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.
5. Vacant WBA “Regular” World Middleweight Championship: Erislandy Lara (27-3-3) vs. Thomas Lamanna (30-4-1)
When/Where: Saturday, 9:00pm, Pay-Per-View
Prestige: 4: Death to the WBA and their title system!
Viewing Ease: 2: In these times of skyrocketing PPV prices, it’s nice that the Ruiz-Arreola card is a modest $49.99. Still far too high, but still.
t3. IBF World Flyweight Championship: Moruti Mthalane (c) (39-2) vs. Sunny Edwards (15-0)
When/Where: Friday, 2:00pm, ESPN+
Competitiveness: 5: In his short professional career, Edwards has won just about every secondary title you can win, he’s ready for a world title shot.
Prestige: 5: Your usual dose of Friday afternoon British boxing, but with an actual world title defense!
Viewing Ease: 3
t3. WBA Super World Light Heavyweight Championship: Dmitry Bivol (c) (17-0) vs. Craig Richards (16-1-1)
When/Where: Saturday, 3:00pm, DAZN
Competitiveness: 3: Richards is the BBBofC British champ at 175lbs, but the fight before that, he drew Chad Sugden in an 8-rounder. He really has no notable wins on his dance card.
Excitement: 3: After coming up throwing absolute heat, Bivol has become a bit of a decision fighter. Granted, they’re wide decisions, but it is what it is.
Viewing Ease: 4
2. WBC/WBA/IBF/WBO World Women’s Lightweight Championships: Katie Taylor (17-0) vs. Natasha Jonas (9-1-1)
When/Where: Saturday, 3:00pm, DAZN
Competitiveness: 4: Jonas was one point on the scorecards away from being a world champion at junior lightweight in her last outing against Terri Harper, so she’s a legit challenger.
Viewing Ease: 4: Absolutely LOADED card on Saturday afternoon.
1. ONE Light Heavyweight Championship: Aung La N Sang (c) (26-11) vs. Reinier de Ridder (13-0)
When/Where: Wednesday, 10:00pm, TNT
Juice: 5: de Ridder submitted Sang in October, taking Sang’s Middleweight title, and now, six months later, he’s coming for Sang’s Light Heavyweight title, as well.
Viewing Ease: 4: With the news of the NHL coming to Turner Sports, TNT is going to give me the AEW-NHL-ONE synergy fever dream I never knew I wanted.