There was a point in time when the heavyweight world champion was one of the most famous sportsmen in the world. Dating back to Muhammed Ali and then Mike Tyson (rtd.), the heavyweight champion was always an individual that carried the sport of boxing on their back. It has always been said that he state of boxing depends on the state of the heavyweight division.
However, throughout the Klitschsko era, heavyweight boxing became stale. Most of the opponents Wladimir and Vitali faced were simply no match for them. The two brothers wiped out the entire division, and held all of the heavyweight titles. Despite being wildly popular in Eastern Europe, the Klitschkos’ popularity in America paled in comparison to that of Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield (rtd.), and Lennox Lewis (rtd.) who had come before them.
The Klitchskos, especially Wladimir, dominated the heavyweight division for almost a decade. It took an unlikely victor in Tyson Fury (27-0-1, 19 KOs) to bring an end to Wladimir’s reign. Fury outboxed Wladimir over 12 rounds to become the new IBF, WBO, WBA, and IBO heavyweight champion of the world. He fell just short of being “undisputed” because a heavyweight by the name of Deontay Wilder (40-0-1, 39 KOs) had captured the WBC title earlier that year.
Unfortunately, Fury struggled with substance abuse and was stripped of his belts. As a result, Anthony Joshua became the new IBF heavyweight champion when he defeated Charles Martin (25-2-1, 23 KOs) in a sold out O2 Arena. Joseph Parker (25-2, 19 KOs) became the new WBO heavyweight champion when he defeated Andy Ruiz Jr. (311. The WBA title remained vacant and the WBC title remained in the hands of Deontay Wilder.
As Tyson Fury sat on the sidelines, Anthony Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs) became a superstar in the U.K. selling out arenas before capturing his signature win against Wladimir Klitchsko (rtd.) in April 2017. With the victory, Joshua became the unified WBA and the IBF heavyweight champion of the world.
Meanwhile, Both Joseph Parker and Deontay Wilder continued to defend their respective belts against solid, but not quite elite competition. This changed in 2018 when Parker signed up to face Anthony Joshua, the now unified heavyweight champion, and Wilder was set to face Luis ‘King Kong’ Ortiz (30-1, 26 KOs). Joshua defeated Parker by unanimous decision to become the IBF, WBA, and now WBO heavyweight champion. Wilder knocked out Ortiz to defend his WBC title in one of the best fights of 2018. This proved to be Wilder’s signature victory up to that point, in which he solidified himself as one of the best heavyweights on the planet.
Tyson Fury was able to overcome his problems with depression and alcohol and returned in mid-2018, ending his three year layoff. He defeated both Sefer Seferi (23-2-1, 21 KOs) and Francesco Pianeta (35-5-1, 21 KOs) in less than spectacular fashion. It seemed as if he had a ways to get back to the level that made him the unified heavyweight champion of the world in 2015. Despite this, he accepted a fight with Deontay Wilder, where Wilder’s WBC belt would be on the line. Buzz surrounded the fight the second it was announced. Many wondered if the fight was too early for Fury, whom had just returned to boxing 6 months prior.
Regardless, the fight lived up the hype. Tyson Fury out-boxed Wilder for several of the early rounds before suffering a flash knockdown in Round 6. He continued to win most of the fight before getting dropped again in Round 12 by a mammoth left hook from Wilder. The fight seemed to be over but Fury was able to rise and beat the count and ultimately, the contest was ruled a split draw. Wilder retained his WBC heavyweight championship title and Fury proved he could more than compete with the best fighters in the world, even after nearly a 3 year layoff.
On the other side of the pond, Anthony Joshua defeated Alexander Povetkin (34-2, 24 KOs) by Round 7 knockout to remain the WBA, IBF, and WBO heavyweight champion of the world.
So now in 2019, we find ourselves at a cross roads. There has not been an undisputed heavyweight champion in boxing since Lennox Lewis did it in 1999 – so 20 years. With both Joshua and Wilder holding every belt that matters, it would seem logical to match them up so we could have another undisputed heavyweight champion. However, this is boxing we are talking about. Rarely does a fight happen when it is supposed to. Anthony Joshua has signed to face Jarrell ‘Big Baby’ Miller (23-0-1, 20 KOs) in June and Deontay Wilder will face title contender Dominic Brazeale (20-1, 18 KOs) in May. He seemed poised to face Tyson Fury in a highly anticipated rematch, but Fury recently signed a deal with ESPN making the rematch unlikely.
So how can boxing once again have an undisputed heavyweight champion? Well, the first step is Joshua-Miller. Joshua will be making his United States debut on June 1st when he fights the outspoken “Big Baby” Miller at Madison Square Garden. Few are giving Miller a legitimate shot at winning, but a 300 pound heavyweight who throws punches in bunches can never be counted out. He moves very well for a heavyweight and seems to possess an iron chin. I believe the fight will be closer than expected but Joshua will come away with the victory. I predict Joshua will win by unanimous decision.
The next step is figuring out the Deontay Wilder situation. It was widely expected he would face Tyson Fury again but that took a turn when Fury signed with Bob Arum/ Top Rank at ESPN. Wilder is under Al Haymon at PBC and it is no secret that Al Haymon and Bob Arum rarely do business. So, the Wilder-Fury rematch is all but dead for now, and Wilder will face Dominic Breazeale who also fights under PBC. I expect Wilder to get a knockout victory over Breazeale and immediately call out Joshua in the post-fight interview.
Finally, we can see Wilder and Joshua fight for the undisputed crown, right? Not quite. As stated previously, Wilder is under PBC. Joshua is currently signed with Eddie Hearn and DAZN. The silver lining here is that Al Haymon and Hearn have worked together in the past, and the Wilder-Joshua fight actually seemed close to being signed last year, before Wilder opted to fight Tyson Fury instead. Regardless, I expect negotiations between the Joshua and Wilder sides to once again tank due to the fact that there is another contender out there by the name of Dillian Whyte. Whyte is also signed with Eddie Hearn, and I have a hard time seeing Joshua-Wilder happening as long as there are viable contenders out there.
I anticipate Anthony Joshua will fight a rematch Dillian Whyte (25-1, 18 KOs) in late 2019, and Wilder will fight either a rematch against Luis Ortiz or face PBC’s rising star heavyweight Adam Kownacki (19-0, 15 KOs). Both Joshua and Wilder will likely win their respective fights setting up a huge fight between the two in 2020.
I believe by 2020, the demand for this fight will be so immense that the two sides will find a way to get it signed. There are always possibilities that fighters like Kubrat Pulev (26-1, 13 KOs) or Oleksander Usyk (16-0, 12 KOs) get the Joshua fight instead, but I believe the time will be right for both heavyweight champs to finally fight. Thus, I expect the Anthony Joshua-Deontay Wilder fight to get signed in early 2020. It will be one of the most lucrative fights of all time, and will give boxing its first undisputed heavyweight champion in years.
Who will come away with the victory? I might have to update this article when 2020 rolls around, but looking at the current state of both fighters, I would favor Wilder to win. Wilder has proved to possess power that hasn’t been seen in a very long time. He is one of the very few boxers with true one punch knockout power. He also proved to have an iron chin when he took bombs from Luis Ortiz and remained on his feet. Anthony Joshua is an exceptional puncher himself, but not quite to the level of Wilder. He is undoubtedly the better boxer, but if Wilder was able to find Fury’s chin, its hard for me to not picture him catching Joshua as well. And that’s all Wilder needs – one shot to end the fight. Therefore, I believe we will see Deontay Wilder holding the IBF, WBA, WBO, and WBC titles in 2020. Boxing’s first undisputed heavyweight champion since Lennox Lewis.