By: Oliver McManus
On the face of it Britain should be a haven for heavyweight boxing – in a division where, outside the Top 10, the quality is somewhat questionable – with global superstar Anthony Joshua being the most marketable man in the sport, arguably in ANY sport.
The unified WBA, IBF and IBO Champion is able to sell out 80,000, 100,000 arenas without named opponents due to the sheer levels that he has pushed himself to and looks set to be THE most successful British boxer for the foreseeable future.
Underneath AJ’s glory, however, belies a mixed picture with the only real challenger being Dillian Whyte who has power to challenge anyone in the division but has been found to be lacking in explosiveness when it comes to the highest level.
A split decision victory over Dereck Chisora – which many felt Chisora had won – was the first sign of armoury chinks and these were further exemplified during a lacklustre points win against Robert Helenius.
Nonetheless the 29-year-old has established himself as an incredibly avoided fighter with prospective opponents stalling in contract talks and Deontay Wilder demanding a monumental $7million in order to entertain Eddie Hearn’s man.
Lucas Browne is his next opponent at the 02 on March 24th in what promises to be an explosive (scheduled) 12 rounder but, let’s be honest, if this goes the distance then something’s gone awry. A win over Browne, in the Australian’s second fight since being suspended for drugs, would solidify his name in all four governing bodies rankings and ensure his next fight was of the World Title variety – Joseph Parker he’d surely beat but, for now, AJ and The Bronze Bomber remain a step above Whyte’s artillery.
The next supposed challenger is Tony Bellew who’s been running his mouth calling out Parker, the WBO Champion, after a surprise victory over David Haye last year – a rematch is scheduled for March 5th – and I’m by no means a Haye fan but let’s be clear, Bellew took 11 rounds to knock out an out-of-shape, one-legged David Haye and was far from convincing in his execution.
Having said that he must be respected for the level of heart he has shown throughout his career but, if you ask me, his Mr Nice Guy, fairy-tale story is rather hard to swallow. He’s made a very calculated decision by marketing himself as a “fat cruiserweight” because it ensures he has nothing to lose;
The current cruiserweight champions (Lebedev, Dorticos, Briedis, Gassiev and Usyk) all have Bellew’s number, in my opinion, and if he were to return to his conventional weight, I suspect, he’d be found lacking. Staying at heavyweight, however, and by positioning himself as the plucky chancer means that if he loses he gets all the plaudits for having a go, not being a “true” heavyweight but, if he wins, then the achievement is magnified tenfold – and who can blame him?
Echeloned just below rest Dereck Chisora, David Haye and David Price whose own individual ability varies greatly but are collated due to the fact that they now come under the category of gatekeepers looking for one last payday.
Haye has already achieved that lucrative fight in his rematch with Tony Bellew but should he come through that then he’ll be chasing Anthony Joshua in a stadium-fight that would, presumably, better all his previous fights earnings put together; Chisora is looking to square up with Dillian Whyte again and avenge his split decision loss but, frankly, his last performance against Agit Kabayel only went to reinforce suggestions that he no longer possessed motivation for the big fights; David Price is a man that is past it but keeps on coming back even after heavy losses to Tony Thompson, Erkan Teper and Christian Hammer, insisting that THIS time he is destined for the top. If Tyson Fury makes a comeback, there’s lots of people who anticipate this matchup but, aside from that, I can’t see him going anywhere past domestic level.
With all that in mind let’s not forget that this is heavyweight boxing, one punch changes anything, and both Chisora and Haye still have incredible power capable of spinning the jaw of those at the very top – we could still see a resurgence from the pair.
Talking about the domestic scene is something that gets me incredibly passionate because even though it’s a whole different quality in comparison to the European-World level fighters featured above, it is undeniably a far more competitive, arguably, enjoyable subdivision to pay attention to.
Sam Sexton is, for me, far better than his record of 24-3 suggest with the only real names from those 24 wins being Martin Rogan and Gary Cornish but a man who has won Commonwealth and British Heavyweight titles is never to be sniffed at. With time not in his side, aged 33, it’ll be interesting to see where he goes from here but defending the British title is honour enough for the Norfolk-man and a privilege that isn’t bestowed upon many.
At a level where no-one really knows how good they are is Dave Allen who, and this bit is no secret, has one of the toughest chins in world boxing – Luis Ortiz couldn’t drop the man, for heaven’s sake! One of the nicest men in boxing, he himself has admitted to lacking motivation at times and his performance against Lenroy Thomas for the Commonwealth title was disappointing but no more so than the postponement of that rematch and, now, the indecision from Thomas’ camp as to whether or not they wish to have a rematch at all.
Still aged just 25 he’s been in with Whyte and Ortiz and garnered a great deal of respect for his courage and bravery. Blessed with raw boxing ability, we’ve yet to see what a fully focussed White Rhino is capable of but it’s time the people’s champion became THE champion and added a few belts to his collection.
The English title scene is currently residing in the bizarre depot with Nick Webb having been mandate to fight for belt for the past four months – initially against Nathan Gorman in a fight that was scheduled for November, before Gorman withdrew to “pursue other routes”. Daniel Dubois was next to be issued the challenge but according to, Dubois’ promoter, Frank Warren, Webb “priced himself out”. So, here we are, with Nathan Gorman yet again mandated to fight Nick Webb for the English title and thusly the merry-go-round continues.
I think Nick Webb is an underrated commodity in the domestic rankings given the raw power he possess but Gorman is someone who looks to be going places further than the mere regional and national titles – mentored by Ricky Hatton, the 21-year-old was convincing in his win against Mo Soltby last November and is looking to push on in 2018 to climb up the rankings with the WBC (where he is currently 37th).
Finally we move to the two hottest prospects in British, nay, World Heavyweight boxing with Joe Joyce and Daniel Dubois.
Both men are proving hard to match-make although Dubois has the advantage of being 12 years younger than Joyce who’s 32 meaning he can take the progression a tad slower. Joyce on the other hand has to move quick as is evident from his debut fight against Ian Lewison – a bold move for anyone other than those with resounding confidence.
Triple D is without a doubt going to be challenging for a world title in a couple of years and has comfortably demolished with his six opponents all inside the distance – making decent area level fighters look like rank amateurs. David Allen, Gary Cornish and Sam Sexton are all reported to have turned down offers to fight the man so it’s certainly not as though his promotional team aren’t trying to get him in bigger fights.
I’ve got in on good authority that his next fight, a Southern Area title defence, against DL Jones will see Jones earning in the region of £11,000 – £14,000 which is a sum belonging to fights far above the stature of the Southern Area but just goes to show how avoided Dubois is becoming – having such a hot prospect doesn’t come cheap!
And that is my lowdown on the British heavyweight scene – I hope I didn’t get too personal with any of the fighters in question but it’s something I’m extremely passionate about. The domestic level is full of underrated men capable of making an impact and the quality runs deep so next time someone mentions Anthony Joshua just stop for a minute and think of all the other Brits making their own path in his shadow because following on from the legacy of AJ will be a whole new breed of history-makers.