By Gav Duthie: We all know the situation may change, but as it stands, Tyson Fury’s future is clouded, Oleksandr Usyk is 35 years old, his country is in the middle of a war, and Anthony Joshua will struggle to come back from another loss at the top end of the sport.
Deontay Wilder is returning, but will he be the same? This era isn’t over, but it is definitely in its twilight. Over the years, we have heard that Joshua is just another Frank Bruno, that Fury is just a big lummox after he fought John McDermott, that Wilder can’t box but isn’t it time before it all ends to simply appreciate how great this era of heavyweight boxing has been.
Ok, it could have been better; there is still time. Will we get the big UK undisputed fight between Fury and Usyk? Could Wilder knock out Usyk or AJ? We might never know, but we have had some great nights already, so let’s not complain about what didn’t happen, what could have been, and appreciate what we have seen over the last ten years or so.
Here is my comprehensive list of the top 20 fights of this era between fighters currently or at one point in the last ten years.
Note: I have omitted Wladimir Klitschko despite being active during this period, as he is considered the king of the previous era.
(20) Anthony Joshua v Joseph Parker
(2018, Joshua UD12)
A little disappointing in terms of action. These two were considered the division’s best prospects simultaneously. Parker was the first to claim a world title, then Joshua beat Charles Martin and Klitschko. Parker boxed well at times but seemed content with surviving. The referee stopped any inside action from occurring, so it ended as an uninspiring comfortable decision for AJ. It still must rank as one of his best wins, though on paper.
(19) Tyson Fury v Dillian Whyte
(2022, Fury TKO 6)
Over 1000 days in the making, and Whyte never really turned up. Fury didn’t let him get inside and controlled Whyte on the end of the jab all night. It was a superb uppercut to close the show, though. It could have ended any heavyweight fight in history.
(18) Usyk v Joshua 2
(2022, Usyk SD 12)
A much better performance from AJ, but it wasn’t enough. Just as it looked as if AJ had turned the screw in round 9, Usyk came back stronger and more clinical in the final three rounds. This truly defined Usyk as the heavyweight king in the absence of Fury.
(17) Anthony Joshua v Kubrat Pulev
(2020, Joshua KO 9)
Again just a fight that turned out a lot easier for Joshua than I had anticipated. Pulev is a high-level boxer with a good jab and ring IQ but was no match for AJ on the night. This fight, more than any other for me, showed how good a boxer Joshua is, just not good enough to have a chess match with Oleksandr Usyk. AJ closed the show with a great 1-2 combination.
(16) Fury v Wilder 2
(2020, Fury TKO 7)
Not the best in terms of how one-sided it was, but it was incredible to watch how bullish Fury was. Nobody could believe how different he was from the first fight and how he demoralized Wilder making him go on the back foot. It was a one-sided battering that was rightly stopped by Mark Breland, who threw in the towel.
(15) Joseph Parker v Andy Ruiz
(2016, Parker MD 12)
An interesting match with a dubious decision. Ruiz started fast and landed some great combinations but slowed his output as the fight went on. Parker got the nod to win the vacant WBO world title after Tyson Fury’s first sabbatical due to his mental health post the Klitschko fight.
(14) Anthony Joshua v Andy Ruiz 2
(2019, Joshua UD 12)
A great boxing performance by Joshua, but Andy Ruiz didn’t do himself any favors. He enjoyed his previous success over the big man far too much and came in far too overweight and unfit. Joshua didn’t engage but controlled the fight with the jab and lateral movement.
(13) Joe Joyce v Daniel Dubois
(2020, Joyce KO 10)
A bit of an upset. Frank Warren promoted both men, but his golden goose was definitely Dubois. Daniel started strong and landed huge punches early; the difference was Joyce was a much thicker tree than Dubois was used to cutting down. Joyce bludgeoned Dubois with a thudding jab all night. This fight would be higher if not for the ending where most feel Daniel quit. Dubois has come back well since, though.
(12) Oleksandr Usyk v Anthony Joshua
(2021, Usyk UD 12)
One for the purest. I feel AJ boxed better than most people make out, but Usyk was just better. Joshua fought the wrong fight, and although many rounds were close, Usyk just seemed to land one or two better punches each round to take it. Hopefully, AJ will fight differently this weekend to make the spectacle better to watch.
