Ah – the heavyweight division. Traditionally this is the holy grail of the boxing world, traditionally the champion’s the baddest man on the planet, and traditionally the most widely known, household names are all cut from this cloth. Ali, Tyson, and quite possibly the greatest pound for pound boxer of all time, British hero Audley Harrison. When I first fell in love with boxing, this was my favourite division, watching the greats of the 60s and 70s with my old man was the genesis of my adoration for the sport. Ali, Liston, Foreman, Patterson. Then later in the 90s, Tyson, Holyfield, Lewis, the list is ongoing, and over these eras we saw some of the greatest champions and fights in boxing history. During the 2000s there was a heavyweight blackhole, where the division had greats like Klitschko, and… Klitschko. Beyond this, it was very thin. I mean yes, we had some talent like David “Ow My Toe Hurts” Haye, but the Russian duo dominated the division for the entire turn of the 21st century. Finally, we’re starting to get a better division again. We have legitimately amazing boxers like Fury and Joshua, we have absolute powerhouses like Wilder and Whyte, and we have great technical masters like Ortiz. It feels exciting again amongst the heavyweights, for the first time in a long time, so we thought we’d list the top 5 things we want to see happen in the heavyweight division. Let’s go.
1. Joshua to KO Miller
Let’s be honest, does anyone really want to see this fight? Hastily booked in a haze of negotiation, this is another Eddie Hearn scumbag special that makes you sick to your stomach. I know calling a boxing promoter sleazy is like calling water wet, or Amir Khan’s chin frail, but Jesus. There were several fights more interesting and better for the boxing landscape than this. I mean I get it, AJ wants the US exposure, the massive payday and an opportunity to fight at the Mecca of boxing. But he’s the British unified champion, and one of the best things to happen to British boxing in a long time, we finally have an elite level fighter with viable pound-4-pound ranking capabilities, and we need him here, at home, holding the fort, taking on all challenges on our home turf, inspiring others and exposing the population to other elite heavyweights. Don’t get me wrong, if he was unifying the titles against an American, I can understand going over there, but to be the champion and to travel abroad just to defend is either brave or stupid. As Miller’s only title is best haircut (winning this back in 2016 from Harry “High Fade” Fitzgerald in a war of attrition) it’s strange AJ would make the trip considering an excuse for not fighting Fury was his lack of belts. I’d have much rather seen the grudge rematch the entire country has been craving, AJ vs Whyte 2. Whyte hates AJ more than it is physically possible to hate a man, so half as much as I hate Hearn, and that fight at Wembley in April just makes sense, especially considering AJ needs to wait for Wilder and Fury to finish up before we can even think about unification. I don’t think Miller’s a bad boxer by any means, I just feel like he’s outmatched in every aspect here. I’d be shocked if AJ doesn’t win within the first half of the fight with his superior technique and accuracy, disappointing many British fans who have stayed up late expecting a decent fight. There’s nothing worse than staying up until 4am expecting a decent fight and it being over in mere minutes. But it’s happening. So that’s why I want to see the knockout. Let’s just get this out the way quickly, get Joshua back home, and booked properly.
2. Wilder vs Fury 2
Now this is the fight. I’m so excited for this one, as excited as De La Hoya during the dress portion fashion week. What a war these two had last year and I think it’s safe to say we all want to see this one again. It pretty much looks set in stone, and if it wasn’t for Garcia vs Spence next month this would be my most anticipated fight of the year. I believe Fury won the first fight, easily out boxing Wilder with slick technique, a piston like jab, chopping right hands and mixing up combinations. I can however, see how it was pencilled in as draw. Suffering two knockdowns and being in away territory, it wouldn’t matter if the judges were Stevie Wonder or Superman, it was never gonna go his way. Can we just take a moment and talk about how in the hell Fury got up from that second knock down? Wilder threw a left hook with the entire weight of Alabama behind it and Fury’s soul immediately left his body, laying down in a slump on the floor I’d expect from Amir Khan after accidently getting his razor too close to his jaw while shaving. Fury, with the heart of an absolute champion, clawed himself back up from the pits of hell themselves, and I’m still in awe of him for it. I love the respect these two clearly have for each other, and I love how they match up stylistically. The WBC heavyweight title is the most prestigious prize in boxing historically, and once we have a clear, defined champion, we can start to book a whole host of interesting matches. The lineal title is also on the line don’t forget, as well as the pride of both men. I see Fury taking the next bout, I believe he will have more respect for Wilder’s power and be more cautious on the inside. His game plan would be relatively the same, keep Wilder away with his jabs thrown from tree trunk arms and nailing slick counter strikes when Deontay lets loose. His superior footwork and technique should cruise him to a decision victory. But Deontay is powerful. Scary powerful. I’m talking Maradona’s cocaine powerful, I’m talking Jon Jones’ turinabol powerful and at any point a crashing overhand could send Fury crashing to the canvas faster than you can say “you’re a dosser”. No matter which way it goes, I can’t wait.
