Talking Boxing

Interviews, opinions, features and news from the greatest sport in the world!

January 3, 2017

Make or Break

Orlando Salido, Francisco Vargas

by Shaun Brown

While 2017 in boxing is setting itself up to be something special, the next 12 months are going to become make or break for the careers of some fighters.

That doesn’t necessarily mean those reaching the end of a road called Father Time, but there are more obvious candidates who are one world title loss away from potential retirement, and there are those who need a memorable 2017 thanks to a 2016 to forget.

We took to the boxing corner of Twitter to get opinions on which fighters they believe have to have a 2017 to remember for the sake of their careers.

First up was a reply from @RobLancs79 who answered:

“George Groves. Beat Chudinov and it opens doors to big fights. Lose a fourth world-title shot and tough to see a way back.”

We say:

It’s hard to disagree with that and Groves will probably know this himself. But thanks to his reputation and the more than credible performances he gave particularly in his first world title fight against Carl Froch, and then his third against Badou Jack, a fifth world title shot wouldn’t be out the question should he lose narrowly to Chudinov. The James DeGale rematch will always be on the table somewhere, and should the IBF champion beat WBC champion Jack later this month and go on to a successful mandatory defence against Callum Smith, the new unified 168lbs champion might relish the chance to potentially end the career of his long-term rival. Groves v Chudinov for the vacant WBA world title is ready to go in 2017 with a date and venue TBA. It’s must win for Groves, and just like his last three shots at the title he’s more than capable of winning.

@tj_cummings says that WBO middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders needs a great 2017.

“One outing in 12 months, lost all momentum after impressing against Lee. GGG fight came and went. Ended up with Bursak, only to fight a no mark. Clearly there are issues in and out of the ring which need resolving.”

While @thebullit79 said:

“Billy Joe Saunders. What a great victory over Lee and what next?? He is capable we know after Eubank performance. Needs a top 10er.”

We say:

No-one knows what’s going on in the world of Billy Joe Saunders but 2016 was all talk and very, very little action for the Londoner. His one and only fight, his first world title defence after winning the belt in December 2015, was a lacklustre and disappointing performance against the unknown Artur Akavov. Some even had the Russian winning the fight. Saunders was sluggish, not in great condition and looked nothing like a world champion. A fight with Canelo Alvarez seems to be on the horizon, and a win or credible performance in defeat will go a long way to restore the dented reputation of Saunders. The champion needs to sort himself out, his trainer issue out (after a disagreement with Jimmy Tibbs) and get back to the boxing that has showed glimpses of giving Canelo or Golovkin a difficult night’s work.

@AlfredHookem picked British heavyweight David Price.

“Price, because he can’t keep fighting binmen and say he’s a new fighter.”

We say:

While I don’t agree with the term “binmen” it goes without saying that the first fight of Price’s 2017 MUST be a significant step up from his last two opponents Ivica Perkovic (6x3s) and Vaclav Pejsar (8x3s), who had a combined win/loss record of 31-32. His trainer Dave Coldwell agrees that Price needs a much stiffer test and word is that will come in the first quarter of the year. Coldwell feels now is the right time to put Price in with the world’s best. They were close to securing a fight with WBO heavyweight champion Joseph Parker. There’s a fresh air of confidence around Price since he joined the Coldwell stable, but by the end of 2017 we will probably know if Price poses any threat to the heavyweight elite.

@JohnODonovan4 had a trio of picks for us.

“Maybe past their best but Rigo and Andre Dirrell. Callum Smith as well, his mismatch laden career has become monotonous.”

We say:

Starting with Rigondeaux. Something has to happen to re-ignite the career of ‘El Chacal’. The Cuban genius has never been the most active of fighters, but his career has never really kicked on since he comprehensively outclassed Nonito Donaire just under four years ago. Rigo is back on February 25 against Moises Flores to defend his WBA super bantamweight title. The career defining fights aren’t at 122lbs, so a move up to 126lbs and somewhere north of that against Vasyl Lomachenko will have to happen.

Dirrell’s career might have been so different had he got the nod against Carl Froch seven years ago. In 2015 he came mightily close to claiming the vacant IBF 168lbs title after his opponent James DeGale struggled over the line. Dirrell undoubtedly has ability but his renowned speed will go year after year. Saying all that, since he sits at 4 and 3 with the WBC and IBF another world title shot in 2017 can’t be ruled out. At the very least a meaningful fight against someone like Avni Yildrim (WBC #3) would tell us where he’s at. 2017 will either be the start of Dirrell’s career as a gatekeeper or a resurrection that no-one saw coming.

Callum Smith’s world title shot is long overdue and he should face the winner of DeGale-Jack in 2017, which will be a huge step up from what he has faced so far. Smith looks a world champion in waiting but his best win is arguably either Nikola Sjekloca or Christopher Rebrasse. DeGale and Jack won’t be losing sleep over that. By the end of 2017 we’ll know if Smith is the real deal or not. Personally, I can’t wait to see what unfolds at 168lbs.

@supsterjnr said:

“Kell Brook. Still not beaten anyone of note since edging Shawn Porter 2.5 years ago.”

We say:

Brook may have traded with Gennady Golovkin last year, but his welterweight reign since beating Porter still reads Jo Jo Dan, Kevin Bizier and Frankie Gavin. Yes, there have been circumstances beyond his control but in 2017 Brook has to face one of the big fish at 147lbs or 154lbs. Starting afresh at super welterweight wouldn’t cut it. We all know how good Brook is, at the right weight, but a win over Amir Khan (a fight that once again is being rumoured, it’s a new year after all) shouldn’t be the be all and end all of ambition in 2017. The win over Porter feels like an eternity ago. His career can’t be remembered for that, having a go at GGG and filling his bank balance because of it.

@Hitmandann said:

“Demetrius Andrade. Real talent but hasn’t pushed on, the debacle with Culcacy etc.”

While @DannyRobsonLFC said:

“Andrade, needs 3 fights next year (2017) & at least one needs to be a big fight.”

We say: 

In some quarters people talk about Andrade as being one of the few men that could genuinely beat Gennady Golovkin. His best win is against Vanes Martirosyan for crying out loud! Blessed with ability that fighters would give anything for, Andrade has been treading water thanks to a debacle with the WBO and one with a proposed fight against WBA ‘regular’ super welterweight champion Jack Culcay on November 5 in Germany. Three fights since beating Martirosyan in November 2013 is making his career a laughing stock. The 154lbs division eagerly awaits the presence of ‘Boo Boo’.