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Solving Boxing's Heavyweight Puzzle

Solving Boxing’s Heavyweight Puzzle

With the Fight Game on Hold, What Does the Future Hold for Fury, Joshua and their Challengers

By Lewis Watson. April 6, 2020

The current crop of heavyweights is undoubtedly one of the most exciting and competitive groups we have seen for well over a decade.

After an era of Klitschko dominance at the start of the “noughties” turned fans away, the thrilling triumvirate of Anthony Joshua, Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder has provided the perfect antidote to the memories of the Ukrainian brothers jabbing their way to title after title.

We now look to be as close as we’ve ever been to returning to the magical period when Lennox Lewis, Mike Tyson, Riddick Bowe and Evander Holyfield lit up the 90s with mesmerising, bloody battles.

Of course, the “only” issue is that, just like almost all professional sports, boxing is currently on hold due to the Coronavirus crisis. So, how will the current impasse impact the heavyweight stars as they attempt to jostle for supremacy in what is traditionally the most exciting division in the sport?

Right now Joshua and Fury hold all the marbles in the division, but with Wilder, Dillian Whyte, Luis Ortiz, Oleksandr Usyk and a plethora of young talent looking to knock down the door, big nights await in the “Land of the Giants” when the sport is finally able to resume.

A Summer of Uncertainty

This summer signalled five huge heavyweight contests that would set the path for the rest of the year to follow. The outbreak of COVID-19 has forced the postponement of four, with one remaining:

  • Daniel Dubois vs Joe Joyce (postponed – new date, July 11)
  • Dillian Whyte vs Alexander Povetkin (postponed)
  • Dereck Chisora vs Oleksandr Usyk (postponed)
  • Tyson Fury vs Deontay Wilder III (postponed)
  • Anthony Joshua vs Kubrat Pulev – July 20

The biggest questions revolve around the third fight between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder. Fury schooled the “Bronze Bomber” back in February this year leaving very little unanswered between these two rivals.

However, with the potential for a third fight agreed in their contracts, Team Wilder enforced this clause straight away leaving Bob Arum until July 18 to make the fight. Now, with news that this fight won’t be landing before July, where does that leave the pair of fighters contractually?

It’s another easy money-spinner for Fury in a fight that many believe he will win again, perhaps even more convincingly. But if he can escape the contract to pursue an undisputed fight with Anthony Joshua would the Londoner oblige?

Anthony Joshua vs Kubrat Pulev

Joshua vs Pulev at London’s Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is the last fight to be affected by the coronavirus, but it feels like a case of when, not if, it will have to be pushed back.

Joshua is fulfilling his IBF mandatory in taking this fight with the underrated Bulgarian, with the WBO mandatory expected to follow later in 2020. This will probably be against the winner of Dereck Chisora vs Oleksandr Usyk once that fight is re-arranged.

If this fight is postponed, there is an argument to suggest that Eddie Hearn and Joshua could ask the IBF for an exemption in order to chase a fight with Tyson Fury.

Sanctioning bodies often wave aside mandatory fights if there are unifications and, especially, undisputed fights to be made.

Could we see Joshua vs Fury sooner than expected?

The postponement of Joshua vs Pulev would surely open the door to conversations between Joshua and Fury’s camps.

These Brits hold all the heavyweight belts between them, ensuring that an undisputed heavyweight title fight would be one of the biggest sporting spectacles the UK has ever seen.

With this break in the boxing calendar inspiring a lot of inward thinking amongst the boxing community, a chance to make this particular fight should be grabbed with both hands. Boxing’s history is littered with fights that never quite materialised – Joshua vs Fury cannot be added to that list.

Eddie Hearn is under the impression that this fight will land overseas. Joshua’s promoter has experience in dealing with fights across the globe, with a return to Saudi Arabia the front-runner in an attempt to add millions more to the purses of both fighters.

Who else is in the Heavyweight Picture?

Daniel Dubois is expected to be the next big player in the heavyweight division. The 22-year-old is unbeaten in 14 contests, with a step-up against stablemate Joe Joyce in July a real test of his potential.

Oleksandr Usyk has fought just once as a heavyweight, but the former undisputed cruiserweight champion is expected to make waves once his career begins to gain momentum again. The Ukrainian will give inches in height away to the biggest in the division, but with masterful footwork and big power “The Cat” will surely be a contender.

Dillian Whyte is still awaiting a shot at a world title and has arguably pieced together one of the best records in recent years. Wins over Dereck Chisora x2, Lucas Browne, Oscar Rivas and Joseph Parker have pushed the “Bodysnatcher” into fourth place in most people’s heavyweight rankings.

Andy Ruiz Jr? Luis Ortiz? Michael Hunter? They’ll all want a slice of the heavyweight pie – so get ready for an exciting few months once boxing gets back on its feet later this year.