Ask any boxing fan which heavyweight fight they would cherish above all others and you’d get the same answer. Tyson Fury vs Oleksandr Usyk for the undisputed heavyweight champion. The two clear best in the world, both undefeated, to crown the first ever four-belt undisputed heavyweight king in history. It’s a bout that works on every level. So of course it’s not happening.
But both men do have other intriguing options in a deep division. For Usyk, a fight with Deontay Wilder would be fascinating. Fury against Anthony Joshua would break box office records in the UK. Either man against the likes of Joe Joyce or Andy Ruiz Jr would be exciting. So, once again, none of these fights are happening.
Instead we are on a dull path that feels very 2022. This year has seen drugs scandals, judging controversies and negotiations subject to more stalls than a Christmas Market. There has been a shining light in the form of massive strides made in women’s boxing, but the men’s game has stagnated. Now the heavyweight division looks set to carry that rot into 2023 with a series of uninspiring fights on the docket.
Fury’s needless trilogy fight with Derek Chisora has been covered in depth on these pages. The short version is that ‘The Gypsy King’ has already beaten ‘War’ comfortably on two occasions, while Chisora has a 1-3 record in his last four fights. Even by the often basement-low standards of heavyweight boxing, it’s an odious piece of matchmaking.
What could follow is equally uninspiring. One of the few genuinely good heavyweight fights on the schedule is Wilder vs Ruiz Jr. Two former heavyweight champions squaring off while they both still have much to offer is a nice change from the often one-sided bouts that populate many cards. However, the fight has been awarded status as a WBC title eliminator to determine Fury’s next challenger. This presents problems.
Wilder will head into the match as a betting favourite. If he does what he’s expected to do, this sets us on the path to Fury/Wilder 4. While nobody can deny the first three were absorbing clashes, we have seen enough of this series. For a start, Wilder didn’t win any of their three meetings. Secondly, Fury has knocked out Wilder twice in consecutive fights. A win over Ruiz for ‘The Bronze Bomber’ could see Fury taking on yet another rematch that benefits no one where the result is a foregone conclusion.
Solace cannot be found on the other side of the heavyweight fence. WBA/WBO/IBF/The Ring champion Usyk has been ordered to face Filip Hrgovic. The Croatian has been named the IBF’s mandatory challenger after winning an eliminator with Zhang Zhilei. His lethargic display in that fight means nobody is relishing seeing Hrgovic take his shot. Particularly given the wealth of other options available to Usyk. At the age of 35, he doesn’t have an abundance of fights left. Every single one counts and Hrgovic feels like a waste of his supernatural talents.
The only solution to this mess is to pour the alphabet soup down the drain. “Undisputed” is a fine marketing tag, but everyone knows who the two legitimate heavyweight champions are anyway. Fury and Usyk would be best served ditching their WBC and IBF belts if that’s what it takes and fighting each other regardless. It is perhaps the most attractive fight that can be made in boxing today. The winner can even go on a mission to hoover up the fractured pieces of the crown. But there is nobody outside of the offices of a sanctioning body that genuinely thinks Fury vs Wilder 4 and Usyk vs Hrgovic are better than Fury vs Usyk. If the WBC and IBF won’t budge then simply discard them for the good of boxing.
*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change