In the last five or six years the heavyweight division gave as many as a dozen of great fights, for a brief moment it was like we went back in time to the 70’s or 90’s when boxing’s most popular division was full of bouts that became all time classics.
Can Tyson Fury vs. Oleksandr Usyk Catapult Boxing Back Into Superstardom?
Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder, Anthony Joshua, Oleksandr Usyk, etc. brought a division back to life that was almost dead for more than a decade. Now we are in a situation that every true boxing fan dreams about, only one fight away from having an undisputed heavyweight champion of the world!
If you look back, everything started with Fury’s impressive victory over long-time reigning champion Wladimir “Dr. Steelhammer” Klitschko in 2015. Klitschko was a great fighter, but his fights were pretty one sided, some of them even boring for a casual boxing fan. When Fury took the crown, the heavyweight division was open again, and many good fights followed.
“The Gypsy King” was out for more than two years, but he came back and won a very competitive trilogy against Wilder and won the WBC title. On the other hand, Usyk’s rise was more than stellar, from the undisputed cruiserweight champion after only 15 fights, to challenging and defeating Joshua for all of the Brit’s belts.
With Only Two Champions Left, What’s Next?
First the obvious, Fury is big! His 6’9 frame, and 270 pounds combined with excellent movement proved to be more than enough for every fighter he met in the ring so far. No matter how skillful Usyk is, Fury’s size, reach and jab will be hard for him to overcome. The best thing about the WBC champion is that he can both box and brawl. Fury’s jab is exceptional, and he uses it in many different ways, as a slick fast jab, a stiff, hard punch, or to mask his fast right cross. There is one more weapon that he often uses, his feints, combined with good head movement, they could be that one thing AJ was missing in his two fights with Usyk.
Fury won’t make the same mistake as Joshua-trying to outbox the Ukrainian master boxer. He’s going to use every pound of weight, lean on, hold and wrestle. There is only one problem, Fury is not at his best right now. Though he won his last three fights, it was obvious that he carried a little extra weight and was a bit slower on his feet than usual. Fury’s peak condition was visible against Klitschko and in the first Wilder bout four years ago. If you compare those fights with what we saw a couple of nights ago against Chisora, it’s easy to see the difference. Of course, this doesn’t mean that Fury won’t be in shape if a fight happens, there’s at least one more good training in him.
What about Usyk? It’s really difficult to see any flaws in his game. Usyk is a complete fighter, with great fundamentals, unbelievable work rate and cardio that can easily go 15 rounds. The only boxer that could beat him right now is Fury, but only if he starts to work on his midsection.
The Bad News
Fury is injured and probably out for at least six months. With Usyk holding on to three belts, the different sanctioning bodies (WBA, WBO, IBF) won’t allow him to sit on his titles for a year, or maybe even more, while Fury recovers and gets back in shape. Usyk would have to defend them or vacate. That means if a fight even happens, it could easily be without some of the belts.
Of course, a match of this magnitude will bring a lot of money and the promoters are going to play their games very carefully and slowly. There is a big chance this mega-clash does not happen until 2024. We saw this scenario many times before, Mayweather vs. Pacquiao, Canelo vs. Golovkin III and other great boxing matches that just came too late.
This heavyweight clash must happen as soon as possible, while the fight is still relative and important. No matter how many great boxers we have at lower weight classes, if the heavyweight division suffers, boxing as a sport suffers. We can only hope Fury and Usyk cross paths next year, because this is a fight boxing needs.
Featured Image credit to Getty Images.