By: Jose Cuevas
With Anthony Joshua’s victory over Wladimir Klitschko in April of last year boxing fans and pundits argued that this was a major turning point for the fledgling Heavyweight division. Not only was it an exciting fight, but it drew major numbers with around 90,000 people in attendance across the pond in England. Also, when Showtime and HBO are actually sharing the broadcast rights you know it is going to be a monumental fight, given their tumultuous relationship.
One of the other severely underscored elements that made this fight a turning point for the heavyweight division was the fact that Klitschko passed the torch to Joshua. He wasn’t given the torch he took it from Klistchko. Joshua became the man in the Heavyweight division because he won a tough competitive fight against the fighter that ruled the division for so many years. Now there are whispers, or rather blaring horns, of mega fights in the Heavyweight division.
Yes we know about Joshua, but who else?
Deontay Wilder, the New American Hope
Every great fighter needs a foil, a rival, and Joshua has that in Deontay Wilder. Wilder has been annihilating competition ever since becoming a professional boxer. He has explosive power in both hands and overall is just a phenomenal athlete. Whether he has been tested by solid opposition is in question as he has mostly fought boxers who most would qualify as B or even C level fighters. What makes Wilder so exciting is that he’s for one an American Heavyweight, a throwback to when American Heavyweights dominated the division, He is explosive, you shouldn’t blink when he fights as the knockout can come at any minute and they are usually vicious….look at what he did to Artur Szpilka, Lastly, who shows enough wrinkles in his game that one can see him having possible issues when matching up with other fighters in the division.
Again looking at the fight with Artur Szpilka, in that fight Wilder looked a bit perplexed as Szpilka was outboxing him in some portions of the fight. With Stiverne in their first meeting he fought well, but seemed limited in his attack options relying on the 1 – 2 far too often. It helps to have the wingspan and incredible power he has, but I know fans and pundits alike can see this being an issue against other fighters in the division. However, I don’t for a second believe that Wilder is afraid of anyone in the division, which makes the Heavyweight division incredibly exciting to watch as fighters at the top level with some noticeable wrinkles can make for some phenomenal fights.
To Wilder’s credit he is yearning for a career defining fight, or at least a fight that will test him and in return shut the naysayers up. He has tried to secured bouts against Alexander Povetkin that have been called off due to positive PED results on behalf of Povetkin. He also tried to step in the ring with the incredibly dangerous Luis Ortiz who also failed a drug test, however the fight is again on for March 3rd. Maybe fighters failing PED tests is a testament to how feared Wilder is in the division, just some food for thought….
Luis Ortiz- The boogeyman of the division
Ortiz is a sensational fighter with power that rivals Wilder’s. The interesting thing about Ortiz is that he is also a product of the Cuban Amateur system. The Cuban system emphasizes racking up points while minimizing confrontation. A style illustrated by Erislandy Lara and Guillermo Rigondeaux. Some would even argue that it is “boring” as the fights usually involve a Cuban fighter pot shotting and running laps around the ring. Ortiz has been able to use his Cuban heritage to be a technical boxer in the ring while homing onto an opponent and crushing them with great power.
It’s scary to also see his counter-punching ability. He is phenomenal at catching punches and shooting his own. His record is 28-0 with 24 Kos an impressive record indeed. His career has definitely been stymied by the ridiculous nature of boxing politics where some promoters refuse to work with others to the point that dream fights don’t happen or happen too late. Now he seems to be in the clear and is set to fight Deontay Wilder on the 3rd of March.
There is only one problem that comes to mind when you think of Ortiz, his age. He is 38 and is creeping on 40. At that age boxers slow down and don’t have the same prowess they did in their twenties or early thirties. Wilder may expose Ortiz given Wilder’s athleticism and youth, but don’t count Ortiz out…but just know father time is undefeated.
Tyson Fury- The outlaw of the division
Fury is an interesting character in and out of the ring. He rose to prominence after snapping Wladimir Klistchko’s winning streak and stranglehold on the Heavyweight division, in turn winning all major belts except the WBC crown held by Deontay Wilder. However, it seems like the brightness of the lights got to him as he went on a downward spiral that resulted in him losing all of his belts due to battling his own personal demons.
He seems committed to returning to the ring and reclaiming what he never lost in the ring. Fury’s fight with Klistchko was a dud by most accounts, however he did the trick. If Fury returns to the ring expect him to give Ortiz, Wilder, or Joshua a tough fight. The biggest piece to this puzzle is if Fury can get back into top ring shape and remain focus on the sport of boxing.
He has long range, good power, and is ridiculously tall for a heavyweight. These factors give him an advantage over any fighter on this list as he knows how to use his size advantage over his opponents. He frustrated Klitschko who frequently relied on using his size to wear out and beat his opponents. The heavyweight division is one where a size advantage can mean a lot, given that all of the fighters in the division are strong and dangerous.
The matchups and theatrics
Any possible match up with the fighters on this list will make for a great fight…not just because of their skill level, but because of the charisma and bombast all these fighters have. Can you imagine the press conferences between Wilder and Fury? Or what about Fury and Joshua? Or the fight everyone wants Wilder vs Joshua? This is something that has been missing in the Heavyweight division for a while. And while it’s the skill of the fighters that brings people to the fights, some pre-fight shenanigans always help create interest in the fight.
Match them up how you like as the Heavyweight division is getting hot again. There are other up and coming heavyweights like Jarrell Miller and Dillian Whyte who are making a buzz. It’s a great time to be a boxing fan as boxing in general is enjoying a renaissance. From the lower weight classes up to heavyweight new stars are emerging and they are making for exciting fights. As always, all we can do is hope that the complications of boxing politics don’t limit who can fight who in an era where there is so much depth in the sport of boxing.