Joshua vs Molina is one of December's Top 5 events in boxingThere’s still a bucketload of action headed fight fans’ way before 2016 is through, with the month of December full of big names and meaningful matchups. Let’s jump headfirst into it, narrowing down the Top 5 Fights (no easy task given the stacked schedule) to check out. For a more extensive line up, plus next year’s fixtures, be sure to check out Boxing Base’s newly updated Complete 2016/2017 Fight Schedule. Enjoy!

Denis Lebedev vs. Murat Gassiev

December 3, Moscow, Russia

One of the Cruiserweight division’s baddest men is back in the ring, as banger Denis Lebedev hopes to make the forth defense of his WBA title, and first of the IBF version. This will be challenger Nurat Gassiev’s first crack at world honours and, while he’s the clear underdog right now, he’s knocking at the door of the Cruiserweight Top 10 nonetheless. So for that reason he should be taken seriously.

The victor will quickly enter the running for a future showdown with division elite Oleksandr Usyk. That special talent, who outclassed WBO champion Krzysztof Glowacki in September, will be in action himself not long after, making his first title defense on the December 17 Hopkins vs. Smith Jr chief support.

Lebedev vs. Gassiev Undercard:

  • Eduard Troyanovsky vs. Julius Indongo | IBF Junior Welterweight Championship
  • Dmitry Kudryashov vs. Santander Silgado | Cruiserweight
  • Rakhim Chakhkiev vs. Maksim Vlasov | Cruiserweight

Anthony Joshua vs. Eric Molina (Showtime, Sky Sports Box Office)

December 10, Manchester, England

Anthony Joshua’s second IBF Heavyweight title defense isn’t as salivating as the Parker vs. Ruiz showdown (below), but it’s not an entirely terrible matchup considering it’ll only come as Joshua’s eighteenth pro outing. This gargantuan beast is a spectacular talent, but it’s fine that he’s being given time to develop adequately under Matchroom Boxing’s wing for the moment.

Molina, who isn’t considered a huge Heavyweight player, makes up in gruelling hard work what he lacks in actual boxing ability. He’s big at 6’ 4”, showed his mettle despite eventually being chopped down by Deontay Wilder in mid-2015, and claimed a notable scalp by knocking out Tomasz Adamek in April.

However you dress it up, it still feels like Sky Sports are putting Joshua vs. Molina in the Box Office PPV column based on Joshua’s name alone. Which is, to anyone who seriously follows the Heavyweight division, somewhat infuriating. But the event at least promises fireworks at what will no doubt be a filled-to-the-rafters Manchester Arena, with a very decent undercard in tow. If all goes to plan – and it really should – Joshua could well be in a tasty encounter with the Parker vs. Ruiz Jr winner (below) in early 2017.

Joshua vs. Molina Undercard:

  • Luis Concepcion vs. Khalid Yafai | Concepcion’s WBA Junior Bantamweight title defense
  • Callum Smith vs. Luke Blackledge | British Super Middleweight Championship
  • Hosea Burton vs. Frank Buglioni | British Light Heavyweight Championship
  • Dillian Whyte vs. Derek Chisora | British Heavyweight Championship
  • Scott Quigg vs. Jose Cayetano | Featherweight
  • Luis Ortiz vs. David Allen | Heavyweight
  • Katie Taylor vs. TBA | Featherweight

Joseph Parker vs. Andy Ruiz Jr (Boxnation, UniMas)

December 10, Auckland, New Zealand

There’s not much to dislike about this meeting of two undefeated, promising Heavyweight contenders who’ll be trading punches for the vacant WBO title. That accolade previously belonged to then-unified champ Tyson Fury before being stripped for not facing the WBO’s mandatory challenger (if memory serves me correct) after beating Wladimir Klitschko last November.

The title had to fall somewhere, and though vacant championships sometimes feel notably underwhelming, the matchup itself is a good one. Joseph Parker and John Ruiz Jr have been on the rise for some time, and this logical step up before tackling division elites is very satisfying to the ear. Parker is probably the bigger puncher here, but Ruiz is just as gnarly and capable – despite his unassuming ‘padded’ frame – so we should be in for some fiery drama. And most likely a fan-pleasing knockout.

 

(Note: December 10th has two other additional marquee cards in store (listed below in ‘Best of the Rest’), with Terence Crawford putting his WBO and WBC Junior Welterweight titles on the line against John Molina Jr, plus Jermall Charlo defending his IBF Junior Middleweight titles against Julian Williams. An absolute monster night of boxing. Period.)

