Heavyweight Division – The Contenders

By Jake Collins / @MelincholyFolly

The return of the enigmatic Tyson Fury at the weekend suggests – hopefully, with patience – there’s another contender to add back into the mix at Heavyweight. Where – if indeed anywhere – does he fit? We’ll leave the current champions out of the intrusive canopy of my microscope as we have a quick glance at a portion of the division. In no real order of note, may I add.

561ACCBA-5E8F-4E89-9B5C-0D8AEFE1D6CEAlexander Povetkin

Since his particularly one-sided (though equally controversial in terms of the opposition’s tactics) loss to Wlad, Povetkin has gone about building one of the deepest resumes in the division. Sure, he lacks a truly defining win but the depth is there and he’s mostly looked pretty useful in doing so. Most recently we saw Povetkin joining the growing army of soldiers to briefly separate Price from his senses, in a fight that didn’t really need to happen. Povetkin looks less explosive than he once did and is noticeably slower than a few years ago – as to be expected at 38. Even so and despite his relatively small size at this weight, I think he is still a very dangerous fighter on the scene. In terms of pure technical boxing, he’s absolutely top tier. Alongside Miller, he’s one of the better workers of the body in the Big Lad’s Arena and switches it back up top to sound effect too. His head movement is still good although he was tagged more by Price than he ought to be. Incidentally, I absolutely do not buy into this British narrative than Price genuinely had a shot of KO’ing the Russian despite hurting him. It looks likely he’ll fight Joshua next. Given Povetkin’s gradual decline and size, AJ rightly is the favourite but is in real danger if he acts complacently. AJ’s habit of sometimes leaving that left hand low after throwing a jab could prove toxic if Povetkin gets inside of said jab. Povetkin is a real and genuine contender still, though he does look a little like Clare Balding.

BCDBC995-6518-4E95-BCD1-832FF87451B2Luis Ortiz

Ah, how close did King Kong come to taking Wilder’s belt! All credit to Wilder though, he showed champion level heart and mental resilience. Ortiz also showed plenty to be encouraged about. We knew he was a skilled boxer; we knew his setting of traps and distance control would cause problems – and they did. Unfortunately, we also saw that if a fight takes a high pace then he will struggle to fight for 12 rounds effectively. Totally understandable at 39, however. That fight increased his profile and hopefully won him some more fans, which ought to mean he can get back into a meaningful fight soon. The craft shown by the Cuban southpaw means a win against him now contains evident significance but of course comes with real risk. Wilder’s power proved to be the equaliser in that fight (as it will in many more) and I think it’s fair to say that level of power in just a single shot is absent across the rest of the division, much to Ortiz’s gain. He looks to be fighting for the WBC mandatory shot right away and I certainly wouldn’t begrudge him another opportunity.

7EF3E278-A82B-4CD4-810B-E54044FBA34FJoseph Parker

Parker did better against AJ than I expected. He might have done even better than that had the ref not been so opposed to inside fighting. Still, he showed himself to be a capable fighter though perhaps he has hit his ceiling already. The fight against Whyte will answer that, though I do expect him to come out on top there. Parker’s power doesn’t appear to be troublesome at the top end of the division and he isn’t exactly a slick fighter either. To my eyes, he is the very definition of ‘decent’. A fighter without complication but with an admirable honesty about his work. I’m confident in saying he’ll probably never win a world title again but he won’t be a walk over either. He has the toughness and grit to hang around as a contender for some time but that’s his limit. Perhaps with a change in trainer things could differ.

CAA1F1B9-62F4-4528-AA68-293BBE794131Dillian Whyte

I’m just not big on Whyte. A lot of British fans seem to be really high on him and I’ve just never worked out why. I thought Browne was a solid match for him but after it took about 7 minutes for Browne to finish throwing a jab I soon realised that notion was buried. Whyte did what was required and he does appear to be a little tighter as a fighter. His body shots have more snap and he appears a LITTLE more patient in the ring, though Parker will certainly test that. I just can’t shake how uninspiring he was against Helenius and how fortunate he was to get the nod against Chisora. I also find the fact he’s fighting Parker instead of Pulev of Ortiz for a mandatory shot (he was never actually WBC mandatory before anyone pipes up…) a little odd but it’s a really cool fight, so consider me on the train for that one. Whyte has scope to improve for sure, though conversely I think the more he fights instead of boxes the more he might be dangerous as a fighter. He doesn’t have great power but he looks less awkward as a brawler – perhaps owing to temperament. I just wonder if that’d prove more effective for him than trying to box. Plus, we’d get more Whyte-Chisora and less Whyte-Allen.

