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?
t4. Vacant WBA World Female Junior Welterweight Championship: Kali Reis (16-7-1) vs. Kandi Wyatt (10-1)
When/Where: Saturday, 10:30pm, Impact Network
Prestige: 4: For a world title that was vacated by Jessica McCaskill after she pulled off her massive upset win over Cecilia Braekhus.
Viewing Ease: 3: That’s right, the Impact Network, self-described as the “the fastest growing and largest black owned faith-based tv network spanning across the united states, the Bahamian Islands and parts of Africa!”
t4. WBO NABO Heavyweight Championship: Frank Sanchez (c) (15-0) vs. Brian Howard (15-3)
When/Where: Saturday, 8:00pm, FOX
Excitement: 3: Sanchez is more methodical, like many Cuban boxers, whereas Howard tends to live and die by the KO.
Prestige: 3: It’s a third-tier belt, but it gets another point because Sanchez has really made it his own, holding it for over a year and making his third defense of it.
Viewing Ease: 5
t1. Vacant WBO World Flyweight Championship: Giemel Magramo (24-1) vs. Junto Nakatani (20-0)
When/Where: Friday, Untelevised
Prestige: 4: Kosei Tanaka left a huge void at flyweight when he moved up to attempt to be a world champion in a fourth weight class.
Viewing Ease: 1: A world title fight at Korakuen Hall that’s not available anywhere? Unacceptable.
t1. ONE Welterweight Championship: Kiamrian Abbasov (c) (22-4) vs. James Nakashima (12-0)
When/Where: Friday, 7:30am, ONE App
Competitiveness: 5: Nakashima’s route has been rather abnormal, coming up almost exclusively through RFA/LFA before jumping east to ONE. Since then, he’s won all three bouts since going there, including most recently over Yushin Okami.
Excitement: 2: Nakashima has twelve wins. Eleven have come by decision and one was stopped due to an opponent’s knee injury.
Viewing Ease: 5
t1. WBC World Lightweight Championship: Devin Haney (c) (24-0) vs. Yuriorkis Gamboa (30-3)
When/Where: Saturday, 8:00pm, DAZN
Competitiveness: 3: Gamboa was damned good in his time, but that time is not now. He looked done when Gervonta Davis put him away last December, and he had surgery on his achilles since then.
Juice: 2: This is more than likely Gamboa’s last shot at world championship gold.
Viewing Ease: 4