The light heavyweight conversation could easily be pigeon-holed into two Russian champions, a handful of British contenders and a door left ajar for Canelo to return for the right opportunity.
Further down the tree we have the returning Oleksandr Gvozdyk, a youthful Michael Eifert and a *coughs* 41-year-old Jean Pascal…
But where are the best match-ups in the division?
5. Anthony Yarde vs Callum Smith
If Smith loses against Beterviev in January, then a second/third-placed playoff would be a fun watch between these two Brits.
Yarde has only come up short at world level against two killers (ignoring the anomaly of Lyndon Arthur) so this would be an attempt at finding his place amongst the 175-pounders.
4. Anthony Yarde vs Joshua Buatsi
We’re only a defeat to either man in seeing this long-standing rivalry run out of gas. Born out of a Queensbury-Matchroom rivalry, Yarde and Buatsi have been on somewhat of a collision course at domestic level for the last few years.
But Buatsi is now with BOXXER, Yarde has lost two competitive world title fights and the rest of the chasing pack have caught up to near their levels.
Buatsi needs a convincing win over the talented Dan Azeez on February 3 to stoke the flames of this rivalry once again. It’s obviously a good fight and an intriguing blend of styles, but I’m not putting any money on us seeing it any time soon.
3. Artur Beterbiev vs Callum Smith
This one is locked in for January 13 next year, and gives us a proper opportunity to judge Smith’s ceiling as a light-heavyweight. Being huge at the weight below doesn’t necessarily guarantee success when you move up, but with two stoppage wins at 175, Smith looks like he could do some damage in the division.
He’s 33 now – but hey, Beterbiev is 38 – and it’s unclear on his long-term commitment to the sport having made it rain $$$s in winning the WBSS and fighting Canelo Alvarez. He comes across as a sensible family man and a bad loss against Beterbiev could tip him into retirement.
But this is a good contest. Beterbiev can be hurt, but we don’t know (yet) if he can be beaten. Brits Callum Johnson and Anthony Yarde made Beterbiev look human in patches, and “Mundo” will be looking to build on those blueprints.
2. Canelo Alvarez vs Dmitry Bivol II
If we run this one back, Canelo is going to want it at 175 to right the wrongs of 2022. Whereas a move down to super-middleweight would be preferable for Bivol in order to sweep another division, so we are in this strange middle-ground of both fighters preferring to fight at a weight that would decrease their chances of victory…
No matter what you thought of the first fight, a rematch between these two would be very interesting. Canelo has adapted a lot throughout his career, but solving the Bivol puzzle would go down as one of his very best wins.
The inactivity of Bivol is the biggest concern when we are attempting to queue up fights at his door.
1. Artur Beterbiev vs Dmitry Bivol
Without question the biggest fight in the division, and in the top two that could be made in boxing.
We saw them face off at the Tyson Fury-Francis Ngannou gala dinner, but the clock has been ticking on this fight for a while now.
On paper, a perfect blend of styles, between the two belt-holders of the division with unbeaten records. A true pound-for-pound needle shifter.