us much more.
Michael Hunter: Returned in December with an easy defeat of Shawn Laughery, and now all the talk is of a potential showdown with Croatian prospect Filip Hrgovic.
Kubrat Pulev: At the age of 39, appears to be done at world-title level after a crushing ninth-round knockout at the hands of Joshua in London in December. The road back to those rarified levels may be too long for the tough Bulgarian.
Filip Hrgovic: Posted another impressive win in early November against the seasoned Rydell Booker. A potential showdown with Hunter is intriguing.
Zhilei Zhang: The Chinese giant defeated Devin Vargas in early November and at 37 will need to stay active and continue to move up the ladder.
Oscar Rivas: Has not been out since a July 2019 defeat by Whyte, and has been mentioned as a possible for the WBC’s controversial Bridgerweight division.
Agit Kabayel: Unbeaten German who had been slated to challenge for Tyson Fury’s WBC belt on December 5, before that date was cancelled.
Carlos Takam: Was mentioned as a possible December 5 opponent for Fury. Another seasoned veteran who should be out again in 2021.
Dereck Chisora: Put in a highly respectable showing in his PPV showdown with Usyk on October 31. Still a real test for anybody.