Looking into the 2024 Crystal Ball

ProBox TV News staffers gaze into the year ahead and ponder what fights and fighters will stand out, who will carry the most clout, whether the Amazon deal will work out for all concerned and what might happen up at heavyweight.

Topics of discussion also include Saudi Arabian cash, anti-doping, the welfare of ex fighters and how to make matches the fans want.

Who will be the breakout star of 2024?

Tris Dixon: I’m going with Ben Whittaker. He has a great upside, scored one of the best knockouts of 2023 but has been frustrated with injuries. If he has a clear run at 2024, a lot of people will be talking about him as a world champion in 2025.

Lukie Ketelle: Richard Torrez Jr. His career has been uneventful so far, but he has loads of personality and is one of the best interviews in the sport. He fights like Tommy Morrison and talks like a college philosophy professor. When he steps up in competition the likeable nature of Torrez will shine. He is going to be a lot of fun – and 2024 I believe will be his year. Top Rank Inc has a proven track record of building stars.

Kieran Mulvaney: Can you be a breakout star if you've already been on a couple of Showtime PPV undercards? If yes, then I'm going for Elijah Garcia, who almost unnoticed has been climbing the middleweight rankings with a series of impressive performances, with wins over Amilcar Vidal, Kevin Salgado and Jose Resendiz making for a hugely successful 2023. In a middleweight division ripe for the taking, don't be surprised to see him make some serious moves in 2024.

Declan Warrington: Adam Azim. He’s not just a fine natural talent, he has all of the necessary conditions to make significant progress. His trainer Shane McGuigan, as he did with Carl Frampton and Josh Taylor, is proven at guiding fighters to the top of their divisions at considerable speed, and his promoter and broadcaster, BOXXER and Sky Sports, are not only determined to make worthwhile statements throughout 2024, but have identified Azim as one of their fighters with the potential to help them do so.

Alan Dawson: Though Floyd Mayweather protege Curmel Moton made one of the most anticipated debuts of quite some time when he fought for the first time in 2023, he has a gym-mate called Robert Meriwether III who, for me, has just as much potential. Meriwether III is a joy to watch train because his fluidity belies his teenage years. He has swag, and pop to his punches, but the only thing holding him back, really, is activity. He fought only once this year. However, I’m hearing he could fight 4-6 times in 2024 and that would be more than enough to see him break through.

Sonny Waghorn: Dominican Olympian Rohan Polanco is worth a mention. He’s made light work of high-level competition and I believe we’ll see him taking big fights in the year to come as he’s signed with Top Rank. A mean pressure fighter with excellent fundamentals, he’ll give trouble to most fighters at the top level in the division. 

Abraham Gonzalez: I’m going with the young Puerto Rican contender Xander Zayas. This will be the year he either headlines on Puerto Rican Day Parade weekend in June at the Madison Square Garden or he gets a significant marketing push for that event as the co-main. It’s always been Zayas, even when Top Rank had Edgar Berlanga as he has been accepted more by the Puerto Rican boxing fans than any other fighter. Zayas will solidify himself as a cash cow by the end of 2024.

Ben Blackwell: I truly believe Caroline Dubois is going to be female boxing’s next star. Dubois has a great temperament and willingness to improve knowing she is far from the finished article and has a great rapport with her trainer, Shane McGuigan. Dubois is already in the conversation to face the likes of Katie Taylor, Chantelle Cameron, Natasha Jonas and Mikaela Mayer, who are proven at the highest echelons of the sport. Broadcaster Sky Sports are doing a fantastic job at giving the girls a platform to feature and headline events and backing Dubois to be one of the major names and faces of British boxing.

What fight would do the biggest numbers of 2024?

TD: Hard to say. Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury would do huge numbers in the UK, but if that fight happens in Saudi, will it do the same? And would the high numbers be confined to the UK? Probably. Tank Davis is big business in the US, but he’s arguably lost his most lucrative challenger by beating Ryan Garcia in good fashion. I’d venture to suggest Canelo against David Benavidez could get there, but Canelo against Terence Crawford would probably be the monster.

