The heavyweight division in boxing has historically been the most revered weight class in all of the fight game. Even non-fans are more than likely able to reel off names such as Muhammad Ali or Mike Tyson, or recognise that of George Foreman, Joe Frazier and Joe Louis. The names and the fights are the stuff of legend.
For some time, though, interest has steadily waned under the dominant periods of Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko. Whilst it would be wholly unfair to discredit the ability of either of these great fighters; who never ducked anybody and beat all before them, it’s true that their dominance coincided with a dip in calibre across the division as a whole.
The lack of an American prospect in the division also had an influence. America has always been the home of the richest and biggest super-fights that draw the largest numbers of box office buys and demand global attention.
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Throughout the 80's and 90's, American fighters ruled the world. But, with none of their own to get behind and promote since the retirements of Evander Holyfield and Tyson around the same time as Lennox Lewis, these events have sadly been few and far between at the very top.
This dictated an understandable shift in focus towards the more promotable Floyd Mayweather and his excellent career in the welterweight division. American TV networks and sponsors were more apt to see returns behind the Michigan banger with a fair claim to be called the best fighter of his generation. A simple case of dollars and cents.
But with ‘Money’ having bowed out undefeated, and Manny Pacquaio about to hang up his gloves after his clash with Timothy Bradley, is the heavyweight division now in a position to reclaim the limelight?
It has begun to show something of a renaissance in recent times. Last year, Tyson Fury unexpectedly brought the ten-year reign of Wladimir Klitschko to an end to claim the Ring, IBF, WBO, IBO, & WBA (Super) Heavyweight titles with a unanimous points victory.
It’s also been impossible to ignore the emergence of Anthony Joshua in the last few years. His tear through his first fourteen opponents has been mightily impressive and by providing Joshua with a much sterner test in his latest fight, Dillian White has proved he too has a big future in the sport.
Add into the mix former champ David Haye coming out of retirement and British heavyweight boxing looks to be in fine fettle again.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the pond, undefeated Deontay Wilder (35-0) has won all but one of his fights by stoppage, flying under the radar but about to become a household name on these shores.
British boxing fans will have an opportunity to view the WBC champion first hand when his title defence against Artur Szpilka is shown live on UK television on 16 January. Wilder is looking to put away the Pole within the distance and then embark on his ambitious target to unify the heavyweight division this year.
The ‘Bronze Bomber’ has already called out the winner of the rematch between Klitschko and Fury, whilst Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn has been unequivocal in saying that it’s a matter of when and not if the Olympic gold medallist fights for a heavyweight title. Haye has already made his intention clear to fight Joshua somewhere down the line before then.
Alexander Povetkin, who also won gold as an amateur has only lost once; a unanimous decision against Klitschko and should not be discounted, neither should Luis Ortiz, the unbeaten Cuban.
Fury’s win may just have provided much-needed impetus for the division. Suddenly everything looks up for grabs again and a strong stable of contenders that has steadily developed away from the glare of the bright lights means the once glorious weight class might just be ready to rule again in 2016.
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