Label volunteer writer Ben Palmer outlines the new era of heavyweight boxing and the main title contenders for the future.
The heavyweight boxing scene hasn’t been this explosive for decades. The Klitschko dynasty has been well and truly toppled and this new crop of heavyweights has already provided showreel after showreel of skills and thrills. In this article, I will discuss the prize fighters who could and should meet in the next few years as the popularity of boxing seems to be returning to the years of Tyson, Holyfield and Bruno.
Anthony Joshua (AJ) was a breath of fresh air when he turned professional after his gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics. His victory over Charles Martin in just his 16th professional bout won him the IBF heavyweight title and subsequent victories over Wladimir Klitschko and Joseph Parker secured him the WBA (Super), IBO and WBO titles. His shock seventh-round defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr Madison Square Garden on June 1st 2019 led many to call into question his heart and desire, while others accused him of looking past the Mexican. Despite these rumours, AJ reclaimed the same titles he’d lost to Ruiz just six months later, skilfully outboxing the Mexican in Saudi Arabia. This first blemish on AJ’s otherwise spotless professional record seems to have roughened the edges of the Watford man who will attempt to defend his belts against mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev on December 12th 2020.
You could be forgiven for thinking the Gypsy King’s life since his shock victory over Wladimir Klitschko in 2015 has been anything other than a Hollywood movie. His well-documented struggle with mental health and dramatic weight gain after his victory over the ten-year undefeated Ukrainian made a return to the ring for the Gypsy King, who vacated his world titles as he was unable to defend them, seem impossible. However, with the help of former trainer and friend Ben Davison, Fury managed to box his way to a controversial draw against dynamite puncher and WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder after three years out of the ring, with just two glorified spars in preparation for the bout. While the judges did not grant Fury a fairy tale comeback in 2018, he took the decision out of their hands in February 2020 in his rematch with Wilder as he dismantled one of the most dangerous heavyweights of all time in devastating fashion. Now holding the WBC heavyweight belt and the Ring Magazine and lineal titles, Fury’s engaging personality seems to be gaining him more and more popularity. As a trilogy with Wilder looks to be off the cards anybody who faces Fury must put in no less than a punch perfect performance if they hope to hand the Gypsy King his first loss as a professional.
It’s impossible to deny the Bronze Bomber has lost his aura of invincibility since the humiliation served to him by Tyson Fury at the MGM Grand earlier this year. The former WBC champion certainly hasn’t helped himself by blaming the defeat on his cornermen and ring walk costume, whilst also attempting to discredit Fury by accusing him of glove tampering. Despite all of this, only a fool would write Wilder off just yet. His devastating one-punch knockout power has undoubtedly earned him a reputation as one of the most feared heavyweights of all time, although his overreliance on this contributed to his exposure by Fury. However, Wilder’s hopes of a trilogy with Fury are dwindling, whilst he also must overcome the physical and mental damage he suffered in that night in Las Vegas if he is to have any chance of becoming a two-time heavyweight champion.
Perhaps the most unfortunate man on this list, Dillian Whyte has been forced to wait over one thousand days by the WBC to challenge for the heavyweight title since being made number one contender in October 2017. The Brixton man’s resilience in the face of adversity and willingness to fight anyone can only be admired as he has provided countless exhilarating moments for boxing fans around the globe. Whyte’s first professional defeat came against Anthony Joshua in late 2015 and since then he has come on leaps and bounds, developing perhaps the most dangerous left hook in the division and a vastly improved boxing IQ to go with it. When it finally looked as though Whyte would get his chance at the WBC champion in February 2021, a cruel defeat to dangerman Alexander Povetkin means he will have to face the Russian again as a rematch is set for November 21st. If Whyte suffers back-to-back defeats, a world title shot will seem further away than ever.
While he’s not as high profile as Fury or Joshua, the latter must deal with his IBF mandatory challenger in Kubrat Pulev before he considers a mega-fight with the Gypsy King. Pulev brings some serious amateur pedigree, a crisp jab and just one loss in 29 professional fights against Wladimir Klitschko in 2014. It goes without saying that AJ must train vigorously for the Bulgarian, or else we may face a similar situation to when Andy Ruiz Jr shocked the world in June 2019.
Andy Ruiz Jr
The Destroyer contributed to one of the biggest upsets in boxing in the 21st century defeating Anthony Joshua in Madison Square Garden in June 2019 as he became the first-ever Mexican heavyweight champion of the world. However, Ruiz Jr undoubtedly struggled with the lifestyle that comes with such an accolade as he seemed to be consumed by his new luxurious lifestyle. Just six months later he weighed in over one stone heavier in his rematch with AJ and this excess mass was extremely apparent; the Mexican was left frustrated by AJ’s fast footwork as he was unable to manoeuvre his way into a position where he could land a meaningful punch. He has since split with trainer Manny Robles who criticised the fighter’s desire and commitment in the aftermath of the fight. The question remains whether he can reignite his desire to train as hard as possible and regain his sharpness that saw him become heavyweight champion of the world or will he simply be resigned to the history books as a one-fight wonder?
Regardless of what happens over the next few months and even years in the division, boxing fans around the world are guaranteed entertainment as each member of this golden generation looks to cement their place in the history books as an all-time great.
Header by Frankie Stevens – Head of Design
Edited by Lois George – Sports Editor