For some that have followed boxing for a long time, they will agree that it has been a long time since a heavyweight boxer has transcended the sport. Since the retirement of Lennox Lewis, the Klitschko brothers monopolized the division and have held the reigns for almost 12 years. Whether it is because of their miserably boring fighting style or the fact that everybody else couldn’t come close to a consistent world class talent or physique to challenge Wladimir and Vitaly, fans have instead turned their focus on other weight classes.
With Manny Pacquiao fighting his supposed last fight against Timothy Bradley tonight, it will be the culmination of the welterweight division dominating the imagination of millions within the last decade. Add in the athletic and exciting talents like Floyd Mayweather Jr., Miguel Cotto, Juan Manuel Marquez and now Canelo Alvarez and you had even more reasons why the 145-pound weight class was so much more fun to watch.
It also didn’t help that with no weight limit, boxers can be as large as they want at heavyweight sans steroids and not be punished for it. However, that meant plenty of mismatches, sideshow fights and, at times, a whole lot of chest hair, throughout the top tier of the division. Then, November 28th, 2015 happened.
That was when 27-year old Tyson Fury, born in Manchester, England to parents from the Irish Traveller community, defeated Wladimir Klitschko in Berlin in what many consider the greatest snooze-fest for a championship fight of all time. Like all of Klitschko’s opponents from his era, Fury was, welp, full of fur and was visually more big and heavy than strong. The fight was such a disaster of a spectacle, it can’t possibly be counted how many times Fury readjusted his large boxing shorts before throwing his next combination; all because nobody wanted to throw punches at each other.
Can you make the case that both fighters were being calculated and were more suited as counter-punchers? Sure. In this case, however, the key to victory ended up being a matter of who threw the most memorable punches, if anyone bothered to remember any. With Klitschko turning 40, not only were his skills eroding but troubles with his wife and brother off the ring could have had a major impact in his performance. With that, you had a unanimous decision on not only a new Champion, but also a new all-time villain.
Along with being a champion boxer, Fury also brings many controversial opinions that, if he had the power to do so, would set back the entire progress of human rights. His biggest highlights include comparing homosexuality to pedophilia and stating before the 2015 BBC Personality of the Year Awards that “a women’s best place is in the kitchen and on her back”. Add in the fact that, once again, we have a boring fighter being the unanimous heavyweight champion and you have someone that fans want to see dethroned immediately.
Thankfully, a recent crop of exciting prospects has come up over the last year and are now beginning to claim that they have what it takes to beat Fury. First, you have 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist and fellow Englishman Anthony Joshua who will fight Charles Martin for the IBF title tonight. Being only 26, Joshua has already compiled a 15-0 record with 15 knockouts and only one fight that lasted beyond the third round (and none going beyond the seventh). Add the fact that he has the body that looks like he’s at the halfway mark of training for a Mr. Olimpia competition and that his workouts are unorthodox, if not legendary, and you have someone that has the potential to be a marketing icon.
Meanwhile, Martin is not a sloth himself, as the 29-year old defeated Vyacheslav Glazkov for the title that is at stake. However, his victory was more a loss due to injury be Glazkov as he tore his ACL while taking a casual step back in the third round of the January 6th fight. Still, Martin is also undefeated at 23-0-1 with 21 knockouts.
On that same night Martin won the IBF title, 30-year old Deontay Wilder knocked out Artur Szpilka in the ninth round for the 35th time in his 36-fight undefeated career. The ex-football player may not have taken the conventional rout to get to the top of the boxing world, but the “Bronze Bomber” has been starting to face world top-twenty fighters in Szpilka, Bermane Stiverne and Johann Duhaupas to get to where he is today. On May 21st, he’ll face the number three ranked heavyweight in Alexander Povetkin to defend his WBC title for the sixth time.
Whomever wins the title fight between Martin and Joshua will then take on the winner of Carlos Takam and Joseph Parker. While Takam is 35 and has had his decent share of big name opponents, Parker is the young upstart that brings highlight reel knockouts to the table. At 24, the New Zealander hasn’t had the chance to face anyone at a world class level, so it will be interesting to see how he can perform on May 21st. If Parker and Joshua were to win, and both were to live up to their big name potentials, you may get to see one of the more exciting heavyweight matchups since the days of Lewis, Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield.
Add in the fact that you have more veteran, but still undefeated, contenders Luiz Ortiz, Lucas Browne, Erkan Teper and Dominic Breazeale waiting for their shot and the Heavyweight division certainly won’t be boring these upcoming years. Oh, and let’s not forget that punk named Tyson Fury.