Heavyweight boxing back on its perch again?

By Callum Brady

For a long time, the heavyweight division was seen as the pinnacle of combat sports and produced legends as well as superstars across many the years the division has existed. The division is responsible for the rise to prominence from the like likes of Iron Mike Tyson, Muhammad Ali and Joe Lewis to name a few and all these legends across the ages have produced what can not just be described as fights but more as global events.

However from around 2004 Wladimir Klitschko reigned over the heavyweight division for 11 years and due to lack of quality inside the division the boxing faithful were convinced the great heavyweight division was dying and this was not aided by other lighter divisions thriving due to their own superstars such as Floyd Mayweather, Carl Froch, and Andre Ward having some great fights, but all this would change as the argument can be made that the heavyweight division is back.

In 2015 when the gypsy king Tyson Fury put on a masterclass in Dusseldorf, Germany to beat Wladimir Klitschko by a unanimous decision for the WBA (Super), IBF, WBO, IBO, Lineal and The Ring heavyweight titles, this can be seen as the day boxing went from the Klitschko era to the new modern heavyweight boxing era. From that date in 2015 to today in 2020 there has been a surge in elite heavyweight talent coming to the table and when you look at each organisation's rankings they are deep with talent. You have the big three which are ahead of the pack and everyone to this day has their own opinion on who is the best and they are Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua, and Deontay Wilder. You also have the following pack who are frothing at the mouth for an opportunity against one of the big three and in some, cases they have had that opportunity and have achieved greatness, this following pack includes the likes of Oleksandr Usyk, Dillian Whyte and Andy Ruiz as well as many others.

In terms of evidence that the historic division is back can be found in just the last year of boxing, there have been numerous events that have been held by different promotions that have put on historic shows and are producing historic numbers. Starting with the rematch between Joshua and Ruiz which was held after the historic win for Ruiz in a massive upset making him the first Mexican heavyweight champion ever but the rematch did not go his way after losing via unanimous decision. In regards to numbers, the fight reportedly broke the all-time UK pay-per-view (PPV) record with 1.284 million buys on fight night and even more over the following week on Sky Sports Box Office according to Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn, the fight was also streamed live across the world by 1.8 million people on DAZN. The fight billed as the 'Clash On The Dunes' was such a gargantuan fight, every venue across the world were keen to host the event but the Saudi Arabian authorities reportedly paid £30 million ($40 million) to host the event in Saudi Arabia according to Eddie Hern who was the promoter of the event.

Another massive event showing how that heavyweight division is back was one of the most anticipated fights in the history of boxing which was held in February 2020 and it was the rematch between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder. The first fight was a clash between one of the best defensive boxers ever and one of the hardest hitters ever on top of that both fighters were undefeated leading into the bout, the fight went 12 rounds and it did look like Fury had got the win even after his impossible rise from the canvas but the fight ended in a controversial draw setting up the rematch. The rematch brought a dominating display by Tyson Fury winning by TKO in the 7th round in spectacular fashion putting the gypsy king at the top of the heavyweight pile once again after all he had been through previous. In regards to the numbers, the fight produced it was reported between 800,000 to 850,000 PPV buys and VFT Solutions estimating that there were between 10 to 20 million views of the fight via illegal streams. The numbers show the size of the event themselves but even if you look at the MGM Grand that night with major superstars in the crowd to witness the event such as Shaquille O'Neal, Mike Tyson, and NFL superstar Patrick Mahomes to name a few, you can just see that heavyweight boxing is back and the world is watching once again.

Looking into the future and possible matchups that could happen this year as well as the upcoming years it is clear that this boost for the heavyweight division is not just an anomaly and it is here to stay. There are reports of a trilogy fight between Fury and Wilder and also Joshua has got his belts back and is waiting for the opportunity to fight one or both of the top three. You also have Ruiz and Usyk who with a few more fights under their belt can challenge one of the top three and finally, you have who in my opinion the most dangerous threat to that top three and that is Dillian Whyte who has been waiting for the opportunity for a long while. What all this shows is the heavyweight division is back and all the boxing fans out there should be excited for the matchups to come over the next couple of years.

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