Who will come out on top of the Anthony Joshua, Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder three-way dance?
Heavyweight boxing has not been this interesting in a long, long while. There are three men with legitimate claims to be the best in the division, and we have every chance of seeing them all fight each other in the coming months.
There is the man with the most belts, Anthony Joshua. The Londoner holds the IBF, WBA, WBO and the lightly regarded IBO straps at heavyweight. He has a relatively short pro career record of 22-0, but he has beaten serious contenders and former champions in that time, most notably Wladimir Klitschko, Joseph Parker and Alexander Povetkin.
Joshua has also beaten the fourth man in this triple threat, the odd man out, Dillian Whyte. The Bodysnatcher has every right to call for a world title shot, but he looks unlikely to get it whilst the public are calling for bouts between the three main protagonists in this violent theatre.
After the man with all the belts, we have the owner of the other belt, who happens to be the longest reigning champion at heavyweight, Deontay Wilder. The American picked up the WBC strap in January 2015 and has defended it seven times since, taking his record to a sparkling 40-0 with 39 knockouts. The problem with that record is that it includes almost no decent names, with Wilder’s toughest challenge coming in his last fight against a 38-year-old Luis Ortiz, a challenge he nearly flunked.
Then we have the lineal champion, Tyson Fury. The Gypsy King won all four belts that Joshua now holds when he comfortably beat Klitschko back in November 2015 to take himself to the top of the heavyweight pile. Inner demons, fitness issues and drug problems kept Fury out of the win for two-and-a-half years and when he returned in June, he no longer had any of those belts, losing them all without losing a fight. Fury holds a perfect record of 27-0, but can no longer call himself a world champ. He remains the man that beat the man, though, and that lineal championship gives him serious pulling power. Joshua holds the belts that Fury once did, but AJ didn’t beat him for them, no one did.
So how are we going to decide who is the best of the bunch? They’re going to fight, of course! First up it’s Fury vs Wilder on December 1 in Los Angeles.
Fury v Wilder
Both these men create a clash of styles with almost anyone they will face, and when they meet each other there could scarcely be two more different fighters standing opposite each other. Wilder, all about swinging for the fences, using his freakish power to knock people out. Fury, entirely focussed on scoring points, jabbing away, using his right when necessary, but only when there’s a clear opening. Fury has retired people in the meantime, but hasn’t actually scored a KO or TKO victory since 2014 – he is all about the points rather than the power.
The question is, can Fury keep away from Wilder’s furious artillery for 12 rounds, frustrating him as he did to Klitschko three years ago? Can he do what no one has been able to do before? The question posed to Wilder is not quite as taxing, as it is not something that has not been achieved before. No one has beaten Fury, but he has been hit and he has been put down – by pillow-fisted Canadian Neven Pajkic and by career cruiserweight Steve Cunningham. If Wilder catches him as those guys did, then Fury will not be getting back up.
Fury’s story is an incredible one, but it is not one that is likely to end well. Gaining and then losing around nine stone is not advisable for an athlete in any discipline. Neither is ditching your long-term coach who took you to world titles for a complete novice. Neither is fighting just twice in three years, both times against no-hopers, in preparation for a 40-0 knockout machine. Three years ago, Fury would have beaten Wilder, but when they meet in December, he will be knocked out.
Joshua v Wilder
This will inevitably lead to a huge fight next April between Wilder and Joshua at Wembley Stadium between the last two unbeaten heavyweights who can still claim to be the best on the planet. Wilder now adding the title of lineal champion to his resume. One man will be left standing with every conceivable accolade you can hand to a fighter and as the undisputed baddest man on the planet.
The likelihood of this one going the distance is next to nil with these two enormous men possessing terrifying power and with both having every intention of using it. It is really a question of who lands first as there is no doubt both are capable of rendering the other unconscious.
In this case, you have to back the man with the better fundamentals, who does the basics best and that is undoubtedly Joshua. There is a worry that the Olympic gold medallist does not move his head enough, and that is certainly something Wilder will try and exploit, but other than that, he is certainly a superior pure boxer to the American.
Long before a fight has even been announced, Joshua is the clear favourite and that is completely fair. He offers a threat to Wilder that Fury does not and that will be enough for him to score the monumental knockout win.
Joshua v Fury
So what about Joshua vs Fury? This might be a moot point as if AJ has disposed of Wilder, holds all the belt, including the lineal title, he may see no need to give Fury a shot. But what if he does?
Fury would have a better chance in this one than he does in the Wilder fight, to the extent that he could quite easily beat Joshua. Being the better schooled fighter, Joshua is much more predictable than Wilder, which plays into Fury’s hands. If Fury concentrates then he can deal with anyone by being illusive, and with Joshua not used to fighting men significantly taller than him, he will struggle to get to the Gypsy King.
If this does ever get made, and assuming that Fury does not go off the rails after a defeat to Wilder, then we could be left with each man claiming a win each. The three of them might just have to do the whole dance again.
Joshua v Whyte
So how could Dillian Whyte fit into this if he can squeeze his way into the melee in the most glamorous division in the sport? Well, there is little chance that he is going to fight all three of the big boys, but there is a possibility he could slide into the April date and take on Joshua at Wembley.
This, of coure, would be a rematch of their thoroughly entertaining encounter from December 2015, which Joshua won with a seventh round knockout. Much has changed since that bout, which was for the British and Commonwealth titles, with Joshua going on to world championship glory, but Whyte also re-establishing himself as a serious player on the scene.
The Bodysnatcher has taken his record to 24-1 with impressive names on his resume, including Joseph Parker, Lucas Browne, Robert Helenius and Dereck Chisora. He has done more than enough to earn another shot at world honours, and he wants another go at AJ more than anything.
Wilder and Joshua have already tried and failed to negotiate a fight, so there is no guarantee they will be able to a second time round. Joshua and Fury would probably be an even more difficult fight to make. There is also the possibility that Wilder and Fury rematch after their first bout, which would eliminate both men from the April date that Joshua has booked in. Enter Dillian Whyte.
So is there any reason to think that the outcome would be different from the first time Joshua and Whyte stepped between the ropes as professionals? Not really.
Whyte has certainly got better, but so has Joshua. The Bodysnatcher has shown knockout power in spurts (most notably against Browne) but has been taken the distance by Parker, Helenius, Chisora and Dave Allen since losing to Joshua. AJ has still only ever gone the distance once and the fact remains that if he lands clean on Whyte then he will win.
Dillian will not go early and he is capable of giving Joshua troubles, as he did in their first fight, but we can expect the rematch to go almost exactly the same as the first one. Whyte will do alright, but he’ll be blasted out of there in the mid-to-late rounds.
Then we would see Joshua fight whoever comes out alive from the Wilder vs Fury dust up for the throne and all the gold.
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September 24th, 2018 by Simon A