How the heavyweight division is shaping up after recent announcements
Tyson Fury will fight Oleksandr Usyk in February, while Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder are in action before Christmas… now the puzzle is coming together, here’s how the heavyweight division is shaping up
- Tyson Fury, Oleksandr Usyk, AJ and Deontay Wilder all have confirmed fights
- They’ll fight in Saudi across the two shows, one in December and one in February
- Tyson Fury MUST care about legacy with Oleksandr Usyk next year – The Hook
What should have been a quiet week for the heavyweight scene ended up being one of the most defining moments for the division as Tyson Fury’s long-awaited unification fight with Oleksandr Usyk was announced just one day after the December 23 Saudi Arabia card was revealed.
The Gypsy King will put his WBA belt on the line against Usyk on February 17 and look to walk away with the Ukrainian’s WBA, IBF and WBO titles following the Saudi Arabian showdown.
Meanwhile, former heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua will take to the canvas on December 23 – the same night as Deontay Wilder. However, the pair will not be squaring off against each other. Instead, AJ will fight Otto Wallin and Wilder will take on Joseph Parker.
Mail Sport have revealed exactly why the pair won’t be facing each other on the latest episode of The Hook after speaking directly to the Bronze Bomber.
We’ve ‘ve also discussed Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren’s fight official meeting, before chatting to Usyk’s promoter Alex Krassyuk – who says he is still sceptical about whether the Ukrainian’s undisputed world heavyweight title will actually take place.
But, provided those bouts do go ahead as planned, we are in for a fantastic couple of months of boxing. The heavyweight division is nicely wrapped up with almost everyone confirmed to fight before Christmas or in the New Year.
Mail Sport have taken a look at exactly who is fighting and how the heavyweight might play out after the December 23 and February 17 cards take place.
Tyson Fury ‘s long-awaited unification fight with Oleksandr Usyk was announced just one day after the December 23 Saudi Arabia card was revealed last week
Fury will take to the ring early next year after enjoying some time off following his tougher-than-expected bout with former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou on October 28 in Riyadh.
The Gypsy King – who was left battered and bruised following his victory over Ngannou – will go toe-to-toe with Usyk in Saudi Arabia on February 17 to unify the division for the first time since Lennox Lewis beat Evander Holyfield in March 1999.
Fury is hoping he will emerge victorious from his bout with the Ukrainian but it’s believed their contract has a rematch clause in place so they could face off again in the summer of 2024.
It remains to be seen who Fury will fight after Usyk. However, the fans are hopeful they will see the Gypsy King share the ring with Anthony Joshua in a Battle of Britain bout.
Fury will take to the ring early next year after enjoying some time off following his tougher-than-expected bout with former UFC champion Francis Ngannou on October 28 in Riyadh
The pair had been locked in talks over a Battle of Britain bout last year but discussions broke down after the Gypsy King grew impatient waiting for AJ to sign the contract.
As a result, Fury decided to move on from Joshua and secured a bout with Ngannou. While, AJ fought against Robert Helenius after his bout against Dillian Whyte was cancelled due to the Body Snatcher’s failed drugs test.
However, fans are hopeful Fury will reconsider a bout with Joshua after taking on Usyk. Although, he refused to mention AJ’s name when sitting down for an exclusive interview with Mail Sport.
When asked what would be next, the Gypsy King said: ‘I don’t even want to say anything else. Don’t say another fighters name. Don’t say anymore boxing people because I’ve got the fight you were all dreaming of. The undisputed fight.
‘Isn’t this what you craved so badly? So, are you going to say someone else’s name now that I’m giving you exactly what you want. It’s not a Christmas present but it’s like a cheer up thing in February. F*** afterwards. Enjoy now. Enjoy today!’
Usyk has been working on a bout with Fury for the past 18 months and he’s finally got it. He’s secured the highly-anticipated undisputed title fight and will go toe-to-toe with the Gypsy King on February 17.
Usyk is confident he can beat Fury, but the Gypsy King’s promoter is adamant his mane will emerge victorious from next year’s bout.
Warren said: ‘I think Tyson beats Usyk, I really do. Tyson knows this and he knows what to expect. Usyk’s not going to change his style. But Usyk can sit there and think to himself: Is there now a little chink in Tyson’s armour [after the Ngannou fight]? Who knows? But Usyk is a competitor. He wants to fight and he’ll go for it. It’ll be a good fight.
Usyk has been working on a bout with Fury for the past 18 months and he’s finally got it
Joshua – who is looking to insert himself back into the world title picture after losing his belts to Usyk – will face Swedish heavyweight Otto Wallin in the Middle East on December 23.
Joshua was named as part of an A-list card featuring the likes of Deontay Wilder and former WBO heavyweight champion Joseph Parker, who will go toe-to-toe on the same night.