Bernard Hopkins vs. Joe Smith Jr (HBO, Boxnation)

December 17, Inglewood, California

This is supposedly Bernard Hopkins’ final hurrah in boxing, ending a long, long career which saw the aging wonder cement his legacy with late wins over the likes of Kelly Pavlik, Chad Dawson and Jean Pascal. But will Hopkins, who hasn’t fought since being thoroughly dominated by Sergey Kovalev in November 2014, still be good enough to handle a young, rising puncher in Joe Smith Jr? The nearer this fight gets, the more you have to really wonder about that. Hopkins will be almost 51-years-old when they meet, while Smith, although lacking top-level experience, will climb through the ropes a fresh 27 with no hard battles on the clock.

To be fair, Smith does actually have a career-defining win on the slate: a devastating 1st round knockout of Andrzej Fonfara in June. That victory was a major upset at the time, and that mainstream exposure should be enough to draw in attention from fight fans. But, like Joshua vs. Molina (above), this headliner still needs a decent undercard to make it worth staying up for. Luckily for us it does.

Hopkins vs. Smith Jr Undercard:

  • Oleksandr Usyk vs. Thabisco Mchunu | Usyk’s WBO Cruiserweight title defense
  • Yamaguchi Falcao vs. Antonio Gutierrez | Middleweight
  • Jason Quigley vs. Jorge Melendez | Middleweight
  • Joseph Diaz vs. Horacio Garcia | Featherweight
  • Carlos Morales vs. Charles Huerta | Junior Lightweight

Takashi Uchiyama vs. Jezreel Corrales II

December 31, Tokyo, Japan

This rematch is highly anticipated for obvious reasons, mainly because division-ruler Takashi Uchiyama was emphatically crushed by unexpected spoiler Jezreel Corrales in April. Up until that point, it kinda seemed like Uchiyama, who had already made eleven defences of his WBA crown, was one of those special fighters who was only going to taste defeat if age, or perhaps an injury, reared its ugly head during a fight.

But Uchiyama, like every boxer, is human, and that night he was certainly No.2. A devastating counter blow from Corrales cracked Uchiyama in the 2nd round, and three knockdowns later the short-lived beat down was over. So, not only is this sequel a battle of two top-drawer boxing talents, it’s a grudge match for the former champ who’ll no doubt be highly focused and, understandably more cautious, when the bell rings. Intriguing stuff, indeed, with the rematch offering extra sizzle to an already talent-packed Top 10 Junior Lightweight crowd.

Uchiyama vs. Corrales II Undercard:

  • Ryoichi Taguchi vs. Carlos Canizales | WBA Junior Flyweight Championship

 

Boxing in December: Best of the Rest

Billy Joe Saunders vs. Artur Akavov (Boxnation)

December 3, Glasgow, Scotland; WBO Middleweight Championship

 

Terence Crawford vs. John Molina Jr (HBO, Boxnation)

December 10, Omaha, Nebraska; WBC, WBO Junior Welterweight Championship

Undercard:
  • Juan Diaz vs. Raymundo Beltran; Lightweight
  • Sean Monaghan vs. Fernando Castaneda; Light Heavyweight
  • Mike Reed vs. Sidney Siqueira; Junior Welterweight

 

Jermall Charlo vs. Julian Williams (Showtime)

December 10, LA, California; IBF Junior Middleweight Championship

Undercard:
  • Jesus Andres Cuellar vs. Abner Mares; WBA Featherweight Championship
  • Sergey Lipinets vs. Leonardo Zappavigna; Junior Welterweight

 

Vyacheslav Shabranskyy vs. Sullivan Barrera (Boxnation)

December 16, Indio, California; Light Heavyweight

Undercard:
  • Eddie Gomez vs. Rashidi Ellis; Welterweight
  • Ronny Rios vs. Roy Tapia; Featherweight

 

Bermaine Stiverne vs. Alexander Povetkin

December 17, Russia; Heavyweight

 

Artur Beterbiev vs. Isidro Prieto (Boxnation)

December 23, Gatineau, Quebec; Light Heavyweight

 

Naoya Inoue vs. Kohei Kono

December 30, Tokyo, Japan; WBO Junior Bantamweight Championship

 

Jonathan Guzman vs. Yukinori Oguni

December 31, Japan; IBF Junior Featherweight Championship

Undercard:
  • Lee Haskins vs. Shohei Oguni; IBF Bantamweight Championship
  • Kazuto Ioka vs. Yutthana Kaensa; WBA Flyweight Championship

 

Moises Fuentes vs. Kosei Tanaka

December 31, Japan; vacant WBO Junior Flyweight Championship

 

Chime in with your own favourite picks for this coming December below, folks. Which dustups are you relishing most? And what will be the state of the game when the door finally closes on the boxing 2016 calendar?

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