Where do we stand with the heavyweight division? (Pic: Amara Shaw)
Where do we stand with the heavyweight division? (Pic: Amara Shaw)

The Heavyweights: Ranking the best big men in boxing today

Furyjoshua.com ranks the best heavyweights in boxing and asks where we might see them next as the division builds towards a massive summer.

The Heavyweights: Ranking the best big men in boxing today

Boxing’s marquee division is in rude health currently, with some serious talent atop the heavyweight pecking order. Crucially, these men are keen to meet each other - and when the best fight the best, there is still no spectacle quite like it.

Here furyjoshua.com assesses the landscape and ranks the best big men around.

Undefeated lineal champion Tyson Fury has become a crossover star and his well-documented return from the abyss of just a few years ago has been an enormous shot in the arm for the sport. Then there is British rival Anthony Joshua, whose crown momentarily slipped when he lost his unbeaten record to Andy Ruiz Jr in New York before setting the record straight in their rematch in Saudi Arabia.

Fury and Joshua are now almost universally seen as the top two heavyweights in the world and currently hold all the major belts. A fight between the pair had looked assured for August and would be the biggest in British boxing history.

But Deontay Wilder won an arbitration ruling against Fury to force a trilogy fight between the pair, leaving Joshua to face Oleksandr Usyk. Fury vs Joshua will have to wait.

Outside of the big four there is a ton of talent knocking on the world-title door, including the aforementioned Ruiz Jr, Dillian Whyte, Joseph Parker, Joe Joyce, Filip Hrgovic and Tony Yoka.

Heavyweight rankings

Such is the influence of the sanctioning bodies in the sport, which sadly often defy logic to push their own agendas, it has never been an easy task to impartially rank the heavyweights. Our list ignores the so-called ‘alphabet’ ratings in favour of a non-partisan system which ranks fighters based purely on their skillset, ring achievements, title victories and potential.

1 Tyson Fury (30-0-1)

Fury’s ascent back to the top of the heavyweight tree has been pure box-office. Once the enfant terrible of British boxing, few can now argue with any real conviction that he is not the best heavyweight on the planet after that sensational TKO victory over Wilder. The bad news for the opposition is that ‘The Gypsy King’ has the physical attributes to reign for many years to come, too. His sheer size is augmented by surprising speed for a big man, while his footwork and piston-like jab mean he would start as a betting favourite against any of his rivals currently. After stunning the world with his victory over Wladimir Klitschko in 2015, Fury’s career then fell apart amid a myriad of controversy and personal torment. However, his redemption in and out of the ring has been truly inspiring and the two-time world heavyweight champion, now fully focused again and enjoying his craft, is the man they all have to beat. Now preparing to face Wilder for a third time.

Next fight: Fury vs Deontay Wilder 3 (July 24)

2 Anthony Joshua (24-1)

The rise of former Olympic king Joshua in the pro ranks was meteoric, as he became IBF heavyweight champion with a facile stoppage win over ‘Prince’ Charles Martin less than three years after making the transition from amateur. He added the WBA and IBO belts after an unforgettable stoppage victory over Wladimir Klitschko at Wembley in 2017, and at that point he was considered the best heavyweight in the world. However, a TKO defeat by rotund battler Andy Ruiz Jr in New York in June 2019 left many questioning whether the previous hype around ‘AJ’ was justified. Since then the Watford man has gone some way to silencing the doubters. First he secured an immediate rematch against Ruiz Jr and showed he could adapt to new tactics by boxing smartly to secure a unanimous decision and regain his titles. It was a year before AJ would be out again due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but he showed little sign of ring rust as he crushed durable Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev in nine one-sided rounds. Pulev was decked three times as Joshua cemented his position at number 2 on our list in some style. Set to face the supremely talented Usyk next, and if he wins maybe Fury after that...

