Welcome to “Road To Undisputed,” a series where I look at every weight class in boxing, look at the champions and contenders and map out a road to crowning an undisputed champion and the chances of it happening anytime soon.
This week, we’ll end the series with a look at the heavyweight division, which has teased an undisputed title fight for years with no clear picture on if it will actually happen.
Here are the divisions covered so far:
- WBA “Super,” WBO & IBF: Oleksandr Usyk
- WBC: Tyson Fury
- Deontay Wilder
- Anthony Joshua
- Andy Ruiz Jr.
- Joe Joyce
- Filip Hrgovic
- Dillian Whyte
- Michael Hunter
- Joseph Parker
- Robert Helenius
- Murat Gassiev
- Daniel Dubois
- Tony Yoka
- Otto Wallin
- Trevor Bryan (WBA “Regular” champion)
- Mahmoud Charr (WBA Champion In Recess)
For a fleeting moment, it seemed like Tyson Fury would reign over the heavyweight division for quite a long time after ending Wladimir Klitschko’s long title reign in 2015. But a sea of controversy from title stripping to failed drug tests and retirement resulted in him being absent from the sport for years. It left a void in the division that was ultimately filled by Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua. Once Fury returned to the sport in 2018, he set his sights on Wilder and his WBC world title. The two would engage in a memorable trilogy that finished with Fury on top back in October. Meanwhile, Joshua had a roller coaster time on top, losing his unified titles in 2019 against Andy Ruiz Jr., winning them back and then losing his titles again to Oleksandr Usyk this past September.
Of course, a number of different storylines played out in the heavyweight division during that time span from the carnival-like carousel that was the WBA’s secondary title mess to Dillian Whyte’s seemingly never-ending run as the mandatory challenger to the WBC world title.
In the end, what mattered the most was the fights and the titles involved. The past couple of months showed a clear quartet of fighters above the rest of the division: Fury, Usyk, Joshua & Wilder. Given how Wilder’s career plays out, it may very well be a trio of Fury, Usyk & Joshua.
The rest of the pack isn’t a bad group of contenders, but there is a lot to be done before a clear cut top contender can be determined. Joseph Parker is looking for a shot at becoming a two-time heavyweight champion, but needs to get past hardened veteran Derek Chisora. Ruiz is on the comeback trail, but still trying to build a rapport with new trainer Eddy Reynoso. Joe Joyce has emerged as the new contender to watch out for, but has not been able to secure a fight against anyone in the heavyweight top 10. Michael Hunter’s last fight was a lackluster draw against Jerry Forrest and Robert Helenius is now looking to take advantage of the momentum he’s acquired after two impressive wins over previously-unbeaten prospect Adam Kownacki.
As un-exciting as the heavyweight division has been at times over the past couple of years, there is a lot to be excited about in regards to the future. Filip Hrgovic is a dynamic fighter on the rise who possess a lot of power and is racking up wins against a number of veterans, including former world title challenger Eric Molina.
There’s also a number of intriguing prospects such as Jared Anderson, a physically-imposing heavyweight with incredible power and charisma to match. Daniel Dubois is an exciting young heavyweight who is one of the best pure athletes of the bunch of prospects with plenty of raw talent still to be refined. Even prospects like Tony Yoka and Frank Sanchez are on the rise, though like Anderson and Dubois, are still in need of more time to develop and raise their profile before looking to mix with top tier contenders.
What will it take to get an undisputed champion?
Like with many of these divisions, the short answer to this question is simple, but the long answer is more complex.
The short answer is for both Fury and Usyk to fight each other. But that’s easier said than done.
For both champions to fight each other, both Fury and Usyk would need to get past what could be their next challengers. Fury and Whyte have been ordered to engage in negotiations for a title bout. Meanwhile, Usyk and Joshua are in negotiations for their rematch. Both Fury and Usyk are going to be favorites to win their respective bouts and if they win those fights, everything should be good to go.
While Fury has one title belt (WBC), Usyk has three (WBA, WBO & IBF). The WBO mandatory won’t be called for Usyk for a long time and the WBA is still sorting out the absolute mess that is their secondary title situation. As for the IBF, it is still sorting out its mandatory challenger situation. That may still be the case by the time next spring rolls around which is expected to be when Usyk vs. Joshua 2 takes place.
The two champions have shown interest in fighting each other and there is no reason to believe that both sides would make a genuine effort to seal a deal to crown an undisputed champion. It all depends on what each side is willing to concede when they get to the negotiating table. Other than that, it’s fine to be cautiously optimistic to believe that both champions could fight each other next year if they end up winning their respective next bouts.
Chances of there being an undisputed champion in the next 18 months: 40%