An exciting unpredictable future for heavyweight division
By Max Warren
It’s difficult to remember the last time that a new heavyweight champion was crowned and people were genuinely excited about it. Current WBC Heavyweight Champion Deontay Wilder was the favorite against Bermane Stiverne in January 2015, and won a lopsided unanimous decision. The victory didn’t shake up the division whatsoever, and it was expected that Wilder was going to continue to develop and stay away from a fight against then-reigning champion Wladimir Klitschko.
Lineal-Heavyweight Champion Tyson Fury’s victory over Klitschko was underwhelming, as the fight consisted of twelve rounds of non-engaging action. Fans criticized Klitschko for his glacial fighting style and unexciting fights, and Fury beat Kltischko in arguably the least-stimulating fight of the former long-reigning heavyweight champ’s career. Some boxing experts even declared that Fury “conned” his way into the heavyweight title by not bringing forth a lot of action in that fight.
Unlike the other active belt holders at heavyweight, Andy Ruiz’s victory in his title opportunity against Anthony Joshua provided a spark for the division.
Many are tired of boxing having to fit a certain script that promoters have layed out for their premier fighters. Even though some are upset that the plans for a Joshua vs. Wilder mega-fight were derailed, championship bouts shouldn’t be mere commercials for an eventual super-fight.
There is even a feeling amongst some fans that it should have been Wilder, rather than Ruiz, who administered the KO.
But, boxing is a sport, and any fighter who walks through the ropes has an opportunity for victory. Ruiz made the most of his opportunity, and he will go on to reap the rewards of being the heavyweight champion. He is already a Mexican boxing legend for becoming the first ever heavyweight titlist of Mexican descent. Ruiz isn’t afraid to fight the best, and it’s likely that he will face Wilder, Joshua, and Fury in future fights. His victory will make promoters more willing to make the big fights sooner rather than later, as Ruiz’s win is an example that a $100-million event (Anthony Joshua vs. Deontay Wilder) can be tarnished quicker than people expect.
Ruiz is now the unified heavyweight champion, but he still has room for improvement. He has stayed active in the gym, and he needs to continue to make progress in order be a major threat at heavyweight. He weighed 268lbs at the weigh-in before facing Joshua, and it’s apparent that he could still lose more weight. Ruiz showed signs of fatigue in his last outing versus Joshua. If he can boost his stamina, opponents will have a difficult time dealing with his hand speed and body attack. He could have knocked out Joshua earlier had he not fatigued after his initial onslaught. His weapons are unique for a heavyweight, and he doesn’t fight like any other heavyweight that the top-echelon fighters in the division have faced. Ruiz is dangerous to trade with on the inside, and all the best heavyweights possess a weakness against inside fighting. The newly-crowned champion is in his physical prime, and despite beating one of the best heavyweights in the world, he can still improve.
One of the lingering questions on everyone’s mind is what is next for Anthony Joshua? With just over 20 fights, he became a two-fight a year fighter very quickly. He didn’t get sufficient time to develop and learn. The Ruiz fight was a form of on-the-job training for Joshua. He now knows that his power and athleticism won’t carry him.
His strategy went out the door after he knocked Ruiz down in the 3rd round. He began to fight sloppy, and he failed to utilize his range and head movement. His muscles seem to wear him down by the middle rounds, and he needs to work strictly on boxing fundamentals for a while.
Fellow British heavyweight star Lennox Lewis suffered a couple of humiliating KO losses earlier in his career that he bounced back from. Like Joshua, he failed to use his reach and jab to the best of his ability early on. If Joshua can slow the pace down in fights and use his reach, he will improve immensely. He has a rematch clause with Ruiz, and he plans on exercising it immediately. Despite losing and getting knocked down four times in his last fight, some simple adjustments can lead to a Joshua victory.
Wilder recently announced that he will face Luis Ortiz in a rematch this September. Ortiz nearly knocked out Wilder in their last bout, but Wilder recovered and ended up knocking out Ortiz. The 40 year-old Cuban heavyweight showed that his advanced age may be taking a toll on him in his last match-up, as he was unable to knock out Christian Hammer and looked tired at many points throughout the night. Wilder is the favorite, and is expected to knock out Ortiz when they meet up in the ring.
Fury is facing Tom Schwarz this Saturday in Las Vegas, and it looks like Fury is going to get his feet wet in the United States before eventually fighting in a rematch against Wilder. Schwarz is considered a tune-up opponent for the “Gypsy King.” Supposedly, Wilder and Fury are slated to face off in a rematch in 2020 if both men continue to win their interim fights. Fans were disappointed that the rematch didn’t occur immediately, but it will be more intriguing than it would have been had it happened earlier. Fury can continue to shake off his ring rust after having not fought in all of 2016 and 2017, and Wilder can keep developing his strategy and ring IQ.
Eventually, Ruiz, Wilder, Fury, and Joshua will all face each other.
There is so much money to be generated in any of those match-ups. Ruiz’s emergence creates uncertainty for the future of the division, which is what fans need. Some claim that Ruiz might even be the best heavyweight right now, while others think his win over Joshua was just an anomaly. The great thing is we will get to find out. Debating about who the best fighters are can be fun, but fans just want to turn on the fight and watch the dust settle. The heavyweight division is the most competitive it’s been in quite some time.
Ruiz’s win will make it so that the best fights happen, because Ruiz wants the big fights, and promoters and managers now understand that they need to cash in on their opportunities before one of their top fighters loses. Nobody would have ever imaged that Joshua vs. Ruiz could possibly be one of the biggest match-ups in boxing, but their rematch will sell out quickly and be very popular.
Contrary to some notions, Joshua’s loss doesn’t negatively impact the division. It only affects how much money Joshua vs. Wilder can generate. Ultimately, fans shouldn’t care about how much fighters are getting payed. All that matters is that the best fights can come to fruition. The division is heating up faster than expected, and now the fights everyone has been clamoring for will happen sooner. There’s no telling what will happen with any particular fight or fighter, but that’s the beauty with the current landscape of the division.