Although it’s perhaps not sensible to look past an upcoming opponent, most boxers – or at least their teams – do it and it’s by now very much considered the done thing, merely part of the business.
In the case of featherweights Josh Warrington and Carl Frampton, set to meet on December 22 with Warrington’s IBF title at stake, they can be forgiven for thinking about the next one, even if the current one, for both, is far from academic.
For Frampton, there is talk, should he beat Warrington, of a rubber match against WBA featherweight king Leo Santa Cruz. It’s a fight the Irishman has wanted for some time, one that surely must happen before he retires. Warrington, meanwhile, was recently called out by hot American prospect Shakur Stevenson.
For both, however, the most logical next step might be a fight against WBO featherweight champion Oscar Valdez.
That’s certainly the view of Valdez, 24-0 (19), who has made four successful defences of the title he won in July 2016 against Matias Carlos Adrian Rueda, and is eager to unify.
“I have always said that I want to fight the best,” he said. “Frampton and Warrington are both big names in the sport. I’m ready to fight the winner and unify titles.”
Valdez’s promoter Bob Arum has already spoken to Frank Warren about matching his man against the winner of the December showdown between Warrington and Frampton. Indeed, he told ‘The Boxing Beat’ on ESPN+: “We’re looking at January 12 for Valdez to fight on ESPN and then, assuming he wins that fight, we would put him in with the Frampton-Warrington winner.”
Last time out in March, Valdez, 27, went toe-to-toe with England’s Scott Quigg and came away with a broken jaw for his troubles. Now on the mend, he’s ready to establish his superiority in the nine-stone division. “I want to prove I’m the best featherweight in the world,” he said.
Following Saturday’s win over Sergiy Derevyanchenko, Brooklyn’s Daniel Jacobs, 35-2 (29), is a world middleweight champion again and, consequently, a man with a target on his back.
As the new IBF middleweight titleholder, Jacobs finds himself in position to fight a whole host of attractive opponents, all of whom bring varying degrees of danger and financial upside.
Chief among the names linked with Jacobs since Saturday’s split-decision win is fellow American Jermall Charlo, the reigning WBC interim middleweight champion. First, Charlo must defend his nonsense belt against Willie Monroe on December 22 in Brooklyn, but it’s his rivalry with Jacobs that most excites.
“I’ve always been vocal about fighting Jermall – this feud that we’re having, it’s being built,” said Jacobs, who will be ringside the night Charlo boxes Monroe. “He’s fighting Willie Monroe in his next fight, so he has obligations right now. We can’t say anything because that victory is not promised or assured. So, he has to look good and, hopefully, if he gets that victory, we can talk about that in the near future.
“But that’s a fight that we want, and that’s a fight that’s been brewing for some time now. So, if there’s any personal fight that I want, it’s that fight. But we also have a management [team], we also have a promotion that’s going to get us the bigger, better fights that make sense for my career.”
Both middleweights, Jacobs and Charlo, are advised by Al Haymon, which should help them bypass some of the usual stumbling blocks that typically prevent fights from happening.
That said, Jacobs’ promoter, Eddie Hearn, has also explored the idea of the ‘Miracle Man’ being next in line for a Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez payday, assuming the controversial Mexican gets past Rocky Fielding, the WBA regular super-middleweight champion, on December 15 at Madison Square Garden, New York. That’s presumably the ‘bigger, better’ fight to which Jacobs alludes.
Frankly, whether Jacobs twists or sticks, whether he goes left or right, he can’t really go wrong. Now 31, the American has seemingly become a two-time world middleweight champion at the perfect time and will soon have the DAZN-boosted bank balance to prove it.