The heavyweight boxing division has been suffering in the eyes of most fans and sports analysts for two decades.
Coincidentally — or perhaps not — that has been the approximate length of time since there was a unified champion.
The “Major” titles have long been considered the WBA, WBC, and IBF. In the last 10 years or so, the WBO has made its case. There is also The Ring Magazine title, the IBO, the USBA, the NABF, and the list goes on.
In fact, BoxRec once did an examination of the title situation in professional boxing and found that if you added up every known belt and multiplied it times 17 (the number of professional weight classes), you would arrive at the mind-boggling number of 6,018.
Deconstructing the math, that would give the Heavyweight Boxing division — and all the others, for that matter — around 354 titles up for grabs.
Of course, many of those titles are not held in high regard, hence the need to single out “Majors” like the three mentioned above.
That said, the heavyweight boxing division has not had a champion hold those three Majors since Lennox Lewis, who retired in 2003. Thus began the journey of the Klitschko brothers, who would hold all the Majors while refusing to fight one another until Vitali finally retired, leaving the division in care of brother Wladimir in 2012.
That’s a long time to go without a singular champion, and it is the primary reason often stated for why the heavyweight division has been unable to maintain interest.
Fortunately for fans of the Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Larry Holmes, Mike Tyson, and Evander Holyfield eras, that could soon be changing.
ESPN recently noted that 2016 could be a very interesting year for heavyweight boxing.
“Don’t look now, but a heavyweight resurgence just might be upon us,” writes Dan Rafael, who credited “Tyson Fury’s upset of long-reigning unified champion Wladimir Klitschko in November” as an event that leveled the playing field.
“But the timing coincided perfectly with the rise of a new guard, led by unbeaten American titlist Deontay Wilder, all-world prospect Anthony Joshua of England and Cuban slugger Luis Ortiz. Throw in veteran names like Alexander Povetkin, Bryant Jennings and the return of David Haye, and 2016 could be fun — which is something the division has lacked for more than a decade.”
(Actually, a decade and a half!)
Looking at some of the names that Rafael has mentioned, it becomes apparent that he is correct.
Wilder is not only the WBC Champion and an unbeaten prospect, but he has also closed all but one of his 35 fights in devastating fashion, and he fights again on Jan. 16, facing Artur Szpilka in a bout that will be televised on Showtime.
Aside from that, you have Joshua, who is 15-0 with all 15 wins coming by way of knockout and Luis Ortiz, who has compiled a 24-0 record with 21 wins by KO. His most recent was an impressively devastating Round 7 knockout of Bryant Jennings, who had previously lost a close but boring decision to Wladimir Klitschko.
While you can’t really compare fights or records until you see how the fighters stack up against one another, it’s becoming apparent that Klitschko, who’s set for a rematch against Fury in 2016, is no longer alone when it comes to talented heavyweight boxing contenders.
But what do you think, fight fans?
Is heavyweight boxing finally set to rise from the ashes, or does it still have a way to go before returning to its former glory? Sound off in the comments section below.
[Image via Deontay Wilder Facebook]