-- There's no need to go into the ghastly details of how bad boxing was in 2016. Suffice it to say that it sucked. Let's move on to 2017. After all, hope clearly spring eternal in the hearts of boxing fans, or we wouldn't keep sticking our chins out, year after year.
There are a number of attractive bouts (on paper, at least) already scheduled, specifically Anthony Joshua-Wladimir Klitschko, Keith Thurman-Danny Garcia, Gennady Golovkin-Daniel Jacobs, Carl Frampton-Leo Santa Cruz II and James DeGale-Badou Jack. But we all know how quickly things can fall apart. Besides, we're going to need a lot more than five good fights to turn things around.
Here then, in no particular order, are some potential matches I've been daydreaming about, political considerations notwithstanding. Let's start with a quartet that depends, more or less, on the aforementioned scheduled bouts taking place:
Deontay Wilder vs. the Joshua-Klitschko winner, world heavyweight championship: If Joshua defeats Klitschko, a match with Wilder would be the most significant heavyweight title fight in more than a decade. A Klitschko victory would be less attractive because of Wlad's circumspect approach. Still, the opportunity for the "Bronze Bomber" to unify belts would galvanize U.S. fans, regardless of who's in the other corner. Then, if Tyson Fury returns, a showdown with whoever emerges victorious from the threesome would clear up any lingering doubt as to who is the genuine champion.
Manny Pacquiao vs. the Thurman-Garcia winner, welterweight unification: Granted, Pacquiao isn't the whirlwind punching machine he was in his younger days. But he's still a top-10 pound-for-pound fighter who has seldom been given credit for tweaking his style in order to compete at the top level in his late 30s. Thurman is generally considered a slight favorite going into the Garcia match, but both men will be facing their toughest opponent to date, and it looks more like a tossup than a sure thing for either. That, of course, is why we're looking forward to it. But regardless of who wins, a fight with Pacquiao would be a major pay-per-view attraction and more likely than not a terrific fight.
Gennady Golovkin vs. Canelo Alvarez, middleweight championship: Forget all the double talk about Alvarez's weight. It's just a misinformation campaign, also known as "fake news." Alvarez has already come into the ring for junior middleweight bouts at super middle, thanks to the absurd practice of having weigh-ins the day before the fight. We should also not count on Oscar De La Hoya's promise that the fight will take place in 2017. Even so, GGG vs. Canelo is still the biggest fight boxing can make right now and has the potential to give the PPV end of the business a much-needed boost. It's a risk-reward situation, and if the reward is big enough, it will happen.
James DeGale-Badou Jack winner vs. Gilberto Ramirez, super middleweight unification: There are no genuine superstars in the 168-pound class but plenty of good fighters and appealing fights to be made. The undefeated Ramirez against the DeGale-Jack winner is one of the better ones.
Errol Spence Jr. vs. Tim Bradley, welterweight: Many pundits believe Spence is the future of the welterweight division and beyond, and they might very well be correct. But despite his seemingly limitless potential, the two biggest names on his record so far are Chris Algieri and Leonard Bundu. Bradley, whose only losses have been to Pacquiao, would be an excellent test to gauge Spence's true capability. It would also tell us how much Bradley has left after a career of taking on one tough assignment after another.
Adonis Stevenson vs. Andre Ward, light heavyweight unification: It's fashionable to diss Stevenson because of his past criminal record and the notion he has been ducking tough opponents such as Sergey Kovalev and Ward. But there's no getting around the fact that he is the legitimate, lineal 175-pound champion. A match with Ward would settle the latter grievance, and even though Ward would be understandably favored to win, if Stevenson hits him with a flush punch the way Kovalev did in the second round, "S.O.G" might not get up.
Orlando Salido vs. Francisco Vargas-Miguel Berchelt winner, junior lightweight title: Salido has become a fan favorite for one simple reason -- he has been involved in a lot of mind-boggling slugfests. He drew with Vargas in a 2016 sizzler, which many thought should have been scored in Salido's favor. If Berchelt wins, he could fight Salido instead. It's a win-win situation. Age will eventually catch up with Salido, who is 36, but until it does, he's must-watch TV.
Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez vs. Naoya Inque, junior bantamweight unification: If anybody can whip Gonzalez, the pound-for-pound champ, it would be Japanese prodigy Inque. If I had to pick just one of the fights listed, it would be this one. Both of these little guys are astonishingly talented and, just as important from my point of view, always try to get the other guy out of there.
Other matchups: Joe Smith Jr. vs. Artur Beterbiev, light heavyweight; Erislandy Lara vs. Jermall Charlo, junior middleweight; Terrence Crawford vs. Adrien Broner, junior welterweight; Ray Beltran vs. Robert Easter Jr., lightweight; Jason Sosa vs. Jose Pedraza, junior lightweight; Javier Fortuna vs. Omar Douglas II, junior lightweight; Juan Francisco Estrada vs. Roman Gonzalez II, junior bantamweight.