Boxing: Heavyweight division as murky as ever, as contenders emerge from mud

Joseph Parker, Andy Ruiz, Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua.
Joseph Parker, Andy Ruiz, Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua. Photo credit: Images: Getty and Photosport

While Andy Ruiz's sensational knockout win over Anthony Joshua shocked the sporting world, it only muddied the already murky waters of boxing's heavyweight division.

The Mexican-American battered the previously undefeated Brit into submission, eventually claiming a seventh-round TKO victory to win the IBF, WBO and WBA belts.

But that win has virtually put the division on hold, as the world awaits an anticipated November or December rematch, most likely in the United Kingdom.

The IBF wants Ruiz to defend its title against Kubrat Pulev before the Joshua rematch and may force him to vacate, if he isn't willing to miss the huge payday a Joshua fight would bring.

Joshua's promoter, Eddie Hearn, believes his rematch clause should take precedence over the IBF's demands, but according to Boxrec, only a unification fight can supersede a mandatory title defence.

There has been a precedent. Tyson Fury was forced to vacate the IBF title months after claiming it from Wladimir Klitschko, because he opted for a rematch with the Ukrainian, rather than face the number-one contender.

While that fight ultimately never took place, the IBF held a vacated-title fight, won by American Charles Martin, who then dropped the title to Joshua a few months later.

But even if the IBF doesn't order the Pulev fight, the chances of an undisputed heavyweight champion look unlikely in the next two years. Joshua and WBC champion Deontay Wilder seemed ready to discuss terms for a bout that would unify boxing's big four titles.

That's not going to happen now. Joshua is focused on his rematch with Ruiz and even if he wins, his next outing would be a mandatory defence of one of the three titles.

Wilder will now likely fight Luis Ortiz for a second time later this year, followed by a rematch with Tyson Fury early next year, effectively ruling him out of a unification bout until mid-2020.

And everything else rests on these contenders continuing to win.

But there are some exciting fights on the horizon that could bring us some clarity.

Right now, heavyweight boxing is as exciting as it's ever been over the past 40 years, with several prospects all vying for relevancy.

So, let's break down the next few months of marquee heavyweight fights.

June 16: Tyson Fury v Tom Schwarz

Fury is coming off a sensational performance against Wilder, where he all-but shut down the American's vaunted offence. Granted, he was knocked down twice, but he managed to recover before eventually earning a controversial draw.

But if Fury wants another shot at Wilder, he has to get the job done against the undefeated German. While not possessing the best hit list of victims, Schwarz is 24-0, with 16 knockouts.

Standing 1.95m (6ft 5in), he won't be too freaked out by Fury's giant stature (2.05m/6ft 9in). But 'The Gyspy King' has conquered far bigger mountains than Schwarz, so he should emerge unscathed.

June 30: Joseph Parker vs Eric Molina

Welcome back to relevancy, Mr Parker.

Fact: the Kiwi is the only human on the planet to have beaten Andy Ruiz Jr in a professional boxing fight.

Parker topped the new champion in 2016, via decision, and although it was close, most pundits gave the nod to Parker by a round or two.

Now under the banner of Matchroom's Eddie Hearn, expect a very active six months for Parker, which begins later this month against American journeyman Molina.

Of Molina's five losses, four have come against quality opposition in Joshua, Wilder, Chris Arreola and Dominic Breazeale. He loses to fighters he should lose to and Parker is one of those.

Expect Parker to stop Molina inside the distance.

June 13: Daniel Dubois vs Nathan Gorman

Dubois is the next big thing of heavyweight boxing, but in Gorman, he will find another Brit with claims to that crown. This is a fight you shouldn't miss.

Dubois recently dispatched Razvan Cojanu inside two rounds. Kiwi fans will remember the Romanian gave Parker a tough 12-round fight two-years ago, but Dubois destroyed him and now has 10 knockouts in 11 wins.

He has scary power, but will find a game, undefeated opponent in Gorman. The 22-year-old has 11 knockouts in 16 fights.

Dubois is a favourite and should win - he will be in the title picture by this time next year and could very well be in Parker's future.

Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder shared in a controversial draw last year.
Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder shared in a controversial draw last year. Photo credit: Reuters
Dillian Whyte's only professional loss came at the hands of Anthony Joshua.
Dillian Whyte's only professional loss came at the hands of Anthony Joshua. Photo credit: Reuters.
Olexandr Usyk is regarded as the best pure boxer in the heavyweight division.
Olexandr Usyk is regarded as the best pure boxer in the heavyweight division. Photo credit: Reuters.

July 20: Dillian Whyte vs Oscar Rivas

Whyte is the guy no-one wants to fight. He is the mandatory challenger in both the WBO and WBC, and has legitimately earned a title shot. But his sole loss is at the hands of Joshua, and Hearn has been smart to book Whyte in other high profile fights to keep him away from his golden egg – well at least until last Sunday.

Whyte bested Parker in one of the fights of 2018, while he has also dispatched Derek Chisora (twice), Lucas Browne and European journeyman Robert Helenius.

Rivas is a relative unknown, having fought mostly in Canada. The Colombian native has racked up 26 wins, scoring 18 knockouts in the process, and topped Bryant Jennings in his last fight.

Whyte is a different proposition altogether. Expect a showcase win for 'The Body Snatcher', which will cement his spot as the true number-one heavyweight contender and his pick of whoever he wants to challenge.

Rumoured fights in the pipeline include Wilder v Ortiz and Parker v Chisora, if the Kiwi gets past Molina this month.

Regardless, there are exciting times ahead for fight fans, and even though we don't have a unified champion to support or hate, the outlook of the division should be clear by the end of the year.

Other notable heavyweights to watch:

Agit Kabayel (19-0): Ranked third by the WBO and reportedly knocked out Joshua in sparring.

Oleksandr Usyk (16-0): Ranked second by the WBA and a former cruiserweight world champion - could be the best pure boxer in the division.

Alexander Povetkin (34-2): Age is not on his side, but troubled Joshua earlier this year.

Kubrat Pulev (27-1): Ranked first by the IBF, with his only career loss coming against Wladimir Klitschko.

Junior Fa (17-0): The Kiwi is ranked sixth by the WBO and has trained with Wider. Expect big fights for Fa later this year.

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