LK: Canelo versus Terence Crawford. Would it make sense? Not really. Yet, given Crawford knocking out Errol Spence Jr., and Canelo being such a notable fighter in the sport. The intrigue of Canelo vs. Crawford would carry the fight with Crawford aiming to become a three-division undisputed world champion, and Canelo looking to fend off a game, but a much smaller challenger. 

KM: A statement of the obvious, perhaps, but the biggest fight will involve one of the sport's biggest stars against anybody with a solid chance of victory and/or a large fan base of their own. That means it will almost certainly involve Canelo Alvarez, Tank Davis or Ryan Garcia. And so, I'm going with Lukie: Canelo vs Crawford would turn the boxing world on its head. Yes, there is a significant size disparity, which Jermell Charlo couldn't come close to overcoming. But Crawford is better than Charlo and he is meaner than Charlo. With Canelo in something of a decline, the intrigue factor alone would drive sales.

DW: Saul Alvarez-Terence Crawford would, but it’s not a fight that should be a possibility until at least before Alvarez fights David Benavidez and Crawford fights Jaron “Boots” Ennis. Given Tyson Fury-Oleksandr Usyk doesn’t seem likely to have the appeal it deserves in the US, Alvarez-Benavidez – which could end the prospect of Alvarez fighting Crawford – and the growing belief that Benavidez represents the biggest threat to the world’s highest-profile fighter could be the pay-per-view event to truly launch the partnership between Premier Boxing Champions and Amazon Prime.

AD: A possible issue with these big heavyweight fights is that, though the paydays could guarantee 8-figures, Saudi Arabia may be a country where boxing goes to die in the sense that, if events high on pageantry take place in Riyadh, but only 8,000 American households buy it — like they reportedly did for Fury-Ngannou — did it really happen? With that said, Wilder-Joshua, Joshua-Ngannou, Fury-Usyk, and so on, may seem like suitable candidates here but they may struggle to appeal to boxing’s main market in America. Contrast that with Canelo- Benavidez, which features one of Mexico’s finest fighters all-time in Saul Alvarez against the people’s champion in David, and we have a sure hit for the US — particularly if it takes place on the weekend closest to Cinco de Mayo or Mexican Independence Day.

SW: Crawford vs. Ennis would do great numbers as they both have a big following, both know how to sell a fight, and it’s one of the more realistic fights that can be made in 2024. Benavidez vs. Canelo is equally a great fight for boxing.

AG: Devin Haney vs. Ryan Garcia. Call me crazy but Haney’s recent boost in popularity will push that fight to do big numbers especially since there is a ton of back story between the two. With both fighters coming off of big wins, this could be one of the biggest money fights in boxing next year.

BB: I agree with Alan that despite the best efforts of Saudi Arabia to draw eyeballs onto the sport with the promotion of major names like Joshua, Wilder, Fury and Usyk, i just can’t see the Saudi fights gaining much traction in the US in terms of PPV payment sales. Canelo remains the ultimate PPV draw and will remain so throughout 2024 regardless of who he fights. Like Lukie says, a fight between Canelo and Crawford would flip the boxing world upside down, mainly due Crawford attempting to achieve something which has not been achieved before with Crawford willing to penalise himself in taking such a risk physically in huge jump in weight. 

What is the best fight that can be made?

TD: I’m still enjoying the 135-140 guys, but would like more of the top guns to fight each other. With that in mind, I’d go with Tank versus Shakur Stevenson. But Tank v Devin Haney or Teofimo Lopez, or Teo v Haney, sign me up for any of those. This is probably the last year that I would be so keen for Dimitrii Bivol and Artur Beterbiev, too. If Beterbiev gets by Callum Smith, surely that is next?

LK: A few fights come to mind. David Benavidez versus David Morrell at super-middleweight would be a great one. Both have been heavily avoided and both are great punchers with a keen boxing IQ. Another good one would be a light-heavyweight undisputed bout between Artur Beterbiev and Dimitrii Bivol. It would simply explain who is the best of the modern era.

KM: I'm with both Tris and Luke here. On a personal level, I long to see the sanctioned violence that would be Bemavidez vs Morrell. But the skill factor that would be on display should Tank meet Shakur would be off the charts. You can say the same for either man against Devin Haney. 

