The big men have always held the imagination and the last twelve months have been no different. The COVID-19 pandemic year was bookended by two destructive stoppages from the two dominant players in the heavyweight division.
Best fight of 2020
In my view Fury v Wilder 2 was the single biggest heavyweight event in the post Lennox Lewis era and couldn’t come anywhere but first on this list. The first contest in 2018 was an epic back and forth tustle that ended in a draw. Controversy, drama and intrigue spawned a tantalising rematch that would ultimately take place on the 22nd of February 2020.
In their first meeting it was Fury’s jab, footwork and upper body movement that gave him the upper hand, where Wilders power proved near fatal. This time though roles were not reversed but re-shuffled, all in favour of the Gypsy King.
After elaborate ring entrances from both men, Fury did exactly as promised and came out aggressive, attacking Wilder on the front foot. Many beforehand called this tactic borderline suicidal, but it was just crazy enough to work. He blended his new found skills with his old boxing ability.
After seven rounds Deontay Wilder had had to pick himself up off the canvas four times. Sustaining a hellacious beating his trainer Mark Breland mercifully threw in the towel.
It was not a brutal back and forth but it was the birth of a superstar. The criticisms of Tyson Fury have always been that he doesn’t hit hard enough for a man of his size, but this year he silenced the critics. He knocked out the hardest puncher since Earnie Shavers and reaffirmed his place at the top of the heavyweight division.
Overview of division
After his demolition of Wilder, Tyson Fury was awarded the Ring Magaxine belt, and with it the recognition as heavyweight number one. His main competitor, his number two, also has a claim to the number one spot.
Anthony Joshua has been doggedly campaigning to be the heavyweight champion with a string of great victories over top contenders. Despite a rocky 2019, a devastating stoppage of Kubrat Pulev in December 2020 cemented him as the only challenger to Fury’s supremacy.
Outside of this immovable top two the quality drops. Povetkin, Hunter, Whyte and Joyce duke it out for top 5 recognition. After their losses former champions Andy Ruiz and Deontay Wilder appear to be missing in action. Prospects like Hrgović, Yoka and Bakole search for a signature win, but there is a dark horse…
Oleksader Usyk, former unified cruiserweight world champion is now competing at Heavyweight and is gunning for the two biggest names in the division.
Current top 3
Tyson Fury(30-0, Ring, Lineal and WBC Champion) : The man who’s brought his A game in all his biggest fights, beating the best names on the biggest of stages.
Anthony Joshua (24-1, WBA,IBF,WBO Champion) AJ has a comprehensive body of work unrivalled at heavyweight but as of yet has not been able to secure the flagship win that makes him number one.
Oleksader Usyk (18-0) Although not the logical number three, in terms of hunger, skills and ability to take on the big two, Usyk is my wild card choice for number three.
Must see fight
This is the easiest choice by far, Tyson Fury v Anthony Joshua is the biggest fight in 20 years. It is the magnum opus of boxing matches. Champion v Champion, both British and both with a formidable set of skills.
With the Daniel Dubois hype train crashing at the hands of Joe Joyce, the ‘top heavyweight prospect’ mantle was left vacant. My choice however is the Croatian powerhouse Filip Hrgović (12-0). Out twice in 2020 he defeated Alexandre Kartozia with a genuinely terrifying knockout and Rydell Booker in dominant fashion.
These are good wins for someone with only 12 fights and at 28 he is hitting his prime and improving fast. I think with three or four serious step up fights in 2021 he could be challenging for world titles in 2022.
Ewan of SimBoxx