Has The Heavyweight Boxing Division Become a Joke?

By Ian John
October 23, 2023

This was supposed to be a great new era in heavyweight boxing.


    Unfortunately, due to the machinations of promoters, managers, boxing organisations and fighters themselves, it is becoming a joke.

    Or so many people would have you believe.

    Is there any truth to that assertion? Why are the public growing increasingly frustrated with what is happening in the heavyweight division?

    And who is to blame? Is it the fighters? Promoters? Managers or something else entirely?

    To answer that question fully, let’s first examine what has happened in the heavyweight division in recent years.

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    Heavyweight Malaise As Ukrainian Duo Hold Belts

    After the likes of Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis retired, the heavyweight division was largely dominated by Ukrainian brother Vitaly and Vladimir Klitschko.

    The brothers held the most prestigious title belts for many years but refused to fight each other. Add to the fact that their main challengers for many years were somewhat underwhelming and the heavyweight division turned into something of a joke.

    Alongside the Klitschko brothers, a number of other smaller time boxers won the world title.

    Samuel Peter, Sultan Ibragimov, Oleg Maskaev, Herbie Hide, Lamon Brewster, Hasim Rahman, Nikolai Valuev, Bermane Stiverne and Alexander Povetkin just some of the fighters who held one or more belts in this period.

    However, the emergence of Anthony Joshua at the 2012 Olympics in London, and his gold medal performance promised much. Add to that the emergence of a hard-hitting American in Deontay Wilder, plus a burgeoning British scene in the division and the heavyweight era looked to be moving on.

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    2015 Onwards – A Brighter Time in The Heavyweight Division

    By 2015, Anthony Joshua was already making big strides as a professional, Tyson Fury was also emerging through the ranks as a world-ranked fighter, while Dillian Whyte was also coming through the ranks in the UK.

    Across the pond in the United States, Deontay Wilder was still WBC Champion, still unbeaten and still knocking almost every one of his opponents out. Dominic Breazeale and David Ruiz Jr. were also coming through the ranks.

    Other fighters such as Joseph Parker of New Zealand, Alexander Povetkin and Kubrat Pulev offered plenty too.

    Yet Wladimir Klitschko held on to three titles, but in 2015, Tyson Fury staged a stunning upset, earning a unanimous points victory over the Ukrainian.

    A rematch never materialised with Fury suffering from depression and in no fit state to fight, Klitschko next challenged for Anthony Joshua’s IBF belt, losing to the Englishman in the 11th round at Wembley.

    A result which saw Joshua puck up the vacant WBA and IBO heavyweight belts.

    Meanwhile, Oleksandr Usyk, another Olympic Gold medalist, was becoming undisputed champion at Cruiserweight and talk was he would join the heavyweight ranks soon.

    Joshua mopped up the WBO belt with a win over Alexander Povetkin at Wembley and in an astonishing comeback, Tyson Fury battled Deontay Wilder, drawing the first fight and then beating his American opponent twice more in a dramatic trilogy of fights.

    Now it was the two British heavyweights Fury and Joshua that held all the belts but a possible unification bout between the two fell through.

    And it is at this point that the heavyweight division once again descended into something of a farce.

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    Accusations, Counter-Accusations, Bad Blood and Avoiding The Big Fights

    After talks between Fury and Joshua for a unification fight broke down and the fight was cancelled, both boxers moved on.

    Joshua lost and then regained his title against Andy Ruiz Jr. and then beat Kubrat Pulev.

    Fury, who had ended his trilogy of fights with Wilder, seemingly wanted to fight Joshua and Joshua wanted to fight the Gypsy King. Or so they said.

    However, despite a war of words played out through the media and on social channels, no fight could be agreed once again.

    Fury moved on to face and beat British duo Dillian Whyte and Derek Chisora in his next two fights, while Joshua would face Oleksandr Usyk, who had made the step up to heavyweight.

    In two fights Usyk beat Joshua, comfortably in the first and more narrowly in the second to take his belts and now put himself in with a chance of a unification bout with Fury.

    However, despite initial promising talks, both fighters promoters and camps could not agree on a unification fight.

    And with Anthony Joshua waiting in the wings once again, Fury and Joshua’s team could still not agree a deal for a bout between the two.

    This nonsense has left us with a trio of Heavyweight fights that nobody is really going to benefit from, other than financially.

    On August 12th Anthony Joshua will once again fight Dillian Whyte for the second time as a professional.

    Two weeks later, Oleksandr Usyk will face the WBA Regular Champion Daniel Dubois, who himself has lost to Joe Joyce. Joyce is a talented and powerful British fighter who is hoping to bounce back against Zhilei Zhang after losing to the Chinese giant in his last fight.

    And as for Tyson Fury, he has opted to take the money on offer to face former MMA Heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou in a bout which looks ridiculously unbalanced on paper. At best misguided, at worst, an exploitation of boxing fans.

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    The Fights Nobody Wants To See

    What we now have here is a quartet of fights where only one, Joyce v Zhang will have any relevance in the heavyweight division.

    And that will only be for the winner to be a potential challenger to one of the big three names in the division.

    Fight fans have no interest in watching Usyk dominate a big hitting but ultimately less talented and powerful version of Anthony Joshua in Daniel Dubois. This is way too early in his career for Dubois and he will likely be schooled by the brilliant Ukrainian.

    Nor do they want to watch AnthonyJoshua face Dillian Whyte in another pointless match up. Joshua already beat Whyte, who also lost to Fury. There’s no upside to this fight for Joshua. It’s a non-event.

    And certainly, no boxing fan worth their salt wants to see Fury take on Ngannou in what amounts to essentially an exhibition match. And yet it is for the WBC World Heavyweight title.

    Usyk is 1/10 to beat Dubois, Fury the same to be Ngannou and Joshua is 1/6 to beat Whyte, all with bet365 Sport. That tells you how uncompetitive these fights are.

    How many boxers have worked hard to get a title shot but have not been able to get one? Yet Ngannou comes in and gets one in his very first fight. It’s nonsensical.

    These fights are padding. They’ll improve a fighters record and their bank balance, but they do nothing to enhance the image of the sport.

    Until we see Joshua face Fury, or better still Fury face Usyk in a unification bout, that will remain the case.

    That is unless we see another exciting young talent emerge in the next few years who could shake things up.

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