DW: Fury-Usyk is both the most essential fight and the best. Fury isn’t the fighter he once was but he’ll improve considerably against the best he’ll ever face, and in a pound-for-pound context Usyk’s even better than he is. Dimitrii Bivol fighting the winner of Artur Beterbiev-Callum Smith is similarly appealing.

AD: The best fight that can be made in 2024 is one that’s probably already made — Tyson Fury vs. Oleksandr Usyk. ‘Ring of Fire’ takes place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on February 17. I’m not sure anything else can surpass the No.1 and No.2 at heavyweight, two of boxing’s best fighters over the last decade, going at it.

SW: A unification bout is due at 140lbs next year. Subriel Matias vs. Teofimo Lopez would be the ideal match-up personally, however with Devin Haney now in the mix, there’s a good possibility that any of these big fights can happen in the year to come. Also, in agreement with the guys about Bivol vs. Beterbiev. That’s a fight the fans need to see. 

AG: Teofimo Lopez vs. Subriel Matias. It’s a fight for the hardcores but Matias has seen an uptick in popularity which would make this one anticipating not only for the US fans but also within the Latino community. This fight can be placed in the big room at the Madison Square Garden and it will have no problem selling out.

BB: I’m going to side with Tris and Kieran and want to see Tank step in the ring with Stevenson. I think, technically speaking, it is one of the best fights to made and the press tour would be an entertaining prospect also. Neither fighter is a shirking violet verbally with many cross words fired over the previous year.

Who will be pound for pound No. 1 by the end of the year?

TD: It depends on the fights, but Shakur is now the sleeper after the poor manner of victory in his last fight. I’m sure he can rectify that night. If Usyk beats Fury, he will be in with a shout. I’m tempted to say Tank Davis, but I’m thinking Jesse Rodriguez is headed for great things.

LK: The old guard should have one more year before we see the next generation take over. The tried and true names of Terence Crawford and Naoya Inoue will seemingly be there. Dimitrii Bivol if he fights often should be in the conversation with Shakur Stevenson, Devin Haney, and David Benavidez lurking in the shadows.

KM: It is going to take a lot for Crawford and Inoue to no longer be occupying the top two slots. It won't be enough for any of the other contenders to win; Crawford or Inoue will have to lose, and should Crawford's loss be a competitive one against Canelo, even that might not be enough. There are some terrific boxers in and around the Top 10 right now, but Crawford and Inoue are on another level. That said, a clear Usyk win over Tyson Fury absolutely catapults him into the conversation.

DW: Unless Shakur Stevenson ends up fighting, and beating convincingly, Gervonta “Tank” Davis, Terence Crawford. Stevenson will almost certainly eventually prove himself the world’s finest fighter, but he’ll struggle to secure the opponents required to prove it in 2024, and the only fighter Crawford should be fighting who’s capable of posing him a threat is Jaron “Boots” Ennis – who isn’t likely to fight him in the coming year. As long as Crawford keeps winning, that should be enough to keep him in a position he’s deserved for longer than he’s held.

AD: Oleksandr Usyk, if he defeats Tyson Fury on February 17, would become a two-weight undisputed champion, having cleared out cruiserweight years prior. If Usyk only fights once in 2024 it’ll be hard for him to leapfrog Naoya Inoue and Terence Crawford, but if he follows a possible win over Fury with a victory over, say, Zhilei Zhang, Anthony Joshua for a third time, or Jared Anderson, then he could be a lock for Fighter of the Year, at least.

SW: I would put Naoya Inoue above Terence Crawford for the only reasons being that he has had a busier past couple of years, and that it has taken him less time to be the undisputed champion moving up in weight. Both are phenomenal fighters that have etched their names into the history books. That being said, some of Crawford’s fights have been harder to get over the line in comparison.

AG: It’s a toss-up between Terence Crawford and Naoya Inoue. Both will likely take on big fights to further cement their legacies so it’ll be a toss-up to see who does it at the highest level.

BB: I think it still remains a tough prospect for anyone to dislodge Crawford. Crawford will re-affirm his pound-for-pound standing if and when the Errol Spence Jr rematch takes place. Like Declan has said, Crawford just has to keep on winning to keep hold of his position. 

