Ranking the 12 notable boxing title fights in June
June is full of title fights, some defenses with unexpected challengers because of injuries and positive tests for banned substances. In most of these cases, the replacements for those original opponents were met with shrugs of the shoulders. It’s not easy to find late replacements for title fights. But this is boxing, so anything can happen, and just because a matchup on paper isn’t exciting doesn’t mean it won’t make a good fight.
With that in mind, here’s a ranking of the 12 most notable title fights in the month of June based on importance and entertainment value.
1. Joshua Franco vs. Kazuto Ioka 2, 12 rounds for Franco’s WBA junior bantamweight title, June 24
When these two fought in December, the fight ended in a majority draw. Now Franco and Ioka are about to run it back, again in Japan. Franco (18-1-3, 8 KO) will be making his fourth title defense but only his second different opponent in five fights as he has taken on Andrew Moloney three times and now Ioka twice. Ioka (29-2-1, 15 KO) is a former longtime WBO junior bantamweight champion. He vacated the belt to pursue the rematch against Franco.
This is a fight between ESPN’s No. 3 junior bantamweight (Ioka) and the No. 4 (Franco). More than any other fight this month, this one might be must-see TV, although it’s not clear at this point if it’ll actually be televised in the United States, which is a shame. It’s one of three title fights this month between fighters in the top five in their divisions.
2. Josh Taylor vs. Teofimo Lopez Jr., 12 rounds for Taylor’s WBO junior welterweight title, June 10 (Watch it on ESPN)
This is the fight with the most star wattage, as Taylor (19-0, 13 KO) was the undisputed junior welterweight champion until the WBA, WBC and IBF stripped him of their titles since he wanted to have a rematch with Jack Catterall instead of facing his mandatory challengers with those organizations. Lopez (18-1, 13 KO) is a former IBF, WBA and WBO lightweight champion. It has been an uninspiring two years for Lopez, between the loss to George Kambosos Jr., a knockout of Pedro Campa and a split-decision win over Sandor Martin.
Of all the fights listed, this one has the most chance for fireworks and for an upset. If Taylor wins, it should keep him as the division’s best. If Lopez wins, it’s a chance at a career resurrection at age 25.
3. Cherneka Johnson vs. Ellie Scotney, 10 rounds for Johnson’s IBF women’s junior featherweight title, June 10
This is one of three fights among the title bouts which has two fighters ranked in the top five of their divisions — Johnson is No. 4, Scotney No. 5. This should have been the main supporting fight on the Katie Taylor-Chantelle Cameron undercard last month, but it was moved.
Johnson (15-1, 6 KO) is an exciting fighter — go watch her title defense against Susie Ramadan, where she dominated despite a hellacious cut early in the fight because of a headbutt. She has a chance to be one of the sport’s next stars.
Scotney (6-0) is a fast-tracked dynamo and was ESPN’s 2022 women’s prospect of the year.
4. Claressa Shields vs. Maricela Cornejo, 12 rounds for Shields’ undisputed women’s middleweight championship, Saturday
The only fight for an undisputed championship on the line in June, ESPN’s No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter and women’s fighter of the year in 2022 makes her 2023 debut. This fight would have been No. 2 on the list, but Hanna Gabriels was pulled after testing positive for a banned substance. Shields (13-0, 2 KO) instead fights Cornejo (16-5, 6 KO) in Detroit, and while Cornejo is a fine fighter, she hasn’t beaten an opponent with a record over .500 since 2019. It should be a nice headlining homecoming for Shields, one of boxing’s best.
5. Regis Prograis vs. Danielito Zorrilla, 12 rounds for Prograis’ WBC junior welterweight title, June 17
This is a good defense and homecoming for Prograis (28-1, 24 KO) in New Orleans. With a win, Prograis, ESPN’s No. 3 junior welterweight, could set himself up for a bigger fight down the road after signing a multifight deal with Matchroom Boxing. Should he do what’s expected, his next fight could be a rematch with Josh Taylor or fights against Jack Catterall or perhaps Ryan Garcia. Zorrilla (17-1, 13 KO) is a good replacement for Liam Paro, who had to withdraw with an injury. Zorrilla’s only loss came to Arnold Barboza Jr. last year. While not the best matchup, it’s still one that has some chance of being competitive.
