After signing their highly anticipated two-fight deal, Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury go head-to-head to decide who the heavyweight king really is.
For a while it seemed like it really was a case of a top two standing head and shoulders above everyone else, with Deontay Wilder, Andy Ruiz Jr and Dillian Whyte all taking very disappointing defeats.
However, with Whyte making a statement with his destruction of veteran Alexander Povetkin in their rematch last Saturday, while Ruiz will return to the ring in May, the heavyweight division is now thriving again.
Even beyond Joshua and Fury, there are mouthwatering combinations to be had, with a plethora of contenders offering to be first in line for a title shot once the dust settles and we have our undisputed heavyweight champion.
With that in mind, Sportsmail will take you through the heavyweight contenders who will be playing a big role in the next 12 months.
Anthony Joshua (left) and Tyson Fury (right) have signed a two-fight deal for all belts
Deontay Wilder has not fought since his defeat to Tyson Fury in February last year
Perhaps the most appropriate place to start is at Deontay Wilder, who is still seen by many as the third best heavyweight out there.
The American has tarnished his name somewhat with a barrage of futile apologies in the wake of his defeat to Fury last year, but his reputation as one of the division’s historic punchers endures.
Ahead of his fully comprehensive defeat to Fury, Wilder had stepped up his opponent, with his controversial draw with the ‘Gypsy King’ with two wins over Luis Ortiz and a terrifying first-round knockout win over Dominic Breazeale.
And while the old adage that ‘you’re only as good as your last fight’ holds true, it’s unwise to simply rule out Wilder after one, though damaging, defeat.
The problem, however, is that Wilder’s intentions remain unclear. The American is reportedly still taking legal action over a desired trilogy battle with Fury, although the Brit’s team insists the claims have no value.
Regardless, Wilder is tipped to take on Ruiz, with both fighters led by Al Hamon. But as Ruiz prepares for his comeback fight against Chris Arreola, there are also murmurs about a possible return to the ring for Wilder against former IBF champion Charles Martin.
There was also much talk of an uncontested fight between Wilder and Joshua prior to his defeat to Fury.
And should Joshua manage to defeat Fury, a fight with Wilder would spark a lot of interest again. Whether anyone would like to see Wilder and Fury fight again, that’s another conversation.
Dillian Whyte added new life to the heavyweight division by knocking out Alexander Povetkin
While many will still see Wilder as the third best heavyweight out there, it’s an opinion Dillian Whyte certainly doesn’t share.
‘The Body Snatcher’ billed himself as the third best heavyweight ahead of his rematch with Povetkin, with the result no doubt confirming his claim.
The top five complete, in Whyte’s eyes anyway, Wilder and Ruiz, two heavyweights who could compete against the Briton in the near future.
By defeating Povetkin, Whyte regained his title of WBC Interim Champion, and he may be next in line to fight Joshua and Fury’s winner right now.
Since Whyte was unable to secure a title shot before, despite having been a mandatory challenger at the WBC for over 1,000 days, Whyte will have to wait a while to secure a golden ticket.
After Whyte’s emphatic performance, promoter Eddie Hearn insisted the Briton get back into action soon, with a summer showdown with Wilder at stake.
“We’ve been calling for the Deontay Wilder fight for a long time,” Hearn told Sky Sports Box Office.
He actually drove Dillian Whyte a DM and said to him, ‘I’ll never give you that fight,’ and now that he’s been knocked out, he’s calling for the fight with Dillian Whyte.
“For me that’s a stadium fight, that’s a colossal fight.”
Should Whyte and Wilder actually go to battle, the eventual winner would likely put himself in pole position to take on Joshua and Fury’s winners.
Andy Ruiz Jr
Andy Ruiz Jr has seemingly lost significant weight ahead of his return on May 1
Andy Ruiz Jr put his name on the map with his shocking win over Anthony Joshua in 2019. And while he looked slow, overweight and out of his kind in his painstaking defeat to the Brit, the manner of his first win will keep his name relevant. to hold. for some time.
The 31-year-old has not fought since relinquishing his newly earned titles, but he will make his long-awaited return in a fight against Chris Arreola on May 1.
Ruiz will face himself for the win again, which shouldn’t be a problem considering Arreola is now 40 years old and has a defeat to Adam Kownacki.
It may be before the result, but his performance will be more important when Ruiz returns. Ruiz has fooled us with weight loss photos in the past, but if they turn out to be true this time, and should he look more impressive against Arreola, then he’s right back in the mix.
There are plenty of options available for Ruiz, who, as mentioned, is tipped to fight Wilder in a title remover.
It’s a fight that makes a lot of sense, and one that would drive the winner back into the title fight. However, a match with Whyte would also be intriguing.
There’s definitely a lot of potential out there with Ruiz, and if he puts himself in good shape, who knows what the future might bring.
Oleksandr Usyk defeated Derek Chisora by unanimous decision in his first real heavyweight test
Despite his unanimous points decision against Derek Chisora in October 2020, Oleksandr Usyk remains somewhat of a mystery in the heavyweight division.
The Ukrainian’s talent is beyond dispute; he’s yet to be beaten in 18 professional fights and reuniting the cruiserweight division after a great amateur career.
His performance against Chisora, while comfortable, wasn’t overly convincing, however, and it raised questions about how he would handle the bigger and better heavyweights out there, like a Joshua or Fury.
Regardless, Usyk plays an important role in the heavyweight division. He’s currently the mandatory challenger to Joshua’s WBO belt, but he’s negotiating to step aside and fight Joe Joyce, allowing the undisputed showdown to continue.
But assuming he gets past Joyce – if the fight does happen – Usyk isn’t going to want to stick around. He wants a shot at the heavyweight title, and he wants it soon.
Usyk is now 34 years old, and while he remains slick and may have unparalleled boxing skills in the heavyweight division, he doesn’t have all the time in the world to wait for his shot.
It is therefore of the utmost importance that he beat Joyce – and good. The pair do have a history, with Usyk beating Joyce in the amateurs in 2013.
Of course, both fighters have come a long way since then, but Usyk will certainly come in as the heavy favorite.
Joe Joyce quit Daniel Dubois in November 2020 to profile himself as a true contender
With Joe Joyce likely to be Usyk’s next opponent, he should be included in this list as a win would push him straight to a title.
At the age of 35, Joyce is another who doesn’t have much time to waste. He’s been a man on a mission since turning pro in October 2017, racking up 12 consecutive wins, including an impressive break from Daniel Dubois last November, winning the European, British and Commonwealth titles.
Joyce has been a regular sparring partner to Joshua for the past few years and despite his relative lack of professional experience, his gym and amateur game encounters will serve him well.
However, he now faces the most important fight of his career in Usyk. A win would reverberate in the boxing world, while a defeat might leave him in the dark, with attacks at the national and European level possibly reaching the ceiling.
Simply put, Joyce isn’t a pleasant boxer to be with – or even to watch. He’s seemingly slow and with no real knockout power. However, his chin, motor and confidence make him a tough night job for all the heavyweights out there.
It’s hard to see Joyce ever get a voluntary shot at the title – he’ll have to earn himself a mandatory position. But while Usyk is the main favorite, many have backed Joyce’s opponents in the past. And until now they have always been wrong.