Who will be the most influential person in boxing?

TD: There is a serious amount of Saudi money flowing through boxing and it’s coming from Turki Alalshikh. If he doubles down and looks beyond the heavyweights and the cruiserweights, the face of the sport might change forever. 

LK: Jake Paul. Paul is about to be a pillar for USA Boxing and use his platform to promote great amateurs like Jahmal Harvey, Rahim Gonzales, and Joshua Edwards. I see Paul having a huge 2024 both in and out of the ring. Paul should fight some regional talent and gear up to expand his promotion. Paul is about to have one of the biggest platforms in the sport of boxing.

KM: Right now, it's still the Al Haymon-Stephen Espinoza combo. Perhaps counterintuitively, that will if anything only increase with the demise of Showtime Boxing. PBC isn't going to stop with the Amazon Prime deal; expect the announcement of a linear deal at some point, as well as some kind of digital platform. Yes, Turki Alalshikh is throwing money at those who need it the least and putting on spectacular events; but that still leaves hundreds of boxers in need of deals and dates, and PBC retains perhaps the biggest stable in the States.

DW: Al Haymon. He has, in Saul Alvarez, the world’s leading fighter contracted to Premier Boxing Champions, and in Amazon Prime the broadcaster with potentially the greatest reach. If he can persuade Alvarez to fight David Benavidez he might even succeed in surpassing anything Saudi Arabia is attempting to buy.

AD: Outside of Premier Boxing Champions boss Al Haymon and Saudi Arabia advisor Turki Alalshikh, we should keep an eye on UFC boss Dana White and TKO Group Holdings CEO Ari Emmanuel who, through 360 Promotions founder Tom Loeffler, could make a substantial impact on boxing — particularly in the US, when they decide to pull the trigger on whatever it is they’re discussing behind-the-scenes. White has told ProBox TV numerous times in 2023 that, as TKO has interests in both MMA and pro wrestling, there is room in the organization for a boxing business. With Callum Walsh continuing to rise in boxing, and with WWE and UFC being market-leaders in their respective disciplines, it won’t be long before they make the necessary moves to create — or buy — a vehicle in boxing that could become a market-leader, too.

SW: Turki Alalshikh has the biggest potential in my opinion, if he continues the momentum and starts bringing the Latin American and Asian fighters to Saudi. That would mean putting a spotlight on the smaller weight classes, but it’s something that benefits the sport. Essentially, his influence would reduce the amount of variables that stop big fights taking place – providing substantial purses and fighting on neutral turf – making Bivol vs. Beterbiev happen would be a prime example. Ticket sales may drop, but streaming should shoot up if he continues to put these stars all on the same cards with more frequency. 

AG: Turki Alalshikh is going to be the most influential person in boxing leaving the mysterious Al Haymon in a distant second. The Saudis are trying to make their home the entertainment capital of the world and with their feet securely placed in boxing, it won’t be long before Las Vegas becomes an afterthought for all of the big fights.

BB: Turki Alalshikh if he starts thinking outside of the box and begins to entice fighters from other weight classes and stops solely focusing on the heavyweights and the established but aging names. Turki has a great opportunity if he wishes to solve many of boxing’s problems with fights not being made which would please fans and give the flex to his ego which is evident on his social media accounts. I would be interested to see how he would react if and when he experiences the pitfalls of the boxing business. How will he react when he has failed in a negotiation to secure a fight? Or what if a fighter has to pull out of a fight due to an injury? Lyndon Arthur and Jarrell Miller both complained after their defeats on the ‘Day of Reckoning’ card that they were only given four-five weeks to prepare. I would always counter, a full-time professional fighter should always be ticking over, keeping fit but if ‘opponents’ are only getting four-five weeks, it is a slightly unfair advantage to those guys.

Who will emerge as the dominant heavyweight?

TD: I’m not sure there will be a dominant one by the end of the year, rather we will know that it is the time for new blood and the next generation. Who is the man to take that mantle? I honestly have no idea. We know the Next Gen is the likes of Jared Anderson and Frank Sanchez, but he will reach the heights? 

