Opinion | Apr 05 2019

The mirage of the heavyweight division

In his Snipes & Snipes column Eric Armit considers the plight of the heavyweight division in the modern age
Anthony Joshua heavyweight division
Anthony Joshua v Joseph Parker - World Heavyweight Title Unification Fight  |  Action Images

I have decided to rename the heavyweight division the Mirage Division. It is now thirty-years since we had a universal heavyweight champion and that was Mike Tyson who held the IBF, WBA and WBC titles. In May of 1989 Italian Francesco Damiani won the inaugural WBO title and since then no fighter has held all four belts. Despite what they may say promoters, TV and sanctioning bodies are quite happy with multiple champions. If there is just one champion then only one promoter has a heavyweight champion, with one champion cable TV will be lucky to get three or four heavyweight title fights a year to boost their ratings and the sanctioning bodies will be scrambling to get their share of the sanctioning fees and arguing over who appoints the officials etc. With more than one champion there is pie for everyone.

The “one champion” dream is like a mirage. When Wladimir Klitschko held three titles the heavyweight division was like a desert with no oasis in sight but Tyson Fury was a breath of fresh air, a fighter who genuinely seemed to want to unify the titles. His problems allowed the IBF and WBA to strip him and get their own champions which Klitschko’s dominance had been denying them so a sanctioning sandstorm obliterated the one champion mirage and we were back to sand and cacti. Along came Anthony Joshua who singly handed – well with the help of a great fight against Wlad Klitschko who received more praise in defeat than he had received when a champion – and the mirage loomed again. All it needed was a Joshua vs. WBC champion Deontay Wilder unifier. And the mirage would become reality. Joshua was the money man but Wilder’s ego got in the way. Ego is like any other obstacle if you pile the money high enough it can be overcome but Wilder seemed to think he was worth the Atlas Mountains so the desert sands blew again. Last year the Wilder vs. Fury fight was a bold commitment by both fighters and all we needed to set up a unifying Joshua fight was a clear winner – instead we got a draw. That only muddied the waters – OK a bad simile for a desert setting but you know what I mean.

Anthony Joshua heavyweight division