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The next king of the heavyweights

Image: The next king of the heavyweights

By Gav Duthie: We probably only have two years at the most to get fights between top heavyweights Oleksandr Usyk, Deontay Wilder, Tyson Fury, and Anthony Joshua. We have had five so far, but most of them haven’t faced each other. Given the age of them all, we won’t see them for long. It will hopefully be an exciting couple of years, but after that, who takes over? Who will be the champions when these four retire?

Could we be in a situation where the heavyweight division loses its stars with nobody to excite us? Back when Lennox Lewis retired, Vitaly got injured, and Wladimir wasn’t ready yet, we had champions like Siarhei Liakhovich, Samuel Peter, Sultan Ibragimov, Oleg Maskaev, Chris Byrd, and the late Corrie Sanders, who, despite being fine enough fighters didn’t catch the eye. There are a few who look like they could keep the momentum of the division going. But who are the runners and riders? For the sake of this article, the contenders must be 30 or under and have fought professionally at least five times. Here goes.

Agit Kabayel 22-0 (14)

Age 30

Boxrec #33

The German had a breakthrough fight and performance against Derek Chisora in 2017 but, unfortunately, hasn’t done much since. He gave up the European title in order to pursue bigger fights, but he has actually went backwards. A fight at the back end of 2021 with Tyson Fury fell through, and his only outing of 2022 was against journeyman Pavel Sour. He was also scheduled to face compatriot and former cruiserweight legend Marco Huck, but many setbacks eventually pulled the fight for good. Kabayel was also set to fight for the EBU title again against Frenchmen and Olympic gold medalist Tony Yoka, but after losing to Martin Bakole, he lost his ranking.

There is no major news on any fights coming up for him other than that he is in contention to face Tyson Fury, but he is not high on that list. He is a skilled awkward boxer with good movement, but nobody seems keen to fight him, and he doesn’t seem to have enough popularity to force any big opportunities.

Highest world ranking: WBA ranked 7

Future World Champion: Highly Unlikely

Jermaine Franklin 21-0 (14)

Age 28

Boxrec # 56

Much like Kabayel, his career has somewhat stalled. Back-to-back wins over Rydell Booker, and Jerry Forrest gave him a good bit of hype. He has only fought once since the covid pandemic against journeyman Rodney Moore. It is rumored he will face Dillian Whyte in November, but those two were supposed to battle before, but it never came off.

Franklin is decent, but I would fully back Whyte to best him should the fight come off. America will likely be looking elsewhere for their future star.

Highest World ranking: WBO ranked 13

Future World Champion: No chance

Filip Hrgovic 15-0 (12)

Age 30

Boxrec #15

It is highly probable that the next to have a world title shot will be the big Croat. Hrgovic defeated Zhileil Zhang on the Usyk/Joshua 2 undercard. It was a bizarre performance with his stop/start style but did just about enough to defeat Zhang.

Regarding mandatories, the WBO will likely be next as the IBF didn’t have a mandatory until recently. Knowing the IBF, though, and taking the Tyson Fury/Vyacheslav Glaskov situation into account, where Fury was stripped for not facing him, it is certain that Hrgovic will get that shot at some point. If Usyk vacates, then the next highest-ranked fighter is Andy Ruiz, followed by Anthony Joshua.

Highest World Ranking: IBF #1

Future world champion: quite likely

Daniel Dubois 18-1 (17)

Age 25

Boxrec # 17

The argument about whether or not the WBA regular title is actually a world title or not will never actually be settled. For the sake of this article, I’m stating he is a legitimate world champion. If it was good enough for Roy Jones in 2004 and David Haye in 2009, then I’m calling it legitimate. Saying that the title has been a farce since 2014 and winning it against Trevor Bryan does not make Dubois a top challenger for the big fighters.

It is arguable that he hasn’t improved his defense since the Joe Joyce loss, but his attacking arsenal and mental strength to come back are commendable. We won’t know how good he is until he overturns a Joyce rematch or defends against a solid contender.

It is rumored that he is to face South African Kevin Lerena next after a proposed contest with Lucas Browne was rejected by the British boxing board of control. Lerena is an ex-cruiserweight IBO champion, and I get the appeal. He is a slick southpaw in the mold of Usyk, although clearly not on the same level. This fight would definitely test his ability.

