Canelo Alvarez wants to unify the super middleweight division, and his quest starts on Saturday against WBA titleholder Callum Smith in San Antonio.
The vacant WBC belt is also on the line, meaning that a win against Smith could put Canelo on a path to get all four belts by the end of 2021. Canelo has already had conversations with the other titleholders and their promoters, Billy Joe Saunders and Eddie Hearn of Matchroom, and Caleb Plant and Premier Boxing Champions.
But how about Gennadiy Golovkin? He fights on Friday in Florida, and while he doesn't have a 168-pound title, a third fight against Canelo should be his priority next year.
Also in 2021, we could see one of the most anticipated fights in a long time: a duel between titleholders Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury for all the marbles. Joshua is coming off a KO victory over Kubrat Pulev, but is he better than Fury?
And did Shakur Stevenson set up himself for a title fight against Joseph "JoJo" Diaz next, after his impressive victory on Saturday?
ESPN's boxing experts share their thoughts on these topics and more.
Real or not: GGG should try to capture a belt at 168 pounds
Michael Rothstein: Gennadiy Golovkin, at age 38, is closer to the end of his career than the start at this point. So in some ways he needs to figure out whether he wants to chase Canelo Alvarez -- which could mean going up to 168 pounds -- or trying to pick up more titles at 160 pounds to add to his IBF belt. A fight at 168 pounds between Alvarez and Golovkin would be intriguing, although Alvarez doesn't seem too interested in that at the moment.
Canelo-GGG III would be the best fight at 160 or 168 to make from a financial standpoint, but that doesn't seem imminent.
So if that's the fight Golovkin really wants before he gets too old, he should probably make the move up to 168. If he is comfortable not chasing Alvarez -- at least not immediately -- it might behoove him to stay at 160 and try to pick up another belt there at the weight he's currently fighting at.
Real or not: Canelo will unify the super middleweight division in 2021
Salvador Rodriguez: Real: I can't guarantee that Canelo will finish 2021 as a unified 168-pound champion, but I am sure he will give it a try. At least that's what Canelo and his trainer, Eddy Reynoso, recently told ESPN KnockOut. If Alvarez beats Callum Smith on Saturday, then they'll see if Gennadiy Golovkin wants to go up to 168 pounds, or if they can face fellow titleholders Billy Joe Saunders and Caleb Plant, next May.
We know that they already had an agreement to fight Saunders in May 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic put a stop to the sport. They were also ready to face Golovkin in September, but it also fell apart due to the pandemic and Canelo's disagreement with Golden Boy Promotions, so it shouldn't be that difficult to negotiate with Eddie Hearn and Matchroom for either of those fights. Then there's Plant and David Benavidez, who were mentioned by Reynoso as a possibility for 2021. Both fighters are represented by Premier Boxing Champions, and Reynoso said he and Alvarez have a good relationship with the promotion. All the potential opponents for Canelo seem like solid options, and while there will be no guarantees, they want to give it a try.
Real or not: Anthony Joshua's win over Kubrat Pulev makes him world heavyweight No. 1 over Tyson Fury
Is Tyson Fury up next for Anthony Joshua?
Joe Tessitore, Timothy Bradley Jr. and Andre Ward react to Anthony Joshua's dominant performance in his knockout of Kubrat Pulev in London.
Nick Parkinson: Not real. Joshua looked sensational as he was unloading repeated uppercuts on Pulev toward the end of a ninth-round knockout win this past Saturday, but it was not enough to topple Tyson Fury from the No. 1 spot in the heavyweight rankings.
To regain top place, Joshua knows he has to beat Fury, his English rival and lineal world heavyweight champion. Joshua might hold most of the belts -- WBA, IBF, WBO to Fury's WBC -- but he is still No. 2 to Fury despite the thrilling manner of his victory on Saturday.
Fury's last win -- a seventh-round KO of Deontay Wilder in February -- was more meaningful than Joshua's effort over Pulev as Wilder was a reigning world champion, and a better opponent than Pulev.
But not much was better than AJ flooring Pulev four times in a return to the explosive form that was interrupted by Andy Ruiz Jr. Joshua, who was stopped by Ruiz in June 2019 before regaining the belts in a dominant decision victory a year ago, will take a huge amount of confidence from the way he dealt with Pulev, and that will make some think again about the outcome of a Fury-Joshua showdown.
But Fury, with his boxing IQ and the way he defused the big-punching Wilder, is still the man to beat. Joshua just narrowed the gap between 1 and 2.
Real or not: Edgar Berlanga will headline in 2021 and become a title contender
Edgar Berlanga continues streak with his 16th first-round KO
Edgar Berlanga drops Ulises Sierra twice en route to his 16th first-round knockout win.
