The championship fight. The pinnacle of achievement across combat sports for centuries. A premiere attraction that draws millions every year. But not all title bouts are created equally.
So which title bouts every week are the ones to watch? We’ll look over every title fight from across the combat sports landscape and give you the five best based on five criteria:
- Competitiveness: Is this an even matchup? Or just a warm body to throw at a champion? It’s a title fight, so we want the best possible at that division in that promotion.
- Excitement: How exciting will this fight be? A clash of two elite talents throwing everything they have at each other in an attempt to win the gold? Or a half-dead plod-fest devoid of action or risk?
- Juice: A sort of catch-all term for all the factors behind the matchup. Is there a story leading up to the match? A true rivalry? Anticipated rematch? Do the fighters dislike each other? Were the circumstances leading to the fight extraordinary, or was it just a promoter putting two names against each other? Is there a lot of excitement or hype going into it?
- Prestige: Applies to the belt itself, but also to the fighter wearing it. Is this a long-tenured champion defending? Is this an interim title or one that was vacated? Has the champion increased the prestige of the title or is this a fight that will increase the prestige of it?
- Viewing Ease: We all don’t mind suffering for our art (or hobbies), but sometimes paying twenty dollars for a choppy stream, or searching your cable plan for a channel you’re pretty sure was just invented three days ago in the 6000s isn’t the best of times. How easy, affordable, and stress-free is this bout to watch?
So here are your five best gold options for the weekend.
1. IBO/WBA World Super Middleweight Championships: Chris Eubank Jr. (c) (26-1) vs. George Groves (27-3)
When/Where: Saturday, 5:00pm, Facebook/YouTube
Excitement: 5: Groves is a classic fighter that will knock you out or get knocked out swinging.
Prestige: 5: Good lord, it’s a title unification, and semifinals for the World Boxing Super Series.
Viewing Ease: 5
2. WBC World Super Middleweight Championship: David Benavidez (c) (19-0) vs. Ronald Gavril (18-2)
When/Where: Saturday, 10:00pm, Showtime
Excitement: 5: These two put on an excellent scrap last time out, and I have no reason to believe they won’t go out and do it again.
Juice: 4: These two put on a FOTY candidate in their last outing, so will super-prospect Benavidez show that he’s world championship material over Gavril once and for all?
Viewing Ease: 3
3. Glory Welterweight Championship: Murthel Groenhart (c) (66-23-3) vs. Harut Grigorian (55-10)
When/Where: Friday, 11:00pm, ESPN3
Competitiveness: 2: Grigorian is a fine kickboxer and yes, did earn his way by winning a Glory contender tournament, which I wish they would stick to more, but Grigorian isn’t even the best Grigorian, and got his lights turned off by Groenhart less than a year ago.
Juice: 3: Grigorian has gotten knocked out by Groenhart twice in his career, once in 2012, and once in June of last year. Will the result be different, or will he be the rare opponent who gets slept thrice by the same fighter?
Viewing Ease: 4
4. Glory Lightweight Championship: Sitthichai Sitsongpeenong (c) (118-30-5) vs. Christian Baya (60-5-1)
When/Where: Friday, 8:30pm, UFC Fight Pass
Competitiveness: 3: Anything can happen in kickboxing, but Sitthichai is about two and a half levels above Baya.
Viewing Ease: 3: Worth the subscription, folks. For Glory and grappling alone.
5. Vacant WBO Lightweight Championship: Paulus Moses (40-3) vs. Raymundo Beltran (34-7-1)
When/Where: Friday, 9:00pm, ESPN
Excitement: 4: These are two old warriors who don’t mind a scrap and have accrued a good amount of scalps over the years.
Prestige: 3: Vacant titles are never fun, and Beltran is a game fighter at lightweight, but I wish he would have won this properly.
Viewing Ease: 4