McGregor, Fury and Joshua… the biggest fights to come in 2021
Let’s get ready to rumble! After Covid KO’d much of boxing and UFC in 2020, this year will see blockbuster fights return, including Conor McGregor’s long-awaited comeback, Dillian Whyte’s revenge mission… and Tyson Fury FINALLY facing Anthony Joshua
- There are some epic match-ups to look forward to in UFC and boxing this year
- Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua’s heavyweight unification is the biggest draw
- Meanwhile, Conor McGregor will make his comeback against Dustin Poirer
- Sportsmail looks at some of the biggest fights to look forward to in 2021
The fighting scene was knocked to the canvas by coronavirus last year – but the towel hasn’t been thrown in.
Some major bouts have been postponed and pushed back, but there’s plenty to look forward to in 2021 as both boxing and UFC look to bounce back.
Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder will look to settle the long-running heavyweight argument once and for all, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
There’s also plenty of anticipation too for the UFC, after Conor McGregor announced his return to the sport despite retiring in the summer. With Khabib Nurmagomedov calling it a day, the stage is set for the Irishman, plus a new generation of stars, to dominate.
Sportsmail looks through the possible calendar for 2021, underlining which fights you can start to get excited about.
Boxing fans have a huge number of fights to look forward to ahead of a blockbuster 2021 – most notably Tyson Fury (above) and Anthony Joshua’s world heavyweight unification bout
Joshua saw off Kubrat Pulev in December to pave the way for his fight with Fury
Conor McGregor v Dustin Poirier II
Date: January 23
We thought the Irishman was done and dusted. Or did we? It’s difficult to keep track of how many times Conor McGregor has hung up his gloves, but this time it looked like he might be serious.
‘The game just does not excite me, and that’s that,’ McGregor said in July. ‘All this waiting around. There’s nothing happening. I’m going through opponent options, and there’s nothing really there at the minute. There’s nothing that’s exciting me.’
But ever since then he has been teasing fans about a comeback and earlier this month he finally announced would take on old foe Poirier in a rematch, having stopped him in the first round of their previous clash in 2014.
Conor McGregor announced his comeback in UFC and will take on Dustin Poirier on January 23
The pair last fought back in 2014 with the Irishman securing a stoppage in the first round
‘I am very grateful to be about to return and get to do what I love again,’ he said in a statement on Instagram.
‘I look forward to the fresh test Dustin will bring since our first bout, while also showcasing my own incredibly deep cache of weaponry. Whatever tool is needed on the night will be pulled from the duffel.’
With Khabib announcing his retirement from UFC after his brilliant win over Justin Gaethje, McGregor has a huge opportunity to reign supreme and reclaim the belts he lost to the Russian.
The fight with Poirier is set for January 23 at UFC 257, as MMA return’s to Dana White’s Fight Island in Abu Dhabi.
McGregor said he would show off his ‘deep cache of weaponry’ when he takes on Poirier again
Alexander Povetkin v Dillian Whyte II
Eddie Hearn’s plan to stage top class boxing in his own back garden was a stroke of genius and perfect for boxing fans to get their fix despite lockdown KOing a spate of summer match-ups.
But it won’t be a memory that Dillian Whyte will want to hold on to for too long after being stunned by a shock knockout against Russian hitman Povetkin in August.
Whyte had been the WBC mandatory challenger for more than 1,000 days and just needed to see off the ageing heavyweight to keep himself in line for a shot at Tyson Fury’s title.
Dillian Whyte was knocked out cold by Alexander Povetkin after a devastating uppercut
A testing encounter, sure, but not many predicted it would go this way. Whyte looked good on the night and was ahead on the scorecards before he was caught by a devastating left uppercut in the fifth round. The ‘Body Snatcher’ gave no excuses after the fight and quickly asked for a rematch from promoter Hearn.
That’s exactly what he’ll get thanks to a clause in their pre-fight contract, but he would have been frustrated after their initial November 21 slot had to be pushed back after Povetkin tested positive for coronavirus.
A date of January 30 was mooted too, although Povetkin’s promoter Andrey Ryabinsky hinted that his fighter may still be yet to recover by that date. Whyte has been left sceptical about Povetkin’s true state and claimed he was lying about his diagnosis to give himself more time to prepare.
The ‘Body Snatcher’ gave no excuses after the shock defeat and is now looking for revenge
‘I personally don’t think he’s got Covid,’ he told Sky Sports. I think he just needed more time to get ready, because he took a lot of damage in the first fight.
‘After the first fight, he took a lot of time off. Even though I got stopped, I went straight back to training and I got straight back on it.’
In any case, the British Boxing Board of Control finally put paid to that by deciding to suspend all UK boxing for January due to the need for medics to help in the fight against coronavirus amid the recent huge spike in cases.
Nevertheless, the fight is ‘ready to go’, said Hearn, and an announcement on the date is due any day.
