Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury stand alone at the top of the heavyweight division, but with Dillian Whyte’s stunning knockout win over Alexander Povetkin and Andy Ruiz Jr set for his return, there is now a pack of hungry contenders vying for a shot
- Dillian Whyte added new life to the heavyweight division with Saturday’s victory
- The Body Snatcher knocked out veteran Alexander Povetkin in the fourth round
- Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury are set for their undisputed double-header
- Andy Ruiz Jr is also set to make his return to the ring against Chris Arreola in May
- There is also talk that Deontay Wilder will face Charles Martin in his comeback
After signing their eagerly anticipated two-fight agreement, Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury are set to go head-to-head to decide just who the heavyweight king really is.
For a while, it seemed it really was a case of a top two who were head and shoulders above anyone else, with Deontay Wilder, Andy Ruiz Jr and Dillian Whyte all coming off highly disappointing defeats.
However, with Whyte making a statement with his obliteration of veteran Alexander Povetkin in their rematch last Saturday, while Ruiz is set to return to the ring in May, the heavyweight division is now thriving once more.
Even outside of Joshua and Fury, there are mouthwatering match-ups to be made in abundance, with a plethora of contenders bidding to be the first in line for a title shot once the dust is settled and we have our undisputed heavyweight champion.
With that in mind, Sportsmail takes you through the heavyweight contenders who have a major role to play in the coming 12 months.
Anthony Joshua (left) and Tyson Fury (right) have signed a two-fight agreement for all the belts
Perhaps the most appropriate place to start is with Deontay Wilder, who many still see as the third best heavyweight out there.
The American somewhat tarnished his name with a barrage of futile excuses in the wake of his defeat to Fury last year, but his reputation as one of the division’s historic punchers still remains.
Prior to his defeat to Fury, which was entirely comprehensive, Wilder had stepped up his level of opposition, with his controversial draw with the ‘Gypsy King’ sandwiching two stoppage wins over Luis Ortiz and a frightening first round knockout win over Dominic Breazeale.
And while the old adage that ‘you are only as good as your last fight’ does hold weight, it’s unwise to simply rule Wilder out after one, albeit damaging, defeat.
The problem, however, is that Wilder’s intentions remain unclear. The American is reportedly still pursuing legal action over a desired trilogy bout with Fury, though the Brit’s team insist the claims hold no value.
Regardless, Wilder is being tipped to square off against Ruiz, with both fighters under the stewardship of Al Hamon. But while Ruiz is preparing for his comeback fight against Chris Arreola, there are also murmurings of a potential return to the ring for Wilder against former IBF champion Charles Martin.
There was also significant talk of an undisputed fight between Wilder and Joshua prior to his defeat to Fury.
And should Joshua prove successful in defeating Fury, a bout with Wilder would once more generate a lot of interest. Whether anyone would want to see Wilder and Fury fight again, well that’s another conversation.
Dillian Whyte added fresh life to the heavyweight division by knocking out Alexander Povetkin
While many will still see Wilder as the third best heavyweight out there, it’s a view Dillian Whyte certainly does not share.
‘The Body Snatcher’ labelled himself as the third best heavyweight prior to his rematch with Povetkin, with the result undoubtedly adding some validation to his claim.
Completing the top five, in Whyte’s eyes anyway, are Wilder and Ruiz, two heavyweights who could square off against the Brit in the near future.
In defeating Povetkin, Whyte regained his title of WBC interim champion, and he is perhaps currently the next in line to fight the winner of Joshua and Fury.
However, having previously been unable to obtain a title shot despite being WBC mandatory challenger for over 1,000 days, Whyte will still have to wait a while longer to get his hands on a golden ticket.
Following Whyte’s emphatic performance, promoter Eddie Hearn insisted the Brit will be thrown quickly back into action, with a summer showdown with Wilder on the cards.
‘We called for the Deontay Wilder fight for a long, long time,’ Hearn told Sky Sports Box Office.
‘He actually DM’d Dillian Whyte and told him, ‘I will never ever give you that fight,’ and now he got knocked out, he’s calling for the fight with Dillian Whyte.
