By Alex Beard (@alex_beard17)
First of all, credit must go to Tyson Fury. There are not many heavyweights who, in the prime of their career, would admit that they have a problem and take time out to seek help. Boxing is typically regarded as the manliest of manly sports, which makes it easy to forget that these fighters are human beings like the rest of us. They have issues, they’re not robots, and it is imperative for Fury to get the help he needs. Certainly in boxing, the fighter’s health must come first, and it’s not always their physical well-being that’s the problem. So let’s all hope that Tyson makes a full recovery and returns to the ring at the right time for him.
With that being said, Fury’s indefinite absence leaves a rather large hole in the heavyweight division – 6ft 9ins to be exact. The WBA and WBO champion could be out for any length of time and as a result could be stripped of one or both of his belts. There has already been talk of the WBO belt being made vacant, to be fought for by Joseph Parker (21-0-KO18) and Andy Ruiz Jr. (29-0-KO19).
Wladimir Klitschko (64-4-KO53) was of course beaten by Fury last November and has now had two rematches postponed by the champion. The Ukrainian has been an unfortunate casualty of Fury’s personal problems, as at this very late stage of his career he has surrendered a year waiting for a rematch with the Brit. However, another British heavyweight champ appears ready to give Klitschko the chance to regain a belt. IBF holder Anthony Joshua’s (17-0-KO17) team are deep in negotiations with Klitschko, Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn going so far this week as to say that they are 70% of the way there.
There is the concern that this is too much too soon for Joshua, but it is encouraging that his team – and Joshua himself – have the confidence in him to take on someone’s of Klitschko’s ilk at this stage of his career. It appears that they are banking on Klitschko’s last performance against Fury being representative of where he is at this point, as opposed to being an anomaly amid years of dominance. A win for Joshua would elevate him to even bigger heights, securing his place as the biggest star in British boxing – if he’s not already.
The potential match-up between Parker – who has often been compared to Joshua – and Ruiz pits two of the best up-and-coming fighters in the division against one another. Parker has the far better names on his record (Takam, Dimitrenko), but has himself admitted that Ruiz administered the hardest punch of his career in a sparring session. Like many prospects it’s hard to say how good Ruiz is until he faces someone who’s coming in there to win, not just survive. Parker would rightfully be the favourite in this bout, as he possesses unique speed for a heavyweight and very real power.
Then there is WBC champion Deontay Wilder (37-0-KO36). Wilder has routinely stated that he wants to unify the division and fight the very best, but has yet to demonstrate that since he became champ. His choice of opponents since taking the belt from Bermane Stiverne (25-2-1-KO21) leaves much to be desired and he needs to up his level of competition if he is to be recognised as the top man in this division. His physical attributes give him a chance against anyone, though. While his footwork and general boxing skills need work, his athleticism and punching power are always there to bail him out. And to his credit, he did show fresh wrinkles to his game in that points win over Stiverne.
Below the champions and those set to potentially fight for the belts is a slew of good contenders. Kubrat Pulev (23-1-KO12), Luis Ortiz (25-0-KO22), David Haye (28-2-KO26) and Alexander Povetkin (30-1-KO22) could beat any of the above fighters on their day and will surely be targeting title shots before too long. Ortiz is arguably the most feared fighter in the division, his consecutive KO’s of Bryant Jennings and Tony Thompson enough to put any potential opponent off. He will face Carlos Takam on November 11 and it will be interesting to see whether he can improve upon Parker’s performance and stop the tough Cameroonian.
Pulev and Povetkin are of course former title challengers – both losing to Klitschko – while Haye, a former heavyweight champ himself, also fell short in his unification challenge of Klitschko. These three are known commodities at this stage and are unlikely to improve but could all go into match-ups with Joshua, Parker, Ruiz and Wilder as potential favourites to win.
Hopefully the absence of Fury will have a positive effect in engineering more fights between the elite boxers in the weight class. Joshua-Klitschko and Parker-Ruiz Jr. would definitely be a good start in that respect. If Wilder finally steps up his level of competition – preferably against one of Pulev, Ortiz, Haye and Povetkin – then we can determine how good the heavy-hitting American actually is. Although Fury remains the best heavyweight in the world, his time away from the sport could lead to a new challenger taking his title. Let’s see what happens.by