Throughout the history of sports, boxing and its stars have been amongst the most revered sportspeople in the world. Over the past half-decade or so, the sport has been enjoying a renaissance of sorts, producing entertainment in the professional ring to cause the sport to trend as a popular way to workout, with venues like Overthrow Boxing Club benefitting from the increased attention at the pro level.
Boxing is a superb sport to take up if you’re looking to get fit or enhance your fitness. Even if you don’t engage in any sparring sessions, utilizing the workouts that professional boxers use will enhance your whole body, which is why many celebrities have trained under Michael Olajide to get fit.
People are discovering the benefits of boxing training because the sport has been able to surge its way back to the headlines. However, if the professional arena goes stagnant again, fewer people will be as enthused about using the sport to get fit, which would be a tremendous shame.
Regardless of how immaculate the likes of Vasyl Lomachenko or Naoya Inoue are in the lighter divisions, the heavyweight ranks will always set the standard for boxing onlookers, and right now, it’s not exactly the shining example that the sport needs.
Champions struggling to come together
The biggest reason why boxing has been able to surge back into the limelight worldwide is Anthony Joshua. The charismatic heavyweight is both as likable as he is mighty in the ring. After winning the gold medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games, he’s gone on to stage some of the most entertaining fights of the modern era, including one which may go down as one of the greatest heavyweight fights of all-time against Wladimir Klitschko on April 29, 2017.
As detailed by the Miami Herald on May 28, Joshua’s next opponent is the short-notice Andy Ruiz, who the Brit is expected to defeat convincingly in New York – home of boxing haven Dogpound.
At the other end of the table is Deontay Wilder with the other major heavyweight world title. A fight between the two not ending in a draw would produce the tantalizing prospect of the first undisputed heavyweight champion of the world with four belts.
However, it’s not as easy as simply making what would be the biggest fight since Joshua-Klitschko. Assuming that Joshua dispatches of Ruiz, he and Wilder’s vacancy would have lined up for a bout at the end of the year. But, on May 29, Wilder announced, per Fox Sports, that he’d be fighting Luis Ortiz – a boxer he’d already knocked out in 2018.
Wilder has made many moves to avoid Joshua in recent times. Earlier this year, broadcasting company DAZN offered Wilder an unprecedented $100 million, as shown by SportsPro, to defend against Dominic Breazeale before facing Joshua for two fights. Wilder declined and decided to go with a much smaller deal on Showtime.
As reported by Boxing News, Joshua says that he’s willing to wait for the 33-year-old American as the three-belt world champion is continually improving. While this is true, it’s not good for the health of the sport: it needs to continue to be entertaining with major fights to get more people involved.
Wilder’s aversion to competition hurting the division
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Deontay Wilder’s choice in opponents isn’t just hurting the view of boxing in the eyes of the fans and Joshua’s historic aspirations; it’s also holding up potential contenders. One fighter who has been incredibly hard done by Wilder’s selection of weaker opponents is Dillian Whyte.
As explained in his BBC documentary, Whyte has been the number one contender for Wilder’s WBC belt for years, and yet the American has been allowed to avoid Whyte and select lower-ranked opponents. Another who has suffered to Wilder is Tyson Fury.
Rushed back into the ring after defying the odds to get back into the sport, Fury should have won against Wilder on points when they fought on December 1, 2018, but the judging in Los Angeles ruled for a controversial split decision draw, as shown by The Guardian. As the fight didn’t sell as well as they’d hoped, their rematch has been put back.
Fury fights again on June 16 against Tom Schwarz, and Whyte takes on Oscar Rivas on July 20. Both Brits are favorites with Fury, as of May 30 with Betway Sports, at 13/8 to win by decision or technical decision and Whyte at 1/7 to win. After these heavyweight clashes, the hope is that they will box each other and force Wilder’s hand.
As reported on May 11 by Boxing Scene, the WBC have order Fury and Whyte to fight in a ‘final eliminator’ to determine a mandatory challenger to Wilder, to which Fury says it’s unfair.
The unfairness is not due to a mismatch; it’s because the governing body is making Whyte do yet another eliminator after three defenses of the WBC Silver which is meant to make him the mandatory challenger. If Fury and Whyte meet, it would be a great bout and hopefully lead to Wilder facing a legitimate challenge to his belt.
Within the sport, avoiding the rightful competition is bad enough, but with boxing trending in the right direction again with the fitness-loving public, it would be a shame for disappointment in the pros to stop its momentum. Boxing is a tremendous way to get and keep fit, but if the pros don’t keep it entertaining, it may fade into the background once again.