‘For me, that’s a stadium fight, that’s a colossal fight.’
Should Whyte and Wilder actually go to battle, the eventual winner would likely put themselves in pole position to face the winner of Joshua and Fury.
Andy Ruiz Jr
Andy Ruiz Jr has seemingly lost a significant amount of weight ahead of his May 1 return
Andy Ruiz Jr put his name on the map with his shock win over Anthony Joshua in 2019. And though he looked sluggish, overweight and out of sorts in his plodding rematch defeat to the Brit, the manner of his first win will keep his name relevant for some time.
The 31-year-old has not fought since relinquishing his newly earned titles, but he is set to make his highly anticipated return in a bout against Chris Arreola on May 1.
Ruiz will put himself back into contention with victory, which should not be a problem given Arreola is now 40-years-old and coming off a defeat to Adam Kownacki.
Perhaps rather than the result, it’s his performance that will be more important when Ruiz does make his return. Ruiz has fooled us with weight loss pictures in the past, but if they prove to be true this time round, and should he look more impressive against Arreola, then he will be right back in the mix.
There are plenty of options out there for Ruiz, who as stated is being tipped to fight Wilder in a title eliminator.
It’s a fight that makes a lot of sense, and one that would propel the winner back into title contention. However, a match-up with Whyte would also be intriguing.
There is certainly a lot of potential there with Ruiz, and if he gets himself into good shape, who knows what the future could hold.
Oleksandr Usyk beat Derek Chisora by unanimous decision in his first real heavyweight test
Despite his unanimous points decision win over Derek Chisora in October 2020, Oleksandr Usyk remains somewhat of an enigma in the heavyweight division.
The Ukrainian’s talent is undoubted; he is yet to be defeated in 18 professional fights and unified the cruiserweight division after a stellar amateur career.
However, his performance against Chisora, while comfortable, wasn’t overly convincing, and it left questions regarding how he would deal with the bigger and better heavyweights out there, such as a Joshua or Fury.
Regardless, Usyk has a significant role to play in the heavyweight division. He is currently the mandatory challenger to Joshua’s WBO belt, but he is in negotiations to step aside and fight Joe Joyce, allowing the undisputed showdown to go ahead.
But assuming he gets past Joyce – if the fight does happen – Usyk will not want to hang around. He wants a shot at the heavyweight title, and he wants it soon.
Usyk is now 34-years-old, and though he remains slick and possesses perhaps unparalleled boxing ability in the heavyweight division, he doesn’t have all the time in the world to wait for his shot.
It’s therefore paramount that he does defeat Joyce – and well. The pair do, in fact, have history, with Usyk defeating Joyce in the amateurs back in 2013.
Of course, both fighters have come a long way since then, but Usyk will certainly come in as the heavy favourite.
Joe Joyce stopped Daniel Dubois in November 2020 to cement himself as a genuine contender
With Joe Joyce likely to be Usyk’s next opponent, he has to be mentioned in this list, as a win would push him right towards a title shot.
At 35-years-old, Joyce is another who does not have a lot of time to waste. He’s been a man on a mission since turning professional in October 2017, amassing 12 straight victories, including a compressive stoppage win over Daniel Dubois in November last year, which saw him take the European, British and Commonwealth titles.
Joyce has been a regular sparring partner of Joshua’s in recent years, and despite his relative lack of professional experience, his encounters both in the gym and in the amateur game will have put him in good stead.
However, he now faces the most important fight of his career in Usyk. A win would reverberate around the world of boxing, while a defeat would perhaps leave him stranded in limbo, with domestic and European-level bouts potentially the ceiling.
Put simply, Joyce is not a pleasant boxer to be in with – or even to watch. He’s seemingly slow and without genuine knockout power. However, his chin, engine and self-belief make him a tough night’s work for any heavyweight out there.
It’s difficult to see Joyce ever getting a voluntary shot at the title – he will have to earn himself a mandatory position. But while Usyk is the significant favourite, many have backed Joyce’s opponents in the past. And so far, they’ve always been wrong.
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