British Heavyweights Bringing Back The Glory Days
By Sina Latif
From Bob Fitzsimmons, three-weight world champion and heavyweight champion in 1897, to Lennox Lewis, the last undisputed heavyweight champion in 1999, Britain has had great heavyweights throughout history.
Fitzsimmons was boxing’s first ever three-division world champion and a pound for pound legend. Lewis is one of the greatest heavyweights ever. Lewis and Frank Bruno engaged in one of British heavyweight boxing’s biggest ever fights before Bruno went on to win a world title in the 1990’s.
However, this era may have the potential to be the greatest one yet in British heavyweight history, with three British heavyweights amongst the very best of their generation for the first time in the sport’s history. Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua hold all the belts and have agreed to financial terms for two fights in the near future.
Of course, significant hurdles must be overcome in the shape of Deontay Wilder, Kubrat Pulev, Dillian Whyte and possibly Oleksandr Usyk, but the winner of this potential mega-fight would become the first undisputed heavyweight champion in over 20 years.
There is also the always-improving & serious contender, Dillian Whyte.
Joshua had a roller coaster of a year in 2019, suffering one of the biggest upsets in heavyweight history to Andy Ruiz Jr on his US debut at Madison Square Garden before avenging that shock defeat and returning to the summit of the division.
The mental strength, versatility, skill and discipline displayed by Joshua to regain his titles under such tremendous pressure must be commended. He became only the fourth heavyweight in history to regain his titles in an immediate rematch, after Floyd Patterson, Muhammad Ali and Lennox Lewis. That is some company, and Joshua displayed true championship grit to become a two-time champion.
The likes of Sonny Liston and Larry Holmes, men who are amongst the greatest to ever grace the glamour division, could not regain their titles in an immediate rematch.
It is no easy task, but with a newly-acquired defensive discipline, Joshua signalled a rejuvenated appetite to dominate the blue-ribbon division.
Ever since that triumphant all-time Wembley classic against Wladimir Klitschko, Joshua’s showed different facets to his game. He may not have been as destructive as pre-Klitschko, but considering he has consistently competed on the world stage ever since, his development has been gradual but effective. He displayed discipline to win a 12-round decision for the first time against a top-10 heavyweight in Joseph Parker, showed great predatory instincts whilst staying calm to become the first man to stop Alexander Povetkin, and displayed real mental fortitude coupled with an ability to constantly evolve to regain his titles against Ruiz.
However, it can’t be denied that following Joshua’s redemption, there are still question marks surrounding the Brit after his aura of invincibility was shattered in New York. This can be rectified in a fight for the ages against Fury.
All fans hope that sooner rather than later, the protracted 2021 dates for two showdowns between Joshua and Fury come to fruition for all the marbles. Joshua and Fury are now almost universally viewed as the top two heavyweights in the world and if Joshua was to emerge victorious, he would have to go down as a Hall of Famer and the Ruiz setback will be completely forgotten, especially considering the names already on his resume and the short time it has taken to construct such a record.
Fury is “The Man” right now, without a doubt. He shocked the world that night on 28 November 2015 when he schooled decade-long champion Wladimir Klitschko in the Ukrainain’s own backyard and in doing so, became the lineal champion.
Then came his ascent back to the summit of the division after a long period of inactivity which has been pure box-office. Following his personal battles with inner demons which resulted in Fury’s career falling apart and being inactive for over three years, came his controversial draw with Wilder on a night when he should’ve gained the WBC title in a comeback for the ages after that ‘Phoenix rising from the ashes’ moment in the 12th round.
Then, the rematch against Wilder on 22 February 2020 took him to a whole new level. Fury showed tremendous adaptability to fight in a way he had not done previously with such a high level of danger in front of him. Fury put the undefeated 5-year WBC champion onto the back-foot for the first time in the American’s career and stopped him in the seventh round after the towel got thrown in by Wilder’s corner.
Fury defeated two long-reigning champions of 10 or more title defences, in their own backyards. The second longest reigning heavyweight champion in history and one of the most devastating punchers of all time. He always rises to the occasion and takes his boxing to the next level in the biggest fights of his career.
“The Gypsy King” is always doubted, only to prove the sceptics wrong. He lived as a new-born baby when the doctor said he wouldn’t. He beat a seemingly invincible champion in Klitschko. He defeated his demons when many thought he would never return to boxing. Then, he not only returned from the unlikeliest of comebacks to avoid defeat against Wilder after two glorified sparring sessions, but then against all odds and to the surprise of all, backed up the dangerous American and stopped him.
Fury could retire today and be elected into the Hall of Fame. He has the defining victories and one of the greatest comebacks in sports history. Anything achieved from here-on is to achieve immortality.
The bad news for his rivals is that Fury has the physical attributes to reign for many years to come. His ring craft is unrivalled in the heavyweight division and the heart and mental strength he showed to get back up in the final round of the first Wilder fight proved that he also possesses a special type of greatness on the inside to go alongside his ability. That makes him a formidable foe.
In the 90’s, the likes of Lewis, Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson, George Foreman, Michael Moorer and Riddick Bowe were in an era in which on any given night, anybody could be beaten and the heavyweight crown was constantly under threat.
In this era, a serious contender like Whyte provides that threat to the heavyweight throne.
Following his sole professional career loss to Joshua, many doubted if “The Body Snatcher” would ever be able to reach world level, but now he is WBC No.1 contender for over 1000 days and the official mandatory for the Fury vs Wilder III winner.
Following his loss, Whyte started training at Loughborough University with huge emphasis on the scientific details in training camps, and has physically improved considerably since.
On top of what “The Body Snatcher’s” nickname alludes to, he also has a dangerous left hook. One has to look no further than the Lucas Browne fight and Dereck Chisora rematch to see the impact when that shot is landed.
On any given night, all of the heavyweights must be wary of Whyte’s left hook, which is a real fight-ending punch.
Whyte has become a vastly improved fighter in the ring, and commercially, has become a consistent pay-per-view star. He has truly come into his own as a top heavyweight as he is hoping and preparing for the crunch showdowns he has been working towards in the home stretch of his career as he is entering his prime.
It remains to be seen how Whyte’s split from former trainer Mark Tibbs will affect him ahead of his showdown with dangerous veteran Povetkin, but it cannot be denied that aside from his decision victory against Mariusz Wach under unusual circumstances, his last three victories against Parker, Chisora and Rivas ensure that Whyte deserves a title shot ahead of any other contender currently out there.
We have three very talented Brits who are at the forefront of bringing back excitement which the heavyweight division has not seen for over 20 years, and of course the hard-hitting Wilder who adds a ‘America vs UK’ element at the top of the division.
Wilder’s loss was to a special heavyweight. He is not finished and can still add to his legacy. He remains a very dangerous fighter.
British heavyweights are enjoying worldwide supremacy, and as the years are slowly progressing, the fights are becoming more spectacular with more on the line, and potentially the biggest lies ahead in the near future.
We may be living during a heavyweight golden era without knowing it. History books tend to be kind once the time has passed, upon reflection. Time for fans to buckle up, as the blue-ribbon division is hotting up, with the British heavies chief amongst them!