Joshua looks red hot, but Fury is the man to beat in 2018
Boxing in general isn’t everyone’s favourite sport, but when the big fights come around the audiences increase dramatically. This is certainly becoming the case with the heavyweight division, with four champions battling it out to become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world – the first since Lennox Lewis in 2000.
Here, I will assess each champion, asking a question of each of them and rating each one out of 10 ahead of a big upcoming year for the division everyone has their eyes on.
Where else to start? Boxing’s golden boy and cash cow has gone from strength-to-strength since his first professional fight in May 2013 – winning all 20 of his fights by knockout.
Inside and outside of the ring, Joshua is becoming a role model for boxing’s younger generation. Victories over the likes of Dillian Whyte, Dominic Breazeale, Carlos Takam and, of course, the iconic knockout of Wladimir Klitschko at Wembley have been a part of Joshua’s rapid rise to becoming the IBO, WBA and IBF heavyweight champion of the world.
Three belts could soon become four when he faces Joseph Parker at the Principality Stadium on March 31st and should he stop the tough New Zealander in his tracks he will no doubt lay down a marker as the man to beat in boxing’s top division.
AJ has everything in his armoury as a boxer but tougher questions will really start to be asked of him in 2018. Can he come up with the answers?
The latest man who will step into the lion’s den to face Joshua is Parker – the man from Auckland is undefeated in the 24 fights he has took part in so far in his career, winning 18 by knockout.
He beat Joshua’s last opponent, Takam, on points, but AJ will be by far the stiffest test of his career so far and he will go into the fight in Cardiff as underdog.
Parker currently holds the WBO strap, and if he manages to defy the odds and find a way around the imposing figure of Joshua, he will be carrying four belts and will be one belt away from becoming the undisputed champion.
The 26-year-old has had a solid career up to now, and no doubt he’s a real prospect who is tough to beat, but might Joshua prove to be a step to far?
Passion. Power. Charisma. The main traits of the big American are there for all to see and he looks to be the real deal.
Wilder is a knockout machine. Although he came through a dogfight in his latest battle with Luis Ortiz with the Cuban putting up a real battle, Ortiz was knocked down by a ferocious jab from Wilder in the tenth round in Brooklyn, New York.
The man from Alabama overcame a huge hurdle in Ortiz and proved his strength of character to come back from the brink of defeat – much like Joshua did against Klitschko.
As a black American and a confident character, Wilder is an exciting boxer who is looking to emulate the greatness of fellow Americans Muhammed Ali and Mike Tyson. If the challengers are willing to step in the ring with him, the bright lights of New York or Las Vegas will be the best venue to host such a super-fight – in Wilder’s home country.
In his 40 fights, nobody has found a way to stop Wilder yet, but if he gets the fight he’s craving in Joshua, will a significantly heavier AJ prove too powerful?
How could we forget? Fury is a very vociferous character outside the ring, but inside the ropes he more than backs up his words.
The Gypsy King has an unorthodox style which even Klitschko couldn’t cope with back in November 2015 – the Ukrainian was out-boxed and out-thought by a better fighter on the night. Fury deservedly relieved Klitschko of his belts, but has not appeared in the ring since due to a drugs ban and personal problems, which has seen the other contenders take the belts he once owned.
After a long lay-off from the sport, the still Ring Magazine and once lineal heavyweight champion is nearing a comeback and has a real point to prove. If he can get himself fit and at the level he was in 2015 again, the other contenders have a huge problem on their hands.
A fully-fit Fury, standing at over six foot nine, is the toughest fight of the lot. But the question everyone will be asking is: can he reach the level he was once at?
If he can, and does, it’s hard to look past the Manchester-born fighter as the man who will light up the heavyweight division over the next 12 months.