LK: In a perfect world I would say Frank Sanchez, but he seemingly can never land an interesting fight. At this point, my heart says Oleksandr Usyk as he seemingly is seeking the best fights and winning them. The question is whether Usyk is proven at heavyweight? That is unclear because we don’t really know what Anthony Joshua is anymore. 

KM: Has to be the Usyk-Fury winner, right? They won't fight anyone else in 2024, most likely, so if one of them wins twice against the other, that's your answer right there. If they split two fights, then the answer is nobody. Not sure anybody else is in a position to become dominant right now.

DW: Tyson Fury. A convincing win in the two fights that are likely with Oleksandr Usyk will continue to build his legacy. It’s also not unthinkable he’ll fight Francis Ngannou again before the end of the year, and though that wouldn’t enhance his legacy, it’d conclude a high-profile rivalry of sorts, earn him another significant purse, and keep Anthony Joshua considerably behind him.

AD: I was picking Oleksandr Usyk to beat Tyson Fury even before the Brit fumbled the Francis Ngannou bout, so if and when he slays him in February, it’ll be hard to see anyone else but Usyk as the dominant heavy.

SW: I think Fury retires for good if he wins or loses against Usyk, who else is there left to beat if he does win? And if Usyk wins, there’s your answer. It’s a great time for some new talent at heavyweight, and I can see Jai Opetaia following Usyk’s steps and moving up once he clears out the cruiserweight division… 

AG: Zhilei ‘Big Bang’ Zhang is going to continue to ride the wave he is on and secure one of the world titles making him the most dominant next year.

BB: It will be the winner of Fury-Usyk, who wins that contest who knows? If Fury takes his preparations seriously and comes into the ring in a professional frame of mind then on paper it is his fight to lose. Any chink in his armoury and Usyk can capitalise on that. If Fury wins and retires, it will be a flip of a coin between Usyk and Joshua as to who is the premier heavyweight. If Fury wins and carries on, it will be Fury. If Usyk wins, then it is Usyk.

Will Amazon be a success with boxing?

TD: I think so. This surely wasn’t an overnight deal, and the planning and execution has likely been discussed for several months. Their work across the board on other sports has been top notch and Al Haymon, PBC and those guys really know the sport and arguably staged three of the four biggest shows of the year, with Tank-Garcia, Crawford-Spence and Canelo-Charlo (the fourth being the Day of Reckoning).

LK: What I have learned about boxing is this; everything is a success and a failure. Rarely do things work perfectly. Boxing is a fringe sport, so we have to see if paywalls exist and such, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t. PBC has put on great fights for years and Amazon shouldn’t change that. The only issue I see is if each event comes with a fee that limits some consumer spending. 

KM: Define success. Will the production values be strong? Yeah, and the product will probably look and sound a lot like Showtime Boxing. Will it attract a lot of fans? Probably. More customers already subscribe to Prime than to HBO or Showtime. If most of the dates are PPVs, then the level of success will depend entirely on the price point and the quality of the fights. Will the level of success be enough to keep Amazon happy? I don't know what their expectations are, but I suspect they are simultaneously optimistic but realistic. They know it won't bring in NFL figures. But there's no reason to suspect it will be a failure.

DW: Yes. They appear to have all of the necessary ingredients to succeed Showtime Boxing at the top of the sport, and the personnel who know what’s required. Unless Amazon doesn’t deliver what it needs to, or prices its product out of the reach of the “casual” fan, they can be expected to have the strong year they’ll need to to make their mark.

AD: Much of what was great about boxing in 2023 was via Premier Boxing Champions and Showtime Sports, from Benavidez-Plant, Tank-Garcia, and Spence-Crawford, through to Canelo-Charlo, and Benavidez-Andrade. This year, PBC showed a mastery of big events that captivated people outside of boxing, infiltrating the attention of other combat sports, mainstream sports, and Hollywood. It’s hard to imagine that, as many of the same people will be involved in Amazon Prime, that standards will drop. But, to add, with Saudi Arabia and even the prospect of TKO Group Holdings entering the boxing space, there is healthy competition internationally and domestically to maintain the same quality control this year, in the months and years ahead. 

