A LOOK at the Boxing News rankings shows Tyson Fury listed as the world heavyweight champion. Regardless of the WBC belt he owns, or the WBA, IBF and WBO straps he doesn’t, the “Gypsy King” inarguably stands tall as the leader in the most-watched division in boxing.
Some will dispute Fury’s claim to the throne. Namely Oleksandr Usyk, who of course owns the sanctioning body trinkets that Fury does not. For those who are new to BN, or the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board that we’re a part of, the reason why Fury is champion is fairly simple. The only way a new champion can be crowned is if an existing champion is beaten, or numbers one and two meet to fill the slot in a weight class without an existing champion. That was the case in February last year when Fury (No.2) defeated Wilder (No.1). Anthony Joshua had slipped out of the reckoning after losing to Andy Ruiz Jnr and was ranked third after winning the return.
In an ideal world, the winner of Fury-Wilder III – on the surface a needless contest, albeit one with just enough intrigue to make it worthwhile – would defend the championship against the current number one contender, Usyk. But boxing is not an ideal world, unfortunately. Due to yet another rematch clause, Usyk is almost certain to face Joshua early next year, meaning we’re likely at least 12 months away from the world champion defending against their closest rival.
Though BN stands by its strict rankings policy and whole-heartedly believes boxing would be a better place if the whole sport also embraced the simpler system, it would be narrow-minded to brush off any fight that isn’t the fight as a waste of time.
Every single hardcore fan – and plenty of less dedicated observers – have rightly grown frustrated with the division’s failure in recent years to make the ‘obvious’ heavyweight contest; which was first Joshua versus Wilder and latterly Joshua versus Fury. However, if the sport had done things the right way it’s unlikely we would have been treated to some of the spine-tingling heavyweight drama we’ve witnessed in recent years.
For a start, if Wilder had fought Joshua when he was supposed to, he would not have faced Fury in December 2018 – thus robbing fans of that dramatic and thrilling 12-round encounter that saw Fury rise like the undead in the final round of their controversial draw. That moment, by the way, remains one of the most astonishing sights I’ve ever had the privilege to witness from ringside. Nor would we have seen the rematch in which Tyson showed his class and spite to record one of the most impressive triumphs by a British fighter on foreign soil when Wilder was spanked in seven.
Furthermore, Andy Ruiz Jnr would not have made his substantial presence felt in June 2019. Regarded as a huge outsider going in, he produced the kind of upset that makes boxing such a truly wondrous and unpredictable sport. Though the fight itself was not hugely exciting, the Saudia Arabia return six months later was nonetheless a fascinating spectacle in its own way, too.
After Fury-Wilder II we screamed and screamed for Joshua and Tyson to meet. For what felt like an eternity we were told it would happen, before it infamously imploded to leave us furious and frustrated. Yet, if our Fury versus Joshua wish had been granted, we would not have witnessed Usyk’s awe-inspiring victory over “AJ” last month. Nor would the third bout between Fury and Wilder be happening this weekend. Let’s hope that this time next week we’re championing yet another fascinating chapter in the current heavyweight story.
Ultimately, however, the story cannot keep sprouting subplots without reaching a conclusion. It cannot drag on like a Netflix series that ultimately frustrates because it fails to tie up the loose ends. Because for all the excitement that the unexpected brings, the division’s history – and its fans – deserves the be-all-and-end-all contest. Imagine the atmosphere, the attention, the sense of fulfilment such a bout would bring. For the first time in what would feel like forever, the build-up would purely be about the fight that was upon us as opposed to constant questions about what comes afterwards.
For now, let’s embrace what we have. Yet we do so hoping that the greatest fight of the current era, the fight, is still to come.