History | Premium | Jun 12 2019

The history of the oversized heavyweight

Oliver Goldstein examines the meaning of the biggest and tallest heavyweights in history
Mikey Williams/Top Rank

WHEN Tyson Fury miraculously righted himself after being collapsed by Deontay Wilder for a second time in the dead hours of December 1, 2018, all six feet and nine inches of his massive frame somehow re-arranged into fit and proper condition, so too did boxing’s largest division seem once more to resemble itself as it once stood at its zenith. There were giants once — or so the old saying goes. Now they have seemingly returned.

With Anthony Joshua, Fury and Wilder make for the largest, most significant contingent of heavyweight champions in decades. Yes, Nikolay Valuev and the Klitschko brothers were collectively taller — the Russian behemoth with the hairy chest and cartoon face wins any competition on the vertical (if not much more). Yet the division had lain dormant throughout their respective reigns. Only with Joshua, Fury and Wilder has some sense of the social and cultural significance once vested in the figure of the giant returned to the heavyweight class.

Their predecessors, Valuev and the Klitschko brothers, were huge men in a post-modern world. Their fights happened and some people turned up in Germany and nobody outside of there much cared. They were physically massive but symbolically small. Among them, only Vitali resembled in character and outline the heavyweight giants as they once were — and even then only sometimes. But lacking a challenger worthy of the name after returning to the sport against Samuel Peter in September 2008, even he was diminished by the end in stature if not size.

Tyson Fury will rise from the canvas against Deontay Wilder Esther Lin/Showtime


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