LAS VEGAS — It’s never safe to speak in absolutes, but it’s probably fair to say it’s been years since there has been a month in combat sports that will rival June.
The month is loaded with superstars and big bouts, both in boxing and in mixed martial arts.
On the boxing side, four of the Top 10 fighters in the Yahoo Sports pound-for-pound list will compete in June, as well as Floyd Mayweather Jr., the one-time pound-for-pound king who is coming out of retirement for an exhibition match on Sunday against Logan Paul.
In addition to Mayweather, No. 3 Naoya Inoue will defend his bantamweight titles against Michael Dasmarinas in a "Top Rank on ESPN" bout on June 19 in Las Vegas.
That same night in Miami, No. 5 Teofimo Lopez will defend his undisputed lightweight title against mandatory challenger George Kambosos. No. 6 Vasiliy Lomachenko faces Masayoshi Nakatani on June 26, and No. 9 Shakur Stevenson will face Jeremiah Nakathila on June 12. The month ends with Gervonta Davis facing Mario Barrios in the main event of a pay-per-view card in Atlanta for another WBA title.
We just watched the 140-pound unification bout between Josh Taylor and Jose Ramirez on May 22 in Las Vegas, which Taylor won by unanimous decision to become undisputed champion. The WBA has opted to declare the Davis-Barrios bout a championship bout. Now, we all know it’s not really for the championship, it is for a championship. More significantly, it keeps one of the sport’s rising young stars active in what could be an intriguing fight.
That’s not nearly the extent of it, but more on that in a minute.
On the MMA side, the month kicks off with a fun heavyweight match on Saturday in Las Vegas between Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Augusto Sakai at Apex in the main event of UFC Vegas 28.
Next week will be where MMA gets really crazy. On June 10, three-weight boxing champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields will make her MMA debut against Brittney Elkin in the PFL. The next night, Bellator 260 in Uncasville, Connecticut, will pit welterweight champion Douglas Lima against unbeaten Yaroslav Amosov.
And then on June 12, UFC 263 in Glendale, Arizona, will feature a pair of title fights and the return of Nate Diaz. Diaz will fight Leon Edwards in a five-round welterweight bout. Then in a rematch of one of 2020’s great fights, Deiveson Figuieredo will defend his flyweight belt against Brandon Moreno. In the main event, middleweight champion Israel Adesanya will face Marvin Vettori in another rematch.
These are the kinds of months that lift the sports. The NFL puts out its schedule months in advance and it’s become so big, there are prime-time television shows dedicated to it.
In combat sports, it’s not like that, so when so much gets packed into one month, it’s worth crowing about.
The most valid criticism one could level at boxing is a failure to consistently make the best matches that could be made. We’re still waiting for the welterweight unification bout between Errol Spence Jr. and Terence Crawford to happen. As it appears, this is going to go the way of Mayweather-Pacquiao and take years to make.
That’s the normal course of business in boxing, and it screws the most important group in the sport, the fans.
But things are changing now. The undisputed title was held in the 140-pound division last month and the undisputed lightweight title will be held when Lopez defends against Kambosos on June 19.
But in addition to all of those, there are other interesting fights like Jarrett Hurd versus Luis Arias on Sunday, Lewis Ritson versus Jeremias Ponce on June 12, Franchon Crews Dezurn versus Elin Cederroos on June 19, Jermall Charlo versus Juan Macias Montiel on June 19, Mikaela Mayer against Erica Farias on June 19, Erickson Lubin against Jeison Rosario, and Batyr Akhmedov facing Argenis Mendez on June 26.
It’s just as loaded on the MMA side. On June 19, UFC has a potential Fight of the Year with Dan Ige fighting Chan Sung Jung, the Korean Zombie, in the main event. On June 26, an important heavyweight fight between Ciryl Gane and Alexander Volkov will take place at Apex.
The PFL will also have Rory MacDonald against Gleison Tibau on June 17, and Kayla Harrison against Cindy Dandois on June 25.
It’s an incredible month for the fight game. Great fighters, tremendous matches and even some legends. I failed to note that ex-UFC champion Anderson Silva will box Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. on June 19, the same night as Chavez Sr. faces Hector Camacho Jr.
This is how it should be all the time in combat sports.
Hopefully, this is the beginning of a trend.
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