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.
Boxing’s heavyweight division is red-hot as we head towards the end of 2023, with Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk still holding all the major titles as we head into a crucial period.
And now we have a string of fights in the next three months which will see the division undergo a massive shake-up. Bring it on!
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.
Fury is still unbeaten and still at the top of our rankings, but he is no longer alone. ‘The Gypsy King’ struggled desperately to get the better of boxing novice Francis Ngannou on a shocking night in Saudi Arabia. Fury was down in the third round and only claimed a controversial split-decision victory by a whisker. Next up - at last - is that eagerly-awaited unification match vs Oleksandr Usyk, with the date and venue finally confirmed.
Next fight: Fury vs Oleksandr Usyk (February 17, 2024)
The brilliant Ukrainian joins Fury at the top of the heavyweight mountain without lacing up a glove in anger since August. Many boxing pundits were shocked by events in Riyadh on Saturday night, and you can add us to a very long list. Usyk moves up to 1= on our list with an unblemished pro record which includes an impressive stint at heavyweight already. Two wins over Anthony Joshua showed that Usyk could hang with the big boys, and he retained his belts with that stoppage of Daniel Dubois in August 2023. Next up is Fury for ALL of the marbles.
Next fight: Usyk vs Tyson Fury (February 17, 2024)
Wilder showed that he retains all of his dynamite punching power as he knocked out Robert Helenius inside a round of their WBC title eliminator in Brooklyn late last year. ‘The Bronze Bomber’ came in 24lbs lighter than for the trilogy fight vs Fury and it took just one short right hand late in the opening session to leave Helenius on his back staring into space as the fight was waved off. Wilder remains one of the most marketable heavyweights out there and he has a ton of enticing options. Next up Wilder locks horns with Joseph Parker in Saudi Arabia, the prelude to a potential showdown with Anthony Joshua.
Next fight: Wilder vs Joseph Parker (December 23)
Joshua continued his return to the top following those back-to-back Usyk defeats with a knockout victory over late replacement Robert Helenius. That after original opponent Dillian Whyte had failed a drugs test. In truth the jury is still out as to whether AJ still has what it takes to rule again in the heavyweight division, but we should get much closer to the answer after his next fight. That will be against dangerous Swede Otto Wallin, with a potential Deontay Wilder blockbuster after that.
Next fight: Joshua vs Otto Wallin (December 23)
Ruiz punched his way to a unanimous decision over Luis Ortiz in their WBC title eliminator in Los Angeles last September, but it was not enormously convincing. Andy, fighting for only the second time since 2019, had Ortiz on the floor three times and that proved crucial in the final reckoning as he prevailed 113-112 and 114-111 twice. Outside of those moments, and some trademark flurries, he allowed the ageing Ortiz to control the pace for long periods and did not do enough to move up on our list. Next up looked likely to be a Wilder showdown in a final eliminator after ‘The Bronze Bomber’ had disposed of Helenius in their ‘semi-final’. But so far that hasn’t come to fruition, and neither has a mooted clash with Filip Hrgovic for the IBF interim title.
Next fight: tbc
There can be no doubt now, the massive 40-year-old Chinese giant is for real. ‘Big Bang’ looks like a different fighter these days, and absolutely deserves his place in the top 10 after a controversial loss to Filip Hrgovic and two hugely impressive wins over Joe Joyce. His second victory over ‘The Juggernaut’ - courtesy of a picture-perfect right hook - was utterly comprehensive and now bigger tests await this man mountain. Zhang, incredibly, appears to be improving fast as he enters his fifth decade, and we await his next assignment with interest.
Next fight: tbc
The former WBO champion has mixed it with the very best in his career, claiming a world title and seldom looking out of place against elite opposition. He has enjoyed three gentler assignments so far in 2023 after that brutal defeat by Joe Joyce last September. The latest was a devastating third-round knockout of Simon Kean on the Fury vs Ngannou undercard in Saudi. The Kiwi now steps back up the elite of the heavyweight division with a massive test against Deontay Wilder in December.
Next fight: Parker vs Deontay Wilder (December 23)
Sanchez is a technically gifted fighter, one the purists will absolutely love. He has already showcased his ability to completely nullify big-punching opponents, notably with a brilliant performance to cancel out Efe Ajagba on the Fury vs Wilder 3 undercard in late 2021. Since then the ‘Cuban Flash’ has not really moved up in class, and we are looking forward to the day he goes in against a top-ranked foe. Sanchez gets the chance to impress under the bright lights when he faces Junior Fa on the undercard of that blockbuster Saudi bill featuring Wilder and Joshua.
Next fight: Sanchez vs Junior Fa (December 23)
Hrgovic deserves his spot in the top 10 despite a slightly disappointing performance in stopping Demsey McKean on the Joshua vs Helenius undercard in London. Before that, and a controversial win over Zhang last year, Hrgovic had been one of the most avoided men in the division with a fearsome reputation. That win over Zhang though does look better by the day. Hrgovic is yet another top heavy on that massive Saudi bill on December 23, when he returns to action against Mark De Mori.
Next Fight: Hrgovic vs Mark De Mori (December 23)
Jared, still only 23, is well on the road to outgrowing his ‘Big Baby’ moniker as he continues to impress in moving through the heavyweight ranks. The exciting Top Rank prospect is an athletic freak with knockout power, and about as exciting as it gets in the fight game’s marquee weight class right now. We cannot wait to see him moved up to mix it with somebody in the top 15.
Next Fight: tbc