6. Carlos Adames vs. Julian Williams, 12 rounds for Adames’ WBC interim middleweight title, June 24
Adames (22-1, 17 KO) is making his first interim title defense after dominating Juan Macias Montiel last year to win the belt. Williams (28-3-1, 16 KO) is a former IBF and WBA junior middleweight champion and should be a tough challenge for Adames. Williams won those belts by beating Jarrett Hurd in 2019, then lost them to Jeison Rosario the next year. He followed that up with a loss to Vladimir Hernandez, so this feels like a last-chance big-time fight for the 33-year-old Williams. A desperation fight between two fighters with KO power will make for a very entertaining bout.
7. Tim Tszyu vs. Carlos Ocampo, 12 rounds for Tszyu’s WBO interim junior middleweight title, June 18
Watching Tszyu (22-0, 16 KO), ESPN’s No. 2 junior middleweight, is a joy. He’s one of the most explosive, intriguing fighters in the sport, and considering the relative inactivity of Jermell Charlo, Tszyu is the division’s top busy fighter at the moment. Ocampo (35-2, 23 KO) is an intriguing opponent, but his two highest-level challenges — Errol Spence Jr. in 2018 and Sebastian Fundora last year — ended in defeat (a knockout by Spence and a unanimous-decision loss to Fundora). This fight is about Tszyu’s opportunity to show if he’s a real challenge for Charlo, the undisputed champion in the division.
8. Mayerlin Rivas vs. Nazarena Romero, 10 rounds for Rivas’ WBA women’s junior featherweight belt, June 10
Rivas (17-4-2, 11 KO), of Venezuela, is one of the more exciting women’s fighters you likely haven’t heard of. ESPN’s No. 3 fighter in the division, the 35-year-old has been on the world title scene for a while and is making her second title defense. The undefeated Romero (13-0, 7 KO) doesn’t have a great résumé, but it’s an interesting challenge for Rivas, who is headed to Romero’s native Argentina to fight. This is the third fight in that country for Rivas where she’s 0-2, with both defeats being by close decisions. Will she go for a KO this time?
9. Nina Hughes vs. Katie Healy, 10 rounds for Hughes’ WBA women’s bantamweight title, June 10
The original opponent for Hughes was supposed to be Shannon Courtenay, which would have made for an even more intriguing fight. This is still a reasonable title defense for Hughes (5-0, 2 KO), making her first title defense at age 40 after beating Jamie Mitchell last year. Healy (6-0) is a young fighter who could surprise, but the 25-year-old has fought one fighter with a record over .500, beating Matshidiso Mokebisi last year by unanimous decision. The winner will have plenty of chances to unify belts since there are four different champions in this division.
10. Fernando Martinez vs. Jade Bornea, 12 rounds for Martinez’s IBF junior bantamweight title, June 24
Martinez (15-0, 8 KO) is making the second defense of his IBF title after two wins over Jerwin Ancajas last year. This is a stay-busy opponent for Martinez. Despite his undefeated record, Bornea (18-0, 12 KO) hasn’t fought anyone in the same galaxy of talent level as Martinez, ESPN’s No. 5 junior bantamweight. If you like underdogs, a win by Bornea would be a huge upset.
11. Sunny Edwards vs. Andres Campos, 12 rounds for Edwards’ IBF flyweight title, June 10
Edwards (19-0, 4 KO) has won some big fights of late and is making the fourth defense of his flyweight title. Campos (15-0, 4 KO) is undefeated, but he hasn’t really fought anyone of note, and he hasn’t fought a fighter entering the fight with fewer than four losses since 2020. This is a big, big step up for Campos and a priceless opportunity to show he belongs at this level.
12. Mizuki Hiruta vs. Casey Morton, 10 rounds for Hiruta’s WBO women’s junior bantamweight title, June 13
Hiruta (4-0) won the title in December and makes her first title defense in Japan against Morton (11-3-3, 3 KO), a largely unknown American fighter who once challenged for the belt in a 2019 loss to Miyo Yoshida.