AS the latest season of Game of Thrones approaches, I’ve noticed that there’s a similarly brutal struggle for power going on in the heavyweight division.
Last November, a brash and unpolished giant travelled to Germany to take on long-reigning champion Wladimir Klitschko. Tyson Fury usurped the WBO, WBA and IBF king in a drab encounter, though the repercussions of his colossal feat were felt across the world.
Suddenly, a dormant division had been given new life. However to many, the new heavyweight leader was not fit to rule. Fury’s comments on homosexuality and women’s place in society caused outrage and marred his historic accomplishment. He was lambasted by both the public and the media and plenty of observers, including Eddie Hearn, stated the 27-year-old is a poor role model.
The IBF swiftly and ridiculously stripped him of their title because he was contractually obliged to grant Klitschko an immediate rematch. Within weeks of winning it, his crown was already beginning to lose its shine. The governing body hastily pushed through a fight between No 1 challenger Vyacheslav Glazkov and the next available contender – the unknown Charles Martin – for the vacant bauble.
The farce ended in the third when Glazkov injured his knee and, much to his delight, ‘Prince’ Charles Martin had been handed the throne. Or, at least part of it. He strangely opted to make the first defence of his new prize against the destructive Anthony Joshua. In London.
Predictably, Martin was flattened in two rounds and the IBF title passed to a man tipped for super-stardom, who looks, sounds and fights like the sort of heavyweight champion the baying masses demand. Now, England has two world heavyweight titlists.
Of course, across the Atlantic WBC champion Deontay Wilder is calling his banners as he prepares to march on Russia, where he fights mandatory challenger Alexander Povetkin on May 21. Wilder is adamant he is The Man at heavyweight, and there are plenty who agree with him.
After years of the sport’s banner division being dominated by the Klitschko family, we now find it splintered at its peak with several men claiming to be the one true king.
Thankfully, Joshua admits he only holds a portion of the crown and cannot yet claim he is the best heavyweight on the planet. That doesn’t stop his team for doing it for him, though.
Thanks to the WBA’s sickening amount of spurious titles, there are other heavyweights who have much weaker claims to the throne. Lucas Browne insists he is Australia’s first world heavyweight champion after winning the ‘Regular’ title against Ruslan Chagaev in March. He is not. Fury holds the only credible WBA title, and a failed drug test further muddies Lucas’ claim (though he maintains he is a clean athlete).
Cuban stylist Luis Ortiz – another fearsome operator – holds the WBA ‘Interim’ title though remains relatively quiet outside of the ring.
Despite all these would-be-rulers, Fury remains The Man. He waltzed into the lion’s den, smiling like a Cheshire cat, and outfoxed one of the best fighters on the planet. Whether Klitschko has declined heavily, it was a fluke or if Fury is just that good, he has to prove what doubters he has left wrong on July 9 when he squares off with the Ukrainian again.
But therein lies the problem. That date, and the fact the rematch will happen in the UK, was announced in the days leading up to Joshua’s fight with Martin and after ‘AJ’ walked through the American, Hearn revealed that July 9 could well be the date of Joshua’s first defence.
While the inevitable rivalry between Fury, the polarising king, and Joshua, the apparent white knight, is bubbling nicely, it looks like their respective teams and backers are prepared to go head to head on July 9 in a skirmish nobody wants.
Fans would have to choose between watching Joshua on Sky Sports Box Office or Fury tangle with Klitschko on BoxNation, and those hoping to catch some live action would also have to make a tough call on which fight they try to nab tickets for. It’s a strange proposition, and an early warning that the struggle for heavyweight power has already spilled out of the ring.
But, the ring is the only place any heavyweight can truly earn a coronation and the current crop of big men operating at the top seem keen to meet each other there in a bid to find out who really is the best of the lot. Provided there aren’t schedule clashes like the proposed fights on July 9, this is good news for fans.
As Fury’s win over Klitschko showed, in the heavyweight division (much like Game of Thrones) no one is safe. All three of the current world champions are young, unbeaten and eager to prove their worth. The fight for power will be fun to watch for as long as it lasts.