(11) Anthony Joshua v Alexander Povetkin
(2018, Joshua TKO 7)
A better fight than the previous AJ wins because Povetkin managed to get quite a bit of success with his leaping left hooks. The Russian had wooed British fans with his knockout of David Price earlier, and AJ certainly had to take notice. Joshua closed the show brilliantly, though, handing Povetkin his first-ever knockout loss.
(10) Dillian Whyte v Joseph Parker
(2018, Whyte UD 12)
Parker surprisingly took this fight just four months after losing to Joshua. I personally thought he would outbox Whyte, but the ‘Bodysnatcher’ stated his intentions early, knocking Parker down with a forearm, intimating he was going to throw everything at the New Zealander. Parker came back into it late and dropped Whyte in the final round. Whyte was very dazed at the end but hung on for a deserved victory on the cards.
(9) Ruiz v Joshua
(2019, Ruiz TKO 7)
What a shock this was. The first three rounds were business as usual. A nice uppercut, left hook, and down goes Ruiz. Now to finish him off, how wrong we were. AJ got caught in the exchange and never really fully recovered. Ruiz stopped the dazed Joshua in the seventh to become the first heavyweight champion of the world of Mexican descent.
(8) Wilder v Ortiz 2
(2019, Wilder KO 7)
The Cuban made good adjustments from the first fight outboxing Wilder for the first six rounds. He was well ahead on all cards until Wilder did what he does. A straight right hand knocked Ortiz down, and he couldn’t get back up.
(7) Whyte v Chisora 1
(2016, Whyte SD 12)
What an absolute barnstormer. Amazing action from start to finish. It was back and forth all the way, with every punch thrown with bad intentions. I felt Chisora had done enough, but both deserved the win. Whyte was given the nod and justified the win by stopping Chisora in a later rematch.
(6) Joshua v Whyte
(2015, Joshua TKO 7)
Part of me feels that although Joshua is a better boxer in 2022 that the 2015 version of him stood a better chance of beating Usyk. AJ used to be aggressive to the point of recklessness. He marched forward for most of this fight with little respect for what Whyte could do. Joshua was hurt for the first time in this fight, but he was a ruthless fighter and scored a great KO after a gripping battle.
(5) Hunter v Bakole
(October 2018, Hunter TKO 10)
A completely random under-the-radar fight between an American and Congolese fighter in the York hall in England. It was a huge risk, low reward fight for both men, with Hunter just recently moving up to heavyweight. Bakole has improved considerably since that day, recently defeating Tony Yoka, but Hunter boxed really well in a great slugfest with a good stoppage in the final round.
(4) Fury v Wilder 1
(2018, Draw 12)
It seemed a stretch after three years out and two warm-up fights that Fury would agree to face Wilder, but he did and outboxed him. Wilder, to his credit, never stopped and looked to score a stunning 12th round ko. Fury somehow got up after looking down and out and put it on Wilder for a stunning final round. The bout was scored a draw, but Fury got his revenge in the next two outings.
(3) Whyte v Povetkin 1
(2020, Povetkin KO 5)
This gets in so high for the knockout alone. It was pretty one-sided with Povetkin looking his age at 40. Whyte had him down twice and was totally dominating. They say power is the last thing to go and Povetkin pulled a stunning uppercut out of nowhere to destroy Whyte.
(2) Wilder v Ortiz 1
(2018, Wilder TKO 10)
To Wilder’s credit, everyone was avoiding Ortiz, but he took on King Kong, and the man the division was called the boogeyman. It was a great fight with Wilder looking out on his feet in the 7th round. He rallied to stop Ortiz in the 10th, but it was entertaining all the way.
(1) Fury v Wilder 3
(2021, Fury TKO 11)
What a way to end a rivalry. It was a trilogy few asked for after the second fight was so one-sided. It got in the way of Fury v Joshua, but it was worth it. It looked to be going the same way as the second fight with Fury dominating, but in round 4, he walked straight into a right hand and went over and then again. Wilder said in the last fight he wanted to go out on his shield, and that’s exactly what happened. Fury knocked Wilder flat on his face to retain his title on his first-ever defense.