Next fight: Joshua vs Oleksandr Usyk (likely September 25)

3 Oleksandr Usyk (18-0)

Boxing continues to thrive, primarily because despite everything there are still fighters who have proven themselves eager for competition. Usyk is certainly one of those, and having cleaned out the cruiserweight division he has now moved up to heavyweight and has his sights set on the summit once again. Wins over Chazz Witherspoon last year and Dereck Chisora more recently show that Oleksandr will again be a threat in the marquee weight class. But they also left questions unanswered. More time is needed to see if he can be as effective as he was at cruiser. Usyk’s offensive variation is both novel and unorthodox and he has virtually every punch in the book in his arsenal. His footwork is sublime too and with an extensive amateur background, winning Olympic and World honours during a 335-15 amateur career, he could yet emulate Evander Holyfield by making a run towards the unified heavyweight title having first taken care of business at cruiser. Now the mandatory challenger for Joshua’s WBO title, and set to get his title shot in September.

Next fight: Usyk vs Anthony Joshua (likely September 25)

4 Deontay Wilder (42-1-1)

Before his rematch with Fury, Wilder was confidently claiming he was ‘the hardest-hitting puncher in history’. The stats seemed to back him up too with all but one of the American’s 42 wins coming inside the distance. However, he was ‘rag-dolled’ in that return fight with Fury, taking a sustained beating before his corner wisely threw in the towel during round seven. While not a naturally gifted or indeed defensively sound fighter, Wilder’s power gets him out of trouble time and time again (notably when two knockdowns in the first Fury fight salvaged a controversial draw) but it will be interesting to see whether he can make the necessary adjustments in the planned trilogy fight with ‘The Gypsy King’. As things stand though it’s difficult to make a case for him being outside of the top four based on what he has done to every opponent not called Tyson Fury. The collapse of Wilder’s planned trilogy fight with Fury in 2020 led to ‘The Bronze Bomber’ unleashing a furious social media outburst with a number of controversial claims. He has now won an arbitration ruling to force that third meeting with Fury, but his career at the very top level appears to be at a crossroads. July 24 will tell us much more.

Next fight: Wilder vs Tyson Fury 3 (July 24)

5 Dillian Whyte (28-2)

‘The Body Snatcher’ is back, and back from the brink. Whyte’s world-title dreams were shattered when Alexander Povetkin knocked him out at Matchroom Fight Camp last August. He described their March 27 rematch on Gibraltar as “must-win”, and win he did. Dillian dominated from the first bell en route to a crushing fourth-round stoppage victory. Not only did it return him to WBC interim champion status, it returned him to the very top table. Promoter Eddie Hearn wants him to be out again soon in the U.S. - we’d love to see a showdown with Ruiz Jr.

Next fight: tbc

6 Andy Ruiz Jr (34-2)

Ruiz returned from a 17-month absence to convincingly outpoint Chris Arreola in an entertaining scrap in California in early May. Andy had not been out since losing his world heavyweight titles in that rematch to Anthony Joshua in 2019. Gone was the flabby 283-pounder who was literally unable to throw his punches properly against Joshua the second time round. In his place a much more toned 256-pound frame and a new-found discipline. It wasn’t an easy night for Ruiz though - he was down in Round 2 and in trouble in the third before recovering to punch out a unanimous decision. The good engine and fast hands are still there, but questions still remain. We should get a better idea of the ceiling for the new Andy under Eddy Reynoso in his next bout. The likes of Luis Ortz, Wilder and Whyte would make for cracking matchups.

Next fight: tbc

7 Joe Joyce (12-0)

The 35-year-old Londoner cracked our top 10 by delivering a first professional defeat to the exciting prodigy Daniel Dubois In late November. ‘The Juggernaut’ went into their eagerly-awaited showdown as a 3/1 underdog, but shocked the layers and many experts in some style. Dubois took a knee to be counted out in Round 10 after Joyce’s jab had closed his left eye and fractured his eye socket in the process. The former Olympic silver medalist displayed everything we know he possesses in the win over Dubois, notably a relentless style and a granite chin. His style to the eye may not be for some, but he will be a nightmare for a lot of elite heavyweights. He seemingly copes with whatever opponents throw at him, and keeps on coming. Do not underestimate his ring savvy either - the win over Dubois showcased his ability to carry out a plan to perfection. Had been hoping to face Usyk for the WBO interim title but that was scuppered by the collapse of Fury vs Joshua. The consolation prize is a tricky assignment against Frenchman Carlos Takam.

