Tyson Fury's startling victory over Wladimir Klitschko last month, the
heavyweight division has been emancipated from the clutches of Dr. Steelhammer.
Although Fury is now the lineal heavyweight king, there is no guarantee that he
will have a prolonged reign. Over the past 12 months, several fighters have emerged that could become "the man" in the sport's glamour
division. At a very minimum, these heavyweights will engage in exciting
fights, which would be more than welcome in a division bereft of recent highlights.
new heavyweight cast of characters is quite the motley crew. Fighters
from America, Cuba, England and New Zealand compose this wave, ranging in ages
from 23 to 36. Although they have vastly different styles, below the
surface, some commonalities manifest within the group: They all have
impressive amateur backgrounds. Each
one features a variety of offensive weapons, good coordination,
athleticism and power. And perhaps most refreshingly, none would be characterized
as the type of one-dimensional lumbering sloth that populated much of the
heavyweight division over the last 15 years. One other thing worth noting, these guys
love to mix it up in the ring.
follows are my scouting reports for the top-five of the new wave, ranked
by their accomplishments within the division. I'll touch on a few other fighters at the
end of the article.
Tyson Fury (25-0, 18 KOs, Age 27, England)
Status: WBO and WBA Heavyweight Titleholder, lineal champion
Jab, adaptability in the ring, high ring IQ
Chin, limited athleticism
Fight: Wladimir Klitschko, date TBA
few years ago, Fury was viewed as an amusing circus attraction with very raw
boxing abilities. His most prominent skill was his mouth. He possessed decent pop and
gave great copy but only his most fervent admirers considered him a future
heavyweight champion. His footwork was crude and he took silly chances in the
ring. Dropped twice and hurt several times in his developmental bouts, Fury
was often vulnerable in the ring. Even as he progressed as a fighter, he remained at risk for getting KO'ed. In his emphatic victory over
Klitschko last month, he still had to survive a very shaky final round to secure the win. There's
no shame in being hurt by Klitschko; however, when knocked down by a former
cruiserweight (Steve Cunningham), there is significant cause for concern.
Fury continues to mature as a fighter. He's become a real student of the sweet science. Don't be fooled by his outlandish postures outside of the ring, he's a serious operator inside the squared circle. By switching to
southpaw in the Dereck Chisora rematch, he negated Chisora's best punch, his wild, looping right hand. Fury's performance against Klitschko demonstrated that he has an acute
understanding of distance and range. He rarely remained in the pocket against
Klitschko, which took away Wlad's jab, the catalyst of his offense.
Although not an athletic specimen, Fury utilizes footwork effectively to initiate offense, get out of the pocket and limit return fire. Placing his shots well, he's a very capable combination puncher. He can fight
comfortably in or out and uses feints well to keep
opponents guessing. On the inside, he knows how to tie up when necessary.
A skillful practitioner
of psychological gamesmanship, Fury has intimidated a number of opponents
both in and out of the ring. Even though he has self-assurance in spades, he's learned from
past mistakes of overconfidence in the ring. He now understands that any capable heavyweight poses a threat. One final note worth mentioning, Fury has an excellent trainer. His uncle, Peter, has displayed a dazzling ability to craft winning game plans.
Deontay Wilder (35-0, 34 KOs, Age 30, USA)
Status: WBC Heavyweight Titleholder
Power (right hand, left hook), athleticism
Footwork, inability to relax in the ring, too knockout happy
Fight: Artur Szpilka, 1/16/16
capturing a heavyweight title earlier this year against Bermane Stiverne,
Wilder has embarked on two endeavors: expanding his home fan base in
Alabama and getting some needed rounds in the ring. Let's not forget
that before he fought Stiverne, he had never gone past four rounds in a fight.
Facing Stiverne, Eric Molina and Johann Duhaupas this year, Wilder added 32 rounds to
his ledger, and won almost all of them. Yes, there were some rocky moments
along the way. He ate a couple of big hooks from Stiverne and some sneaky
right hands from Molina. In addition,
Duhaupas presented a different style for Wilder – an awkward fighter who
had a great beard and could handle himself in the ring. In 2015, Wilder's chin was tested and he had to think his way
through fights, valuable lessons for any boxer.
Wilder's impressive record and knockout percentage, he was deprived
of quality development fights. An unexpected bronze
medal winner in the 2008 Olympics, his professional team viewed him two ways: raw and a potential cash
cow. Unfortunately, too many of his early fights were spent milking his
name while not further refining his skills.
is quite the physical specimen. He has the height, reach, power and
athleticism to provide problems for any heavyweight. However, he still lacks confidence in the ring. He can get frustrated when knockouts don't
come. He loads up on shots, often missing badly and leaving himself vulnerable.
In addition, he'll forget his secondary punches for stretches at a time. His
jab can be good but he'll often leave it holstered to focus on power shots.
In addition, his uppercut is an underutilized weapon. The more he
throws it the better he seems to do.
with Wilder is hard, perhaps too hard. He has enough natural power where
he doesn't have to hit an opponent with his Sunday best to score a
knockout. Yet, too often he swings wildly. With such big shots, he
could easily get beaten to the punch or
countered while he is out of position. In addition, he still jabs from too
close, which makes him vulnerable to right hands over-the-top.
package of power and rawness makes for exciting fights. Every opponent can
see his flaws but how many can take his best right hand? Yes, he's vulnerable
but he's also a destructive force. Most importantly, he's trending in the
right direction. He's starting to get a little more patient and mix in his punches better. In addition, he has answered some
important questions about his stamina and chin.
