A champion is someone who gets up even when he can’t.
Rude. The only way to describe the health of the heavyweight division. It has a singular and consensus champion. Tyson Fury. One fresh from an enthralling rumble with the sport’s biggest puncher. Subsequently, his WBC mandatory challenger, and therefore his most likely next opponent, will be Dillian Whyte, a fighter in every fan’s top 6 or 7, if he beats Otto Wallin, who cut and bothered Fury when they met a year ago.
Beyond Fury’s immediate challenge, contenders Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua will reconvene in the Spring to determine the most worthy to contest all of the available belts, for whatever merit resides in the custody of all four. And alongside that quartet, exist a parade of potential challengers with varied styles, stories and skill.
Boxing has its heavyweight champion. A charismatic one. Unconventional. Gigantic. Everyone else, merely contenders. In old money at least. The hope now, in this brave new-old world, is that the Champion stays busy.
In those long lost golden days of a single heavyweight champion; the two Jack’s, Joe, Rocky, Charles and Muhammad, all the others in between, fought, in the main, more frequently than their modern day successors. A combination of wealth and preservation of health reducing the workload of premier attractions to 2 bouts a year, pandemics notwithstanding.
If Fury boxes but four times in the next two years, he would, in victory, secure his legacy as a great heavyweight and the best of his era but also likely leave a few challenges unresolved. Those spurned rivals would likely be occupied contesting vacated belts. Fury would, in the event of winning all four sanctioning belts be hard pressed to box his mandatories and satisfy fans with Usyk, Joshua and other match ups. The unified collection would soon be dispersed.
Although lineal status, of which Fury has relied heavily, is often derided, his newly minted confirmation as the King of the division, does, to large extent, remove the need to continue satisfying the sanctioning bodies in the eyes of the public. He could discard the belts and his status would not be appreciably diminished. Others would bid for vacant titles but the world would know they were but paper crowns while ever Fury remains active.
For the exciting narrative to be maintained, Fury must box twice a year and the contenders, irrespective of the absence of belts, must campaign between themselves to determine challengers. Old money, old school. Bouts between Frankie Sanchez, Luis Ortiz, Joe Joyce and Robert Helenius, Michael Hunter, Andy Ruiz to follow Parker and Chisora in December. Hgrovic, Yoka, Kabayel and perhaps Hughie Fury, if he gets past Christian Hammer this weekend, will follow to fill the gaps.
The question now for all of those contenders from Usyk to Yoka is; are they willing to take risks to reach Fury. To entertain, to create belief, interest. For the posturing, the manoeuvring to land a shot at a portion of the title could soon be at an end in respect of its actual meaning.
Perhaps a fantasy. But in the aftermath of a heavyweight fight for the ages, such utopia seems achievable.