SW: I’m in agreement with Kieran, it’s all dependent on the value for money on the PPVs. Unless Amazon only charges subscription like DAZN started off with, I can’t see the fans being completely happy. I think they’ll be as successful as previous platforms, but to be superior is a big ask. However, I will say that it’s a great way to turn current subscribers into boxing fans if they market it right.

AG: Amazon will be a success because they don’t need boxing. When you have a platform that wants content but doesn’t rely on your content for the bottom line, those situations end up working out better in the long run. Also, this doesn’t appear to be the only platform PBC will be on next year so Amazon wins either way.

BB: Yes. I think Amazon will be success and it will be one of the biggest disappointments if they do not succeed. Pricing will be a sticking point on PPVs and value for money. Amazon would not have jumped into this deal with PBC if the percentages of probability were not in their favour. PBC has an established, ready-made stable and is coming off a strong 202.3 I feel the opening months will be strong for the new partnership and will set a foundation for further success to be built.

What change should boxing make?

TD: I’d love to see more done to look after ex-fighters. Ringside Charitable Trust does a great job in the UK, but it needs help and more fighters around the world need support after the final bell.

LK: The right fighters getting mandated for world title fights. It seems far too often mandatory title fights are obligations. These should be the most exciting fights in the sport and they should pit some of the most exciting and relevant fighters against each other. Sadly, far too many world title fights hold little value to most fight fans.

KM: Boxing has a severe domestic abuse problem. It is difficult to think of any other sport that would throw money at its athletes and give them big opportunities even as cases against them are pending. Obviously, without an organized league structure, it's more difficult to take the same kind of action as, say, the NFL – which itself has some considerable work to do in this area – but it would be nice to see boxing care just a little bit.

And we need far more transparency and consistency concerning PEDs. Britain especially seems particularly opaque on this issue: does anyone actually know for sure the extent to which the claims surrounding Fury were ever investigated? And what exactly were the findings concerning Conor Benn? 

DW: The culture needs to develop a collective conscience. Too many fighters still aren’t given the duty of care they deserve; others receive opportunities they don’t deserve – Kieran’s mention of the domestic abuse problem is recognition of the most chilling, but far from the only, problem – and Daniel Kinahan’s alleged influence and the money too readily accepted from Saudi Arabia ultimately continue to be damaging.

AD: There are court cases in the US that suggest a funnelling of cash in exchange for prominent rankings, depicting a rampant culture of corruption in boxing. Add to this the feeble slaps on wrists that boxing hands out for athletes who have tested positive for banned substances, and the seemingly do-nothing attitude when it comes to domestic violence, as mentioned above, and we see a clear inability to hold anyone accountable. If boxing can begin to hold the feet of nefarious actors to the fire, then it may begin to show itself once again as a serious sport.

SW: I’m with Lukie on this one, with the number of organisations and their conflict of interests, the voice of the fans seems to become irrelevant which doesn’t allow the desirable fights to be ordered. I can’t see an easy resolution for this unless a central organisation takes control, dare I say similar to the UFC, where the fans have a say on what fights are next. 

Also, perhaps a portion of the money earned from the bigger fights could be allocated to put back into grassroots boxing. As mentioned before, this may have to be centralised by an organisation or charity for equal and fair distribution.

AG: I’d like to see sanctioning bodies and commissions take more initiative in disciplining referees and judges who consistently have bad nights. Referees and judges who do great work should be rewarded with big title fights like the NFL does with referees and the Super Bowl. Let’s get some fresh faces in there instead of recycling the same people for these big events.

BB: I agree with all what the guys have mentioned. Boxing definitely needs to do more for the fighters who are no longer involved in the sport and their wellbeing. A mandatory pension scheme where a combination of a small percentage of a fighter’s purse is matched by a promoter or a gambling levy on betting where 10 per cent of bookmaker and gambling profits are put into a centralised pot, similar to which the British Horse Racing Authority is legally obliged to do with aftercare for injured jockeys. 

Boxing needs to clean up its act in regards to the domestic abuse problem. It’s a very bad PR exercise that needs to be brought to a halt immediately. Anti-Doping enforcement needs to be improved and the process from start to finish needs to be majorly sped up in regards of finding fighters guilty or not guilty.