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.
t2. Vacant WBA “Regular” World Lightweight Championship: Gervonta Davis (22-0) vs. Yuriorkis Gamboa (30-2)
When/Where: Saturday, 9:00pm, Showtime
Competitiveness: 4: Gamboa is still a mighty tough veteran who can give anyone a tough time and can beat anyone in a good day. but Davis is a killer who just barnstormed through the junior lightweight division, never going past the eighth round in his contests. Gamboa will test him like few before him, but Davis hasn’t even hit his prime yet.
Prestige: 3: “Regular” title is -1, Vacant is -1. So here we are.
Viewing Ease: 3
t2. K-1 World Super Lightweight Championship: Rukiya Anpo (c) (17-4) vs. Kaew Fairtex (145-35-4)
When/Where: Saturday, Abema TV
Prestige: 4: Though it isn’t the monolith it once was, being a K-1 champ still holds some cache.
Viewing Ease: 2: Welp, try to find a stream or a great VPN for this one.
t2. WBA Super World Cruiserweight Championship: Arsen Goulamirian (c) (25-0) vs. Constantin Bejenaru (14-0)
When/Where: Saturday, France Canal+
Excitement: 4: Bejenaru doesn’t have a ton of power, but Goulamirian likes to finish his fights quickly.
Prestige: 5: Hey! A real WBA world title! A Christmas miracle! The goose!! God bless us, everyone!
Viewing Ease: 2
t2. Vacant WBO Latino Junior Featherweight Championship: Angelo Leo (18-0) vs. Cesar Juarez (25-7)
When/Where: Saturday, 6:30, Facebook/YouTube
Competitiveness: 5: Juarez has more experience and seasoning. His record might look a little unseemly, but three of his four latest losses were to Ryosuke Iwasa, Isaac Dogboe, and Nonito Donaire. No shame in that.
Prestige: 2: This is very clearly a secondary, but both fighters are in their mid-late 20s, and both are ready for a world title shot after this fight and maybe a couple more. A secondary title doing its job!
Viewing Ease: 5
1. WBA “Regular” World Light Heavyweight Championship/WBC Silver Light Heavyweight Championship: Jean Pascal (c) (34-6-1) vs. Badou Jack (22-2-3)
When/Where: Saturday, 9:00pm, Showtime
Juice: 3: After a stunning knockout and defeat of Marcus Browne, Pascal found himself a world champion for the first time since 2011. Jack is coming off of a loss to Browne in an attempt to take his title in January. At 36, Pascal’s upset gave him another shot at gold, but will it be his last?
Viewing Ease: 3: With HBO dropping out of the game, premium cable boxing is just the realm of Showtime.