3. Usyk’s Debut
Usyk is one of the best pound-4-pound fighters on the planet, period. Cruiserweight was in a bit of a slump recently, until this magician came along and became the first champion to win absolutely everything on offer. If cruiserweight was an ant, Usyk is a sledgehammer. On fire. If there’s one thing he loves, it’s world titles. The man could unify anything. The entire cruiserweight division. Northern and Southern Ireland. Israel and Palestine. And maybe even the heavyweight division. When you look at Usyk from a purely technical standpoint, I’d put him above every heavyweight around today, except maybe Fury and Ortiz, but even then, it’s razor thin. Usyk is an absolute breath of fresh air, phenomenal jab, brilliant range, head movement, the power of the iron curtain and the footwork of a ballet extraordinaire. Not only this, but he’s a tactical masterclass. This was most notable in the Bellew fight, Bellew looked to be in complete control at the start of the fight, being the aggressor and pushing the pace. Usyk looked like he might be in trouble, but he was taking minor damage, sussing out Bellew and breaking him down at a technical level, putting in a little body work until the second half of the fight, where he started destroying Bellew. Beating him to the punch, embarrassingly expert timing, and the eighth round was just a complete destruction, he literally knocked the scouse of out him, I’m pretty sure he woke up southern. Honestly, I think Usyk is the most talented heavier fighter when it comes to technique, the only question would be can he step up in weight? Will he have enough power? And who will he face? People keep throwing Povetkin around and I believe that’s the best fight. A top 10 ranked heavyweight will be a great bout for Usyk and stylistically it’s a dream matchup. I see Usyk winning this but not comfortably, he’ll need to ware down the Russian with his footwork and chopping right hands. It would be a great introduction to the division. Imagine if the transition is successful, and Usyk could unite both divisions. A man can only dream. It’s not hard to see I love Usyk and rate him very highly, his heavyweight debut is something I’ve been looking forward too for a long time and only hope it’s soon.
4. A Unified Champion
I think it’s finally time. Never before have we seen a champion hold all the belts in this division, well not in the modern era with all the modern belts anyway. We’re finally at a point where an undisputed world champion seems plausible and actually quite likely. For years we’ve had the belts split between the Klitschkos and it seemed unlikely to ever have one man at the top of the pile. But this could all line up perfectly for that to occur. The likelihood is Joshua will defeat Miller, and the winner of Wilder and Fury will be in prime position to face the champ. The WBC are, however, sanctioning an interim title match between Whyte and Brezeale meaning that the unification may have to wait. Nevertheless, we’ve already seen the cruiserweight division sewn up, and the prospect of two unified champions squaring off is mouth-watering for boxing fans. Imagine seeing Joshua, Wilder or Fury with all the belts got toe to toe with Usyk, forget everything you knew about being a 14-year-old, this is a real wet dream. Before we get here though, the booking for the clash to unify the heavyweight division would be almost unbearable due to the excitement it would create. All the belts up for grabs, and between Wilder/Fury and Joshua, there is a deep, heated rivalry that goes beyond just the realm of boxing. The very best heavyweights of this modern era in a blood feud to not only establish who’s the best in the world but putting to bed a deep-seated rivalry that has been brewing for years. As I’m sure you could guess, my absolute dream would be Fury vs AJ in an all British showdown at Wembley, which would be as English as eating fish and chips out a pint glass. Oh my, oh God yes. This would also set up incredible matchups like Wilder and Whyte which would be the boxing equivalent of every West Ham and Millwall scrap combined into one massive tear up in the middle of the ring. We must see how the cards fall towards the end of the year, but we could potentially have the biggest fight of all time on our hands, and the anticipation is killing me.
5. Dillian Whyte to Win a World Title
This one is just a personal one for me. I absolutely love Whyte. I feel bad that he didn’t get a fair crack at the whip with regards to the AJ rematch, and I feel like he’s improved so much since then. The only blemish on his record, I feel like he has more than a punchers chance in that matchup. Since the AJ fight, he’s beaten Chisora (twice), former world champion Joseph Parker, and British wonderkid David Allen. He’s show improved technique, better resolve, and more reserved temperament and has developed his left hook into something Joe Frazier would be proud of. I think he’s attitude is amazing, and his style is exciting. Is he the most technical boxer in the division? Absolutely not, but neither is Wilder. Whyte has gone through so much, had many world title belts taken away from him and he seems to have been shafted at every turn. Is this a case of classic Eddie Hearn lube up and bend over? Probably, but we can’t say for sure. This interim title is such an exciting prospect, and Brezeale is no joke. He’s got heavy hands, a granite chin, and the heart of champion able to get off the canvas at any given moment, just check the Ugonoh fight for reference on the sheer toughness of this man. His right and Whyte’s left will be a nail bitter. I expect Whyte to get the win, but I expect him to have to work for it, which will set him up for the winner of Fury and Wilder. Now I don’t think Whyte has the technique to beat either man, but when that left hook crashes into your chin anything can happen, in the famous words of Ali, he once knocked out a brick. Whether he wins that contest or loses, I’m hoping an opportunity for a world title becomes available some point down the line. There is some much good heavyweight talent at the minute, but it would still be a shame if he goes his whole career without winning one. I appreciate this might not be on everyone else’s list, but it’s definitely on mine.