Fighters with a belt in one class moving up to challenge for a belt in another isn’t uncommon stuff in boxing. It used to feel more rare, more special. When sometimes half or more of any division’s top ten can have a full, regular, or interim belt, special requires additional context.
This weekend has a special match at Jr. welterweight.
On Saturday’s Dmitry Bivol-Gilberto Ramirez undercard (DAZN, 1:30 PM), unified WBC/IBF and lineal Jr. welterweight champion Chantelle Cameron (16-0, 8 KO) will face former lineal Jr. welterweight and current undisputed welterweight champion Jessica McCaskill (12-2, 5 KO). It is the latest piece of high-quality matchmaking in arguably the greatest year of women’s boxing of all time.
McCaskill, 38, has won seven in a row since a loss to Katie Taylor in 2017. McCaskill won and defended her current crown against one of the great welterweights in Cecilia Braekhus.
McCaskill will not be defending her title this weekend. That is part of the little something extra.
No, this weekend will see McCaskill move down the scale to challenge the 31-year old Cameron. The vacant WBA and WBO belts will also be on the line. It’s not something we see every day on the men’s side of the sport, especially between a pair of lineal champions. The last time we saw something similar on that side was probably Chad Dawson moving down the challenge Andre Ward at super middleweight
The women’s side has some interesting scale jumpers like Amanda Serrano and Claressa Shields, elite competitors who have traveled up and down the scale for glory. McCaskill is joining their ranks this weekend, heading back to a division where she already reigned with her best opponent since Braekhus.
For Cameron, it could be a coming out party to the larger boxing world. While respected for what she’s accomplished, she’s not yet near the level of name recognition of a Taylor, Shields, or Serrano. Neither is McCaskill just yet though harcore boxing fans are familiar with both. It’s a fitting addition to a year that has already provided Taylor-Serrano and Shields versus Savannah Marshall.
Cameron-McCaskill is also, like the Jr. lightweight unification between Alycia Baumgardner and Mikaela Mayer won by Baumgardner, a piece of a larger puzzle. What happens Saturday could play into what we see in 2023.
Baumgardner, at Jr. lightweight., is positioned perfectly between Serrano (the featherweight champion) and Taylor (the lightweight champion). The winner on Saturday will sit one division above Taylor. The big money fight is still Taylor-Serrano II.
That doesn’t make it the next fight.
The winner of Cameron-McCaskill could be a viable and attractive foe for Taylor next year.
If the UK’s Cameron wins, Ireland’s Taylor could have the perfect opponent for a mega-fight in Dublin, a stated goal. It’s a big fight anywhere in the world but Cameron-Taylor would be a sure hit on their side of the Atlantic. The Shields-Marshall/Baumgardner-Mayer doubleheader put butts in seats a few weeks ago. A homegrown clash could produce rabid results.
Should McCaskill emerge from Saturday as the undisputed champion of two weight divisions, the options for a Taylor-McCaskill rematch are fascinating. Would McCaskill tempt fate and move down one more class to try to capture the lightweight crown? Would Taylor come to Jr. welterweight in a clash where McCaskill was willing to put her titles at both Jr. welterweight and Welterweight on the line?
We’ve never seen something like that in the four-belt era. Even in the old days, sights like that were rare. Barney Ross was the lineal lightweight and Jr. welterweight champion when he rose to defeat Jimmy McClarnin for the welterweight crown. For anyone reading, that’s a free promotional angle to steal.
One of the best things boxing can produce is a healthy combination of good fights and seeds of anticipation for more of the same. From featherweight to Jr. welterweight, that has come together beautifully through the course of 2022. Cameron-McCaskill is a damn good fight.
What could follow from it is more of the same.
BY CLIFF ROLD