Fans were disappointed to see AJ and Wilder on the same card but not fighting each other. When asked why that was, the Bronze Bomber told Mail Sport that Joshua’s team had ‘held him back’ from the potential clash and turned down £40million.
Why is that? Well, Joshua is looking to become a three-time world champion and beating Wallin takes him a step closer to the IBF belt as the Swedish heavyweight won the eliminator for the number two spot by beating Murat Grassiev via split decision.
Therefore, should Joshua beat Wallin, he will move into the number two spot – which could tee-up a fight with Filip Hrgovic, who is the mandatory challenger for the IBF belt.
The pair could see themselves fighting for the IBF belt during that bout if the winner of Fury vs Usyk decides to vacate the title for a particular reason such as retirement or lack of interest in fighting Hrgovic.
Or, AJ could decide to fight Wilder next – with the Bronze Bomber telling Sky Sports: ‘Me vs Joshua is something people have been talking about, it is something fans have harassed me and him about and people will be able to say finally.
‘To know that it is finally about to happen, it is crazy.’
Joshua – who is looking to insert himself back into the world title picture after losing his belts to Usyk – will face Swedish heavyweight Otto Wallin in the Middle East on December 23
Wilder will return to the ring on December 23 to face former WBO heavyweight champion, Parker. The Saudi Arabian showdown will mark the Bronze Bomber’s first fight since October 15, 2022.
Wilder secured a first-round knockout of Robert Helenius at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, to reestablish his dominance after suffering his second straight KO defeat to Fury.
Wilder says he is keen to fight Joshua after taking care of Parker and even took to social media beg the British heavyweight to accept the deal before announcing the December 23 card.
Beyond AJ, it remains to be seen who Wilder will fight. Although, the Bronze Bomber has been linked with MMA and more specifically Ngannou ever since the Cameroonian’s boxing debut against Fury.
Wilder is said to have taken part in several MMA training sessions ahead of a potential two-fight deal that would see him and Ngannou go toe-to-toe in both the Octagon and the ring.
Wilder has also been linked with Andy Ruiz Jr – who called him out after defeating Luis Ortiz in an eliminator for the WBC title in September 2022. However, the pair have failed to agree terms despite being ordered to face each other in October.
Wilder will return to the ring on December 23 to face Parker. The Saudi Arabian showdown will mark the Bronze Bomber’s first fight since October 15, 2022
Joseph Parker continued his bid to return to world title contention with a third-round knockout of Canadian Simon Kean in Saudi Arabia last month and will look to continue his winning streak against Wilder.
Against the former Olympian and late-blossoming contender, the Kiwi engaged in a spirited battle from the outset, with Kean landing a solid left-hook in the opening round that appeared to stagger Parker slightly.
Despite Kean enjoying some success in the early going, Parker’s experience at the highest levels showed, and he capitalised on Kean’s defensive vulnerabilities to land a solid uppercut in the third round.
Though visibly hurt, Kean goaded the 31-year-old to continue his assault; waving Parker forward as the third round wore on. Parker remained disciplined in his hunt for the KO though, and again perfectly placed his uppercut on the Canadian’s chin, this time sending him crashing to the canvas.
Kean attempted in vain to return to his feet, and the referee waved the fight off with a minute remaining in the round to mark the former WBO Heavyweight champion’s third victory of the year.
The victory marks Parker’s 33rd inside the ring since making his professional debut in 2012. He will now look to extend that record by overcoming the Bronze Bomber on December 23.
Parker continued his bid to return to world title contention with a third-round knockout of Simon Kean in Saudi last month and will look to continue his winning streak against Wilder
The ‘Day of Reckoning’ will see Joshua take on Wallin, 18 months after he was pushed aside for a proposed bout between AJ and Dillian Whyte. Wallin is eager to make the most of his opportunity and told Mail Sport he deserves to be sharing the ring with AJ.
Meanwhile, AJ has promised to ‘f**k Wallin up’ during their bout in Saudi Arabia. He said: ‘You don’t control your business no? He’s representing you, and you don’t know what he’s doing here? Good luck anyway – I will f**k you up December 23rd. I promise you. Trust me.’
The British heavyweight star went on to add: ‘Don’t shake my hand after the fight as well if you’re talking s**t. Don’t shake my hand after.’
The 31-year-old Swedish boxer is best known for his fight with Tyson Fury in September 2019, when he took the Gypsy King the distance but suffered a unanimous decision loss.
Wallin – who left Fury needing 47 stitches – has won all six of his fights since that bout and is hoping to extend his streak against Joshua in Saudi Arabia on December 23.
If Wallin wins the fight, it’s likely he will look to secure a bout with Hrgovic, who is the mandatory challenger for the IBF belt. And, should the IBF belt be vacated by the time they actually fight, they will challenge directly for the title.
