2019, sometimes I say the numbers aloud, pausing in thought, marvelling at just how futuristic the words still sound. Perhaps, there is part of each of us that remains trapped in the sounds and deeds of our formative years, an area of preserved nostalgia from which all subsequent events are perceived. In those years before the millennium, when Prince sang about 1999, as a distant party we would all attend, Sarah Connor met a cyborg from 2029, and Harrison Ford wrestled with Rutger Hauer in a dystopian Los Angeles, two thousand and nineteen was a year drawn back from a projected future too far away to recognise. One mathematics could presume we’d live in, but one sufficiently distant to make the visions Ridley Scott and James Cameron shared with us entertaining rather than terrifying.
Yet, here we all are. Prince not withstanding, in mid-2019, long since detached from those analogue decades of the seventies, eighties and much of the nineties.
Hard to fathom therefore, that one of our middle-life contemporaries, who debuted in 1995, the year of Robin Williams’ Jumanji, the story of an inquisitive boy trapped by a super-natural game, could still be central to how we will one day look back on the boxing year of 2019. But with the year half through, and with many of the matchups the sport promised failing to materialise, Manny Pacquiao is part of a trio of bouts that could arrest the disappointment fans have felt so far and restore some much need momentum, particularly in the would-be golden Welterweight division he now inhabits.
Keith Thurman v Manny Pacquiao (21st July)
The WBA have set up a clash between their Super champion (Keith Thurman) and their Regular title holder (Manny Pacquiao) next month and it has the makings of being the fight of the year. Thurman remains unbeaten in 29 bouts with good wins coming over Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia recently. Pacquiao, on the other hand, became a world champion of sorts, when he defeated Argentine Lucas Matthysse in 2018, defending his title against Adrien Broner earlier this year. There is very little between the two men with bookmakers; Thurman the marginal favourite at 8/11 to extend his professional record without defeat. Whoever comes out on top, he will be keen to set up a unification contest with one of the three ‘champions’, Errol Spence, Terrence Crawford and Shawn Porter, in the division in the near future.
Cynics may sneer at the prospect, after all, Thurman is not a prolific fighter and Crawford is presently engaged on a different television platform with a different promoter, and in the main – never the twain shall meet. But if we give up speculating, hoping, dreaming, then the imperative to try is diluted still further.
Vasily Lomachenko v Luke Campbell (31st August)
Vasily Lomachenko, the magical, artisan talent from the Ukraine, features in any discussion about who the current pound for pound number one in boxing is. In the main, the idea of such a theoretical king is impossible to prove in fact and therefore holographic in meaning. But alongside the aforementioned Crawford, fellow countryman Alexandr Usyk and Saul Alvarez, for those inclined, Lomachenko is hard to displace at the top of the list. Boxing records have been shattered by the mercurial Lightweight, including the least number of fights needed to win a world title which came courtesy of success over Gary Russell Jr in the Featherweight division back in 2014. Lomachenko should be too good for Luke Campbell, holding the edge in speed and footwork, but Campbell is a fighter of poise and pedigree too. The 31 year old demonstrated in defeat to Jorge Linares, a creditable performance enhanced further in the knowledge he fought with the emotional anchor of losing his father just two weeks before the fight dragging on his performance, that he has the tools to compete with Lomachenko and will not be intimidated by the challenge.
Danny Garcia v Mikey Garcia (1st September)
Danny Garcia is set to meet Mikey Garcia in what should be a really good clash in September between two former world champions who are looking to get their respective careers back on track. Danny has lost twice in his last four bouts, with his most recent defeat coming against Porter in a clash for the vacant WBC welterweight title. He did beat Adrian Granados last time out in California so he has had a confidence booster ahead of his meeting with one of the sport’s top 10 pound-for pound boxers.
Mikey has not been in the ring since he suffered the first loss of his professional career against a dominant, but merciful, Errol Spence Jr. The former lightweight world champion stepped up two weight divisions for that contest but, as widely expected, learned that not only is Spence a naturally bigger man, and a good big man always beats a good little guy, he is also an outstanding boxer. The winner of this fight been the two Garcias will put themselves back in contention for a world title shot, while the loser will back to the drawing board and may find lucrative opportunities harder to secure. There is much riding on the outcome.
Enjoy all the action over the next few months, hopefully it lives up to expectations and one day we will look back fondly on 2019 in the way we do in what should be an exciting period in boxing.