Surely it’s time for a moratorium on the desperately disappointing
heavyweight division stalemate until the top four fight each other?
Could the fans simply vote against the current stand off by ignoring
the upcoming fights ? Perhaps they will have when the pay-per-view
numbers come in. It should have been the year that defined the
heavyweight division. Three undefeated fighters at No1, 2 and 3. Yet
we have another year of ‘building’. Deontay Wilder – who banjoed his
challenger Dominic Breazeale with a right hand from hell in New York a
week ago after 137 seconds – Anthony Joshua, Tyson Fury and Dillian
Whyte are no nearer defining the number one boxer in the heavyweight
division than they were a year ago.
Even Joshua, spoking from Miami in training camp yesterday, said it
would be “one of the biggest regrets” of his sporting life if he does
not get to fight Wilder and Fury as he pursues the undisputed title.
In December, one of the fights of the year thrilled the public when
Wilder and Fury fought to a controversial draw in Los Angeles. Then
Fury went into contract with ESPN – five fights for 80 million pounds
– and the rematch disappeared in a shower of green dollars, while
Joshua joined digital streaming service DAZN in the USA on what is
believed to be a similar lucrative deal.
In a parallel universe, they might have fought each other already,
arguably more than once. Yet this is boxing, and we are witnessing the
Class of 2019 flunking, and failing again to go toe-to-toe. We are in
the middle of a two-month period when the top quartet are all fighting
‘semi-finals’. Imagine if this happened in any other sport. There
would be uproar.
So we are left with Joshua meeting late replacement Andy Ruiz on the
Briton’s US debut in New York next week (Ruiz is ranked 14 in the
world by Boxrec.com), and Fury, the following week, meeting the even
more obscure Tom Schwarz in Las Vegas with the German ranked No 57 on
the planet. Hardly inspiring, and on social media, the boxing world
and its following have made it very clear that the heavyweight
division has been transparent with its greed as the warriors, and
their promoters, line their pockets.
Unfortunately for the fans, given the bidding war between ESPN and
DAZN in the USA, the principal protagonists in the heavyweight
division are being paid huge sums, regardless of it being against
‘lesser’ opponents. In that sense, they are doing what is right for
There is nothing new, here, by the way. Joe Louis, the great American
heavyweight, once had a succession of fights against opponents who
became known as “the bum of the month”, meaning that he was facing
Joshua is 25/1 on to defeat Ruiz at Madison Square Garden;
Fury 1/50 to demolish Schwarz at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Sin
That’s why there has to be scepticism around these fights, in spite of
the fact that one punch can change everything in a heavyweight fight.
Buster Douglas was a 42-1 underdog when he stopped Mike Tyson, then
undefeated in 37 fights, in the tenth round of their heavyweight title
bout at the Tokyo Dome in 1990.
But other eras – the greatest ones – have produced legacy fighters
because [italicise this] THEY DID FIGHT EACH OTHER. Through the
eighties, Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, ‘Marvelous’ Marvin Hagler
and Roberto Duran fought each other no less than nine times. None
feared the others. None put greed – or indeed the obsession to have an
‘0’ on their record in the loss column – above anything else. It
produced a decade in which they became known as ‘The Four Kings’. In
the golden era of the heavyweight, Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali fight
three times, Ken Norton and Ali had a trilogy, Frazier and Foreman
fought, as did Ali and Foreman, memorably, in the ‘Rumble In The
The fighters, the promoters, and the broadcasters now have a duty to
make the big fights that need to happen by the end of this year. Fury
v Wilder, or Joshua vs Wilder. Otherwise they will make the division
look like a laughing stock. No more semi-finals, please.