With Fury and Wilder’s rematch incoming, Cameron Osborne looks at the condition of boxing’s heavyweight division. Is this the year we’ve been waiting for?
On the 22nd of February, Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder will face off in Las Vegas for the second time. The rematch between these two titans of the heavyweight division is hotly anticipated, after the first fight ended in a controversial draw, despite several pundits and onlookers thinking Fury should have emerged victorious. Many hope that the clash will mark the start of an exciting year for heavyweight boxing, in a division that has faced criticism for its perceived stagnation since the days of Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis and the Klitschko brothers.
Ever since Fury’s fellow Briton Anthony Joshua rose to boxing stardom and won his first world title in 2016, fans have been desperate for a face-off between Joshua and Wilder, the two men often cited as the hardest hitters in boxing. However, this fight has consistently failed to materialise, with either one or both of the fighters’ teams reluctant to risk the consequences of a potential loss.
FANS HAVE BEEN DESPERATE FOR A FACE-OFF BETWEEN JOSHUA AND WILDER, THE TWO MEN OFTEN CITED AS THE HARDEST HITTERS IN BOXING.
In the meantime, Wilder has staunchly defended his WBC belt against a varying calibre of opposition and Joshua has hunted down the other belts in fights with Wladimir Klitschko and Joseph Parker, only to dramatically lose them all on his US debut against Mexican Andy Ruiz Jr, his first professional loss. Joshua went on to reclaim his belts against Ruiz in Saudi Arabia last December, meaning that a fight between against Fury or Wilder remains a viable option. However, as the holder of four world championship belts, Joshua’s mandatory defences have and could continue to prove obstructive on his path to undisputed. It’s a problem that’s far from unique to the heavyweight division, with most weight classes now home to three or four world champions, but it is rarely as pronounced as amongst the heavyweights, especially with three big names all vying for the top spot.
Public opinion on the probable outcome of Wilder and Fury’s rematch is divided. Fury stands as the bookie’s very marginal favourite on account of his superior speed, skill and size, but Wilder’s notorious one-punch power has come to his rescue repeatedly in his recent fights, both against Fury and in his two fights with Cuban bogeyman Luis Ortiz. One man who has said he will be rooting for Fury come the 22nd is Anthony Joshua, who apparently hopes Fury comes away with the win since he thinks a fight between the two of them will be easier to arrange than with Wilder.
Aside from these big three, there are a host of other significant names in the heavyweight division to look out for this year. Dillian Whyte has continued to improve and impress since his one and only professional loss to Joshua back in 2015 and has made a strong case for a first world title shot in 2020, having been the WBC’s official #1 ranked contender for over two years. Unfortunately, whether or not he will get the chance in such a crowded division is far from guaranteed, however worthy he may be. The Ukrainian former cruiserweight kingpin Olexandr Usyk will also be hoping to make a name for himself in the division this year. In his heavyweight debut last year he displayed all of the speed and finesse that made him such a formidable threat at the Olympics and at cruiserweight, but it remains to be seen if the noticeable size difference between Usyk and the likes of Joshua or Fury will hold him back. Finally, while not necessarily in line for a world title bout any time soon, 22 year-old British powerhouse Daniel Dubois is set to continue his meteoric rise through the division and will hope to add to his tally of 14 wins, 13 of which have come by way of knock-out with a productive 2020.
Hopefully, Fury and Wilder’s rematch will end in a more decisive manner this time round, and the big three of the division can finally set about proving which of them is the one true king. There is plenty of talent on offer for fans of heavyweight boxing, and plenty of exciting young prospects like Dubois rising through the ranks, so the future looks bright. But until the top of the division gets its affairs in order, it can be hard to look too favourably on proceedings. Still, it’s possible, just like last year, and the year before, that this could be the year.