Luis Ortiz (24-0, 21 KOs, Age 36, USA by way of Cuba)
Status: Interim WBA Titleholder
Combination punching, left uppercut
Can be outworked, stamina
isn't often that you see a 36-year-old fighter on the list of emerging talents
within a division. However, Ortiz doesn't have the typical career path of a
professional boxer. A former Cuban national champion, Ortiz would
eventually defect but he didn't make his professional debut until the age
of 30. After cruising through his developmental fights, a failed drug test in 2014 stalled his ascent in the division. However, he rebounded to notch three victories in 2015. He displayed heavy hands and a well-rounded assortment of
skills. With his emphatic stoppage victory over Bryant Jennings last
weekend, Ortiz finished the year in the top echelon of heavyweights, a meteoric
rise, or perhaps an indictment of the division prior to the current new wave.
Ortiz shares several attributes with the top Cuban boxers from the past 15 years. Like so many of them, he is completely relaxed in the ring, a very fluid puncher and uses his arms and
elbows to gain advantages in close. Another similarity is his economical punch output. However, Ortiz has
some important distinctions from the recent top Cuban
fighters. Perhaps most strikingly, he's almost entirely offensively-oriented.
He's not using his legs to dance around the ring or evade shots. He stays
in the pocket all fight. Secondarily, Ortiz fancies himself as a true knockout
artist. Although power has been an attribute of many top Cubans, Ortiz isn't trying to go rounds; he
wants to end fights quickly.
left uppercut is one of the scariest punches in professional boxing and he throws it to the head and body. Ortiz also features a sneaky right hook.
His jab can be useful but it's not a primary weapon for him.
can be outworked and doesn't always put forth a consistent
effort from round-to-round. Although surprisingly agile on his
feet, he lacks the speed or willingness to track down mobile opponents. Luckily
for Ortiz, most of the top fighters in the division are come-forward power
punchers but if he takes on a real mover, he could face significant
difficulty. It's still unclear if he can be an effective 12-round fighter.
Joshua (15-0, 15 KOs Age 26, England)
Status: British and Commonwealth Champion
Multiple knockout weapons, body punching, athleticism, size
Lack of head movement, pulls straight back, glove positioning
Fight: TBA, 4/9/16
his impressive knockout of former amateur rival Dillian Whyte earlier this
month, Joshua, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist, is on the fast-track to
heavyweight superstardom. Already a huge draw in England, Joshua still hasn't
fought a truly top-caliber heavyweight, although he easily dispatched several C-class notables on the British and European circuits.
many respects, Joshua already fights like a seasoned veteran. He has an array
of offensive weapons, a solid jab and goes to the body. He has a fair amount of
poise for a boxer with just 15 pro fights under his belt. Joshua's right hand can
be concussive but he wisely sets up his shots; he lets the fight develop.
Whyte, Joshua answered several questions. Finally stretched to the second half of a fight,
Joshua demonstrated no problems with stamina and he retained his power as the bout progressed. In addition, he took a couple of big shots and although he was
momentarily stung in the second round, he was able to
regroup. By the fourth, he was back to asserting his will on the action.
His areas for improvement are typical for young fighters.
When attacking an opponent along the ropes, he drops his hands, especially his left. He also pulls straight back from the pocket with his hands down. This leaves him particularly
vulnerable to good counterpunchers. Although a great athlete, in general, he moves in a lot of straight lines, which makes him susceptible to be timed. These are all deficiencies that can
be corrected; however, if not fixed, these are the types of mistakes that lead
to spending time on the canvas in the heavyweight division.
Joseph Parker (17-0, 15 KOs Age 23, New Zealand)
Status: WBO Oriental Titleholder
Inside fighting, punch accuracy, aggression
Recklessness, defensive technique
Fight: Jason Bergman, 1/23/16
Perhaps the least familiar name on this list, Parker
boxes primarily in New Zealand and most often at silly o'clock, when those in
the Western Hemisphere aren't conditioned to watch boxing. Parker fights with a refreshing devil-may-care attitude that's in direct opposition to the past era of
cautious heavyweights. Everything he throws on the inside is hard: body shots, hooks and
uppercuts. He's very creative at close range.
someone who enjoys the back-and-forth of combat, Parker's not afraid to take a
shot to land his best. However, when he forces an opponent back to the ropes, he jettisons any pretense of defense. A capable fighter who likes
to trade on the inside could give him a lot of problems.
23, Parker still has time for additional development. Although he has fought a
number of competent C-class guys, he still hasn't faced anyone who could be
mistaken for a true prospect or contender. It will be interesting to see if he
adjusts his game as his competition increases. Hopefully, he will maintain his
aggressive demeanor in the ring while he acquires some additional polish.
five fighters I have listed above have brought renewed life to a dormant
division, but by no means are they the only hopefuls in this next wave of
heavyweights – just the most prominent at this point. Perhaps some others
will join them in the next 12 months, such as southpaw gunslinger Charles
Martin (who fights for a title belt next month), Australian power puncher Lucas
Browne or Hughie Fury, recognized by many as more athletic than cousin Tyson.
In addition, there are several established boxers that could
make excellent fights with those already mentioned above, such as Alexander Povetkin, David Haye, Dereck Chisora, Bermane Stiverne, Artur Szpilka, Bryant Jennings and Carlos Takam.
the division is in great shape. The next few years have the potential to
produce some outstanding heavyweight fights, seemingly a rarity in the last
decade of the fight game. There is no consensus as to which of these heavyweights will emerge as the top gun in the division and it's also possible that none of the five I mentioned will reign as this era's best. Ultimately, a little chaos among action fighters is just fine. The journey to establish the next heavyweight king should be thrilling.
Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of saturdaynightboxing.com.
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
@snboxing on twitter, SN Boxing on Facebook
Contact Adam at email@example.com