9B5562D5-DFAE-43F0-877E-1F5A9AF5E351Jarrell Miller

I like Miller. I like him as a fighter and as a character. He throws a surprising amount of shots, works the body really well and can switch hit successfully enough to make it purposeful. He doesn’t have the pop someone his size ought to in terms of single punch power but thus far he hasn’t needed it. I would like to see him with a slightly sterner test than he’s had so far. In fact, him and Whyte would have been an excellent fight. Miller is another that I don’t see as being a world class fighter in all honesty but he has the potential to be a nuisance to a lot of fighters. I thought Wach landed on him more regularly than he really should, especially considering Wach punches like he’s underwater. It’s possible that Miller just didn’t respect Each’s power and opted to just walk through shots to force his own openings. Let’s hope we see Miller in with someone a little less timorous next so we can accurately judge him.

1DA19BAD-EBED-4446-9339-ABED49A67EABKubrat Pulev

Honestly, I do wish this dude would just go away. Pulev is solid enough. He has a quality jab and would appear to be pretty tough, just his lack of activity in both annoying and illogical. He’s also been lingering around the IBF mandatory status for an eternity now. It seems preposterous that his last couple of wins were Kevin Johnson and SAMUEL PETER, yet he’s still around the top of the rankings! But it is what it is, he’s still a handful for most out there. He beat Chisora in a far more convincing fashion than Whyte, portraying the difference between a useful jab and a makeshift one. The Bulgarian must be bothered himself; at 37 he doesn’t have long left to reclaim sincere relevance in an evolving division.

3EBD4A37-6BD1-4E48-A8D3-244283E41FB4Tony Bellew

Nope, don’t even go there.

D3667169-3E28-49F0-903D-E915C4D64096Hughie Fury

It’s all too easy to forget Hughie is only 23. Style wise, he’s a nightmare. He has the guile to deter ambitious fighters and the craft to make them pay. Unfortunately, he doesn’t climb through the window every time it’s left open. Hopefully the Parker fight will be a platform for him to learn from; that certainly seemed to be the case in the Sexton fight. He’s better than Tyson Fury was at 23, so that’s something to run with. He appears to have a helpful team around him and the hope should be that he harnesses that correctly. His biggest detraction generally tends to be the entertainment value offered with his fights and…yeah, that’s fair. But again, the Sexton KO might put that to rest at least until Fury’s next fight. Speaking of Fury…

0E206661-6481-49E3-84D4-B0B1C1BBD1AATyson Fury

Well, I can’t believe he’s actually back. Did he look any good? Nope! Was it fun? Nope! Will the next fight be different? Nope! But the importance was more in the weight he’s shed and the fact he actually had a scheduled fight again. I do worry about the split from Peter. I think Peter was excellent for him and it was noticeable in Fury’s career when Peter was absent – like the Cunningham fight. At his best, Fury would be favourite against anyone in the division. Getting back to that peak may not be possible. It depends on a few things, one of them being was that even his physical peak? If he had more to give then we can assume he can get back to the shape of the Wlad fight. If we’re realistic though, that is dreaming ever so slightly. But look, for the sake of removing hypothetical boxing questions for years let’s just hope he gets back to that plateau.

There are some other fighters of note loitering around outside this realm too. Carlos Takam is still a problem and Manny Charr – when motivated – can certainly beat some of the guys mentioned above. I think Andy Ruiz Jr will improve too, he’s been working on weight loss and let’s not forget how close he ran Parker when they fought. We have some solid prospects coming through as well. Nathan Gorman has kind of come out of nowhere, plus there’s the likes of Hrgovic, Teslenko and (if we may allow some premature expectation) Dubois. Joe Joyce is moving at the right speed too. Joyce is an odd one, he doesn’t ‘look’ overly fast or powerful but my word he is incredibly effective. If we add the thought of Gassiev and Usyk moving up to that, then we have a very healthy division looming in the future.

So what say you, fellow boxing folk? Can you see anyone here snatching a title in the next couple of years?

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