Next fight: Joyce vs Carlos Takam (July 24)

8 Joseph Parker (29-2)

The former WBO king is again pushing for a world-title shot, and he just about remained on course by pulling out a decision win over UK warhorse Dereck Chisora in May. Joseph was down inside seven seconds, but recovered from a terrible start to take control in the second half of a fascinating scrap. Like Ruiz, Parker was working with a new corner for the first time - Andy Lee replacing long-time head trainer Kevin Barry for this one. So we would expect to see improvement next time round. A potential IBF eliminator against Filip Hrgovic could be next - a fight we’d love to see.

Next fight: tbc

9 Michael Hunter (19-1-1)

Few of the top heavyweights out there apparently want a piece of ‘The Bounty’ and it is easy to see why. The hugely talented 32-year-old Californian presents a difficult puzzle for any opponent to solve. Hunter has only lost once in the paid ranks, and that was at the very highest level against the aforementioned Usyk at cruiserweight. Hunter, who is now a promotional free agent after parting ways with Matchroom in 2020, returned to the ring last December following a year out since his draw with Povetkin in Saudi Arabia. He did what was expected of him, cruising to a fourth-round knockout of the overmatched Shawn Laughery in Galveston, Texas. Next up was supposed to be an IBF final eliminator against Filip Hrgovic - but that appears to be off. Instead Hunter will meet Mike Wilson in a WBA eliminator, and that fight has been delayed from June 19 to August 14 after main event Teofimo Lopez tested positive for COVID.

Next fight: Hunter vs Mike Wilson (August 14)

10 Tony Yoka (10-0)

The Frenchman, who defeated Joyce in the 2016 Olympic super-heavyweight final, improved to 10-0 in the paid ranks with a 12th-round stoppage of Joel Tambwe Djeko in Nantes. The 28-year-old was technically very sound if not hugely exciting in breaking down his opponent before closing the show in the final session. While his CV as yet is far from spectacular yet, we feel there is plenty more to come and he has the chance to become a top-10 mainstay in the coming years.

Next fight: tbc

Pushing for inclusion

Croatian star Hrgovic is another unbeaten prospect who is part of an exciting young generation of heavyweights. He is now 12-0 after a demolition of veteran Rydell Booker late last year.

Hrgovic’s style, like that of Joyce, may not be one for the purist, but his combination of ability and brute force makes him difficult to beat and he is a fighter on the way up. That expected IBF eliminator should give us the opportunity to see how he fares at world level.

Nigerian star Efe Ajagba (15-0) and ‘Cuban Flash’ Frank Sanchez (18-0) are both intriguing prospects and are reportedly set to meet on the Fury vs Wilder 3 undercard.

July 24 is shaping up to be some night for the heavyweight division, with a rematch between Robert Helenius and Adam Kownacki also mooted for the Fury/Wilder undercard.

Another potential attraction on the Vegas show that night is exciting youngster Jared ‘Big Baby’ Anderson, who is 9-0 and earning reviews Stateside.

Notable absentees

Daniel Dubois (16-1) had been tipped for the very top before that shocking first pro defeat at the hands of Joyce last November. He is now fully healed after suffering a fractured eye socket that night.

He returned in style with a second-round knockout of Bogdan Dinu to claim the WBA interim title, and we expect him to be knocking the door for top-10 consideration pretty soon.

Luis Ortiz, despite his advancing years, remains a threat to most heavyweights and is pushing hard for a showdown with Ruiz Jr. A scrap we’d love to see.

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