Michael Rothstein: Real. Edgar Berlanga has the attention because of his power and the sizzle because of his 16-fight first-round knockout streak. Sure, many of the guys he's fought have not been real -- or any -- type of competition for the up-and-coming fighter, but 2021 offers some promise for something more. For perhaps a real opponent for the New Yorker -- something he desperately wants.
At this point, Top Rank should look for that. Each fight for him will carry intrigue: First to see if he can continue his first-round streak and then, once that ends, to see if he can continue his knockout streak after what he did to Ulises Sierra on Saturday night -- three knockdowns becoming a knockout in 2 minutes, 40 seconds.
"His eyes were crisscrossed. And you can put that, I want you to put that in the writing," Berlanga told ESPN after the fight. "His eyes were crisscrossed. A guy that's standing in front of me that's crisscrossed eyes and wobbly legs shouldn't be in there with me."
Berlanga's not wrong, which is why Top Rank has to make his 2021 more challenging. Berlanga wants to hear the bell signifying the end of the first round. It'll give him a chance to test himself. And it'll get him the rounds and the experience he covets so he can grow as a fighter.
"It's going to be cool," Berlanga said. "I know that people are going to go f------ crazy. I'm looking forward to it when it does. I'm going to start laughing, like, 'Oh s---, I'm in the second round after f------ four years after being pro.'"
He knows what he's doing is special -- he's already planning to tell his future kids about it someday -- but now he'd rather have the rounds instead of the flash. Berlanga trains as if he will fight longer. It still hasn't happened.
How does Top Rank solve this? First is by giving him a real fight in 2021. The 23-year-old said he would like to fight Steven Nelson or Gabriel Rosado next -- Rosado (25-13-1, 14 KOs) offers experience but has lost four of his past seven fights. The more intriguing fight might be Nelson, who is 17-0 and has 14 knockouts. Nelson hasn't been in a one-round fight since 2016. Those seem like logical next steps that could set up an even bigger challenge by the end of the year.
Top Rank needs to capitalize on Berlanga's streak. He told ESPN on Saturday night he believes he's ready to be a headliner and even said he planned on talking to Bob Arum about it.
He should, because at this point he might be one of the promotion's most intriguing draws because of his fighting style.
"We're coming into a new year, and this is a big year, and I feel like I should be headlining now," Berlanga said. "I got that type of charisma, got that type of fan base and I'm making a lot of noise in the sport and the industry."
It's time to see what Berlanga really has. The only way to do that is to give him a bigger, headliner-worthy fight to get a sense of how big a draw he could truly be.
Real or not: Shakur Stevenson should fight Joseph "JoJo" Diaz next
Kriegel's key takeaways from wins by Stevenson, Nakataki
Mark Kriegel sits down with Joe Tessitore and breaks down wins by Shakur Stevenson, Masayoshi Nakataki and Edgar Berlanga.
Cameron Wolfe: Not real. I like Stevenson's plan to wait for the winner of the proposed Jamel Herring-Carl Frampton fight (Top Rank's Bob Arum has said that fight is expected to happen in late January or early February) so he can get a shot at the WBO title in the spring. I like Stevenson's chances against any of the three (Diaz, Frampton, Herring), but the WBO bout that he's the mandatory challenger for is definitely an easier fight to make, and it's probably a better first title shot at junior lightweight for the young Stevenson. It's also worth noting that Diaz reportedly has a February bout with Shavkat Rakhimov, and it's still unclear if he will grant Tevin Farmer a rematch from their tight January IBF title bout.
Ultimately, Stevenson needs to keep his momentum moving and he can't afford to wait for Diaz. That might be a better fight for fall or winter 2021. Stevenson says his ideal 2021 plan would be the winner of Herring-Frampton in the spring, the winner of Miguel Berchelt-Oscar Valdez in the summer or fall, then Diaz before the year is up. That's the ideal order, and it would set up a fantastic 2021 for Stevenson.
Real or not: With six wins in 2020, Clay Collard is the fighter of the year
Ben Baby: Not real, obviously. As much as we all loved seeing Clay Collard get in the ring all summer and beat up other random guys, he is not going to be the fighter of the year.
With so few bouts in 2020, the winner should be the one who picked up the most impactful win. That's why my fighter of the year is Teofimo Lopez. For starters, Lopez sought a fight against Vasiliy Lomachenko, who was arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world at the time. Lopez outboxed Lomachenko and picked up a victory that gave him three of the four major belts in the 135-pound division.
Lopez's victory had a ripple effect in many ways. Not only did it flip the lightweight division on its head, but other young fighters started talking about going after big names earlier in their career. And the risk Lopez took showed that undefeated records aren't worth avoiding the risk of taking on challenging fights.
Boxing needs more guys taking risks in the ring. That's what makes the sport so compelling. And if more fighters follow Lopez's example and template, he is more than worthy of being the 2020 fighter of the year.