Boxing - Mouthwatering Matchups - Ten top domestic fights for 2014

Why do we want to see it? Who would win? Will it happen? Oliver Fennell picks ten top domestic scraps we’d all like to witness later on in 2014.

Carl Froch v George Groves II Why? Nine rounds can change a lot of things. When their first fight was announced, Groves’ challenge for Froch’s IBF and WBA super-middleweight belts was seen as a case of too much, too soon. But once the dust settled on their November  clash, Groves had more than proved he belonged in elite company. It had been a fantastic scrap and the ending – a TKO for Froch seen by many as a premature – was highly controversial. It has all the ingredients for a blockbuster rematch.

Who would win? Hard to call. Perhaps their first matched showed that Froch is slipping and Groves can only get better. Then again, it might be that Groves showed his very best that night and it is the more experienced Froch who will know what adjustments to make next time round. I’m leaning ever so slightly towards the latter scenario.

Will it happen? I think so. Froch, somewhat chastened but too proud to admit it, has said he has other plans, but this has “by public demand” written all over it, and that Froch pride probably will not allow him to bypass an attempt to prove the critics wrong. Scott Quigg v Carl Frampton Why? These two have been circling each other for a few years now as they have made their separate rises up the world rankings. They are now firmly among the globe’s elite super-bantamweights, with Quigg ascending to WBA titleholder status and Frampton the IBF’s number one contender. Same weight, similar age, similar world standing, both exciting and highly talented – they just have to fight!

Who would win? While Quigg has the belt, I believe Frampton has the greater momentum. His win over Kiko Martinez looks marvellous in the wake of Martinez’s own world title win last year, while Quigg’s coronation was one of those damp-squib “interim upgrade” affairs, and he struggled in his first defence, against Yoandris Salinas. Frampton, meanwhile, hasn’t set a foot wrong in a long time and looks to have the edge.

Will it happen? If Quigg continues to hold on to his WBA belt, and Frampton wins the IBF, it would make for a natural all-British unification match late in the year. However, I suspect they will be kept apart through 2014, cashing in on their respective titles. Amir Khan v Kell Brook Why? Brook has been calling for a Khan fight for a while now, but they have been in separate divisions and, prior to 2013, Brook hadn’t quite proved himself at world level. But he had a banner year – albeit with the frustration of seeing two world title challenges go begging – topped off with a mightily impressive demolition job on Vyacheslav Senchenko. He is now well placed for a big fight, so why not against fellow Brit Khan, if Amir moves up to welterweight.

Who would win? A year ago, Khan would have been a firm favourite, but he had a largely inactive 2013, with just one outing, and a shaky one against a B-level player at that. Brook raised his game last year and is now firmly among the world-class discussion at welterweight. I’d still go for Khan’s extra speed and experience as the deciding factors, but a Brook win would not be a huge surprise.

Will it happen? Hard to say. Khan’s immediate future is on hold until his mooted clash with Floyd Mayweather is confirmed either way. Brook, in the meantime, will continue on his own path towards a world title shot. If Khan-Brook happens, it will be late in the year, and there are a lot of intangibles to work through before then. Tyson Fury v Dereck Chisora 2 Why? Now that David Price is picking up the pieces of a shattered apprenticeship, and David Haye’s entire career remains in doubt, a rematch between Fury and Chisora is the best all-British heavyweight match that can he made. They are both world-ranked and in good form, with their first fight, in 2011, an entertaining affair watched by a wide audience. Both men’s stock has improved significantly since, and that Chisora made their last match competitive despite being well overweight makes a rematch with a fit and confident “Del Boy” a compelling prospect.

Who would win? Chisora is now in the shape and form of his life, and while Fury too has improved, it’s hard not to imagine Chisora repeating what the likes of Steve Cunningham and Nevin Pajkic did in dropping Tyson. Only, Chisora punches harder than them and could keep Fury down or force a stoppage.

Will it happen? At time of writing, there is speculation that they will indeed clash in June, provided they both come through February assignments. It’s always wise to treat such developments with a dollop of healthy scepticism but, crucially, both boxers and both camps seem amenable.

Martin Murray v Matthew Macklin Why? These two and Darren Barker have been jostling for middleweight position for years, without ever having clashed. Now that Barker’s career may well be over, let’s hope Murray and Macklin realise that chances can go begging if left untaken for too long. With both firmly among the world standings at 11st 6lb, these two need to finally get it on!

Who would win? I’ll go for Murray. They both enjoyed similarly proud efforts against Sergio Martinez and Felix Sturm, albeit with Murray going that little bit better against both, while Macklin may have had some of the stuffing knocked out of him in his crushing June defeat to Gennady Golovkin. If Murray is the fresher, he will have the workrate and engine to take a tight 12-rounder.