Highest World Ranking: WBA Regular Champion

More world titles: Yes

Martin Bakole 18-1 (13)

Age 29

Boxrec # 12

The younger brother of WBC Cruiserweight champion Ilunga Makabu has struggled to get anyone to fight him. He seemed to be President of the high-risk, low-reward club after losing to Michael Hunter and not having such a big fan base. After beating top amateur Sergey Kuzmin and, more notably, Olympic Gold medalist Tony Yoka he has a real chance at getting a world title shot. He is improving all the time and his trainer Billy Nelson says he can beat anybody in the division.

Nelson has recently mentioned Joyce as an opponent and has offered Joshua a match, also. He is still going to have to fight hard to get the opportunities, but he is going in the right direction.

Highest World Ranking: WBA #4

Future World Champion: Probably not

Frank Sanchez 21-0 (14)

Age 30

Boxrec #13

A fantastic breakthrough fight against Efe Ajagba put the Cuban on the map. The fight was seen as a 50/50, but Sanchez won almost every round and dropped the hard-punching Nigerian in the fight’s latter stages. For some reason, the brakes seem to have been put on the progress of the slick fighter. He has boxed twice since the Fury/Wilder 3 undercard win but against veteran contenders Christian Hammer and Carlos Negron, which doesn’t really move him on much.

He says he is targeting Joe Joyce next for a possible mandatory fight. He feels he is the most talented heavyweight in the world and has the skillset to defeat Joe. Joyce is already the mandatory for Usyk and WBO interim champion, and I can’t see him risking his status for Sanchez. A fight against Ortiz might be a good passing of the torch contest for Cuban hopefuls, but it is unsure what Sanchez’s next move is.

Highest World Ranking: WBC and WBO #3

Future World Champion: Yes

Justis Huni 6-0 (4)

Age 23

Boxrec #35

Eddie Hearn has mentioned a possible contest between Anthony Joshua and Demsey Mckean, who has a 22-0 record. Despite having 16 more fights, Australia is more excited about Justis Huni. He has defeated two of the best in his country in Paul Gallen and Joseph Goodall. He was also an outstanding amateur.

Highest World Ranking: not in the top 15 of any

Future world champion: Possible

Jared Anderson 12-0 (12)

Age 22

Boxrec #55

Definitely the most marketable and America’s biggest hope of future success. Tyson Fury has used him as a sparring partner and stated he is someone to take over. After Anderson’s most recent destruction of Rovcanin, he called our many big names.

He told Sky Sports:

“Filip Hrgovic, Carlos Takam, Daniel Dubois, there’s a million names I could name, a lot of different people. All the contenders, prospects, all the ones coming out, Luis Ortiz, Andy Ruiz, all of them, anybody. I’d love to fight anybody.”

Of that list, the most likely would be Takam, as it is a good step up. The Frenchman is still active and somewhat exposed Makhmudov in his recent fight despite losing. This would be a great contest and one that will show just how good Anderson is.

Highest World Ranking: Not in the top 15 of any

Future World Champion: Definitely

Lenier Pero 8-0 (5)

Age 29

Boxrec #80

Frank Sanchez might be the Cuban on everyone’s lips right now, but Pero was considered a much better amateur. Sanchez couldn’t get into the Olympic squads ahead of Pero, Erislandy Savon, or Jose Larduet, which expedited Sanchez’s decision to turn pro. Pero defeated Sanchez 5 times in the amateurs. Pero is a slick southpaw with fast hands and good defense but can punch as well.

He has signed with PBC, so a rematch in the pros with Sanchez is entirely possible.

Highest World Ranking: WBA #7

Future World Champion: If gets opportunity Yes

Bakhodir Jalolov 11-0 (11)

Age 28

Boxrec #47

The Uzbek fighter was already 8-0 as a pro when he won Olympic Gold in Japan in 2021. He is now 11-0, winning all by knockout. An impressive record, but he hasn’t really faced anyone of significance as a pro. He also competed in the 2016 Olympics losing out to Joe Joyce and has been defeated five times by other prospect Ivan Dychko 12-0 (11) (Doesn’t qualify for this list at age 32).

Highest World Ranking: Not in the top 15 with any

Future World Champion: No

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