Gareth Cox picks out his five best championship bouts before the end of the year
Deontay Wilder v Tyson Fury and the best fights still to come before final bell of 2018
As we head towards the final bell of 2018, there are still several big fights left to round off what has been a busy spell in the boxing calendar.
September was a manic month where, in the space of 13 days, fans witnessed a trio of brutal world-title fights in quick succession.
From Nevada to Jeddah – via Wembley Stadium in London – it was a remarkable run of contests which saw epic battles and brutal knockdowns at ground-breaking new venues.
First up, Mexican fighter Saul "Canelo" Alvarez came out on top in his breathtaking rematch with Genady Golovkin, inflicting the first defeat on the Kazakh bruiser.
While many who watched the pair go toe-to-toe for 12 relentless rounds in Las Vegas felt the points decision could have gone either way, there was no one doubting they had just seen something remarkable. It was an all-time classic between two grantite-chinned warriors.
Next, Anthony Joshua continued his journey towards sporting greatness when he stopped Russian hardman Alaxander Povetkin. The seventh-round finish was devastating against a tricky opponent who had only last once in 35 fights.
When the big Brit fights again next April, with Wembley again booked-up, boxing box-office records could be blown to pieces.
Finally, in a historic all-English fight in Saudi Arabia, Callum Smith ended George Groves’ 16-month reign as WBA super-middleweight champion also with a stoppage in Round 7.
And, with the sand barely settled from the dust-up in the desert, it’s time to catch your breath and focus on the five fights that will round off 2018 with a bang.
Terence Crawford v Jose Benavidez for the WBO welterweight title
Regarded by many as the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet, Crawford looks to continue his impressive 33-0 record against fellow unbeaten American Benavidez in Omaha, Nebraska.
In his first fight at welterweight in June, Crawford pounded out a warning to the rest of the division by stopping Jeff Horn in the ninth round to claim a world title at a third weight.
But Benavidez – whose career was nearly ended in 2017 when he was shot in both legs and a hand while out walking his dog near his home in Pheonix – should provide a proper test of Crawford’s credentials.
Verdict: Crawford on points
Oleksandr Usyk v Tony Bellew for the IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO cruiserweight titles
Undisputed champion Usyk finds himself back on the same British shores where he won gold at the 2012 Olympics in London. The Ukrainian has certainly made his mark in five years as a professional, winning all 15 fights – and securing a world title after just 10.
A partisan crowd in Manchester will also not phase a boxer who has already fought in Germany, Poland, the United States, Austria and Russia in his short but spectacular pro career.
Bellew, though, is no mug. A former cruiserweight word-title holder himself, he is back at the lower weight division after ending fellow Brit David Haye’s career with two victories in little over a year.
Verdict: Usyk with late knockout or points decision
Deontay Wilder v Tyson Fury for the WBC world heavyweight title
In a resurgent heavyweight scene, this is a huge fight in every sense of the word. It pits two fighters – both undefeated, both over 6ft 7ins tall, both not exactly shy and retiring characters – head-to-head in Los Angeles.
The American Wilder has won 39 of his 40 fights via knockout but has never been tested by someone with Fury’s size and boxing brain.
The Brit's biggest problem, though, is ring-rust. He has fought just twice since taking the world titles off Wladimir Klitschko in 2015, taking time out of the ring to recover from depression and drug addiction.
The winner is in line to fight Joshua in a record-smashing unification bout next year.
Verdict: It should be Wilder – but if Fury drags it out to the later rounds, he could cause an upset
Vasily Lomachenko v Jose Pedraza for the WBO and WBA world lightweight titles
Lomachenko’s rise to the top has been so ludicrously quick it makes his fellow Ukrainian and training partner Usyk’s seem almost pedestrian by comparison.
The double Olympic gold medalist is setting new standards after only 12 pro fights: becoming a world champion after three fights (the joint quickest of all-time), a two-weight champion in seven (a record) and three-weight champion in 12 (another record). He also leads the way in the pound-for-pound best rankings.
A unification bout against Pedraza at Madison Square Garden in New York is next up, although Lomachenko is already talking about taking the WBC and IBF belts from the undefeated Micky Garcia and becoming undisputed lightweight king in the new year.
Verdict: There’s no stopping Lomachenko
Josh Warrington v Carl Frampton for the IBF world featherweight title
A potentially brilliant fight to end the year, which sees former two-weight world champion Frampton take on current IBF featherweight title holder in Manchester.
Northern Irishman Frampton produced one of the greatest performances in his country’s proud boxing history when he defeated Leo Santa Cruz in 2016 in New York – only to lose for the first time in the rematch against the Mexican just six months later.
Unbeaten Warrington earned his title the hard way with a split decision verdict over Lee Selby in a blood-soaked battle earlier this year.
Verdict: Frampton on top of the world again