THE heavyweight division can frustrate and disappoint like no other weight class. The right fights don’t get made or, in extreme eras, the right fighters do not even exist to make such contests. In the Klitschko era, two brothers running the show made it virtually impossible to enjoy. The flipside of that disappointment is when the banner division gets things right, when it leads the way in the manner that it should, it’s the most dramatic and appealing division in the sport. There is no better spectacle in any walk of life.
This year has been largely miserable for obvious reasons. Yet as it comes to a close, the heavyweights are gearing up to end 2020 on a high. Signs are there that the division is finally going to do what it should have done years ago.
We’re still waiting for the heavyweight fight and that asterisk, which has been sitting alongside the division for far too long, won’t be removed until one world champion is crowned. That can only occur when Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua (or whoever occupies No. 1 and No. 2 in the division at the time) come together and actually fight.
The last time the top two heavies fought each other was in 2001 when Lennox Lewis gained revenge over Hasim Rahman. One has to go back even further, to the 1999 rivalry between Lewis and Evander Holyfield [pictured], for the best two heavyweights on the planet coming together naturally rather than as a consequence of a freak result (like the first Rahman-Lewis encounter).
Back in the present day, the leading big men jostle for position as the dreams of one champion edge closer. Anthony Joshua looks set to take on Kubrat Pulev on December 12 behind closed doors. Generating the funds to make such a bout is far from easy without crowds in attendance but, I’d argue, it’s a more intruiging fight because of it. We saw what happened to Dillian Whyte when he ventured into a crowd-free venue and took on an ageing but seasoned Alexander Povetkin in the summer.
Presuming Whyte passes the necessary tests to get back in the ring, he will get his chance to put some wrongs right on November 21. It will again be behind closed doors but the sequel is now more appealing than the opener. Joshua was there when Whyte was beaten. He will be only too aware what might happen when Pulev, another big underdog armed with years of top class education, comes to visit.
Tyson Fury’s journey into 2021 is not so clear. Since defeating Deontay Wilder in a majestic February masterclass cruelly overshadowed by the pandemic that shut down the sport just weeks later, a third meeting has been on the cards. Fury-Wilder III may not happen this year but Tyson, we know, is keen to get back in the ring as soon as possible. There is geunine urgency in both Joshua and Fury to fight each other.
Perhaps the most pleasing news of all is that unbeaten prospects Daniel Dubois and Joe Joyce will clash on November 28. Dubois and Joyce have prioritised fighting over waiting for the crowds to return so they can earn more money. Dubois-Joyce is a hugely enticing contest and they, along with promoters Queensberry, should take a bow for making sure it takes place. The winner will be hot on the heels of the leaders.
Though we must lobby for Fury-Joshua, or whichever fight will give us one king, it’s also vital the rest of the division keeps turning. The winners of Povetkin-Whyte, Dubois-Joyce – and the October 31 clash between Oleksandr Usyk and Dereck Chisora – will be hugely appealing opponents for whomever the champion might turn out to be. Again, kudos to all involved.
Even those of us who are the staunchest critics of the failure to create one king also recognise that the era we find ourselves in may still go down in history as one of the best. Yes, its place will ultimately be governed by that one champion being crowned. One can hope, at long last, that 2021 will be the year it happens.