Coming Soon: Heavyweight Havoc
By: Brandon Bernica
Boxing’s heavyweight division has always been its most glamorized weight class. Maybe it appeals to deep human longings for violence – after all, it’s hard to take your eyes off of, say, a nasty car crash or a blazing forest fire. That’s the guilty pull that thrusts its way into our conscience when it comes to boxing’s big boys, the threat of imminent destruction resting in each of their knuckles. Even at its oft molasses-esque pace, the impending sense of knee-buckling evisceration bound to occur at any moment funnels our greatest anxieties into eye-peeling attention.
The magic of the heavyweight division has simmered to a melancholy halt over the past decade. Both Klitschkos defended every belt during that span with an iron lock as opponents languished at every opportunity against them, baffled by each brothers’ ungodly reach and boxing prowess. With the subsequent rise of welterweight division stars like Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather – fighters who blended lighter-class speed with heavy hands – heavyweight acclaim fell victim to any sport’s worst nightmare – predictability. After all, fans watch the sport for the blood-gushing drama that lingers in every round, and as dominant a force as the Klitschkos were, their dominance boxed-out any hope for parity at the weight.
All of this made the toppling of this stale infrastructure that much more pivotal. After Vitali Klitschko pseudo-retired and Tyson Fury upset Wladimir Klitschko last year, the race to heavyweight supremacy was wide open for the first time in years. It’s like a king who’s overthrown by his court of nobles, each hungry to retain their stronghold of authority in a moment of instability. As positions of power are more clearly defined, we’ll find out which fighters are true royalty and which are none more than jesters, playing the public for fools.
Deontay Wilder, who scooped in to capture Vitali’s old WBC belt last year, stands out amongst the heap. His long reach both accentuates him and bodes as his possible downfall. While he can keep smaller fighters at the end of his jab, it remains to be seen whether he will be punished for his windmill punching style by someone with counter punching ability. Wilder’s talent becomes more and more solidified with every victory, but he’s still looking for that defining win to stamp his name at the top.
Meanwhile, Tyson Fury, the man who dethroned Wladimir Klitschko, stands as the inherent ringleader of the heavyweight circus. Not only is he another towering force, he’s a proven one, too. Fury’s large in-ring presence only cowers to his out-of-ring persona, as controversially flawed as it may be. Not only has Fury stopped many past foes, he went the distance with a future hall-of-famer in Klitschko. A face-off with Wilder would be massively appealing.
Underneath the radar, Anthony Joshua of Great Britain lurks as the most potent of the group. As a current world champion in his own right, his skillset has never been the question for the former Olympian. One glimpse of his style, and you’d be hard-pressed to deny his ring savvy, power, and subtle spacing ability. The biggest question for Joshua will be whether his quick ascent to the top tier of the division robbed him of too much vital professional experience. He should be fine if his matchmaking continues to build at a gradual rate.
Below this champion-layer are a variety of contenders eager to shine past the expectations. Luis Ortiz, a Cuban with enormous power, poses danger to anyone in the way of his punches, though exactly how dimensional his game is still needs to be determined. A hidden gem from New Zealand named Joseph Parker also holds much promise, but his talent won’t be acknowledged by pundits until he fights the best as well. Just outside of the picture, veterans David Haye, Kubrat Pulev, and Alexander Povetkin all have fallen to Wladimir Klitschko, yet place hope in the possibility that they match-up better with Wilder, Fury, and Joshua. And don’t forget the old sensei Wladmir Klitschko. All it takes is a rematch win against Fury and he’ll have recovered much of the luster lost in their first fight. Yet as age drains him of more of his physical brawn, he will have to adjust to keep up with the young blood at heavyweight.
Optimism is running rampant at heavyweight today, and for good reason. Besides a collection of worthy challengers, the division seethes with one key ingredient: volatility. Just as the action in the ring often crashes to a perilous halt, the ever-shifting landscape at the weight mirrors that. Unlike most divisions in boxing, the heavyweight picture is comprised of numerous promoters, many without qualms about working with each other. Hopefully this leads to great showdowns in the near future between the figurative and literal titans of the sport.