It wasn’t that long ago that the cruiserweight division stole the hearts of the boxing hipsters. A thriving eight-man WBSS tournament climaxed in Usyk vs Gassiev, but since those halcyon days of 2018, it hasn’t really set the world alight.
There have been multiple changes of the guard since and a real jostle for position inside the top 10, but what are the biggest fights to be made at the 200-pound limit today?
5. Arsen Goulamirian vs Yuniel Dorticos
By all means, this is a fight that we should be getting early in 2024. Now, I am not expecting you to text your pals about it or even pencil this one in your diaries, but once the cruiserweight barrel has been scraped, this should be a fun-ish match-up.
Mainly because it’s impossible to have any idea how good either Goulamirian (fighting once since 2019) or Dorticos (37 and contesting four rounds since 2020) are at this stage of their career.
Goulamirian is in the conversation to be the least recognised “recognised” champion in the sport alongside your strawweight, but hey, he has a belt, and that means we can’t completely forget about him.
4. Yuniel Dorticos vs Badou Jack
At a combined age of 77, this would surely be the oldest contest in the division, but it’s looking unlikely if Jack is to travel up to bridgerweight in order to snatch another world title as a 40-year-old.
Jack is 6-0 since the pandemic and is picking and choosing the most lucrative opportunities as he has a final go at filling his trophy cabinet.
Listen, we’re clutching at straws here, but we’d all watch if Dorticos and Jack decided to dance.
3. Chris Billam-Smith vs Richard Riakporhe II
Riakporhe won a split decision when these two first met in 2019 over ten rounds, but both have made significant improvements in the division and are well-established at world level.
Billam-Smith holds a version of the world title, but Riakporhe – who has stopped his last four opponents en route to a 16-0 record – will believe he has his number, as well as the power to put a dent in his countryman. Both are under the BOXXER banner, this shouldn’t be hard to get over the line.
2. Jai Opetaia vs Richard Riakporhe
This fight only plays secondary to Opetaia-Billiam-Smith due to the belt situation, but in all honesty, it’s a coin toss between the pair.
This is more likely to catch fire between two guys with KO percentages exceeding 75%.
1. Jai Opetaia vs Chris Billam-Smith
Looking across the list of champions, this is the unification fight to make. Opetaia seemingly came out of nowhere to dethrone Mairis Briedis last summer, but now looks like the real deal in the division.
His destruction of Jordan Thompson was impressive – if expected – and will no doubt start as a favourite against the Bournemouth fighter. Billiam-Smith is a quick learner and has shown plenty of adaptability in fights, so will be capable of asking questions of the Australian.