The ‘Day of Reckoning’ will see Joshua take on Otto Wallin, 18 months after he was pushed aside for a proposed bout between AJ and Dillian Whyte
Ruiz is one of the only big names in heavyweight boxing that doesn’t have a fight in the pipeline. The 34-year-old has been ruled out of action until 2024 after undergoing surgery on his hand.
However, he did take to social media to tell his followers his surgery went well and that he is back in the gym ahead of his ‘comeback’ next year.
Taking to Instagram on October 31, Ruiz said: ‘I just got done working now, five days out of my surgery and we’re back in the gym feeling good, feeling blessed.
‘Can’t wait to get back in the ring – 2024 is going to be my year baby, my year remember that! Had a little minor setback for a major comeback but now we’re coming let’s get it!’.
Since his double-header with Joshua, Ruiz has managed back-to-back wins on points against Chris Arreola and Luis Ortiz. However, he will be unlikely to draw the blockbuster clashes he was capable of back in 2019, given his prolonged inactivity.
Ruiz is one of the only big names in heavyweight boxing that doesn’t have a fight in the works
Daniel Dubois will be looking to return to winning ways on December 23 when he faces heavyweight bad boy Jarrell Miller.
Dubois faced Usyk in Poland for the Ukrainian’s WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight titles in August and fell behind on points in the early rounds. But he sent Usyk to the canvas with a body shot in the opening seconds of the fifth round in what looked to be a major turning point in the fight.
However, his punch was deemed low and Usyk was given several minutes to recover by referee Luis Pabon. Leading many to believe he was cheated out of the heavyweight title.
Dubois and his promoter Frank Warren appealed the decision but the WBA announced it had not gone in the 26-year-old’s favour after seven weeks of deliberation.
Dubois will be eager to return to winning ways against Miller – who is regarded as a controversial figure in the heavyweight division given his failed drugs tests in the build-up to his proposed bout with Joshua in 2019.
Dubois faced Usyk in Poland for the Ukrainian’s WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight titles in August and fell behind on points in the early rounds. Now he will face Jarrell Miller
Joe Joyce is one of the few heavyweight boxers to be out of the Saudi Arabian picture. As it stands, he has not been confirmed on either the December 23 or February 17 card.
Joyce will, however, be looking to return to action soon after suffering second successive crushing defeat to Zhilei Zhang earlier this year.
Joyce agreed to face Zhang in a rematch, just five months after being stopped by the southpaw. Joyce was eager to jump straight back in to regain the WBO’s mandatory position and the interim heavyweight crown.
However, the Juggernaut suffered a second successive defeat after being stopped in the third round after putting on a disappointing display at Wembley Arena on September 23.
Critics felt Joyce should have retired after the fight. But, the 38-year-old was adamant he had more to give and that he could ‘rebuild’ after sustaining a second successive defeat to Zhang.
‘I’m going to [take] a bit of time and go on holiday before I reflect and review where I went wrong,’ ‘The Juggernaut’ said in an interview with iFL TV immediately after the fight.
‘I’m feeling good, I’m feeling okay and it’s not the end of the world. I can rebuild and come back. After all, I’ve had harder, more challenging spars, it wasn’t a grueling fight.’
Joe Joyce is one of the few heavyweight boxers to be out of the Saudi Arabian picture
Zhilei Zhang stopped Joyce in the third round at Wembley Arena, hitting him with a powerful right hook – leaving question marks over Joyce’s career and instantly propelling Zhang to the top of the heavyweight conversation.
It was Joyce’s second successive defeat to Zhang having also been stopped by his rival in their first fight back in April after too much damage was done to his eye in round six.
Victory appeared to briefly set the 2008 Olympic silver medalist on a collision course with Fury, with representatives for the two fighters holding talks earlier this year.
Ultimately though, Joyce would elect to enact his rematch clause, with Fury now scheduled to face Usyk in Saudi Arabia on February 17 after beating former UFC heavyweight champion Ngannou last month.
‘My team were in conversations with Tyson Fury’s team, we were very close to making that fight before the rematch clause was activated,’ Zhang told Standard Sport, via Free Bets. ‘I believe that fight is going to happen, one way or another.’
Zhang has also been linked with Usyk, Joshua and Whyte – who has stayed out of the limelight ever since his failed drugs test ahead of his proposed bout with AJ.
AJ fought Zhang on his way to Olympic gold in 2012 but has failed to replicate the performances that took him to the summit of the heavyweight mountain in recent years, with fans and pundits divided over who would win in a Joshua-Zhang bout.
Zhang stopped Joyce in the third round at Wembley Arena – leaving question marks over Joyce’s career and propelling Zhang to the top of the conversation
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