Boxing in 2020: Part 1

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - FEBRUARY 22: Tyson Fury knocks down Deontay Wilder in the fifth round during their Heavyweight bout for Wilder's WBC and Fury's lineal heavyweight title on February 22, 2020 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

With the Coronavirus pandemic still ongoing, MMA fans have vastly searched for entertainment to pass the time. The popular decision is to dive into YouTube or Fight Pass and reminisce on great fights of the past. However, now’s the perfect time to absorb information on another popular combat sport, boxing. This is not an article that will compare the two, but the first of many that will introduce boxing to a new crop of fans. It can be very difficult to start following a new sport especially one in which you’re referred to as a “casual” fan. This will give the average fan some talking points when combat sports resume this summer.

One of the biggest differences in professional boxing versus MMA is that boxing is overseen by four sanctioning bodies. Therefore, there are four different belts for each division. They are the IBO (International Boxing Organization), IBF (International Boxing Federation), WBO (World Boxing Organization), and the WBC (World Boxing Council). Boxing also has a substantial amount of weight classes. At the professional level boxing reaches 17 men’s divisions. MMA has less than half. It can be overwhelming to follow with four champions per weight class, but you’ll find the important names to know starting with the promoters.

The Best Promoters in Boxing

Similar to MMA, boxing operates with multiple promoters over different networks. Whether it be Dana White or Scott Coker, MMA matchmaking is much simpler in regards to scheduling bouts. Dana has the ability to operate with all of the fighters under contract with the UFC, likewise with Coker and Bellator. Boxing does not have the same luxury. This can be troublesome when booking some of the top fighters against one another. Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren are the two most popular promoters in the UK. Hearn is a promoter for Matchroom Boxing and Warren owns Queensberry Promotions. Bob Arum is the CEO of Top Rank Boxing which operates on ESPN in the United States. Arum is one of the most popular men in boxing due to being in operation since the 1960s. Al Haymon is the founder of Premier Boxing Champions which is popular on network television.  Oscar De La Hoya is best known for being a world-class fighter in the 1990s and 2000s and he is now the CEO of Golden Boy Promotions. All of these promoters have a stable of elite, championship-level fighters on their roster.

The Champions

The Gypsy King

Tyson Fury
LOS ANGELES, CA – OCTOBER 25: Lineal Heavyweight Champion Tyson Fury works out in front of Los Angeles media in advance of his highly anticipated WBC Heavyweight World Championship against undefeated WBC World Champion Deontay Wilder on December 1at Churchill Boxing Club on October 25, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images)

Heavyweight has always been boxing’s most popular division. The names and personas become legendary throughout the generations. Tyson Fury has an unblemished record of 30-0-1 and sits atop the RingTV heavyweight rankings list in 2020. Fury currently hold’s the WBC championship after defeating Deontay Wilder in February in front of a sold-out MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Fury has an outspoken charismatic personality whose comeback story makes him a fan favorite. Defeating Wladimir Klitschko to become the undisputed heavyweight champion back in 2015 was the highlight of his career. He was able to end a 10-year stretch where Klitschko reigned supreme.

However, the downfall that would ensue shortly after derailed Fury’s career. Fury began struggling with substance abuse, mental health issues, and a lifestyle that led to the champion gaining over 100 lbs. Fury was stripped of all 4 of his championship belts and it took 3 years, but the champion is back on his throne.

The Gold Medalist

DIRIYAH, SAUDI ARABIA – DECEMBER 07: Anthony Joshua (r) punches Andy Ruiz Jr during the IBF, WBA, WBO & IBO World Heavyweight Title Fight between Andy Ruiz Jr and Anthony Joshua during the Matchroom Boxing ‘Clash on the Dunes’ show at the Diriyah Season on December 07, 2019 in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Anthony Joshua is the biggest face of British boxing. Drawing 80,000 fans on a regular occurrence, he was on a fast track to becoming a global star. Joshua even won the gold medal back in the 2012 Olympics. He also holds a knockout victory of Wladimir Klitschko in which the champion hit the canvas for the first time in his professional career. Joshua made his US debut at Madison Square Garden last June. It was originally supposed to be against Jarrell Miller, however, Miller had to be replaced due to multiple positive drug tests. Andy Ruiz Jr. stepped in and pulled off an upset that was compared to Buster Douglas’ win over Mike Tyson. Joshua was stopped in the 7th Round and an immediate rematch was booked.

Joshua met Ruiz in December in Saudi Arabia hoping to avenge his only career loss. Ruiz Jr. came into the rematch largely overweight and out of shape. Joshua stayed on the outside and used his jab for a clear unanimous decision victory. Joshua regained 3 of the 4 heavyweight belts, but the loss has many in doubt if he’s the best heavyweight in the division. Title challenger Kubrat Pulev was scheduled for a summer showdown with Joshua. However, it is unclear if a clash with Fury will ever happen to unify the division.

The Former Champions

Deontay Wilder lost the WBC title to Fury after holding the honor for almost 5 years. He’s viewed as the hardest puncher in the division, however, he lacks the technique that the elite in the division posses. A trilogy with Fury was booked but postponed due to Covid-19. Wilder’s power, more importantly, his straight right, is a factor every time he steps into the ring.

Andy Ruiz Jr. shocked the world last summer only to disappoint boxing fans with a lackluster performance in the Joshua rematch. His appearance is deceiving because he possesses very quick hands which led to the championship victory. Ruiz Jr. has been in the public recently searching for a new trainer. Teddy Atlas’s name was thrown around, however, on Atlas’s podcast “The Fight” he stated he does not think the two will work in the future. Eddie Reynoso, who trains Canelo Alvarez appears to be the favorite. If Ruiz Jr. can connect with Reynoso, and remain disciplined he could land a big fight within the next year.

The Contenders

Oleksandr Usyk is a former unified cruiserweight champion. He is undefeated and on many pound-for-pound lists. He’s a former gold medal winner at the 2012 Olympics just like his counter-part and possible future opponent Anthony Joshua. Usyk made his heavyweight debut last October after a devastating knockout over Manchester great Tony Bellew. Usyk has exceptional footwork for a man of his size, but the question remains to be seen how he can match up with the power of the top 10 of the division.

Dillian Whyte is expected to challenge for a championship in late 2020 or early 2021. He has the title of WBC Interim Champion and has wins over fellow challengers Oscar Rivas, Joseph Parker, and Derek Chisora. Whyte faced Anthony Joshua back in 2015 and was TKO’d in the 7th round. A rematch may be on the horizon, however, Whyte is scheduled to face former champion Alexander Povetkin on July 4th. That bout is still uncertain due to the Covid-19 restrictions.

In conclusion, this is the perfect opportunity to learn about fighters that are not household names. Part two will continue with the Cruiserweights and the Light Heavyweights. Below is a compiled list of other contenders and some prospects to keep an eye on.

Honorable Mentions: Luis Ortiz, Joseph Parker, Michael Hunter, Charles Martin, Filip Hrgovic, Joe Joyce, Daniel Dubois, Efe Ajagba, Adam Kownacki,  Arslanbek Makhmudov.

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