Will it happen? Probably. Neither has a better offer at present, and it could serve as a de facto world eliminator.

George Groves v James DeGale 2 Why? While Groves leap-frogged arch-rival DeGale with his effort against Froch, there is still plenty of mileage to be had from this rivalry. Their first fight, in 2011, was close enough and good enough to warrant another chapter, and DeGale hasn’t lost since. In the absence of any world title shots, these two super-middleweights need look no further than each other for their next blockbuster.

Who would win? Groves should get the win again, and by a more comfortable margin, if he performs the way he did against Froch. DeGale remains a class act, but his forward momentum has slowed a bit in the past year or so.

Will it happen? Potentially, and especially if Froch elects not to grant Groves a rematch, and/or if DeGale ascends the WBC throne, which is the goal he is currently pursuing.

Stuart Hall v Jamie McDonnell 2 Why? Another rematch of a fight which was good enough first time around to warrant a sequel, but now with escalated stakes. McDonnell beat Hall in a British bantamweight title burner in 2011 and went onwards and upwards to claim the IBF world title last year. Absurd boxing politics then conspired to strip him of the belt without even defending it, but Hall was the beneficiary, beating Vusi Malinga in December for the vacant laurels. It is only natural – and fair – that McDonnell now gets a chance to regain what he never lost in the ring.

Who would win? I believe McDonnell still has the edge, and he may fight that much harder again if granted another title shot, fuelled by the injustice of what happened to him last year. Hall is a fiercely determined competitor, but McDonnell’s edge in class should take him to another points win.

Will it happen? There doesn’t appear to be any other logical path for either. Maybe a showcase first defence for Hall, but after that McDonnell MUST get his shot. Billy Joe Saunders v Chris Eubank Jr Why? This could be the 2014 equivalent of Groves-DeGale 1. Young, undefeated talents on the rise, putting their reputations on the line before they really have to, but that making it all the more interesting. Saunders brings the Olympic pedigree and the domestic and Commonwealth pro belts, while Eubank is British boxing royalty.

Who would win? Saunders has more experience, both amateur and pro, and this should be enough, although Eubank’s unorthodox style and newly found power will make things very interesting. It just might be just a shade too early for him.

Will it happen? Unlikely – different promoters, different TV stations and different agendas will keep them apart for the foreseeable future. Nathan Cleverly v Tony Bellew 2 Why? The quality of British matchmaking in recent years must have been good, as yet another rematch makes the list. Cleverly and Bellew went to war for the WBO light-heavyweight belt in 2011, with the Welshman winning a close points nod in a fine scrap. They both suffered heavy setbacks last year and have both announced a move up to cruiserweight. Renewing their rivalry at the higher weight would be a treat for the fans and would serve as an unofficial world eliminator.

Who would win? It depends a lot on how each man rebounds from their defeats in their most recent fights. Cleverly was relieved of his WBO belt in quick, crushing fashion by Sergei Kovalev, while Bellew lasted longer but was dominated by Adonis Stevenson in a WBC challenge. They were both the kinds of results that can damage the confidence of boxers who believe themselves to be among the best. We can’t know until they next compete what their mindset is, but I feel Bellew made good gains in 2013 before the defeat, and comes across as the more pragmatic personality. If this is so, he might be able to gain revenge over Cleverly.

Will it happen? Doubtful. 2014 will likely be a rebuilding mission for both men. Ricky Burns v Anthony Crolla Why? Lightweight has been Britain’s banner division for a few years now, with WBO ruler Burns presiding over it. Crolla has well earned a shot, and it would likely be a high-quality, skills-based match between well-supported, world class boxers.

Who would win? Considering overall careers and accomplishments, you’d have to say Burns, but then he looked at the end of his rope at times in 2013, in two desperate struggles against Jose Gonzales and Reymundo Beltran. On best known form, Burns takes it, but if he is slipping, Crolla could capitalise.

Will it happen? They are with different promoters, so it is automatically problematic, but other than that it makes a lot of sense. However, it also depends on whether Burns can get past a highly dangerous mandatory defence against Terrence Crawford on Mar 1. On 2013’s form, you wouldn’t fancy him to do so.

Last year… Only one of my 10 picks came to fruition, with Frankie Gavin beating Denton Vassell in June. The list was also populated by a number of matches which didn’t happen but continue to hold the interest this year – Quigg v Frampton, Khan v Brook, Murray v Macklin, Groves v DeGale 2, Cleverly v Bellew 2 and Saunders v Eubank. The biggest casualty was Tyson Fury v David Price, while Scott Harrison perhaps inevitably could not avoid defeat and thus did not fight Ricky Burns. A tongue-in-cheek call for Hatton v Junior Witter also went unheeded, as Ricky’s brother Matthew retired, scuppering a match with his family’s arch nemesis.

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