AS 2018 wound to its conclusion, there was reason to be excited. The heavyweight division was booming, there were thrilling fights to be made. These would have been major events, accelerating boxing into high prominence in the sporting world. Anthony Joshua had unified three of the four major world titles, while Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder had fought to a draw in the biggest event of the past year. It all should have been so simple. Joshua had a ready-made British rival in Dillian Whyte and an April date at Wembley stadium (now cancelled). Fury and Wilder had managed to box one another on a Showtime Sports pay-per-view. Logically a rematch should have been relatively straightforward to arrange. Two massive events, each feeding the hype around the other, would have seen the creation of two superstars and huge public demand for them ultimately to decide an undisputed heavyweight champion.
A few years ago we would have been crying out for this kind of drama in the heavyweight division. When Wladimir Klitschko was the dominant champion, none of his challengers made for particularly compelling viewing. Now Joshua, Fury and Wilder have their rival claims. Joshua is of course the unified champion and probably should be regarded as the division’s number one. But Wilder is the longest reigning world titlist and holds the prestigious WBC belt and Fury regards himself as the ‘lineal’ champion, after beating Klitschko before Joshua and like the others remaining unbeaten. They had to fight. They have to fight.