Chris Weidman v Uriah Hall
Date: February 13
Veteran Uriah Hall will be given the opportunity to avenge his loss to Weidman at the start of the year after the pair agreed to the middleweight clash at UFC 258 in Abu Dhabi.
Hall lost by technical knockout against Weidman all the way back in 2010 in their Ring of Combat 31 main event.
‘Primetime’ has impressed in his last three fights – which have all ended by knockout, including his latest against Anderson Silva, which was stopped in their fourth round.
Uriah Hall won his third successive fight after stopping Anderson Silva in his farewell fight
He will face Chris Weidman in a rematch in February after a decade since their first fight
In an emotional encounter that was due to be Silva’s retirement fight, Hall wept on the canvas with Silva after the final bell. Now he’ll be looking to take the momentum into his next challenge against the ‘All American’ and settle the score.
While Weidman enjoyed a superb start to his career, winning his first 13 bouts – including against Hall in just his third fight – his last three have seen just one win and two defeats.
After the fight was confirmed, Weidman wrote on Twitter: ‘Contract signed and delivered! February 13th I will compete against Uriah Hall, once again. We fought over 10 years ago in the @ringofcombat championship as two of the highest ranked, undefeated prospects in the world, at the time. Now we are doing it again over 10 years later, on.’
Errol Spence Jr v Terence Crawford
Date: TBC (not confirmed)
As two of the best in the welterweight division (along with the evergreen Manny Pacquiao), it’s surely a matter of when and not if this bout takes place.
WBO champion Terence Crawford made light work of Kell Brook last year and has been in talks to face Spence Jr for years, with the pair involved in a handful of angry exchanges on social media in 2020.
In January, Crawford wrote: ‘Keep defending him because I’m telling y’all now and I mean what I say when that day come when I knock him [out] I want all y’all to keep that same energy because he gone cry in the car he wasn’t built for this s*** I got over here just watch me show the world.’
Terence Crawford confirmed his status as the top welterweight after stopping Kell Brook
The previous year, Crawford said Spence Jr and his team had been making ‘excuses after excuses after excuses’ to sidestep the bout, but he hit back on Twitter and said: ‘Y’all can believe the bs if you want I’m [ducking] nothing.’
So will we see this mouth-watering contest finally agreed in 2021? After his win over Brook, Crawford called out Manny Pacquiao, but his promoter Bob Arum believes he would have far too much for Spence Jr, who saw off Danny Garcia back in December.
He has been in talks with Errol Spence Jr and a highly anticipated fight could be agreed
‘If they really want a big PPV I’ll put Crawford in with both of them on the same night and he beats both (Crawford and Garcia),’ Arum confidently said.
‘The welterweights around now are not competitive with Crawford.
‘Errol Spence will try to avoid Crawford for as long as he can. He’ll take out Spence in the same number of rounds as he did Kell Brook.’
Anthony Joshua v Tyson Fury
The big one. Joshua and Fury have already agreed to a two-fight deal that would see WBC champion Fury take on Joshua, who holds the IBF, WBA and WBO belts, in an epic, all-British undisputed world heavyweight title fight.
Fury’s promoter Frank Warren has previously described it as ‘the easiest fight to make’, while Hearn revealed this summer that talks were well underway and teased a possible date of summer 2021.
‘It’s fair to say [Joshua and Fury] are in agreement regarding the financial terms of the fight. We’re in a good place. It’s fair to say that, in principle, both guys have agreed to that fight. Two fights.
Fury and Joshua have both agreed terms for a two-fight deal, but may have to wait to clash
‘[There’s] a lot to overcome in the meantime. We’re moving in the right direction. I’m confident that both guys have given their blessing for the fight to go ahead.
‘The point of Fury, Joshua and the teams agreeing to the structure of the deal? The first fight could happen next summer. It will be 2021.’
Deontay Wilder, dethroned by Fury as WBC champion, is looking to push for a third fight against Fury, however. He still believes he is contracted to that trilogy fight, a claim which Fury’s team has repeatedly dismissed.
Joshua overcame a scare in 2019 as he was stopped by unfancied Andy Ruiz Jr in New York before dominating him on points in the rematch in Saudi Arabia. He then beat Kubrat Pulev by knockout in December, opening up a mega fight with Fury.
The pair encountered each other by chance in Marbella last year (pictured)
With the match-up certain to stir up excitement across the globe and lucrative payouts, it should be straightforward for both to come to an agreement.
‘Providing we both come through our next fights, then I would like to think this fight – me and Joshua – will finally get made,’ Fury told talkSport.
‘We’re both on top of our careers, both world heavyweight champions, and I’d like to think it can happen twice next year.’
Just a few political hurdles remain – Oleksandr Usyk is the WBA mandatory challenger and has the backing of the board to fight Joshua next, so both will need to be appeased.
Plus there’s the question of where the fight will take place. The pandemic is currently raging in the UK and all parties clearly want a packed Wembley stadium full of 90,000 fans watching. That seems like a distant dream right now during Lockdown 3.0.
But once those loose ends are tied up, get set for the biggest fight in decades.
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