After a 2019 that both underwhelmed and shocked the world, the heavyweight division is brewing up nicely again just as it looked be doing a year ago. Now though there been have a couple of wildcards thrown into the mix that could disturb the top three men in the division. While a league of heavyweights just below the elite level look to leave their mark on a division which was brought back to life after Tyson Fury’s influential win over long time domination machine Wladimir Klitschko back in 2015. Not since the era of the likes of Lennox Lewis et al has there been such a vibrant time in the sport’s most popular division and 2020 should at the very least build on the momentum that the division is gaining at present.
The first heavyweight pit stop of 2020 may well be the most important as at the end of February Deontay Wilder will finally rematch Tyson Fury for Wilder’s WBC belt. From Tyson’s improbable rise from the ashes after a twelfth round knockdown to the controversial judgement of a split decision draw, the first fight built plenty of intrigue for another (and probably a third if contractual rumours are true). This time around, Fury will not be trained by the man who he admits partly saved his life. Fury and Ben trainer Davidson surprisingly parted ways just before Christmas, with Tyson later giving the well used line of needing to freshen things up . Perhaps under Davidson, who has shown himself to be a more defensive based trainer Fury felt that the same approach as the first fight might prove too predictable. Though the real reasons for the split remain unclear.
With new trainer Javan SugarHill Steward, nephew of legendary trainer Emanuel Steward, Fury says he will meet Wilder in the of the ring, which should essentially be taken as typical tongue in cheek Fury pre fight hype. As most experts in the game would advise Fury to do exactly what he did in the first fight, only a little bit better. As if he can avoid the ridiculous Wilder right hand all night then a wide points victory would surely be the outcome. Though of course this feat is easier said than done, you only have to ask Luiz Ortiz about the pitfalls of cruising to a points win before being taken out of all a sudden by Wilder’s freakish power. And Teddy Atlas on his superb podcast The Fight asserted that Wilder has developed a much better ‘delivery system’ since the first fight with Fury, where he uses his long left arm to block vision to allow the explosive right hand to hit home.
It’s the ultimate savvy skill versus raw power trade off and it’s what makes the fight a brilliant one to start the year off with. And as mentioned above, it’s likely that whatever the result that a trilogy fight will follow in the latter half of 2020 tying up both men and the WBC belt for the rest of the year.
Unless of course Anthony Joshua and his promotor Eddie Hearn can dangle a big enough carrot in front of the February 22nd winner in order to finally make the unification fight that most have long given up on. And in truth that fight is looking unlikely for 2020 as Joshua will instead be a busy man fulfilling his mandatory obligations as IBF and WBO champ for the rest of calender year. Joshua now seems to be a two fight a year fighter and those two fights already look to be at least pencilled in for the coming eleven months. The first looks very likely to be his IBF mandatory Kubrat Pulev, who he was scheduled to fight back in late 2017 before Pulev pulled out at short notice. Despite Pulev weighty experience and solid technical style many will back Joshua to get past the Bulgarian which then mean he would have to fulfil his second mandatory defence of the year, the WBO title he holds.
The challenger for his WBO belt looks likely to be the winner of March’s soon to be announced bout between Olekandsr Usyk and Dereck Chisora. And despite ‘Del Boy’ Chisora’s recent career revival it would be a shock if he could defeat the former unified Cruiserweight champion of the world. Which would mean Joshua would perhaps face one of the toughest tests of his career in having defend his titles against Usyk, a man who some infer in time could very well take over the whole division after his leap up a weight class. The only issues with Usyk are his profile internationally and doubts over whether he will have the physical attributes to worry the top fighters in the heavyweight division. There’s nothing like a fight with Anthony Joshua to boost your exposure though and it would be foolhardy to write off a man who is clearly a supremely skilled operator inside the ring (he’s Lomachenko’s pal after all.)
So much so that it might also be foolish for Joshua to risk facing Usyk as he still seeks for the mega fights with the likes of Wilder and Fury. And 2020 might be seen as a rebuilding year for AJ after what was a rollercoaster 2019 and an Usyk fight is not a rebuilding of confidence fight, it’ll be a war that some might even see as a 50/50 affair. So there is a chance that AJ could vacate his WBO belt to avoid the Usyk problem altogether although reports suggest he would only do so if a fight with Fury/Wilder was locked in for 2020, which again doesn’t look likely. So Joshua versus Pulev and then Usyk looks to be the way things will shake out this year, with Joshua/Usyk a huge fight for the latter part of 2020.
Below the top three men of the division, Dillian Whyte will look to put a nightmare second half of 2019 behind him as he waits for his scheduled (and further delayed) WBC mandatory shot, which is now February 2021. Whyte will reportedly fight to bring that date forward however with the Wilder/Fury trilogy playing out in 2020, a Feb 2021 shot sounds alright right when it comes to the current politics of it all. After finally being cleared by UK Anti-Doping of any wrongdoing before his June victory over Oscar Rivas, Whyte will aim to get his career back on track in 2020. A fight with Alexander Povetkin at the end of April looks like the front runner at present, which would again throw Whyte into a high risk/low reward scenario as he waits for his shot at glory. However, this time around, after a rusty and pondering points win over Marius Wach on the Ruiz/Joshua II Saudi card, Whyte will need stern tests to both ready him for higher profile future wars and also turn heads back his way after the brutal UKAD episode that could have ended his career.
If you enjoyed this article or any others on thesixyardring feel free to like/share/RT them or alternatively mention them to friends as you all wonder what walking sticks you’ll be rocking when Joshua/Wilder is shown on a floating Hula Hoop looking craft in space.