The heavyweight division has been in a state of flux since the electrifying Mike Tyson faded from the scene. It did not get any better that the Klitschko brothers Vladimir and Vitaly, who dominated the division thereafter, turned out to be methodical and boring.
Champions from the lower weight divisions have taken control of the sport in recent years, but it is common knowledge that the enduring popularity of the sport rests largely on the success of the heavyweight class. We are talking here of legendary names like Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, George Foreman, Larry Holmes and Muhammad Ali who literally carried pro boxing on their shoulders with their spectacular title reigns.
The heavyweight division has not produced a real super fight since June 27, 1988, when unbeaten champions Tyson and Michael Spinks squared off for all the marbles in the weight class. The division has been searching for this kind of pairing and it appears that it has finally stumbled on one in American Deontay Wilder and British Anthony Joshua.
Wilder (39-0 with 38 knockouts) holds the World Boxing Council (WBC) heavyweight crown while Joshua (20-0, 20 knockouts) is the International Boxing Federation (IBF) and World Boxing Association (WBA) titleholder. The 32-year-old Wilder offers unpolished boxing skills, but his size (6’7”) and brutal punching power have merited serious attention. Joshua, 28, picked up the sport at the belated age of 18, but he breezed through the amateur ranks and won a gold medal in the 2012 London Olympics.
Wilder and Joshua have been obliterating foes since they turned pro. Wilder has been criticized for taking on handpicked foes, but he won the WBC crown in 2015 and just recently posted his sixth successful defense with an electrifying first-round knockout of Bermane Stiverne, the same pug who went the distance with him in January 2015.
Early this year, Joshua rumbled with veteran Vladimir Klitschko and survived with a riveting 11th round knockout win for the WBC bauble. The fight is a solid candidate for Fight of the Year. Joshua has since posted one successful defense, stopping Carlos Takam in 10 rounds last month.
Wilder has made known his intention to fight Joshua in a unification showdown, but Joshua is mired in a situation that may prevent the fight from happening in a snap of a finger.
Joshua holds two titles (WBA, IBF) and is mandated to defend the crowns on a rotating basis. This means that even if Joshua successfully defends the WBA crown, he will be required to defend the IBF crown next. The head honchos of the WBA and IBF are not likely to give up their share of the sanctioning fees and allow Joshua to take on fellow champion Wilder.
It will all boil down to how badly Wilder and Joshua want the fight. Truth be told, Wilder and Joshua have no one else to fight. The list of contenders in the heavyweight division is short and lacks credible and recognizable names.
The demand for the fight is escalating with each passing minute. The last thing the public wants is for Wilder-Joshua to end up like Riddick Bowe-Lennox Lewis. Back in the 1990s, there was a clamor for heavyweight champions Bowe and Lewis to fight, but American Bowe opted to vacate the crown rather than face Briton Lewis who had knocked him out in the amateur ranks.
There is so much money to be made in bringing Wilder-Joshua into fruition. If they do square off, nothing less than an explosive result is expected. A new rivalry may even be born and boxing as a whole stands to benefit the most.
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